Carter: Logistics Community Must Do More With Less

COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 29, 2011 — The Defense Department’s bud­get land­scape is chang­ing, but the logis­tics com­mu­ni­ty must con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing U.S. troops the best pos­si­ble sup­port while find­ing effi­cien­cies and cut­ting costs, the Pentagon’s top logis­tics offi­cial said here yes­ter­day.

Defense logis­tics’ top pri­or­i­ty always will be pro­vid­ing the best pos­si­ble sup­port to warfight­ers in the field, Ash­ton B. Carter, under­sec­re­tary of defense for acqui­si­tions, tech­nol­o­gy and logis­tics, told atten­dees at the 2011 Defense Logis­tics Agency Indus­try Con­fer­ence and Exhi­bi­tion.

Carter said he’d just returned from an eight-day trip to Afghanistan where he focused on rapid acqui­si­tion sup­port, con­tract­ing and logis­tics. DLA accom­plished a “true mir­a­cle” in sup­port­ing the troop surge into Afghanistan last year, he said, and it now must focus on ensur­ing the force there remains capa­ble as troops with­draw.

“Our over­all objec­tive must be to make the force there, which is going to be some­what small­er over the next year, nev­er­the­less more capa­ble than the force that has been in Afghanistan this past year,” Carter said.

To ensure forces in Afghanistan remain capa­ble, the defense logis­tics com­mu­ni­ty is look­ing at sev­er­al ini­tia­tives, such as pro­vid­ing more enabling tech­nolo­gies to enhance intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance and counter explo­sives. They also are look­ing at pro­vid­ing more reach-back capa­bil­i­ty as a sub­sti­tute for mil­i­tary sup­port on the ground, and strength­en­ing Afghan secu­ri­ty forces so they can take on more respon­si­bil­i­ty.

DOD also is focus­ing on build­ing up logis­tics in Afghanistan to elim­i­nate trans­porta­tion costs, and ensure con­tract­ing mon­ey is spent respon­si­bly there with a focus on its effect on local Afghan com­mu­ni­ties and cul­ture, Carter said.

While sup­port for warfight­ers in Afghanistan and oth­er areas around the world is the first pri­or­i­ty for the defense logis­tics com­mu­ni­ty, logis­ti­cians also must focus on the chang­ing bud­get land­scape and find ways to increase effi­cien­cy while main­tain­ing per­for­mance, Carter said.

“Two things are clear,” he said. “First, we’re not going to have the ever-increas­ing bud­gets of the post‑9/11 decade. This is going to feel very dif­fer­ent to a group of gov­ern­ment and indus­try man­agers and con­gres­sion­al over­seers who have grown accus­tomed to a cir­cum­stance in which they could always reach for more mon­ey when they encoun­tered a man­age­r­i­al or tech­ni­cal prob­lem or a dif­fi­cult choice. Those days are gone for all of us.

“The sec­ond thing is, the pres­i­dent, the sec­re­tary of defense, and the tax­pay­er are going to expect us to make every dol­lar we do get count,” he added.

About $400 bil­lion of the $700 bil­lion defense bud­get is spent on con­tract­ed goods and ser­vices, Carter said, and the defense logis­tics com­mu­ni­ty is look­ing at how to reduce costs. The depart­ment already has made cuts by elim­i­nat­ing under­per­form­ing or unnec­es­sary pro­grams like a new pres­i­den­tial heli­copter and the Army’s Future Com­bat Sys­tem, he said, and now it must find ways to reduce costs in oth­er areas.

“If you’re real­ly going to deal with a cir­cum­stance in which you want to have the same capa­bil­i­ty or as much mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ty as we can, [then] just as we’re try­ing to do in Afghanistan, in the bud­get as a whole, you have to look at every­where we’re spend­ing mon­ey and try to get bet­ter val­ue every­where that we’re spend­ing mon­ey,” Carter said.

Of the $400 bil­lion spent on con­tract­ed goods and ser­vices, about $100 bil­lion goes to procur­ing weapons sys­tems and $200 bil­lion goes to ser­vices, Carter said. Also, for every 30 cents the depart­ment spends on buy­ing some­thing, it spends 70 cents main­tain­ing it.

When it comes to con­tract­ing ser­vices, the depart­ment is improv­ing prac­tices to get bet­ter val­ue, uni­fy­ing efforts, improv­ing require­ments, and tak­ing advan­tage of com­pe­ti­tion, Carter said. Offi­cials also are look­ing to save mon­ey by sus­tain­ing exist­ing sys­tems, such as the F‑22 Rap­tor fight­er and the C‑17 trans­port plane, and find­ing how to best man­age those costs while look­ing ahead to future sys­tems and plan­ning for their total own­er­ship cost, Carter said.

The F‑35 Joint Strike Fight­er is a prime exam­ple, he said, because it is the department’s largest and most expen­sive pro­gram and one that will be around a long time.

“To the extent that we can do it, we are plan­ning now and man­ag­ing now to not only have an afford­able air­craft to acquire, which is also a chal­lenge, but also an afford­able air­craft to own when we do get it,” he said.

The depart­ment looks to save mon­ey while main­tain­ing qual­i­ty sup­port and look­ing for improve­ments and inno­va­tions, Carter said. He added that small busi­ness­es will be an impor­tant part­ner because they offer a con­stant source of renew­al and inno­va­tion, increase com­pe­ti­tion, and make valu­able con­tri­bu­tions in the cus­tomer ser­vice area.

“A strong, tech­no­log­i­cal­ly vibrant and finan­cial­ly suc­cess­ful defense indus­try is in the nation­al inter­est,” he said. “We need, col­lec­tive­ly, to be stew­ards of that indus­try so it remains vibrant for the future.”

There is no doubt that increased effi­cien­cy is the way of the future for DOD and the gov­ern­ment as a whole, Carter said, and the defense logis­tics com­mu­ni­ty is work­ing to adapt while ensur­ing America’s mil­i­tary receives the best sup­port pos­si­ble.

“The world’s chang­ing; the bud­get land­scape is chang­ing,” Carter said. “We in DOD are try­ing to change. I know industry’s chang­ing also. The only thing that does­n’t change, and I saw again and again last week in Afghanistan, is the ded­i­ca­tion and qual­i­ty of the men and women in uni­form, and we owe them our best ded­i­ca­tion back.”

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