Former Defense Secretary Bob Gates during a press briefing at the Pentagon. A 2010 directive from Gates ordered the services to find ways to increase efficiency and save money
Former Defense Secretary Bob Gates during a press briefing at the Pentagon. A 2010 directive from Gates ordered the services to find ways to increase efficiency and save money // Alex Brandon/AP

Budget Cuts Are Hurting the Pentagon’s Ability to Identify Budget Cuts

Budget cuts and lax metrics have slowed a three-year-old push by Defense to track the department’s efficiency initiatives, the Government Accountability Office reported. 

A 2010 directive from then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates aimed to save $100 billion in overhead costs by 2016 through efficiencies identified by each of the military services as well as the Special Operations Command, consistent with the Office of Management and Budget’s cost containment recommendations. Although the services made some progress, GAO wrote, it “has largely occurred on an ad hoc basis and varies by initiative because DoD has not required such evaluations. As a result, the Pentagon still “lacks a systematic basis for evaluating whether its various initiatives have improved the efficiency or effectiveness of its programs or activities.” 

The hoped-for efficiencies include management reorganizations, better business practices, program reductions and terminations, and cuts in lower-priority programs. 

(Read more Defense One coverage on the budget here)

The report, the second in a GAO series on the topic, noted that Defense has identified efficiencies for fiscal 2013 and fiscal 2014, but that the services tagged only those programs not meeting their original savings targets. For example, the auditors said, the Air Force has as many as 10 separate components under its acquisition management initiative, but under departmental guidance would report only on progress toward efficiencies in the overall effort. 

In addition, because of “constrained resources,” the Pentagon this month announced it would narrow the scope of its tracking and abandon monitoring of those initiatives already implemented or programs, such as weapons systems, slated for elimination. 

GAO recommended that the department require each service and the Special Operations Command to improve evaluation approaches, such as developing performance measures for each initiative. The department agreed. 

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