House mulls slashing DOD work force

A key congressional panel has called for slashing the Defense Department acquisition work force by 40 percent and Pentagon headquarters staffs by 25 percent predicting the cutbacks will save $15 billion during a five-year period.

The House Committee on National Security inserted these provisions when it attached the Defense Reform Act of 1997 (H.R. 1778) to its version of the Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 1119). The authorization bill was sent to the House floor on June 20 but it was left as unfinished business when the chamber adjourned.The authorization bill calls for cuts in the acquisition work force by 40 000 workers a year during the next two years with another 22 000 pared from the work force in the third year.

The committee chaired by Rep. Floyd Spence (R-S.C.) said it pushed the work force cuts to "create a smaller smarter and streamlined bureaucracy. In an environment where combat forces continue to be reduced while they are deployed more often the committee believes it is untenable to continue devoting 60 percent of the Defense budget to support and infrastructure."

The White House reacted strongly to the proposed cuts. "The targets for work force reductions ignore the success of reduction efforts to date and...would leave a work force insufficient to ensure that DOD receives maximum value for its money at a time when procurement budgets are increasing " the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement on the bill.

IT Projects Get Funding Hike

The committee hiked funding for DOD information technology projects by more than half a billion dollars with emphasis on emerging IT-based tactical systems.

At the same time the committee's report on the act also pressures the Office of the Secretary of Defense to bolster weaknesses in its chain of command in several cases proposing to withhold money until OSD complies.

Olga Grkavac senior vice president of the Information Technology Association of America's Systems Integration Division said "the funding patterns look good" in the committee's version of the bill "with no surprises no unexpected cuts in IT funding."

The Army's Force XXI initiative designed to give soldiers and commanders a digitized view of the battlefield would receive more than $220 million - a $55 million hike - across four different programs.That funding includes a total of $94 million for buying Enhanced Position Location Reporting System radios which help create the digital battlefield by automatically providing troop positioning information and $92.4 million for migrating legacy information systems to the cellular-based Warfighter Information Network for data communications in the battlefield.

Lt. Gen. Otto Guenther Army director of information systems for command control and communications speaking at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association convention last week said development of the digitized force amounts to "more than just a [command control communications computers and intelligence] exercise." The digitization program will allow the Army to field a nimble "technologically empowered force " Guenther said.

The proposed bill also increases funding from $34.2 million to $59 million for the Marine Corps' Commandant's Warfighting Laboratory which spearheads the Marines' advanced warfighting experiments.The committee also rejuvenates a number of the services' top unfunded procurement priorities including $114.8 million for the Navy's Cooperative Engagement Capability.

CEC is a system that would integrate anti-air warfare sensor information into a single real-time picture. The system distributes sensor data from any ship or aircraft to all the others in a battle group via a high-speed network.

Additionally the committee proposes $42.6 million to upgrade the telecommunications infrastructure at several Marine bases.

However while giving strong support to the department's most ambitious IT programs the House also presses the Pentagon to shore up its management infrastructure.

For example the committee voices support for the department's strategy to create a "virtual intelligence analysis environment" by bringing together seven individual command and control or intelligence systems into a collaborative framework. However according to the report "the committee believes the various projects reflected in the president's request do not have the necessary direction and control to require the sharing of developments and to ensure that duplication of effort is minimized."

The committee said it would withhold half of the $196.6 million in requested funding until the Pentagon comes up with a plan for the much-needed "management focal point" within the department.

The House also criticized OSD for failing to provide an effective champion for acquisition policy. The department's decision to distribute policy responsibility across various offices "has led to confusion over who within the department is charged with determining the scope pace and overall direction of acquisition reform policy " according to the report.

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