Continuing Resolutions Hinder Efficiency, Official Says

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2011 — Fund­ing the gov­ern­ment through a series of con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tions rather than approv­ing a bud­get is “mis­er­ably inef­fi­cient,” the Pentagon’s acqui­si­tion exec­u­tive said yes­ter­day.
Con­gress has approved a series of short-term con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tions since Sept. 29 that pro­hib­it new con­tracts and lim­it spend­ing to pre­vi­ous autho­rized lev­els. The most recent three-week exten­sion took effect March 18 and funds the gov­ern­ment through April 8.

Ash­ton B. Carter, under­sec­re­tary of defense for acqui­si­tion, tech­nol­o­gy and logis­tics, told atten­dees at a mis­sile defense con­fer­ence here that the res­o­lu­tions have the worst effect on the department’s best-man­aged pro­grams.

“They were already on a razor’s edge –- that’s where you want them,” he said. “You knew exact­ly what you were doing, exact­ly when you were going to do it and exact­ly how you were going to do it.”

Defense pro­grams planned for max­i­mum effi­cien­cy under the pro­posed 2011 bud­get have instead been sub­ject to delays and slow­downs, Carter said.

“It wastes mon­ey,” he said. “Bil­lions of dol­lars will be the cost of hav­ing to slow down some­thing now, only to accel­er­ate it lat­er because the fund­ing was­n’t avail­able.”

Carter also dis­cussed the nation’s grow­ing empha­sis on mis­sile defense tech­nol­o­gy and how that pro­gram meets DOD’s strict spend­ing guide­lines. Mis­sile defense — for decades a research and devel­op­ment pro­gram at the mar­gins of the nation’s defense effort — now is cen­tral to the nation’s mil­i­tary strat­e­gy, he said. As mis­sile defense com­po­nents reach the deploy­ment stage, he added, demand now exceeds sup­ply.

Com­bat­ant com­man­ders in all geo­graph­ic the­aters are ask­ing for bal­lis­tic mis­sile defense capa­bil­i­ties, he said, adding they “want more of it than we have.”

Mean­while, as the nation’s mil­i­tary bal­ances the costs of equip­ping troops at war against fund­ing emerg­ing pri­or­i­ties such as mis­sile defense, the depart­ment must ensure the best val­ue for every dol­lar, Carter said.

“The coun­try is look­ing to us to give them what they expect, what we have on the books, what we say they need [for defense] … and not less, for a not-ever-increas­ing amount of mon­ey,” he said. “It’s not an unrea­son­able request.”

Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates launched an ini­tia­tive in May to increase effi­cien­cies, reduce over­head costs and elim­i­nate redun­dant func­tions in the depart­ment. Carter said that as the Pen­ta­gon faces sharply reduced bud­get growth over the next decade, Gates’ guid­ance focus­es on the need for depart­ment offi­cials to “sharp­en our man­age­r­i­al game.”

The Mis­sile Defense Agency has done “a ter­rif­ic job in a num­ber of areas” to con­trol costs, even as demand for mis­sile defense capa­bil­i­ties soars, Carter said. Agency cost-con­tain­ment mea­sures include offer­ing incen­tives for on-sched­ule pro­grams, man­ag­ing the sup­ply chain, increas­ing the num­ber of con­tracts in com­pe­ti­tion and con­sol­i­dat­ing ser­vice con­tracts.

“In most ways, MDA was already man­ag­ing [accord­ing to the prin­ci­ples of] bet­ter buy­ing pow­er a cou­ple of years ago,” Carter said. “I wish all our man­agers were. Soon, they will be, and we real­ly need to do that.”

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

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