Responding to Secretary Gates' challenge to eliminate waste: the time for a true government/industry "team effort" is now!

Author:Del Mar, Debra S.

Currently the Department of Defense (DoD) holds the distinction of being one of the most trusted and respected institutions in our country and, indeed, throughout the world. The faces of astute military leaders remind us of the invaluable public service they have provided throughout our history--leaders such as Washington, Grant, Marshall, Eisenhower, Powell, Petraeus--all answered the call particularly in times of crisis. No other institution in the United States currently enjoys this degree of trust. The same is true of the current Secretary of Defense (SECDEF), Robert M. Gates.


In fighting the war on terrorism since September 11, 2001, the Department has operated with significant support from the Congress, a blank check of sorts to acquire the world's best warfighting capabilities, including recruiting bonuses, pay increases, new weapons, equipment, training, medical care, family support, etc. Annual appropriations also have resourced modernization efforts for military support operations to gain cost-savings and operational efficiencies.

Because of the primary focus on warfighting, the period since 9/11 also has seen complications in efforts to transform DoD business operations. Now our country faces severe fiscal I imitations that threaten future defense spending and flexibility. Even so, the DoD still can quickly demonstrate business transformation successes that will assure members of Congress and the Administration--as well as the American people--of the benefits in continuing to resource improvements in DoD business operations.

Secretary Gates recently challenged the DoD Components to eliminate waste, cut overhead and "bloated Pentagon bureaucracy" costs, and reprogram funds for the warfighter. In a true partnership with DoD program and financial managers, defense industry leaders now have a unique opportunity to help the Department answer Secretary Gates' call by recommending various courses of action that will produce effective and efficient DoD business operations.

How can the DoD financial management (FM) community--which includes both government and industry leaders--embrace the SECDEF's challenge, make smart choices, and exceed his expectations? How can we break the cycle of "obligate all/require more" to institutionalize a new paradigm?

Recently I came across a compelling quote from the Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Bill Lynn, who stated:

"The objective of the Department's initiative, however, is not simply to reduce the number of financial management systems. The consolidation, standardization, and modernization of...

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