The Pentagon’s top acquisition official apologized he “didn’t have better news” in discussing the Department of Defense’s fiscal outlook during his keynote address on Tuesday at the EAST: Joint Warfighting 2013 symposium in Virginia Beach, Va.
Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics warned the Department of Defense might have to again operate under a Continuing Resolution rather than a budget for Fiscal Year 2014.
“It’s starting to make me nervous,” he said.
There are three proposals before Congress covering the budget. The House bill essentially calls for no cuts beyond those already agreed to, the administration’s calling for $150 billion in additional cuts over 10 years and the Senate’s calling for $250 billion over the same time frame. All would be preferable to sequestration, he said.
Describing sequestration as a “death of a thousand cuts,” he said it was “set up not to happen,” but it did on March 1 and right now the Pentagon is operating in, “a damage limitation mode.”
In the future, Kendall expected “we’re going to have pressure to keep force structure” and the size of the armed forces drives everything else. But, “it’s not fair to our people to get the C-17 and be handed a pink slip.”
The cuts are coming from operations and maintenance accounts and research and development. What is so perplexing to defense planners, Kendall said, is the cuts are immediate under sequestration. This creates a situation of “which least bad choice to make” since some accounts, such as personnel, are off-limits. The Pentagon announced that there will be 11 days of furlough for most of its civilian workforce this year.
Kendall said that he is looking for “some hedging investments” to keep the industrial base viable and allows technology to move forward and reduces production lead-time when and if the program moves forward. He also saw advantages in prototyping in certain areas such as air dominance.
“What do we do after F-35?” he asked.
“This world does not stand still. We do have near peer competitors who are investing wisely.”
On the workforce, he said, “Keeping morale up is going to be tough.” Steps that the Pentagon are taking in that regard are acknowledging publicly the civilian workforces contributions, recognizing superior performers and “trying to protect our people… as best we can.”