WASHINGTON: The Defense Department must find $100 billion in savings over the next five years to ensure U.S. warfighters continue to have the resources they need to defend the nation now and into the future, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today.
At a briefing today, Gates introduced Ashton Carter, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, and spoke about his own commitment to the effort.
“Over the past month, I’ve directed the Pentagon to take a hard, unsparing look at how the department is staffed, organized and operated,” Gates said. “The purpose is to significantly reduce our overhead costs in order to free up the resources needed to sustain our force structure, to modernize, and to create future combat capabilities.”
President Barack Obama’s defense budget requests for the next five years reflect the importance of growth for the department, the secretary said. While funding for other federal agencies is flat, the Defense Department is projected for a bit more than 1 percent real growth.
But that growth is not enough to ensure servicemembers receive the best equipment and materials. Gates said the $100 billion in overhead savings he’s working to achieve over the next five years would be put back into the acquisition process.
“As a matter of principle and political reality, we must do everything possible to make every taxpayer dollar count,” the secretary said.
Some of the savings will come from eliminating unneeded programs and activities. Gates already has canceled a number of underperforming or unneeded projects. “Other savings can be found within programs and activities we do need, by conducting them more efficiently,” he said.
With $400 billion in contracts across the department, Gates said, the Pentagon must become more efficient in the way it buys goods and services. “Clearly, an important part of achieving that goal is working closely with our industry partners and departmental contracting professionals,” he said. “Like all important and necessary institutional changes, this process will take time. But I’m confident we’ll succeed.
“Ultimately,” he continued, “we as leaders in government owe it to the men and women of our armed forces to do all we can to provide them with the very best support possible.”