Gates details plans to slash DOD budget

Joint Forces Command, other major DOD offices face elimination

Defense Secretary Robert Gates today elaborated on plans to shave $100 billion from the defense budget over the next five years, and on the chopping block are a number of areas of Defense Department information technology infrastructure and offices.

“All of our bases, operational headquarters and defense agencies have their own IT infrastructures, processes and application-ware,” Gates said at a Pentagon press conference. “This decentralized approach results in large cumulative costs, and a patchwork of capabilities that create cyber vulnerabilities and limit our ability to capitalize on the promise of information technology.”

Beyond IT, Gates is targeting a number of DOD offices and organizations, including one major command. Among his proposed moves:

  • Reduce funding for support contractor personnel by 10 percent a year for the next three years.
  • Close the offices of the assistant secretary of defense for network intelligence and integration and the Joint Staff’s section for command, control, communications and computer systems.
  • Eliminate the Business Transformation Agency.
  • Recommend elimination of Joint Forces Command.
  • Freeze at fiscal 2010 levels the number of Office of the Secretary of Defense, defense agency and combatant command positions for the next three years; Gates said this is a first step in examining leadership organizations.
  • Freeze at fiscal 2010 levels the number of senior DOD officials; Gates will appoint a senior task force to assess the number of general and flag officers, senior executive service employees and political appointees.
  • Increase use of common IT functions to mitigate disparate, decentralized IT systems throughout DOD that result in cumulative costs and cyber vulnerabilities.
  • Freeze the overall number of required oversight reports and cut by a quarter the money allocated for such reports.
  • Eliminate DOD boards and commissions that have outlived their usefulness and cut funding to such boards by 25 percent,
  • Reduce by 10 percent funding for intelligence advisory and assistance contracts, freeze the number of senior executive service positions in the DOD intelligence apparatus and end needless intell duplication.

Gates said operational functions of offices proposed for closring “will be assigned to other organizations, and most of their acquisition functions will transfer to acquisition, technology and logistics.”

These steps are part of Gates’ attempt to trim the inefficiencies inside DOD, as his department faces the prospect of having less funding than the Obama administration is planning to give him.

Related stories:

Gates aims to slash budget by $100B to pay for war

“To be clear, the task before us is not to reduce the department’s top-line budget,” Gates said, according to a news report. “Rather, it is to significantly reduce its excess overhead costs and apply the savings to force structure and modernization.”

Reactions from Congress were mixed.

“I support any responsible shift of funds from overhead costs in order to strengthen the efforts of our brave troops,” said Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

However, Skelton warned Gates against going too far with the cuts. He urged the secretary to carefully analyze what gets cut.

“There are many functions within the department that are critical to our nation’s defense,” Skelton said. He’s already preparing for a committee hearing on Gate’s cost-cutting proposal after Congress’ August recess.

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), ranking member of the Armed Services Committee's Readiness Subcommittee, was upset that DOD is forced to find cuts because of the administration’s other budgetary priorities.

“Under the cover of night, this administration is selling off our military at auction to pay for its social programs,” he said today. Forbes  said this is the beginning of a long string of national defense cuts as the money goes to other priorities.

About the Authors

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.


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