Army Secretary Mark Esper said he plans to reform the Department of Defense’s Fourth Estate, the 27 agencies that provide business tasks for the war fighter, if confirmed as Secretary of Defense, renewing a discussion of inefficiencies within the agencies.

In advanced policy questions Esper submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee for a July 16 confirmation hearing, the White House nominee said one way he would achieve the Defense Department’s goal to save $46 billion would be to review Fourth Estate management. He referred to a review of Fourth Estate organizations at least three times in written questions and again in his opening statement.

“We will reform the Department, beginning with the Fourth Estate,” he told Senators during the hearing.

The Fourth Estate encompasses organizations in the Pentagon which are not formal part of military departments. The list includes the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Defense Information Systems Agency, the Missile Defense Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office. A September 2018 report from the Government Accountability Office estimated that 27 agencies included in the Fourth Estate have an annual budget of at least $106 billion.

“If confirmed, I will work with the Deputy Secretary and the Chief Management Officer to review charters, budgets, infrastructures, resource needs and utilization, and key performance outputs of the Fourth Estate,” Esper said in a response to a written question on how he would improve governance and performance accountability for those organizations.

Esper was confirmed by voice vote July 19 by the Senate Armed Services Committee. The full Senate is expected to hold a confirmation vote this week.

Fourth Estate agencies came under attack in 2018 during the drafting of the defense authorization bill and were under fire again in September when a Government Accountability Office report identified inefficiencies in 19 agencies and eight field activities within the Fourth Estate.

In May, DISA announced that it would head efforts to consolidate IT for Fourth Estate agencies through the Fourth Estate Network Optimization (4NEO) effort. That effort wraps in 14 agencies, including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DISA, and the Missile Defense Agency.

“The objective is to move the Fourth Estate’s common use IT systems, personnel, functions, and program elements associated with the support of those systems and technologies into a single service provider architecture,” Drew Jaehnig, who is leading the 4NEO effort for DISA, said in a news release.

Kelsey Reichmann is a general assignment editorial fellow supporting Defense News, Fifth Domain, C4ISRNET and Federal Times. She attended California State University.

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