The real cost of continuing resolutions

DOD acquisition chief describes effect of CRs on programs, predicts more cuts

Continuing resolutions may look to Congress like an easy way to keep the government running while budget disagreements are debated, but they carry a bigger cost than they appear to, said Ashton Carter, under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

Speaking at the Heritage Foundation on April 20, Carter called the practice “not just inefficiency, but anti-efficiency.”

“Each and every program manager in the department has had to upset carefully calibrated plans, stop or slow activities only to restart them later, defer the commencement of important new programs and so forth. And the result of this is not only delay, it is inefficiency,” he said. “It is an uneconomical way to proceed in this herky-jerky fashion with all of our programs, procurements and activities.”

The budget uncertainty has added another layer of wasteful spending that will need to be stripped from DOD funding, Carter suggested.

“This has cost us billions to operate in this way,” he said. “It adds a dollop of cost overhead to everything we are doing. It is like a hidden tax.”

Carter added, “Whatever the budget levels are, this will feel very different to a group of government and industry managers and congressional overseers who have grown accustomed to [always reaching] for more money when they encountered a managerial or technical problem or a difficult choice. It’s clear that everyone, from the president to the defense secretary to the taxpayer, expects DOD to make every dollar count.”

Related story:

New DOD acquisition strategy sparks debate

Carter also said more cuts are ahead for DOD. Although virtually all parts of DOD spending are on the chopping block, it still won’t be enough to attain the $400 billion in DOD budget reductions President Barack Obama called for on April 13.

“We will be scrutinizing all of our programs and activities for those that are not needed,” Carter said. “It’s very easy to pick [weapons] programs because they all have a name and they are discrete. They are easy to write about, but that’s not where the money is…it is only a piece of the budget.”

Carter noted that weapons procurement accounts for $100 billion, or one-seventh, of the total DOD budget, with 70 percent of that going toward sustaining existing systems. He said DOD will need to look beyond weapons acquisition to achieve real efficiencies.

“We need to take a comprehensive look at our spending, including, but not limited to, acquisition programs,” he said, indicating the $400 billion DOD spends annually on contracted goods and services. “That is exactly what better buying power does.”

Carter released the 23-point “better buying power” guidance for acquisition reform last Sept. 14, just after Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced plans to identify and reinvest $100 billion during the next five years.

About the Author

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

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Reader comments

Wed, Aug 10, 2011 Jim Ruhlman Florida USA

Let's start making full contract to be published so the American Public knows what each item the government costs. Even sole source contracts the price is concealed why?

Mon, Apr 25, 2011 kp Little Rock

The comment, "...indicating the $400 billion DOD spends annually on contracted goods and services. “That is exactly what better buying power does.” is conclusory and shows willful ignorance of what is going on with many contracts. If I was in charge, I would ensure that contracts got a high degree of scrutiny to look for examples of waste for the benefit of political cronies at the expense of American Taxpayers. We do not need $200 per hour contract cooks when that work can be done for $20 per hour. No more $1,000 toilette seats and the like. Furthermore, these studies to look for waste do not need to be done by more high dollar consultants who will naturally conclude that theirs and others work is the best use of funds. It seems to be endless on the part of management to use these shills to usurp their decision making authority and they further abdicate their duty to the American People to be good shepherds of the resources with which they have been entrusted.

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