Congress Questions DoD’s Efficiency Initiative

WASHINGTON, DC—A House committee expressed concern to military officials in September about DoD’s plan to save billions of dollars through an efficiency initiative announced by DoD Secretary Robert Gates this year. That plan recommends disestablishing US Joint Forces Command, in addition to directing the services to find more than $100 billion in overhead savings over the next five years, among other proposals.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, D-MO, told DoD officials at a hearing that he would not support cuts to DoD’s budget. “Your task today is to persuade us this initiative is not part of an agenda to cut the defense budget,” he said.

Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn told the committee that efficiency efforts are necessary for DoD to reign in costs. “To sustain the current military force structure, which we must do given the security challenges this country faces, requires the equivalent of real budget growth of two to three percent. The overall defense budget, however, is projected to rise in real terms by about one percent. The department cannot, and should not, ask Congress for more increases each year unless we have done everything possible to make the dollars we already have count for more.”

Secretary Gates had indicated in comments he made in August that healthcare was not necessarily exempt from the department’s efficiency efforts. “I think it’s safe to say that, as far as I’m concerned, in this effort there are no sacred cows, and healthcare cannot be excepted from that.  Everybody knows that we’re being eaten alive by healthcare.”

In a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee in September, Lynn reiterated that healthcare costs are growing substantially. Lynn said that DoD is reviewing the healthcare budget and that as part of the FY 2012 budget the department will propose “some ideas about how to restrain healthcare costs.”

DoD has embarked on a four-track approach toward a more
efficient and cost-conscious way of doing business, according to DoD officials who testified before the House Armed Services Committee.

Some of the proposals in the four-track approach include:

  • Track 1: Gates directed the military services find more than $100 billion in overhead savings over the next five years.
  • Track 2: DoD is seeking ideas, suggestions, and proposals regarding efficiencies from outside normal channels.
  • Track 3: DoD is considering a broad review of how it is organized and operated to inform the president’s 2012 budget process.
  • Track 4: Gates directed funding for service support contractors to be reduced by 10% per year for three years. His efficiency initiative also froze the number of OSD, Defense Agency, and combatant command positions and directed a zero-based review of each organization. Gates also froze the number of senior civilian executives, general and flag officers, and presidentially appointed and senate-confirmed officials. Gates also directed a freeze on the overall number of DoD-required oversight reports and cut the FY 2010 funding for advisory studies by 25%. In addition, Gates is recommending the president to approve the disestablishment of Joint Forces Command.

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