Pentagon Must Accept Budget Cuts: Expert

Pentagon Must Accept Budget Cuts: Expert

The U.S. Defense Department should accept the likelihood of continued budget cuts and prepare realistic spending plans that take them into account, an expert said.

“They are still unprepared for this,” Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments said during a press conference Thursday at the think tank’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. “Plan for the cuts. Plan for the worst. Hope for the best.”

Harrison, who was publicizing his new report on the defense budget, made his remarks days after Army Secretary John McHugh said the service will prepare two budgets next year — one that takes into account the automatic, across the board cuts known as sequestration, and one that doesn’t.

The cuts are set to slice about $52 billion from the Pentagon’s budget after Jan. 1, unless lawmakers agree on an alternative deficit-reduction plan. That prospect is viewed as unlikely, given the divide between Republicans and Democrats on spending and taxes.

“This budget battle is not about defense,” Harrison said, noting the similarities in military budgets passed by the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-led Senate. “It’s about other things,” he said, such as tax rates and spending on entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid.

The Defense Department requested a total of $613 billion for fiscal 2014, which began Oct. 1, Harrison said. That includes a base discretionary budget of $527 billion, war spending of $79 billion and a mandatory budget of $7 billion, he said. But lawmakers remain at an impasse and haven’t passed a full-year budget.

Congress earlier this month passed a short-term funding measure, known as a continuing resolution, to end the government shutdown. The accord will fund the government through Jan. 15 and raise the federal debt limit through Feb. 6.

If lawmakers extend the resolution for the rest of the year, the Pentagon’s base budget would total about $496 billion, which is about $31 billion less than the initial request, Harrison said. However, because that’s higher than the spending caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA), after Jan. 1, the budget would be automatically reduced by another $21 billion to about $475 billion, he said.

“This is a very chaotic time for the defense budget,” he said.

Even though war funding is decreasing, the average cost per U.S. troop in Afghanistan is expected to rise from slightly less than $1.5 million to more than $2 million, Harrison said. The jump may be due to the military using war funding, known in budget parlance as overseas contingency operations (OCO), for costs normally covered by the base budget, such as pre-deployment training, he said.

“While this budget maneuver avoids pushing the base budget farther over the budget caps prescribed in the BCA, it also means that the base budget does not have an adequate level of funding for regular peacetime training activities,” Harrison warned in his report.

Both the Army and Air Force have requested increases in war-related operations and maintenance funding, meaning the services could be categorizing some $20 billion worth of peacetime activities as pre-deployment training in the war budget, Harrison said.

“It looks like DoD has a budget hole they’re going to have to plug,” he said.

The Defense Department also needs to figure out what to do with all of the drones and bomb-resistant trucks it bought during the past decade for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Harrison said.

Unmanned aerial vehicles such as the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper and mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles, or MRAPs, and aren’t necessarily compatible with the Pentagon’s shift to the Asia-Pacific region, where more stealthy aircraft and ships are expected to be used.

“They aren’t relevant in that environment,” he said.

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As far as I am concerned, the Pentagon has been cut too much, find some other program like War on Poverty. After 40 years the % in poverty has hardly changed while its budget has increased hundreds of time.


If their strategy is to merely cut the f-35 order in 2014, then they are far from finding solutions. That accounting practice of juggle with problems have its virtues and limits, that could pay off very well should they manage to skip the f-35 by juggling as they could spend less and upgrade what they got now, that way they could avoid that utter inefficiency caused by rushing “the only” solution to all problems named f-35; in that cases that would mean using engineering effort into something else.

“Unmanned aerial vehicles such as the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper and mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles, or MRAPs, and aren’t necessarily compatible with the Pentagon’s shift to the Asia-Pacific region, where more stealthy aircraft and ships are expected to be used.”

I seriously doubt that they can’t find use for the MQ 1 and 9 into such environment, I’d say they will need a minor re-engineering effort, like the fact that they rely on satellite link. But the platform is good, perhaps not as adapted as the X-47 but it can definitely be useful by getting its operating cost to the lowest level possible.

Yes, let half your nation starve, to keep the shiny toys, idiotic garcia. Let’s see how MEXICO deals with socialism, or the rest of the Spanish speaking world. What is it with the rightward influence the US has on immigrants? Insane. Like all humanity get’s checked at the door.

Guys relax, the US won’t cut more than 5/6 billion, and a lot from the Afghanistan fund. Your plutocracy is so ingrained, we now have the LEFT defending the pentagon, because the right ascended from Hell with idiots so crazy, they wouldn’t be given a position as janitor of a elementry school in Europe. Trash men they are. Anyway, if at all there was 50 BILLION to be cut from the base budget, 10%, you would see shockwaves throughout the Pentagon: soldiers fired en masse, military hardware mothballed and cut up. Any of that happening? NO. You only ‘HEAR’ things, but nothing is materializing. Because it WON’T. I hope it WILL, but it won’t.

The big picture most of you fail to see is that this 50bn a year is cuts is at best what we call a CORRECTION, like the free market correcting itself, this is just a budget that has been fed and fed, like a virgin waiting to get popped, she is finally getting popped. Nobody will die, it will just correct to about 475bn, and then grow again at about 1, 2% yearly, like under Clinton. The pre ww2 Japanese like Bush militarization of the 2000s is OVER and thank god. We want you guys to join the world of western SANITY again. Thanks.

Tell you what “concerned european”, when Europe relaxes its immigration rules to that of the US then you can disparage US Immigration Laws or US Citizens.

They are relaxed Juan. And don’t for a second think ‘Latin America’ is the biggest source of ‘poor immigrants’. We have AFRICA and ASIA in our doorstep. Think about that, 5 BILLION people. Encantada!

You do realize the US has a population of illegal immigrants that are larger then the population of SEVERAL central and South American countries, such as Ecuador, right? We essentially have an entire extra country of people living here illegally.

The Pentagon spends about $198B on service contracts per FY. Why not start cutting there and conduct a massive reduction in the number of support contractors that are clogging up the Pentagon and HQ staffs?

How many non-value policies have been created by support contractors (and obviously approved by govies) that require more support contractors to meet? It’s a GD self-licking ice cream cone that has become the primary vehicle for retired officers and senior NCOs to find immediate employment at high wages post retirement. It’s a damn waste of taxpayers dollars and takes away from readiness and modernization of our fleets.

That is absolutely the first place they can cut 30–40% off that budget right off the top!

Every military planner understands that you need to prepare your strategy based on your opponent’s capabilities, not on your estimate of his intent. And yet, they cannot seem to bring themselves to apply this logic to what the Congress can do to them.

Anyone who has looked at the graph of defense budgets over time knows that the current cuts (including sequester) are nowhere near as bad as it can get. Since Korea, defense spending has followed an incredibly stable oscillation, with big peaks every 20 years being followed by a drop back down to the base level of about $400B (current dollars). It is pure irrational optimism to think that, magically, that won’t happen this time. The Army is still in denial; I’m not sure about the other services.

To be clear. I’m assuming you’re referring specifically to Support Services type contracts, as opposed to Engineering Services type contracts. For the most part I agree, but I will say… a restructuring of many of those contracts vs an out right cut would be more advantageous and provide cost savings. At the moment, in an attempt to “share the wealth”, and keep all the contractors in business they’ve given just about every major contractor one of these “Support Services” contracts. As a result none of them are great at it, their practices are diverging from each other, and the 3yr cycles for recompetes are making it difficult for them to stay focused on performance. If you were to limit the total number of support services contracts allotted per geographic location and return the contracts to 5yr terms, you would get serious savings back to the DoD.

The other question is: what capabilities is it cheaper to stand up in-house capability for? What other capabilities don’t make sense to have on government rolls?

One could argue that janitors and the like should be contracted out, and not be government employees. Guy at the lunch counter in employee cafeteria should also be a contractor (Sodexo?).

Because the end-strength of each of the arms of the military is explicitly set, how many soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen are seconded to administrative/shore duties? Are secretaries, assistants, aides and the like in uniform? If so, why? Which ones need to be uniformed military personnel and which don’t?

More controversially: should we return to the early 20th century dual-rank system, and brevet people up as required and return them to lower ranks in peacetime? This could be a dangerous idea if handled incorrectly…

By strawman, they could pick a low density country (Chad), and claim by anecdote “Europe has a population of illegal immigrants greater than the population of SEVERAL sub-Saharan countries”, then pick Ghana, Chad, Ivory Coast…

Europe is no stranger to immigration. Sub-Saharan Africa is fleeing hell to go there. Syrians today and Iraqis, Somalis, Palestinians, Lebanese before them fled to Europe to escape violence in their homelands.

Not sure if an aggregate census of migrant populations in Europe has been done yet…

Axing 35 counts will trigger the Death Spiral of Infinite Cost/Unit. Not sure how they can cut costs though…short of delivering early and prioritizing their fixes.

Consolidate the Air Force back into the Army as it was before. No more Secretary of the AF salary, a few dozen Generals could find the door, millions saved on uniforms, stationary, and other supplies, The Army can shorten basic training for those in aviation support MOS’ and the Air Force MP school can close which would also force the Navy to bunk up with Marine MPs for savings. Other training pipelines can get consolidated or eliminated for savings and the 160th SOAR and AFSOC can be completely integrated. The very small AFSOC units that have to look for work with conventional troops or doing conventional missions can hop into one of the Armys SOF screening programs to save money on pipeline training and truly speak “the same language” as the guys they are supporting. Finally, each branch has their own civilian police force and three “investigative agencies” and the the pentagon has its own police force. AF OSI and Army CID could be combined in consolidation if not all of them, and all of the civilian police forces could be combined into one.

Great, we do to in Europe. Many illegals AND refugees. When was the last time the US ever accepted ANY refugee? Let alone you cause half of it with those silly wars (Astan and EYE-Raq) gave us many refugees. Thanks again Atlantic partner!

Around the same, 10–15 million. A point is though, that ‘Europe’ has 500 million people, vs 315 in the US of A. So you should keep breeding to pull your weight in the future. Quantity is a quality on it’s own:p.

It’s not quite that simple I’m afraid. While the spending tends to be cyclic/predictable the trend still needs to be positive. Since the Korea the US population has more than doubled, the GDP per capita has more than quadrupled, and the US defense budget has trended at an increase of $100 bn per decade.

Despite these growths, the services are having a harder time now than ever to design, develop, and field systems. Whether it be ships, planes, or tanks the DoD has not performed well in austere times. I’ll speak to the Navy’s performance because that’s what I’m most familiar with. What I find interesting is that although the services budgets have increased the individual programs are actually significantly less costly than 20 years ago. For example, the latest Virginia Class Subs are coming in at a hair over $2 bn a piece and dropping with every unit. By comparison the Seawolf Class, built in the 90’s and early 00’s, are $2.8 bn a piece. My theory is that we’re suffering from quantity of programs not cost of each of these programs. And so much work is duplicated due to stove piping.

TL;DR I don’t think the DoD can deliver on what’s it’s mandated to do with the proposed cuts. And unless the budget receives regular, protected, and preplanned growth injections (based on historical trends) this stop and go approach is going to have profound effects on this countries ability to remain at the pinnacle of defense. Just my two cents.

(1) Brendan, instead of a photo of a drone, insert Todd Harrison’s budget trends chart. Give us something useful, not a cut and paste from the photo files.
(2) There is a lot of waset on contractor support services, but that’s driven by WHAT the Pentagon wants. If it evaluated (or more needfully, an outside/independent evaluated) there “requirements” you’d find out you can cut duplicative an ineffective programs vertically — all the military, government civilians and contractors.
(3) Purplization of similar functions like IG,s lawyers, acquisition, contracting, should all be centralized, and taken OUT of the individual military services.

Don’t think the DOD is cut too much the Army still has billions in pork and crap we don’t need GCV AMPV and a few others need to go. We need to scale back the JSF since its waste is unparalleled and too much money from BIG Corporations is bribing the Pentagon every day. If we have to cut the budget to get sanity back into the military we have to do it. If we just spend spend spend the way Oredairo and Obama want well end up like the Soviet Union did.

What’s not that simple? I can’t tell from your comments which part of mine you think are wrong. I’m talking about what has happened in every drawdown since WW2; you’re talking about wishcasts (e.g. “the trend still needs to be positive”). Needs don’t automatically get funded; that’s how we ended up with the Hollow Force.

You’re certainly right that we have too many programs. Every acquisition beancounter on earth knows that it would be much cheaper to buy half as many things at a time, twice as fast. You would get all the same stuff, essentially at the same overall rate, and for a lot less. But that’s politically impossible, because Congress reserves the right to change their minds every year. You can’t defer starting a program that’s politically viable today, because it might not be as well supported three years from now, and it’s a lot harder to cancel a program than to decline to start one.

The report is available in PDF format here: http://​www​.csbaonline​.org/​w​p​-​c​o​n​t​e​n​t​/​u​p​l​o​a​d​s​/​2​013

Reading the paper now… So far I have only one minor quibble, which is that he tends to forget that most RDT&E funding is not general research, but rather program-specific Engineering and Manufacturing Development. Drawing a sharp line between Procurement and RDT&E does not do a good job of figuring out how much of the money is being used to buy the current new crop of toys.

Apart from that, it looks like a good piece of work.

For the most part, at least in the navy, for the past 20 years or so the shift has been away from government possessing an expertise in house. Examples: we don’t design our own ships, handle our own IT (the navy yard shooter was Dell), and we hardly feed our own troops overseas.

Janitors, chefs, and the like are all completely contracted out at the site I am out. The dual-rank system might be interesting, but that doesn’t address the civilian work force. They’re a lot more expensive than blue suitors and you can’t force them into retirement.

“Delivering early” is always a pipe dream. The current schedule is already hopelessly optimistic, pretty much regardless of which program you’re talking about. F-35 is no exception. You can’t get them any faster than the current plan — but you can certainly screw up the program irretrievably by trying.

We’re already cranking out planes that can’t yet do any of their intended missions (T-35, anyone?) instead of pausing to do the testing and redesign that would let us build them right the first time. There’s a ton of rework to be paid for down the road.

The sane options are (1) pause and do the systems engineering correctly, then continue, or (2) recognize that the whole thing was a bad idea, eat the sunk costs before they get even bigger, and design and build three different planes from scratch. The insane option is to rush the program even more than we are currently doing.

Um, what makes you say that civilian janitors are more expensive than blue-suiters? All of the numbers I’ve seen go the opposite way — contractors are cheaper at everything civilians also do for civilians. It’s certainly true for janitorial, landscaping, commercial vehicle maintenance, etc.

As an example, uniformed MDs are significantly more expensive than civilian MDs providing the same medical services to military personnel.

I’m also curious about uniformed MD’s. Is it just the USUHS people or the HPSP people?

HPSP can be outside the military, but become “commissioned” at the end of their training. Is this necessary if they will work for the military anyways?

USUHS-enlist, then enroll in USUHS medical school
HPSP-enroll in medical school, binding contract to enlist as a commissioned officer in the military later on.

Sorry I should have been more clear. When I said civilian, I was referring specifically to civil servants, and comparing them to their blue suit peers. In my experience a typical civil servant assistant program manager is roughly a GS14 (well into 6 figures after locality here). Their blue suit peers tend to be O3 LTs (mid 80’sk). I’m not saying that either is over paid, but civil servants get expensive and barring incident they’re their until they decide to leave.

Perhaps I wasn’t clear and long winded. Basically, what I argue is that the pendulum of post war drawdown is dangerous and avoidable if you focus the budget on an observed trend (e.g. $100 bn/decade) that’s removed from present day need. Your comment on “how bad it can get” is innaccurate. The largest cut in military funding prior to this is the early 90’s drawdown coinciding with the end of the cold war (approx $20bn). Your $400 bn estimate, in my opinion, is lacking significantly. The historical funding graphs show a general plateau that represents a “military drawdown”. We’ve been in it since 2010 honestly (approx $850 bn plus or minus $30 bn). My prediction for worst case scenario is it’ll bottom out at $800 bn and settle back around $850 by 2016 in time for the changing of the guard.

I imagine they also get different government benefits packages, and that hiring a contractor requires salary/benefits/company cut for a company contracted to do X, or salary and benefits for independent contractors.

Right. A much higher portion of the civil servant’s compensation is salary. Military benefits dwarf government health care and FERS. Commissaries, child care, GI bill, tax breaks, pension… Thow in the discounted value of TRICARE for life, and it isn’t close — the civilian is cheaper.

I’m not sure what “observed trend” you’re looking at; I’m looking at the one shown in charts like this one:

(It was the first one that came up on Google; no endorsement of the Heritage folks implied.)

That’s 2005 dollars; in 2013 dollars, that recurring trough is right around $400B, and we’re still way above it. If you think the worst case is $800B at the bottom, you’re living on a river in Egypt.

A modest proposal. Use prison labor for less sensitive tasks, such as groundskeeping and vacuuming (not sure if I trust them with the food). If a prisoner steals a document, it will be found during a random search of their jail cell, vs a “contractor”, government worker, or a uniform. A uniform (Manning), government worker (Ellsberg), a contractor (Snowden) have all committed espionage at some point in time, so its specious to pretend one type of worker is more secure than the other.

Prisoners are paid about a dollar-forty per hour. We are already on the hook for their room, board and health ins, so we might as well get something out of their incarceration. What would be cool is if we could take these prison-slaves overseas, but I get the feeling this won’t happen.

TRICARE for life and other benefits were promised to new recruits because they would serve as cannon fodder. Understandable. What the DOD can do in this case (silly that it didn’t) is giving MUCH LESS generous benefits to ‘desk jockey troops’, troops that in their contract will see that whatever happens, they WONT leave the desk. Such you can keep their costs low, much lower than contractors. Silly equation: raise pay and benefits of troops SO MUCH, so that even those thieving ‘CONtractors’ are ‘cheap’.

I totally agree, WHY do we need each service with their own helos, tanks, special black ops, planes, its time to CONSOLIDATE!!!!!!!

I suspect you get your welfare check from the Pentagon.

Enough is enough! Time to start looking at welfare, food stamps, and the “Free Obama Phones”! We are giving freebies to people that have lived on the system for far too long! Families have passed the welfare system on to kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids! Where’s the outrage?

What? And defense contractors aren’t sucking the taxpayers dry?

REtired fool, I hope they take your ‘military benefits’ away, your social security and medicare. Insane idiot. So you literally advocate Americans to STARVE so that General Dynamics can build another 20.000 MRAPS? Do they eat metal scrap from MRAPS in redneckistan?

I think he is referring to contracts that bring retired high ranking military on board as government contractors. I’ve seen untold amounts of money spent on this. It is cronyism at its worst and it goes on every day. Even with the oversight, we get military members who took part in many of the contracts for companies they go to work with immediately after retirement. Take a look at these to see if they are relly requirements or just a favor for a buddy!


Don’t know w here you live but the Program Managers here do good to make GS-13. And military cost is estimated not by what they take home in their paycheck but by the Military Composite Rate for each year. That rate for an O-3 is any where from $136K to $149K. It includes cost that we would incur for a military member that is not normally incurred for a civilian such as PCS. When I accelerate the highest cost of a GS-13 in Rest of US, I get an annual rate below even the lowest military rate.

And the “trends” don’t represent our real problem. Across the board when contractors produce government products, getting the government’s requirements analysis right the first time and then freezing that requirement seems to be a hugh issue.
Case in point, the web design for Healthcare​.gov. The government was making changes down to the last minute. That should not be allowed. We get poor quality products/services and it is our own fault. We ask for the world and contractors love a change order.

I’m sure that isn’t what he means. There are many people who would literally starve if not for this support. But let me ask this. Do they work? How many jobs? My point is that my Dad wasn’t too good to work two jobs for YEARS to take care of his family. So that is the standard I guess I expect from others.
In addition, I can’t count the times I’ve seen folks pay for food that isn’t really nutritious food with Food Stamps. Or they use Food Stamps or WIC to pay for part of their groceries and then get beer, wine, and cigarettes with their own cash. If you can afford to smoke and drink, you need to be taking that money and using it to support your babies! If you can’t make it after that adjustment, then come see me about Food Stamps.

Not like Welfare, food stamps, section 8 housing, Medicaid and Obama Phones. These do not provide jobs to people they just suck the money from the people who do work and pay taxes to those who refuse to work and pay no taxes

We should just put poor people in the FEMA camps /sarcasm

My guess is Somalis and the Hmong, who went to California, MN and Wisconsin.

It does seem rather superfluous for the Army and the AF to have similar, parallel support infrastructures. In vertical integration terms, “jointing” may not be a bad idea. This is probably even more true with the Marines and the Navy…perhaps the Marines may shed more truck drivers, to free up headcount for combat and combat support. The relationship between the Marines and the Navy is far more symbiotic than that between Army and Air Force, and I suppose prototyping reallocation between branches would be far more seamless.

Start saving now, do not buy this a hloes report or any information he or his organization sell. Why pay for bad news or any news for that matter. If its really important it will be on the tube or in the news paper.


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