Hale Describes Budget Lessons DOD, Congress Must Learn
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 18, 2013 The Defense Department and Congress must take to heart lessons from the past decade of war and the current budget crunch if there is going to be security for the long haul, panelists at the Reagan National Defense Forum said Nov. 16 at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif.
Pentagon leaders said budget uncertainty is causing consternation in the ranks, and is wasting taxpayer money.
During a panel discussion moderated by New York Times reporter Thom Shanker, Pentagon Comptroller Robert F. Hale said the uncertainty is the worst he has seen in 40 years of service.
Hale listed five shutdown planning drills, operating under constant continuing resolutions, sequestration in fiscal year 2013 that led to furloughs, and the 16-day government shutdown at the beginning of October as proof of this contention.
The budget uncertainty “has done serious damage to this military,” Hale said. “Readiness has been affected, and I would say we have done serious damage to the morale and productivity of our civilian workforce.”
The lessons of the past indicate the department needs “reasonable” budget stability for several years, and abrupt budget cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act must end. Hale said DOD can reach budget targets, but it would be better for the department and the country if the legislation allowed the department to act with greater flexibility.
“In the Pentagon, we also need the courage to stretch defense dollars,” Hale said. “That would include cutting back on management headquarters, and that would include the ability to slow the growth in military pay and allowances and many [other areas].”
The country also needs Congress to show courage to let DOD slow the growth in military compensation, he added, as well as “to let us get rid of unneeded infrastructure and let us come up with a balanced reduction in forces, to include some reductions in the Guard and reserve.”
The big lesson is that drawdowns must be done in a balanced way, the comptroller said. “I’m worried that we’re going to repeat what we did in the 1990s, which was to cut investment,” he said.
All this comes back to budget stability, Hale said.
“We’re a month and a half into [fiscal] 2014, and I still don’t know within $30 billion to $50 billion the amount of money that we’ll have to spend in this year,” he said. “This really restricts our ability to make effective use of the taxpayers’ dollars.”