Gates' planned cuts will make only small dent, analysts say

Congressional resistance to proposed closures is also likely

Defense Secretary Robert Gate’s proposed cuts of commands, staff and information technology infrastructure through reorganization are well-intentioned, but unlikely to make a significant impact, some analysts say. Gates proposed the cuts to save the department money and protect its resources from further cuts as Congress begins to eye defense programs as sources of savings.

The initiative plans to reduce the DOD budget by $100 billion over the next five years. A component of this will be through significant cuts in the department’s IT infrastructure with the hope that streamlined processes and efficiencies will permit a growth of 2 percent to 3 percent in real defense spending in the future. Gates hopes to use this money to fund future acquisitions programs.

Related coverage:

Gates wants DOD IT consolidation, but the past isn't encouraging

Defense cuts raise questions about strategy

While analysts laud Gates’ efforts, they also note that many of the cuts, especially those of major commands and personnel, will face stiff resistance from Congress. Winslow Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information, noted that none of the money that would supposedly by saved through these efforts would actually leave the defense budget, but would be transferred to other parts of the DOD.

Wheeler suspects that Gates knows he will lose his fight against cuts and is pursuing a rear-guard action to help DOD survive the cuts that are coming. But the outcome would nullify the proposed efficiencies. “They will not transform the Pentagon into something that can survive significant budget reductions and be anything but the same institution at a lower level of spending,” he said. Wheeler said this will be a disaster because, even with dramatically growing budgets, U.S. forces have become smaller, older and less ready to fight.

Consolidation and contraction will also sound the death knell for many large DOD IT networking efforts. According to the Lexington Institute’s Loren Thompson, writing just days before Gates detailed his proposal, an earlier set of recommendations from the Defense Business Board would mark the end of the concept of network centric warfare championed by Gate’s predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld. Thompson noted that sevice-level projects such as the Navy’s Next Generation Enterprise Network “increasingly look like wasteful efforts to reinvent the wheel — efforts that are doomed to be cancelled as Washington turns to deficit reduction and military budgets shrink.”

Daniel Gore, Thompson’s colleague at the Lexington Institute adds that despite calling for greater IT commonality, the elimination of the Joint Forces Command and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Defense Networks and Information Integration, and the Defense Transformation Agency, these proposals — while commendable — are rather modest and not radical enough to save $100 billion. Reducing staff and closing commands will not provide any additional saving because the affected personnel will be assigned to other commands, they will not be permanently fired. “So in the end, very little will be saved,” Gore wrote in his blog.

Reader Comments

Sat, Sep 4, 2010

US AFRICOM alone has waisted over 10 Million in IT projects alone this FY. Not to mention the 25 million dollar IT service contract with very little to show for it. Are you listening GAO?

Fri, Aug 13, 2010 Gorgonzola

Don't forget to cut the FFRDCs, which have usurious staff year rates (~350K) and function sole source. With their vested interests in certain programs, they also are deeply involved in defending from cuts. Their conflicts of interests alone are enough to cut them deeply.

Thu, Aug 12, 2010

How about cutting out NMCI and let the DOD IT departments do the job they were meant to do, trained for and were performing on a more efficient basis before that debacle.

Thu, Aug 12, 2010 John

Sure retire the old folks who know how it works and let the young inexperienced folks make ALL the mistakes that their predecessors have made - let's reinvent the wheel. there are better solutions, one is to grade the contribution, not the age/tenure. New ideas are usually not generated at the top, the ability to get them funded and deployed is done at the top,

Thu, Aug 12, 2010

Some of his recommendations are contradictory and will have disastrous consequences down the road. Freezing the civilian work force was done about 10 years ago. The result is an aging work force and no one ready for management as the gap caused by the hiring freeze left a big hole in the middle ranks where the next generation of management is grown and groomed. Even now we are short the middle group and use contractors. If contractors are cut back as well there will be less capacity to deal with the problems.

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