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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