Carter: Warfighter Support Needs ‘Fast Lane’

WASHINGTON, July 15, 2011 — The Defense Depart­ment must insti­tute a “fast lane” that is more agile than tra­di­tion­al require­ments, acqui­si­tion and bud­get­ing, the under­sec­re­tary of defense for acqui­si­tion, tech­nol­o­gy and logis­tics said here today.

Ash­ton B. Carter told an audi­ence at the Brook­ings Insti­tu­tion that sup­port­ing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan calls for rapid­ly field­ed new capa­bil­i­ty, agile logis­tics and care­ful con­tin­gency con­tract­ing.

“Going for­ward, we need to insti­tu­tion­al­ize a fast lane in the depart­ment in some way,” Carter said. “It’s not only nec­es­sary for the wars we’re in, it’s real­ly nec­es­sary for the tem­po of tech­no­log­i­cal change and the way the world changes.”

Today, the Pentagon’s ad hoc fast lane is for­mal­ly called the Senior Inte­gra­tion Group, chaired by Carter and Robert Neller, direc­tor of oper­a­tions for the Joint Staff, and cre­at­ed by for­mer Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates.

“That is the mech­a­nism Sec­re­tary Gates set up to over­come his frus­tra­tion with the department’s gen­er­al inabil­i­ty to be agile and quick, which is true,” Carter said. “The sys­tem we have is designed to be delib­er­ate and not to be quick,” he added. “That’s a prob­lem all by itself, even in our nor­mal pro­grams, [and] it’s com­plete­ly unac­cept­able when you’re in the mid­dle of a war.”

Carter, who just returned from Afghanistan, said the focus of activ­i­ty there now “is to ensure that the force in Afghanistan, which Pres­i­dent [Barack] Oba­ma has direct­ed be reduced in size, nev­er­the­less con­tin­ues to grow in capa­bil­i­ty.”

That objec­tive can be achieved in sev­er­al ways, Carter said.

One is to con­tin­ue to pro­vide more of what Carter calls enablers — intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance, or ISR, tech­nol­o­gy and the capa­bil­i­ty to detect road­side bombs. “The sec­ond way we can increase capa­bil­i­ty is by using few­er deployed sol­diers, sailors, air­men and Marines to accom­plish tasks that don’t require uni­forms or phys­i­cal pres­ence in Afghanistan,” he said. A long-stand­ing exam­ple, Carter told the group, is the way the Unit­ed States flies remote­ly con­trolled unmanned Preda­tor and Reaper aer­i­al vehi­cles from Creech Air Force Base in Neva­da.

Mak­ing the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces more capa­ble in the years ahead is anoth­er way to reduce the num­ber of U.S. forces while main­tain­ing capa­bil­i­ty in Afghanistan, he said.

Describ­ing actions being pur­sued in the area of rapid and respon­sive acqui­si­tion and field­ing, Carter said a sec­ond surge of equip­ment to Afghanistan that Gates began in Jan­u­ary is now deliv­er­ing.

“You can see that every­where in the coun­try,” he said.

The num­ber of aerostats — moored bal­loons enabled with sen­sors for per­sis­tent ISR — is dou­bling, for exam­ple, he said. These, he explained, are espe­cial­ly crit­i­cal for use over out­ly­ing facil­i­ties and road­ways.

Unat­tend­ed ground sen­sors are becom­ing use­ful in Afghanistan now that more areas are being cleared and held, Carter said, and the all-ter­rain, mine-resis­tant, ambush-pro­tect­ed armored fight­ing vehi­cles in Afghanistan are get­ting under­body improve­ment kits that increase their resis­tance to bombs.

Clear­ing and hold­ing areas in solid­i­fy­ing secu­ri­ty in Afghanistan also increas­es the num­ber of dis­mount­ed oper­a­tions, he added, “and they require some­what dif­fer­ent kinds of equip­ment and tac­tics than the mount­ed oper­a­tions that were the focus ini­tial­ly.”

Troops are learn­ing and adjust­ing to a chang­ing ene­my and from their own expe­ri­ence, he said, and train­ing still is crit­i­cal.

“I’ll be going out to train­ing ranges in the next cou­ple of months to make sure that troops rotat­ing into Afghanistan have seen and had the expe­ri­ence of train­ing on the equip­ment before they fall in on it in coun­try,” Carter said.

In the area of logis­tics, “the mir­a­cle of 2010” con­tin­ues in Afghanistan, thanks to the efforts of “Log Nation” — the total­i­ty of mil­i­tary com­mands, defense con­trac­tors, DOD civil­ians and com­mer­cial con­trac­tors who sup­port DOD logis­tics.

“It’s amaz­ing what Log Nation is capa­ble of doing and does every day there,” he said.

The mir­a­cle, Carter said, refers to get­ting tens of thou­sands of troops and their equip­ment into “a land-locked coun­try with very par­si­mo­nious inter­nal lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion” for the Afghanistan surge.

In the area of con­tract­ing, he said, “we do a lot of con­tin­gency con­tract­ing,” or direct con­tract­ing sup­port to tac­ti­cal and oper­a­tional forces, to ensure warfight­ers have what they need.

“[We’re] always try­ing there to bal­ance effec­tive­ness and effi­cien­cy and make sure we have enough con­tract­ing offi­cers [and] con­tract­ing offi­cer rep­re­sen­ta­tives,” he added. “We still have work to do, but we are mak­ing progress not using cash pay­ments and oth­er­wise try­ing to min­i­mize oppor­tu­ni­ties for fraud, cor­rup­tion or just a bad deal as we do our con­tin­gency con­tract­ing.”

Mean­while, back at home, Carter said, there are wars of a dif­fer­ent kind — bud­get wars.

Gates and his suc­ces­sor, Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta have made it clear that the Defense Depart­ment is enter­ing a new era in defense spend­ing that is going to require chang­ing the way it does busi­ness, Carter said. Oba­ma and Con­gress have also made it clear, he added, that the defense bud­get, which is about 20 per­cent of the total fed­er­al bud­get, must be part of the reduc­tion in spend­ing over the next 12 years.

“As we have assessed how to accom­plish [this] task, first Sec­re­tary Gates and now Sec­re­tary Panet­ta have under­tak­en a com­pre­hen­sive review of the impact of bud­get reduc­tions on force struc­ture and capa­bil­i­ty and ulti­mate­ly on mis­sions and America’s role in the world,” Carter said.

Com­pre­hen­sive, he added, means that every­thing must be on the table.

The com­pre­hen­sive review is under way and mak­ing progress, he said, but it already has revealed that:

— The new era will require a dif­fer­ent mind set for gov­ern­ment and indus­try man­agers and their con­gres­sion­al over­seers;

— It’s impor­tant to pro­ceed not by sub­trac­tion alone but by a vision of the mil­i­tary need­ed in the future; and

— How­ev­er large the bud­get is, every dol­lar must count.

“The pres­i­dent, the sec­re­tary and the tax­pay­ers are going to expect us to make every dol­lar we do get count,” Carter said. “In short, they want bet­ter val­ue for the defense dol­lar,” he added. “It’s what the coun­try should expect, no mat­ter what size the bud­get is.”

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

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