USA — Spending Reforms Top Defense Priorities, Lynn Says

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18, 2010 — The Pen­ta­gon should start see­ing results from major spend­ing reforms Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates launched this sum­mer, Deputy Defense Sec­re­tary William J. Lynn III said.

The entire Defense Depart­ment is work­ing to change the way it does busi­ness to become more effi­cient, Lynn said dur­ing an Oct. 14 Pen­ta­gon Chan­nel interview. 

“There’s great work going on in the Pen­ta­gon,” he said. “All of the mil­i­tary depart­ments, all of the com­bat­ant com­mands and all of the var­i­ous agen­cies and orga­ni­za­tions through­out the Defense Depart­ment are work­ing very hard to achieve what the sec­re­tary has asked them to do,” he said. 

The top-pri­or­i­ty spend­ing reforms began in 2009 with an effort to change the department’s approach to mil­i­tary acqui­si­tion and con­tin­ued in May, when Gates direct­ed DOD “to take a hard and unspar­ing look at how the depart­ment is staffed, orga­nized and oper­at­ed,” the sec­re­tary said dur­ing a Sept. 8 news conference. 

Gates said he con­clud­ed that defense mil­i­tary and civil­ian head­quar­ters and sup­port bureau­cra­cies “have swelled to cum­ber­some and top-heavy pro­por­tions, grown over-reliant on con­trac­tors, and grown accus­tomed to oper­at­ing with lit­tle con­sid­er­a­tion to cost.” 

Lynn described Gates’ four-track approach to move defense agen­cies toward a more effi­cient, effec­tive and cost-con­scious way of doing business: 

— Through the nor­mal pro­gram and bud­get process Gates seeks to shift $100 bil­lion “from over­head accounts into warfight­ing accounts,” Lynn said, “from tail to tooth.” 

— Gates also seeks out­side advice from advi­so­ry boards, think tanks and DOD employ­ees “on how we might get more effi­cient,” Lynn said, not­ing DOD employ­ees have sup­plied 15,000 ideas. 

— A process-reform track tar­gets the acqui­si­tion process and seeks “to devel­op more effi­cien­cies and a more effec­tive way of buy­ing equip­ment,” Lynn said. Ash­ton B. Carter, under­sec­re­tary of defense for acqui­si­tion, tech­nol­o­gy, and logis­tics, is lead­ing the acqui­si­tion reform effort. 

— Gates also announced a series of ini­tia­tives to reduce head­quar­ters, Lynn said, “to reduce flag and gen­er­al offi­cers as well as [Senior Exec­u­tive Ser­vice] employ­ees, to reduce sup­port con­trac­tors, to elim­i­nate unnec­es­sary boards and com­mis­sions and a vari­ety of oth­er efforts, to devel­op greater oper­a­tional agili­ty and to reduce lay­ers, over­lap and bureau­cra­cy in the department.” 

Effi­cien­cies alone “won’t be enough to get the $100 bil­lion in sav­ing the sec­re­tary is seek­ing,” Lynn said. “What we’re going to need to do is elim­i­nate some low­er-pri­or­i­ty func­tions and tasks and orga­ni­za­tions to get that kind of savings.” 

Stand­ing down the U.S. Joint Forces Com­mand in Nor­folk, Va., is “one of the impor­tant ele­ments,” Lynn said, in achiev­ing cost efficiencies. 

“The sec­re­tary feels very strong­ly that we need to elim­i­nate excess head­quar­ters, excess bureau­cra­cy [and] unnec­es­sary lay­ers and the Joint Forces Com­mand is one of the sig­na­ture efforts in that regard,” he said. 

The biggest chal­lenge in instill­ing a cul­ture of sav­ings at the depart­ment is chang­ing the way peo­ple think, Lynn said. 

“We’ve been the last decade in an era of pret­ty sub­stan­tial bud­get increas­es and we’re prob­a­bly not going to [con­tin­ue to] have those,” he said. “We need to change people’s think­ing so they think about the costs of things they’re doing as well as the val­ue … It’s the biggest chal­lenge, but it’s prob­a­bly the most impor­tant endeavor.” 

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

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