Acquisition Chief Urges Congress to Pass 2011 Appropriation

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.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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