WASHINGTON --- Service secretaries addressed the challenges of providing taxpayers more defense value for their money, and getting innovation into warfighters’ hands faster during a House Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday on the Defense Department’s proposed fiscal year 2019 budget.
According to defense officials, China and Russia are taking a more aggressive role on the world’s stage and the U.S. must maintain its military edge.
Budget Uncertainty Harms Readiness
The Army, Navy and Air Force service secretaries testified in support of DoD’s proposed fiscal year 2019 budget of $686 billion, highlighting that, if approved, it would provide the services the monetary means to field a more lethal force as outlined in the National Defense Strategy.
“We must have predictable, adequate, sustained and timely funding. Fiscal uncertainty has done a great deal to erode our readiness and hamper our ability to modernize,” Army Secretary Mark T. Esper said.
Esper also pointed out the restrictions under the continuing resolution, which limits the services’ ability to initiate new projects and increase the quantities of munitions, directly impacting the training and readiness of the force.
Continuing resolutions and budget uncertainty have hurt military readiness and wasted tax dollars, the officials said.
“About $4 billion burned in a trash can,” said Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer when describing what continuing resolutions have cost the Navy. “It is critical, absolutely critical, that we get a continuous form of funding in order to manage the industrial base to put us back on a footing to be out there [protecting the seas].”
And the defense budget sequester “did more damage to the United States Air Force and our ability to defend the nation than anything our advisories have done in the last 10 years -- we did it to ourselves,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said.
“We cut 30,000 people out of the Air Force, reduced [the force] by 10 fighter squadrons, and [reduced] weapons systems sustainment,” she added.
Problems with pilot retention can be tied directly back to sequester, Wilson said.
Savings Through Reform
The Army is looking into a number of initiatives to save taxpayers’ money, Esper said. One initiative being discussed, he said, could save the Army more than $1 billion annually by consolidating and rationalizing its contracting services.
The Navy secretary said he agreed with Esper’s philosophy on revising contracting rules. Changing the thought process and attitudes on how DoD performs contracting services, Spencer said, can help with cost savings.
One cost-saving area the Air Force has identified is using artificial intelligence tools for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance analysis, Wilson said. [
“Right now, we have a lot intelligence analysis, a lot of people watching full-motion video. That’s not a good use of money, or time. And in that case, time is money,” she said.