This story will definitely fall into the category of FUBAR. When I think about how our troops in the field are having to purchase their own gear and, in some reports, are being charged for their chow in the combat zone… When we hear about California National Guard troops being demanded to return bonuses issued… When you know we’re lacking the capability and capacity with our fighting force, bureaucratic waste is unconscionable.
As reported by Fox News, Senior defense officials suppressed a study documenting $125 billion worth of administrative waste at the Pentagon out of fears that Congress would use its findings to cut the defense budget, the Washington Post reported late Monday.
The report, which was issued in January 2015 by the advisory Defense Business Board (DBB), called for a series of reforms that would have saved the department $125 billion over the next five years.
Among its other findings, the report showed that the Defense Department was paying just over 1 million contractors, civilian employees and uniformed personnel to fill back-office jobs. That number nearly matches the amount of active duty troops — 1.3 million, the lowest since 1940.
The Post reported that some Pentagon leaders feared the study’s findings would undermine their claims that years of budget sequestration had left the military short of money. In response, they imposed security restrictions on information used in the study and even pulled a summary report from a Pentagon website.
“They’re all complaining that they don’t have any money,” former DBB chairman Robert Stein told the Post. “We proposed a way to save a ton of money.”
Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, who originally ordered the study, told the paper that the plan laid out in the report was “unrealistic.”
“There is this meme that we’re some bloated, giant organization,” Work said. “Although there is a little bit of truth in that … I think it vastly overstates what’s really going on.”
Yes sir, the Department of Defense is indeed a bloated, giant organization.
Recently at the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), we conducted a research study to analyze the implementation of zero-based budgeting at the Pentagon. What we learned, which you can find at our website, www.ncpa.org, is very disturbing. First of all, ask yourself this question: how can it be that during the age of increased defense budgets, we find ourselves with fewer combat forces? We have a phenomenon where various Joint Task Force staff have grown from seven to more than 250 over the last 30 years. The Joint Staff itself between 2010 to 2012 grew from 1,286 personnel to 4.244, an increase of 230%.
And perhaps the Honorable Mr. Work, a former Marine officer, should inquire about the civilian staff of the Office for the Secretary of Defense — that from 2008 to 2013 grew by more than 2,000 personnel, an 18% increase. And in 2015, the number of civilian personnel increased to 5,000 employees. Folks, that’s equivalent to an Army Brigade Combat Team. Simply ask yourself, what do we need, more civilians in the Pentagon, or troops in the field?
Consider that we have our troops going on 5-6, or even more, combat tours of duty — yet we have this exploded civilian bureaucracy in the defense department. And, just like term limits in Congress, no one wants to take on this puppy, to include the very person who ordered the study to be done. So how much did it cost the American taxpayer just to have the study suppressed?
Recently, retired Marine Corps Major General Arnold Punaro confided to a Senate Committee that staffs across the Pentagon and the combatant commands account for 240,000 (not including contractors) and $113B, 20% of the defense budget. Yes, you read that correctly: 20% of our defense budget is tied up in higher level staffs.
As a comparative note, during World War II, we had some 2,000 General/Flag officers that oversaw a force of 12 million personnel. Today, we have 900 General/Flag officers that oversee an active duty force of some 1.3 million active duty personnel. Imagine this, in the past 30 years, the real military end-strength, deployable forces, has decreased 38%; the ratio of four-star General/Flag officers has increased by 65%.
Yes, we have a problem with a top-heavy U.S. military, and it’s not a hidden secret, despite the suppression of the report.
Here are some solutions. A simple 15% decrease of the 1,000 career senior executives in the Pentagon — 150 positions cut — saves $150M over five years. A reduction of 7,000 civilian personnel saves $5B over five years, but a 10% cut from the 770,000 military civilian workforce would save $55B over five years.
Now, there are those who would say, you’re talking about forcing people into unemployment — not really, with a growing economy, they can find work in the private sector, especially if we can breach a 4% GDP growth. But we cannot see our Department of Defense as a jobs program, sacrificing the men and women in the field and their sustainment. We also need to have the requisite acquisition and weapons procurement reform. We can’t continue to fund these excessive programs that run over cost and past due dates — especially when there are cases where the military does not want these systems.
Along with these simple reductions, we should look at the zero-based budgeting system that’s contrary to the “use it or lose it” baseline budgeting system that always increases budgets. We need to examine every cycle, every program for its worth, for its keeping. And perhaps, we should move the DoD to a biennial budgeting cycle, away from the insidious annual cycle where we still find ourselves without a National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed in Congress. We are in the third month already of FY 2017, and the military is operating off a continuing resolution (CR), temporary funding measure…producing a sense of unpredictability.
I find it unconscionable that the Pentagon would — let’s call it what it is — hide, a taxpayer-funded report from the American people. However, that’s par for the course for the Obama administration, the most transparent ever. Yes, sequestration sucks, but not if you’re in the Pentagon, or in our higher headquarters. Sequestration only hurts the tactical level trigger puller. And consider that today, we have such a long logistical tail to support a single warfighter. That’s all because we’ve focused on nation building and occupation style operations, instead of focused strike operations utilizing strategic power projection platforms.
There’s so much to do for our military. Increasing the spending sounds great, but first, let’s root out the bloated bureaucracy that’s become the U.S. Department of Defense. We need a deterrent capability and capable force that’s not driven into the ground with nebulous operations not focused on that critical objective, Victory!
Thank God for you, the American people, who came out and ensured that our men and women in uniform have a fighting chance. That will happen because we’ll have civilian military leaders who have been at the tip of the spear, on the receiving end of an AK-47. We will restore that Reagan mantra of “peace through strength.” We will engage the enemy on the battlefield and defeat them, and we will not have countless bureaucrats sitting in safe spaces.