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Spending Reforms Top Defense Priorities, Lynn Says

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18, 2010 – The Pentagon should start seeing results from major spending reforms Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates launched this summer, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said.

The entire Defense Department is working to change the way it does business to become more efficient, Lynn said during an Oct. 14 Pentagon Channel interview.

“There’s great work going on in the Pentagon,” he said. “All of the military departments, all of the combatant commands and all of the various agencies and organizations throughout the Defense Department are working very hard to achieve what the secretary has asked them to do,” he said.

The top-priority spending reforms began in 2009 with an effort to change the department’s approach to military acquisition and continued in May, when Gates directed DOD “to take a hard and unsparing look at how the department is staffed, organized and operated,” the secretary said during a Sept. 8 news conference.

Gates said he concluded that defense military and civilian headquarters and support bureaucracies “have swelled to cumbersome and top-heavy proportions, grown over-reliant on contractors, and grown accustomed to operating with little consideration to cost.”

Lynn described Gates’ four-track approach to move defense agencies toward a more efficient, effective and cost-conscious way of doing business:

-- Through the normal program and budget process Gates seeks to shift $100 billion “from overhead accounts into warfighting accounts,” Lynn said, “from tail to tooth.”

-- Gates also seeks outside advice from advisory boards, think tanks and DOD employees “on how we might get more efficient,” Lynn said, noting DOD employees have supplied 15,000 ideas.

-- A process-reform track targets the acquisition process and seeks “to develop more efficiencies and a more effective way of buying equipment,” Lynn said. Ashton B. Carter, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, is leading the acquisition reform effort.

-- Gates also announced a series of initiatives to reduce headquarters, Lynn said, “to reduce flag and general officers as well as [Senior Executive Service] employees, to reduce support contractors, to eliminate unnecessary boards and commissions and a variety of other efforts, to develop greater operational agility and to reduce layers, overlap and bureaucracy in the department.”

Efficiencies alone “won’t be enough to get the $100 billion in saving the secretary is seeking,” Lynn said. “What we’re going to need to do is eliminate some lower-priority functions and tasks and organizations to get that kind of savings.”

Standing down the U.S. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., is “one of the important elements,” Lynn said, in achieving cost efficiencies.

“The secretary feels very strongly that we need to eliminate excess headquarters, excess bureaucracy [and] unnecessary layers and the Joint Forces Command is one of the signature efforts in that regard,” he said.

The biggest challenge in instilling a culture of savings at the department is changing the way people think, Lynn said.

“We’ve been the last decade in an era of pretty substantial budget increases and we’re probably not going to [continue to] have those,” he said. “We need to change people’s thinking so they think about the costs of things they’re doing as well as the value … It’s the biggest challenge, but it’s probably the most important endeavor.”

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Biographies:
William J. Lynn III

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