Defense Budget

Hagel plans budget in trying times

camo calculator

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said April 3 that defense officials must be "steely-eyed and clear-headed" as they challenge long-held assumptions about departmental operations in light of budget pressures. Principally, he said people and purchasing have driven up the costs for DOD, but sequestration has stolen away, for one, flexibility to address the problems.

Hagel, in addition to detailing his planned review and the growing importance of cybersecurity efforts, stressed that acquisition would be a key part of DOD efforts to adjust to the new budget realities.  (Read the speech transcript.)

"It is already clear to me that any serious effort to reform and reshape our defense enterprise must confront the principal drivers of growth in the department's base budget namely acquisitions, personnel costs, and overhead," he said during a speech at the National Defense University in Washington, DC.

"To address acquisition, personnel, and overhead costs in smart ways that have not been done before, we need time, flexibility, and the support and partnership of Congress," he said. "We also need long-term budget certainty."

At the minimum, lawmakers have not given defense officials that certainty or flexibility. DOD and other agencies are in the midst of sequestration that Hagel said limits any wiggle room for reassessing DOD. In addition, Congress has forced departments to survive under continuing resolutions for many years because they have failed to pass appropriations bills.

Regarding procurement, Hagel said the defense acquisition system needs responsiveness and quick moves.

"We need to continually move forward with designing an acquisition system that responds more efficiently, effectively and quickly to the needs of troops and commanders in the field," he said. He went into few details beyond that though.

In November 2012, Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, laid out 36 goals for DOD to address in the coming years as the Better Buying Power Initiative. He launched the Better Buying Power 2.0, an offshoot of the 2010 initiative. Kendall's primary aspect of this iteration is professionalizing the workforce. As with its predecessor, the main emphasis of Better Buying Power 2.0 is to find savings.

Hagel has his worries nonetheless.

"I'm concerned that despite pruning many major procurement programs over the past four years, the military's modernization strategy still depends on systems that are vastly more expensive and technologically risky than what was promised or budgeted for," he said.

The Government Accountability Office pointed to a few improvements. In the last five years, defense officials conducted more preliminary design reviews on their programs' systems before they started developing them. It provided a more solid foundation to avoid cost overruns and schedule problems, according to a report released March 28. The prototypes can avoid problematic cost overruns later in the program when a prototype proves the system will work as intended.

However, sequestration remains Hagel's chief enemy.

"The sequester cut, because it falls heavily on operations and modernization accounts, is already having a disruptive and potentially damaging impact on the readiness of the force," he said.

About the Author

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

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.

Featured

  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group