Top general: 5 bad habits for the Pentagon to fix (+video)(Read article summary)
The Pentagon has not had to do any serious belt-tightening for years, and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the nation's top military officer, says some budget discipline could be beneficial.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, the nationâ€™s top ranking military officer, says there are at least five areas in US defense operations where bad habits have developed, which tighter Pentagon budgets will force the military to fix.
General Dempsey, who is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, earlier this month told The New York Times that, â€śWeâ€™ve been living with unconstrained resources for 10 years, and, frankly, weâ€™ve developed some bad habits,â€ť which he vowed to overcome.
At a lunch with reporters hosted by the Monitor Tuesday, Dempsey was asked to be specific about the bad habits he saw. He immediately listed five areas which, he cautioned, were â€śnot an all inclusive list.â€ť
Here, in the generalâ€™s own words, is the list, in the order he gave it.
- â€śIn our acquisition programs â€¦ there is certainly room to become more efficient.â€ť
- â€śOver the years, our health-care costs have exceeded expectations in a, no-pun intended, unhealthy way.â€ť
- â€śOn infrastructure â€“ and these are places where we could use the help of the United States Congress, actually â€“ we havenâ€™t had to reduce the scope and scale of our infrastructure accounts. I think we will have to do so under the budget authorities that we see coming our way.â€ť
- â€śEven in operations, I think there [are] times when we probably overinvested. We might be able to accomplish the task in different areas of the world with fewer resources, if we forced ourselves to think about how to do that.â€ť
- â€śOur reliance upon contractors is excessive, in particular in certain aspects of the use of contractors.â€ť
Dempsey noted that under the Budget Control Act of 2011 â€śwe were tasked to find $487 billionâ€ť in savings. In addition, the budget sequester will cut defense spending another $42.7 billion in the current fiscal year and, if it continues until 2023, â€śtakes you to another $500 billion,â€ť Dempsey said.
â€śIt is not just a clichĂ© to say that when you have all the resources you need, you no longer have the responsibility to think. So we are thinking,â€ť Dempsey told a roomful of reporters. â€śWe are trying to think our way through this challenge. And I think we will find opportunities to retain our level of effectiveness while becoming more efficient.â€ť
But the general warned that, at some point, efficiency savings would be insufficient to meet the budget targets, and defense capabilities would be affected. â€śYou know, you canâ€™t wring that towel out too tightly,â€ť he said of efficiency gains. And speaking of the combined cuts imposed by the Budget Control Act and by sequestration, he added, â€śThere is a point at which you just canâ€™t do that by becoming more efficient.â€ť
â€śWhat you will see come out of the [Defense Secretaryâ€™s] strategic choices management review is that we will have to look at those places where we have grown most and decide whether that growth is justified, and my suspicion is we will find that, in many cases, it is not all justified,â€ť Dempsey said.Â