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Gates Puts Meat on Bones of Department Efficiencies Initiative

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 9, 2010 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is putting meat on the bones of his initiative to reform the way the Pentagon does business and to eliminate duplicative, unnecessary overhead costs.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
CULTURE OF SAVING - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates conducts a press conference at the Pentagon, Aug. 9, 2010. Gates said he is taking steps to help the U.S. military fight the wars it faces now, and help ready the force for the wars it may face in the future. With these moves, the secretary said, he wants to instill a culture of saving in the department. DoD photo by Cherie Cullen

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

During a Pentagon news conference today, Gates said the steps he is taking will help the U.S. military fight the wars it faces now, and help ready the force for the wars it may face in the future. With these moves, the secretary said, he wants to instill a culture of saving in the department.

Money saved with these efficiencies will go back into funding needed military capabilities. “To be clear, the task before us is not to reduce the department’s top-line budget,” Gates said. “Rather, it is to significantly reduce its excess overhead costs and apply the savings to force structure and modernization.”

President Barack Obama has programmed in real growth of between 1 and 2 percent into future years’ defense budgets, but that is not enough to maintain today’s warfighting capabilities and modernize, which requires roughly 2 to 3 percent real growth. The savings in overhead are crucial to making up that difference, Gates said.

Earlier this year, the secretary tasked the services to find $100 billion in overhead savings over the next five years. “This exercise is well under way, as the services are evaluating their programs and activities to identify what remains a critical priority and what is no longer affordable,” he said. “They are all planning to eliminate headquarters that are no longer needed and reduce the size of the staffs that remain.”

Gates also authorized the services to consider consolidation or closure of excess bases and other facilities. It is a measure of Gates’ determination to save money that he has proposed this, he noted, since Congress has made it almost impossible to close bases. “But hard is not impossible, and I hope Congress will work with us to reduce unnecessary costs in this part of the defense enterprise,” he said.

The secretary also announced a number of immediate steps he will take. Gates said he will reduce the funding for support contractor personnel by 10 percent a year for the next three years.

Gates is freezing the number of office of the secretary of defense, defense agency and combatant command manpower positions at the fiscal 2010 levels for the next three years. He said this is just a first step to studying these leadership organizations.

“We will conduct a ‘clean-sheet review’ to determine what our people should be doing, where, at what level of rank in keeping with the department’s most critical priorities,” he said.

He is also freezing the number of senior Defense Department leaders at fiscal 2010 levels. He will appoint a senior task force to assess the number of positions for general and flag officers, senior executive service employees and political appointees. “At a minimum, I expect this effort to cut at least 50 general and flag officer positions and 150 senior civilian executive positions over the next two years,” he said.

Gates also pushed the potential for economies of scale – especially in the information technology arena.

“All of our bases, operational headquarters and defense agencies have their own IT infrastructures, processes and application-ware,” Gates said. “This decentralized approach results in large cumulative costs, and a patchwork of capabilities that create cyber vulnerabilities and limit our ability to capitalize on the promise of information technology.” The secretary directed the department to increase the use of common information technology functions.

The Pentagon is awash in reports; the secretary is freezing the overall number of required oversight reports, and he will immediately cut by a quarter the money allocated to the effort.

The department similarly has a number of boards and commissions that have outlived their usefulness. He directed that the department eliminate those boards no longer needed and an overall funding cut of 25 percent for these boards.

The secretary also is looking for efficiencies in the department’s intelligence apparatus. He has directed an immediate 10 percent reduction in funding for intelligence advisory and assistance contracts and a freeze in the number of senior executive service positions. He also is moving to end needless duplication in the intel business.

“I have directed a zero-based review of the department’s intelligence missions, organizations, relationships and contracts to be completed by Nov. 1,” Gates said. James Clapper, the new director of national intelligence, has expressed interest in doing the same for civilian intelligence organizations, the secretary said.

Finally, the secretary is closing two defense offices and recommending the closure of a combatant command. The secretary is eliminating the offices of the assistant secretary of defense for network integration and the Joint Staff’s section for command, control, communications, and computer systems. “Their operational functions will be assigned to other organizations, and most of their acquisition functions will transfer to acquisition, technology and logistics,” Gates said.

Gates also will eliminate the Business Transformation Agency. The agency – with 360 people and a budget of $340 million – will transfer responsibilities to other offices.

The secretary is recommending eliminating U.S. Joint Forces Command. The command is the arbiter and proponent for joint training, doctrine and operations in the military, he said, but it means an extra layer in the bureaucracy. It is one of five four-star commands that need to be involved in sending a military working dog team to Afghanistan, Gates said during a speech in Abilene, Kan., earlier this year.

But driven by joint experience in Afghanistan, Iraq and around the world, the secretary noted, the need for such a joint advocate has lessened. Training and generating joint forces still is important, as is developing and testing joint doctrine. But it does not “require a separate four-star combatant command, which, in the case of [Joint Forces Command] entails about 2,800 military and civilian positions and roughly 3,000 contractors of all kinds at an annual cost of at least $240 million to operate,” Gates said.

The secretary said the department will help employees affected by these closings.

Gates also wants military personnel and civilians to think outside the box. He wants them to submit their ideas for saving resources, reducing the layers of the organizations and eliminating duplication and overhead.

“Within the department, we are launching an online contest for the purpose of soliciting and rewarding creative ideas to save money and use resources more effectively,” he said. “I would encourage all DoD employees to visit ‘www.defense.gov’ on the Web to learn more.”


Contact Author

Robert M. Gates

Related Sites:
Briefing Transcript
Special Report: INVEST: Innovation for New Value, Efficiency and Savings Tomorrow

Related Articles:
Obama Calls Gates' Announcement 'Step Forward'
Mullen Issues Statement on Gates' Initiatives
Joint Forces Command Responds to Gates Announcement


Article is closed to new comments.

The opinions expressed in the following comments do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Defense.

8/17/2010 8:31:58 AM
I am an American living and working in Germany. The overseas five year rotation agreement makes a lot of since for employee who are earning Cost of living allowances; our government save money by rotating them back to Conus. However for those of us who are local hire and normally married to local national and do not receive cost of living allowances is a good source of cheap and experienced labor for our government. We are force to leave every three to five years, at an average cost of $65.00 or more for each person force to return to the United States.
- Tom R Sheppard, Germany

8/13/2010 8:20:18 PM
Looking forward to following the cuts you proposed in the news. The best of luck to you all.
- Esther, Texas

8/12/2010 10:13:18 PM
Stop contracting out functions that are part of a job description for an already hired civilian that is happy to have less to do. Find a way to maximize in sourcing rather than out sourcing, why should tax payers pay for the same thing twice. Above all reduce the beurocracy of logistics, that's why everything get's out sourced.
- Mike, Maryland

8/12/2010 7:53:50 AM
Travel is important in many situations but could be reduced. DoD travel budgets have to be astronomical as a whole so I believe using video teleconferencing can save huge amounts of money across the Department. Using this technology will pay for itself over time in TDY savings.
- Michael, McLean, VA

8/11/2010 5:01:38 AM
DEFSEC Gates invited all employees to provide ideas on how to save money. My idea is to re-invent the 5 year rotation rule for civilian employees serving overseas. I understand that a Civilian is recruited to work overseas and given benefits as an incentive to do 3 year tour with an option to extend up to 5 years, then rotate back, many employees do not; however, they maintain those benefits such as LQA) Living Quarters Allowance). I am a DoD overseas hire, and I do not receive benefits such as LQA, however, I am being involuntarily forced to rotate to the States. I wish to remain in Germany, b/c my family is German, and the cost to send me and hundreds of other locally hired civilians is not cost effective. Someone should look into this active (PPP) Priority Placement Program) in EUROPE that is forcing hundreds of civilian employees to move stateside involuntarily and it seems like many, many wasted $$$ at a time when we are being told to save.
- Charles Jones, Germany

8/11/2010 3:40:58 AM
Here are some great ways to save money, don't buy office furniture every year!! Or instead of making everyone spend all their money in their budget at the end of the year so that they get the same amount next year, have an incentive program for those who actually save money at the end of the year. I have ordered so much stuff at the end of the year just to be able to get the same budget next year and it is absurd.
- nick, Turkey

8/10/2010 11:40:18 AM
all taxpayers should stand up and cheer for mr. gates. finally, someone in washington who actually wants to spend our money in meaningful programs rather than on more and more pork.
- chuck carleton, santa rosa, ca

8/10/2010 2:09:02 AM
Why only "freeze" the number of personnel employed at the OSD? This will not result in any significant savings. The OSD is a huge, bloated bureaucracy which has a budget larger than the entire procurement of the USMC - $4.8 bn against $2.5 bn (FY2010 numbers). A BRAC round is necessary indeed - and the first base that should be closed is a base that no one uses, Fort Chafee, along with ceremonial bases such as Fort Myer and Henderson Hall.
- Zbigniew Mazurak, Truro, UK

8/9/2010 10:28:40 PM
How come Defense Secretary Gates is cutting USJF command when NATO's Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk Virginia, that was formed to connect with USJF Command, now has the functions that the USJF Command had, in the same place, with a foreign commander and full of foreign military personnel, directing it? It appears that NATO and it's new Allied Command Transformation command, started in Norfolk, VA after the September 11, 2001 attacks, is being used to deliberately take over this US military function and the U.S. military command is being destroyed to facilitate foreign military control over this essential U.S. military function. How come NATO is IN the U.S. when it claims that it is for the "defense of Europe" and how come the U.S military has cut these functions in the U.S. military while NATO retains these functions including the function FOR the United States, per joint commands thereby taking over a U.S. military function in the U.S.?
- Elaine Cullen, Michigan

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