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Changes at the Pentagon
The other day Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke at the National Defense University in Washington on a number of topics.
Regarding the financial challenges facing the Pentagon, Hagel said, “We need to challenge all past assumptions, and we need to put everything on the table.”
It’s “about matching missions with resources – looking at ends, ways and means,” he said.
Reshaping the defense enterprise means confronting “the principal drivers of growth in the department’s base budget – namely acquisitions, personnel costs and overhead.”
Hagel talked of spiraling costs on items such as personnel benefits eventually crowding out spending on procurement, operations and readiness, which are the budget categories that enable a military to be, and stay, prepared.
While the U.S. military has grown more lethal “and certainly more professional” since 9/11, “It has also grown significantly older – as measured by the age of major platforms – and it has grown enormously more expensive in every way,” he said.
“The military is not, and should never be, run like a corporation,” Hagel said. “But that does not mean we don’t have a good deal to learn from what the private sector has achieved over the past 20 to 30 years, in which reducing layers of upper and middle management not only reduced costs and micromanagement, it also led to more agile and effective organizations and more empowered junior leaders.”
“Now, DOD is grappling with the serious and immediate challenges of sequester – which is forcing us to take as much as a $41 billion cut in this current fiscal year, and if it continues, will reduce projected defense spending by another $500 billion over the next decade,” the secretary said.
Hagel noted the department’s enduring mission – defending the nation and advancing America’s strategic interests – must be approached in the context of “unprecedented shifts in the world order, new global challenges and deep global fiscal uncertainty.”
The new security landscape is marked by the threat of violent extremism from weak states and ungoverned spaces in the Middle East and North Africa.
Hagel said cyberattacks, “which barely registered as a threat a decade ago, have grown into a defining security challenge” which allows enemies to strike security, energy, economic and other critical infrastructure with the benefit of anonymity and distance.
The world is combustible and complex, and the United States’ responsibilities are enormous.
“Most of the pressing security challenges today have important political, economic, and cultural components, and do not necessarily lend themselves to being resolved by conventional military strength,” said the secretary.
“We have made mistakes and miscalculations with our great power,” Hagel said. “But as history has advanced, America has helped make a better world for all people with its power. A world where America does not lead is not the world I wish my children to inherit.”
“We are a wise, thoughtful and steady nation,” Hagel added, “worthy of our power, generous of spirit, and humble in our purpose. That is the America we will defend together, with the purpose and self-confidence of the ‘just man armed.’” [Karen Parrish / American Forces Press Service; defense.gov]
Separately, in a Q&A session with students at the National Defense University, Hagel said of North Korea, “they have ratcheted up their dangerous, bellicose rhetoric...a real and clear danger and threat” to American allies and the U.S. homeland itself.
“I think we have taken measured responses to those threats. We are...doing everything we can, working with the Chinese and others, to defuse the situation on the peninsula.”
“Certainly, the Chinese don’t want a complicated and combustible situation to explode into a worse situation,” Hagel added. “It’s not in their interests for that to happen. It’s certainly not in our interest or our allies’ interests.” [Jim Garamone / American Forces Press Service; defense.gov]
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