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Acquisition Chief Cites Need for Balance

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7, 2009 – The Defense Department needs to balance the needs of today’s wars with tomorrow’s requirements, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics said.

Ashton B. Carter spoke to the Council on Foreign Relations here Oct. 5. He said he took the job understanding that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates wanted him to put the acquisition shop on a war footing.

“[Gates] had the experience during the first 18 months or so that he was in office that nothing was done in support of the wars by the enterprise, corporately, that he himself didn't push on personally,” Carter said.

The warriors in battle today need everything the nation can provide to successfully fight the wars. The mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle is one example. Long-range planners did not want the vehicles because there was little place for them in future configurations of the military.

Gates saw they protected servicemembers from roadside bombs and car bombs and the Congress agreed. Thousands of the vehicles are now on the ground in Iraq and a new all-terrain version was sent to Afghanistan last week.

But at the same time that warfighters need capabilities, there is the need to prepare the military for tomorrow. Money must go into developing the weapons systems of the future so the American military maintains its qualitative edge, Carter said.

Acquisition, technology and logistics are at the core of changing the way the department does business. Carter called Gates’ decisions on the fiscal 2010 budget a good start.

“Secretary Gates is convinced that there’s more to do, that changing the way we do business is not something you just do in the spring of one year and then continue on,” Carter said. “So he would like to see us do more, and we are doing more.”

President Barack Obama seconds Gates’ desire, and both houses of Congress have passed legislation on acquisition reform. Carter said the department will move forward with new methods and policies.

Carter said that many people touted the fact that Gates recommended Obama “cut” programs from the Defense Department budget. This is true, Carter said, but more nuanced.

“A number of the decisions that the secretary took in the spring were of the nature of, let’s take another look at and restart something,” he said.

The Army’s Future Combat System is one example, the undersecretary said. The secretary cancelled the system, but did not cancel Army modernization.

“The Army still needs to have a future and be modernized,” Carter said. “And so I’m in the process now, with the Army, of taking the pieces of what was [Future Combat System] and managing them differently.”

Another example is the transformational satellite program, which Gates canceled, although there still is a need for satellite wideband communications.

“The budget climate is changing,” Carter said. “We think that we require more real growth in order to fund the defense budget. But I’m also realistic and recognize that we're not going to enjoy the double-digit, year-on-year growth that immediately followed 9/11.”

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Ashton B. Carter


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