DoD Budget Cuts {n.} 1. Less of more

I saw an article in Defense News this morning that said that the DoD is safe for now from budget cuts.  For those outside the Beltway (and unfortunately many inside as well) that translates into the notion that the Defense Department will skate by again by avoiding the “cuts” threatened by the Budget Control Act of 2011 ( commonly referred to as Sequestration).  But for those in the know, that just means the DoD can look for  more  of an increase in money than currently scheduled.  For all of the hubbub about “cuts”, one must understand that in DoD budget parlance, cuts just means “less of more.”  When I did the Navy budget, if we were expecting a $6 Billion increase in real spending dollars in the next year and we only got $4 Billion increase, we would say the Navy’s budget was “cut” by $2 Billion.  It’s not the way Mr. and Mrs. America think about cuts…It’s simply less of more.

Look at this chart from a 2013 CBO report showing the FY 14 DoD budget.  Notice that even with sequestration cuts in place, the  DoD budget is more in 2014 dollars than it was in 2006.  And that’s not counting Supplemental money intended to lessen the effect of the war in Afghanistan on the base budget.  I think any reasonable person would conclude that there’s plenty of money in the DoD budget….and now there’s even more.  Why  does DoD say they need “more of more?”  There are many reasons; increased costs of procurement, disproportionate growth in operating costs, too much infrastructure, etc.

There are two ways to get more spending power; 1. Get more money (not within DoD control), and 2. Spend what you have more efficiently (within DoD control).  I contend that DoD should focus more on number 2.  The country simply can’t afford giving DoD “more of more!”

Here are just a few examples:

  • Harvest the return on massive investments in ERPs (see DoD IG Report to Congress)
  • Make some hard decisions on expensive weapons programs where costs are out of control (yes, there will be winners and losers)
  • Convince the Congress that another BRAC round is needed
  • Spend more executive time on managing the big budget problems and less micro-managing the little problems
  • Know where every dollar is and what it’s doing (The real reason for auditability).

So beware “Crocodile Tears” of those who opine that DoD needs more money and instead ask them what are they doing to ensure the treasure they already have is being spent wisely.