DOD officials face Senate ire over budgetary measures
DOD officials were questioned over plans for trimming the defense budget, including closing the Joint Forces Command.
Three Defense Department officials were grilled today by members of the Senate Armed Services Committee about the effectiveness and practicality of budget-cutting measures announced earlier by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Ashton Carter and Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. James Cartwright were questioned about the validity of the argument for closing the Joint Forces Command, the effectiveness of plans to improve defense contracting and whether the proposed measures will benefit troops on the ground.
Some senators also accused the officials of not being forthcoming and transparent enough about the guidelines used to cut $100 billion from the defense budget and redirect that money to warfighting efforts.
"The present lack of transparency and consultation, particularly with our delegation, [stands] in stark contrast with how these decisions are typically made," said Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.). The proposed closing of the Joint Forces Command could have a major economic impact on Webb's state; the command's headquarters are in the Norfolk area. Webb accused DOD of stiff-arming Virginia by withholding information about the proposed measures.
"It appears that there [were] inadequate analysis and inadequate openness in the procedure that preceded the August announcement," said Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), adding that he was disappointed with the lack of details provided in the weeks after the plans were released.
Lynn responded that more information would be available later this year and in early 2011 when the fiscal 2012 budget request is released. He stressed that the needs of troops in combat will continue to be met and that the budgetary measures were a military decision rather than a business case analysis.
“I appreciate that you do not feel we have shared as much information as you would like, but I think the core issue here is a disagreement over the recommendation," Lynn said in response to Webb.
Other committee members also questioned the rationale behind closing the command. Gates and Lynn have said the command is unnecessary now that joint operations have become part of the military's everyday activities, but Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) didn't agree.
"Are we at the point where we can say, 'Mission accomplished'?" Lieberman asked Lynn. "I don't believe we've accomplished the mission of guaranteeing jointness."
"'Mission accomplished' is a dangerous statement," Lynn replied. "The services today operate fundamentally differently now than we did in the 1991 Gulf War, and I believe that won't be reversed."
"Secretary Gates has asked us to do two things," Lynn added. "He's asked us to reduce overhead and transfer those funds to warfighting accounts, and to scrub those warfighting accounts themselves."