Leaders direct DOD to buckle down on spending

Leon Panetta -- DOD photo

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta: DOD must implement 'prudent measures' to mitigate budget risk. (DOD photo)

The Defense Department’s two top leaders on Jan. 10 instructed the military services to get serious about planning to major budget cuts, including a memo from Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter with guidelines for addressing looming fiscal uncertainty.

Military agencies have received the green light to freeze civilian hiring, terminate temporary hires and reduce base operating funds. Also on the chopping block are expenses that could include business IT, according to the memo, which has been viewed by FCW. The measures regarding the workforce have already prompted a complaint from a federal employees' union.


Union complaint: DOD memo biased toward contractors

In the memo, Carter attributes the guidance to concerns about sequestration and the ongoing use of continuing resolutions.

“Given the overall budgetary uncertainty faced by the department, and in particular the immediate operational issues presented by the CR, it is prudent to take certain steps now in order to help avoid serious future problems. I therefore authorize all defense components to begin implementing measures that will help mitigate execution risks,” the memo stated.

Carter also directed that any measures undertaken should be able to be undone in the case agreements are reached on Capitol Hill.

“For now, and to the extent possible, any actions taken must be reversible at a later date in the event that Congress acts to remove the risks I have described. The actions should be structured to minimize harmful effects on our people and on operations and unit readiness,” Carter wrote.

Beyond personnel guidance, the memo permits the services to cut travel, training and conferences. It additionally includes within near-term measures the curtailment of “administrative expenses such as supply purchases, business IT, ceremonies, etc.”

The outline also allows agency leaders to review contracts and studies for possible ways to cut costs or find savings. All research and development, as well as production and contract modifications, that obligate more than $500 million now are subject to clearance by the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics prior to award, according to the report.

Officials also must provide the under secretary and the assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering with a budgetary impact assessment of fiscal uncertainty on research priorities for all science and technology accounts.

At a Jan. 10 Pentagon briefing, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta echoed the concerns Carter conveyed in the memo.

“While we appreciate the fact that both parties came together to delay sequester, the unfortunate thing is that sequester itself, and the sequester threat, was not removed. So the prospect of it happening again is undermining our ability to responsibly manage this department in the current fiscal year,” Panetta said. “Regardless of what Congress does or fails to do, we still have an obligation to protect this country. So for that reason, I've asked the military services and the other components to immediately begin implementing prudent measures that will help mitigate our budget risk.”

He noted a potential “perfect storm of budget uncertainty” in sequestration, the continuing resolutions and an impending debt ceiling debate.

“The fact is, looking at all three of those, we have no idea what the hell's going to happen. All told, this uncertainty, if left unresolved by the Congress, will seriously harm our military readiness,” Panetta said.

About the Author

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

Cyber. Covered.

Government Cyber Insider tracks the technologies, policies, threats and emerging solutions that shape the cybersecurity landscape.


Reader comments

Wed, Jan 16, 2013

@Thomas - hey dude you're just in procurement. You don't make the requirements, you simply execute a buy. It's not your job to decide what is/isn't a requirement. Leave that to those paid to do so and you do your job - buy what they tell you to buy.

Mon, Jan 14, 2013 Cowboy Joe

While I can't imagine the DoD folks' talk bein' devoid a "sky's fallin" pulpit thumpin', it still brings t' mind the most important failin' of our current congress - the failure of the voters to nominate and select folks worthy of the position, and willing to actually do the job.

Mon, Jan 14, 2013

Decades of self-centered, IRRESPONSIBLE leadership has culminated to bring us to this.

Mon, Jan 14, 2013 Thomas J Kesolits Holmdel, New Jersey

From one perspective, the budget problem could be solved if the requirments situation were finally made realistic. In the current system we are still procuring cold war weapons. These could not be procured if the requirements were challenged, but as we all know, there is too much pressure not to do anything to cut multi billion dollar contracts. Requirements dictate what the military buy. In my over 45 years in defense procurment, I must say I have never heard a requirement challenged or totally cancelled due to lack of specific justification. Requirments documents are rarely specific and are broad as a barn. If they were forced to be specific, voiding something that does not make sense would be relatively simple. Threat and requirments go together and here the classification of information complicated things. If a threat no longer exists, the requirment can no longer be justified. Here we have a situation where the documentation of threats can be influenced by those in danger of losing funding if the threat was not the right threat. My bottom line is that the front end of the requirments process has been broken for over 60 years. President Eisenhower saw it and warned against it--maybe now is the time we have to get serious and fix it.

Mon, Jan 14, 2013

You know here we are in a crisis on budgeting, but yet have they ever considered the time we spend not getting paid or able to take comp time off. Comp time as they call it in the goverment is 1 hour for 1 hour worked after duty hours, while in the public sector thegoverment gives them a different rule time and a-half paid for any extra hours worked beside there 8 hours of work time. Now have you all ever considered that or we just suppose to be morons and never think about how we get screwed. This paper and every other media needs to seriously take a look at that, who is getting really making the money, when there is not real compensation for goverment employee's for overtime.

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