Hagel says DOD review means ‘big choices’

| April 5, 2013 | 0 Comments
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel delivers remarks on the strategic and fiscal challenges facing the Department of Defense at the National Defense University, April 3. (Photo by Glenn Fawcett)

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel delivers remarks on the strategic and fiscal challenges facing the Department of Defense at the National Defense University, April 3. (Photo by Glenn Fawcett)

Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel signaled possible big changes ahead for his department in acquisition, personnel and organization as he delivered his first major policy speech as Pentagon chief, April 3.

Hagel outlined his plan of attack for the strategic and financial challenges the Defense Department faces during remarks at the National Defense University, here.

“We need to challenge all past assumptions, and we need to put everything on the table,” he said.

Hagel said DOD’s task is to prepare for the future, “but not in a way that neglects, or is oblivious to, the realities of the present.”

At his direction, Hagel said, Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter, working with Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is leading a review of the department’s strategic choices and management.

The review is intended to identify the challenges, uncertainties, risks and opportunities connected to both strategic priorities and budget uncertainty. It’s also “about matching missions with resources — looking at ends, ways and means,” he said.

The review will consider big choices, “change that involves not just tweaking or chipping away at existing structures and practices but, where necessary, fashioning entirely new ones that are better suited to 21st century realities and challenges,” the secretary said.

Hagel participates in a meet-and-greet, hosted by National Defense University president Maj. Gen. Gregg Martin (right), shortly before delivering remarks about possible changes in store for the DOD. (Photo by Glenn Fawcett)

Hagel participates in a meet-and-greet, hosted by National Defense University president Maj. Gen. Gregg Martin (right), shortly before delivering remarks about possible changes in store for the DOD. (Photo by Glenn Fawcett)

Reshaping the defense enterprise means confronting “the principal drivers of growth in the department’s base budget — namely acquisitions, personnel costs and overhead,” Hagel said.

The Pentagon’s biggest budget challenge is not its top-line budget, he said, but “where that money is being spent internally.”

Spiraling costs to sustain existing structures and institutions, to provide personnel benefits and to develop replacements for aging weapons platforms will, if unchecked, eventually crowd out spending on procurement, operations and readiness, which are the budget categories that enable the military to be, and stay, prepared.

Hagel said the U.S. military has grown more deployable, expeditionary, flexible, lethal “and certainly more professional” since 9/11.

“It has also grown significantly older — as measured by the age of major platforms — and it has grown enormously more expensive in every way,” he said.

The department will “get out ahead” of challenges, Hagel said, noting he has told the senior leaders across the department and the services that “we are all in this together, and we will come out of it together.”

Hagel said the military’s modernization strategy “still depends on systems that are vastly more expensive and technologically risky than what were promised or budgeted for.” The department must develop an acquisition system that responds more quickly and effectively to the needs of troops and commanders in the field, one that rewards cost-effectiveness “so that our programs do not continue to take longer, cost more and deliver less than initially planned and promised,” he said.

On the personnel front, Hagel said, DOD leaders must determine how many military and civilian people they have, how many they need and how to compensate them for their service.

He said that process will involve questioning the right mix of civilian and military members, the right balance between officer and enlisted service members, and the appropriate troop strength dedicated to combat, support and administrative duties.

Hagel noted that his two immediate predecessors as defense secretary — Leon Panetta and Robert Gates — each led efforts to cut costs across the department. But sequester cuts and budget uncertainty have “led to far more abrupt and deeper reductions than were planned or expected,” he said.

“Now, DOD is grappling with the serious and immediate challenges of sequester, which is forcing us to take as much as a $41 billion cut in this current fiscal year, and if it continues, will reduce projected defense spending by another $500 billion over the next decade,” the secretary added.

Full Speech

Review the DOD secretary’s speech at www.defense.gov/speeches/speech.aspx?speechid=1764.

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Category: Leadership, News

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