Magazine article National Defense

With Gates' Proposals, the Edge of the Perfect Storm Comes Ashore

Magazine article National Defense

With Gates' Proposals, the Edge of the Perfect Storm Comes Ashore

Article excerpt

Defense Secretary Robert Gates just issued a significant series of budgetary and programmatic decisions that begin the major adjustment process he announced in early May at the Eisenhower Library in Kansas.

In last month's President's Perspective we anticipated the coming storm. With the August announcements, the leading edge of that storm has come ashore.

The reforms proposed by Gates are quite significant and will greatly affect many organizations. A series of reviews between now and the end of the year presages more adjustments to come in the 201 2 budget. The efficiency push is not over, Gates warned. "This is a dynamic process," he said. "I expect it to continue. It's not the work of one year or of one budget cycle. ... I wouldn't necessarily describe it as the tip of the iceberg, but if 90 percent of an iceberg is under water, then this is a pretty good percentage of it, but not all."

Gates has been adamant that his intent is not to cut the department's budget. The goal is to reshape priorities so resources can be freed up and reallocated within the Defense Department's budget to get to the 2 to 3 percent real growth (1 to 2 percent above current top line) he believes is needed to underwrite two wars and to protect our interests and future capabilities. Thus, any savings will be applied to more pressing needs wthin the existing top line.

The process will play out in four tracks: $100 billion in service-generated overhead savings (to include closure of bases); suggestions from external sources and boards (where the proposal to shutter Joint Forces Command came from); internal assessments (the Ashton Carter initiative) that will affect ongoing programs immediately, and the recent August announcements.

This last set of initiatives aims, in the first instance, to cut down on the use of advisory and support contractors by 10 percent a year for three years. Next up is a freeze on headquarters, agency and combatant positions and significantly, no creation of full-time in-house positions as a result of in-sourcing after 2010. A "cleansheet" review will be completed by Nov. 15. A freeze on senior executive service and general officer positions is to be followed by the elimination of at least 50 general officers and 1 50 SES officials over the next two years.

Reports and studies, and outside boarcts/commissions are to be cut by 25 percent and are targeted for further reductions.

The most significant changes come with major functional and organizational adjustments. Of note is the consolidation of information technology within the department and across bases, headquarters and agencies. Not much detail is available yet, but much more is to come. …

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