Last week Admiral Mullen highlighted the national security consequences posed by the national debt as he keynoted Concerned Veterans for America’s fifth and final event in their Defend & Reform Breakfast series. This series outlined the ways Americans can contribute to freedom by advancing reform.
Reiterating his now famous warning, Admiral Mullen reminded the audience that mounting debt remains the biggest threat to America’s national security and that even eliminating the entire defense budget would not solve our fiscal woes—a truth often overlooked in Washington.
Rather than simply kicking the can down the road, Admiral Mullen suggested that one way for Congress to move forward is acquisition reform. Last year, Heritage noted that a third of funds spent on acquisition are for overhead costs.
Said former Secretary of the Navy John Lehmann: “We keep growing the bureaucracy and overhead and shrinking the force and shrinking the number of products and weapons we get for the dollars we spend.”
The acquisition process is not only expensive but also slow. Under current regulations, the Department of Defense (DOD) cannot respond to battlefield needs in a timely manner. This situation is exemplified by then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates circumventing the process in order to supply Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles to troops in Iraq.
Restructuring will not be easy. Congress can start by repealing “Band-Aid” legislation that has aggravated the acquisition process. Instead of creating more review boards, Congress should decentralize decision making.
According to Concerned Veterans for America, “The same acquisition process cannot meet all of the department’s needs.” The DOD should develop customizable processes to meet varying situations.
Fixing the problems with defense acquisition would not remedy all that ails the broader defense program. Strengthening the program will require an array of different initiatives, of which the most important and most immediate is breaking the impasse over the federal budget in a way that preserves adequate overall defense funding and replaces the current structure of sequestration. Nevertheless, defense acquisition reform is a necessary initiative toward ensuring that America can continue to field the greatest military in the world.