Thornberry looks to shut down DISA

Rep. Mac Thornberry (Photo: House Armed Services Committee)

Mac Thornberry plans steep cuts to the Pentagon's "fourth estate". (Photo: House Armed Services Committee)

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) is looking to eliminate the Defense Information Systems Agency as part of his latest Department of Defense reform push.

"Did you know that in the Department of Defense there are 60 chief information officers at the SES level?" Thornberry told reporters April 17. "Is it any wonder that we have a challenge in getting our IT act together?"

Thornberry released text for the Comprehensive Pentagon Bureaucracy Reform and Reduction Act to trim DOD’s supporting agencies, often referred to as the "fourth estate." The plan, he said, is to roll the bill into the fiscal year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Thornberry told reporters that his defense reform proposal aimed to "streamline, simplify, and get rid of the obsolete" in DOD by cutting back-office spending by 25 percent -- a potential $25 billion in cost savings that would be reinvested in warfighter capabilities.

"Twenty-eight different agencies and field activities, about 20 percent of DOD’s budget, about 25 percent of DOD’s people are in … the fourth estate," Thornberry said.

The cuts would hit DISA and six other agencies with deemed redundant functions: the Defense Human Resources Activity, Defense Technical Information Center, Office of Economic Adjustment, Test Resource Management Center, Washington Headquarters Service and Defense Technology and Security Administration.

Thornberry said U.S. Cyber Command is already absorbing DISA’s functions and the agency’s shuttering was "naturally occurring" over time.

"My proposal would be to do away with it by 2021," he said. "Obviously, in the meantime the [chief management officer] has got to place the other things it wants to keep wherever it seems appropriate."

DOD Deputy CMO John Gibson has been nominated to be chief management officer. Once confirmed, he will be charged with overseeing management of DOD’s supporting agencies and cutting costs by 2021.

Thornberry said the bureaucracy of DOD’s fourth estate has been largely untouched by oversight and reform, and that he hoped the proposed cuts would both streamline decision making and yield cost savings.

The Defense Contract Management Agency and Defense Contract Auditing Agency were left off the initial list of potential cuts, but Thornberry said he was looking at reductions or eliminations there as well. Those options and others will be explored and debated ahead of the full committee markup of the 2019 NDAA.

Thornberry also unveiled the Accelerating the Pace of Acquisitions Reform Act of 2018, which seeks to reorganize the acquisition laws.

"One of the things I worry about is so many small and middle-sized innovative companies just say, ‘I can’t do business with those people, it’s too complicated,’" Thornberry said.

To remedy that, he said, the bill seeks to reorganize the acquisition code, repeal several reporting requirement, statutes, and the statutory requirement some offices at the Pentagon.

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is senior editor for FCW and Defense Systems, covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


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