Reform 1: Require consideration of cost in defense planning
Defense officials are required to ignore cost when considering “requirements” (e.g., a new weapons system). Requirements may actually be wants as opposed to needs, because when cost is not part of the question the line between the two can become rather blurry. The end result is a very long wish list with a number of pet projects that are possibly neither essential nor affordable. This reform would make Department of Defense planning more realistic, because the Pentagon would have to consider the realities of a world and a federal government with limited resources.
The Department of Defense budget is gigantic. Even after adjusting for inflation, the Pentagon’s budget has grown by more than 30% since 1990.
It is possible to reconcile America’s military and budgetary needs. The Pentagon can and must maximize value from its available resources all while managing risk.
Reform 2: Right-size our force structure, footprint and the Pentagon bureaucracy
As the United States prepares to scale down its presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, there are still U.S. bases all around the globe, thousands of active duty troops and an ever-expanding Washington bureaucracy. This reform would cut down on the number of military bases abroad, adjust the number of active duty servicemen based on the likelihood of a credible security threat, and make sure that most of the military’s administrative functions are handled by civilians, rather than uniformed officials and contractors. It would also appoint a high-level person in the Pentagon who would be tasked with streamlining the Pentagon’s bloated bureaucracy.
The U.S. military is everywhere. As of September 30th, 2011, there are 1,456,862 active duty U.S. military personnel. According to Politifact, American soldiers are on the ground in 148 of the world’s 195 nations.
The Department of Defense is the biggest bureaucracy in the entire federal government. The department’s operations are so complex and its finances are so poorly managed that it cannot even be audited. In addition, the Pentagon cannot even provide a reasonable estimate of the number of contractors it employs.
Reform 3: Reform current acquisition and contracting practices
The Department of Defense relies on several private contractors to develop and produce weapons systems and military technology, with $1.58 trillion currently invested in 96 major defense acquisition programs. However, many of these purchases are made without sufficient knowledge of the systems’ technical capabilities and often without firm and fixed requirements for quality and performance. This reform will require the Department of Defense to reconsider and revise the way it does business with contractors, including its bonus reward practices.
Acquisition programs are often late and over budget. In 2011, according to the Government Accountability Office, 80% of all defense acquisition programs cost more than initial estimates. In addition, the average program faces production delays of 22 months. Yet defense contractors continue to make millions of dollars in profits every year, and performance bonuses are the rule rather than the exemption
Congress has cut back on several acquisition programs midway through production because of poor planning. Originally, the Air Force envisioned producing 750 F-22s. Because of high costs, production delays, and updated technology Congress decided to halt production at 195 F-22s.
Reform 4: Modernize current compensation and benefit practices
In most organizations people are paid or compensated on scale depending on their role within the organization and their related performance. For example, a brain surgeon receives better compensation than a secretary. In the military, current pay is based on rank and does not take into account value or risk. This means a cook and rifleman of the same rank would have the same base pay, even though the rifleman’s job is much riskier. Furthermore, over half of military pay is in the form of deferred benefits (e.g. pension and retiree health care).
Military pay has grown at an unsustainable rate. From 2001 to 2011, military pay and benefits per person increased by 46% after adjusting for inflation.
The military provides the same health care benefits for (part-time) National Guard and reserve members as (full-time) active duty members of the military. In addition, the men and women in the National Guard and their families are provided with the same comprehensive health care coverage even when they are not on active duty. These individuals deserve benefits, but it is imprudent and unsustainable to offer the same benefits subsidies.
86% support reducing Defense spending in a way that does not compromise our national security (83% supported package of Defense reforms)
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