WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2011 — The Defense Department’s chief acquisition officer today added his voice to calls for Congress to approve the DOD appropriations bill for fiscal 2011. Speaking at Aviation Week’s Defense Technology and Requirements Conference here, Ashton B. Carter — undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics — also called for flexibility to get warfighters the equipment they need quickly.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has called for more than a month for Congress to pass the appropriations bill. If the department is forced to operate under a continuing resolution for the rest of fiscal 2011, it would mean an unanticipated cut of $23 billion. On Feb. 14, Gates called on Congress to pass a bill giving DOD $540 billion for fiscal 2011.
“It’s Feb. 16, and we don’t have an appropriations bill for the department for fiscal ’11,” Carter said. “Each and every program manager in the department is having to upset carefully calibrated plans, stop or slow activities only to start them later, or deferring the commencement of important new programs.
“The result is not only delay,” he continued. “It’s inefficient and uneconomical to proceed in this herky-jerky fashion with our programs and procurements.” The process now not only is inefficient, “it’s anti-efficient,” Carter said, noting that the process adds a dollop of cost to everything the acquisition field does. “Secretary Gates has called this a crisis on his doorstep, and I can tell you that every program manager in the department experiences that crisis in his or her program,” he said. Getting gear and equipment to warfighters operating in Afghanistan is another issue that needs to be addressed, even as Congress debates the fiscal 2012 defense budget request. In 2010, President Barack Obama ordered another 30,000 U.S. troops into Afghanistan, which Carter called “the most austere logistics environment you can possibly imagine.” The last of the surge brigades arrived in August, and 97,000 American service members and another 45,000 coalition troops are serving in Afghanistan.
“Those forces and their commanders have now been there for some months, and they understand what’s working, what they need more of, what new capabilities they need,” he said. “For myself, the acquisition community and the department, giving them what they need [and] supporting those urgent operational needs is Job No. 1. It comes before all the rest.”
Answering these urgent requirements means the department must reprogram funds, acquire the capability and then field it, Carter told the group.
“But the first step is to obtain funds,” he added, “and I mention it because it is another matter we are working with the Congress in these months even as the [fiscal 2012 budget] is debated. These are things that I would like to be able to deliver to the troops in Afghanistan this spring and summer as the fighting season heats up again.”
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