Outgoing Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter’s article “Managing Defense Spending Through ‘Better Buying Power,’ Not Sequestration,” convincingly demonstrates why and how the Department of Defense has and continues to waste so much of the taxpayer’s money.
Carter grossly exaggerates the reduction to the level of defense spending caused by the Budget Control Act. According to Carter, in September 2010, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates launched a defense-wide efficiency initiative to promote greater efficiency and productivity in defense spending called “Better Buying Power”. This initiative initially directed 23 principal actions in five major areas including eliminating cost growth and promoting competition in major weapons programs. The impetus for this initiative was Gates’ conclusion that the days of increasing defense budgets were coming to an end.
While the Pentagon, as any government agency, should always strive to be efficient, the real question was why Gates waited for four years after taking office, and for a time when defense budgets were not going to increase, before launching his initiative. Were he and his staff, including Carter, who was his undersecretary for acquisition, not trying to eliminate cost growth and promote competition while the budget was going up? Obviously not. As the Government Accountability Office has pointed out, the cost of the 95 major weapon systems developed by the Pentagon exceeded $400 billion in the first 10 years of this century.
Carter also provides some examples from each of the services to show how much money they have and will save by using these initiatives. Leaving aside the question of whether the savings will actually materialize. Carter fails to mention the cost overruns that continue to occur. For example, the first new Gerald Ford-class aircraft carrier, which was christened this month, came in “only” 20 percent above projected cost.
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