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Pentagon to Ask Congress for Spending Flexibility in 2014

Pentagon to Ask Congress for Spending Flexibility in 2014

Sep. 4, 2013 - 08:55PM   |  
By MARCUS WEISGERBER   |   Comments
Frank Kendall, Under Secretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, testifies during a Joint Strike Fighter Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Request hearing June 19 in Washington D.C.
Frank Kendall, Under Secretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, testifies during a Joint Strike Fighter Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Request hearing June 19 in Washington D.C. (Staff)
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WASHINGTON — The Pentagon will ask the US Congress for funding flexibility in a government-wide spending measure that is expected to be enacted at the end of September in lieu of a dedicated defense appropriation, a senior DoD official said Wednesday.

Congress is not expected to pass a defense budget by the conclusion of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Instead — as has become the custom — lawmakers are expected to enact a temporary continuing resolution (CR), which would fund the entire government at spending levels comparable to 2013. Starting new programs and changing program investment levels are typically prohibited under this type of spending measure.

“We don’t know what the CR will say. We hope we’ll have more flexibility under a CR than we would normally have because we need it,” Frank Kendall, DoD undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, said during a speech Wednesday at the IDEEA-sponsored COMDEF conference in Washington.

“We’re going to have to make some adjustments,” Kendall said. “Part of the reason is ... to move some money around. We need much more flexibility than we had in ’13. So, we’ll ask for that. I don’t know if we’ll get it.”

Kendall said he is already cutting back on “some commitments of resources because of the uncertainty I’m facing.”

The Pentagon had to cut $37 billion from across its $614 billion 2013 budget due to sequestration spending caps. Those cuts were required across all spending accounts, except military pay. DoD’s 2014 budget proposal is $52 billion above the sequestration spending cap.

“We don’t know where we’re going to end up in ’14; we don’t know where we’re going to end up long term,” Kendall said. “It’s not about getting rid of fat or getting rid of things we don’t really need. It’s about cutting the things we need the least of all the things that we do need.”

To meet 2013 spending caps, the Pentagon furloughed most civilian employees six days, cut back on training and delayed deployments. Kendall said Wednesday that future furloughs might be necessary if the 2014 spending cap is not removed.

While Kendall said he is “hopeful that we will not have to furlough next year,” he said he “can’t guarantee at this point that it won’t happen.”

“We will probably have to reduce the civilian work force,” Kendall said. “Whether that happens under a RIF [reduction in force] of under attrition or if we just don’t hire people as much as we’d like to, or at all virtually, I don’t know yet.

“At least, not hiring people, possibly a RIF and it gets bad enough — unfortunately — possibly furloughs again,” he said. “We really don’t want to do furloughs.”

Kendall said he expects sequestration to have an even greater impact on DoD in 2014 than it has this year.

“Right now we are essentially finding ways to get by [and] a lot of that is by deferring work,” he said.

“I think the damage will be much more visible as we go into ’14,” he added.

Extension Needed

The Pentagon will also ask Congress for the OK to continue an initiative to design exportability into new weapon systems, Kendall said.

“I think it’s so much in everybody’s interest to do this,” Kendall said. “[H]opefully we’ll be able to persuade that Congress to do that for us.”

Congress gave DoD approval to conduct a pilot program, which is called the Defense Exportability Features Initiative. The program is authorized through 2015.

The pilot looks at several programs, including the Air Force Three Dimensional Expeditionary Long-Range Radar (3DELRR) and Navy Next-Generation Jammer.

This initiative is part of a hefty overhaul of DoD weapon buying guidance — dubbed “Better Buying Power 2.0” — which is designed to improve efficiency and give the military more bang for its buck.

The exportability program — which is conducted in partnership with industry — will produce cheaper products, faster, Kendall said. The initiative will also create more interoperability between the US and partner militaries, he said.

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