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American Forces Press Service

Official Discusses Sequestration Constraints, Hagel's Priorities

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Mar. 4, 2014 – A senior Defense Department official says the Pentagon will not be able to manage some of the changes that will be required should another budget sequester be imposed in 2016, as current law has it.

Katrina G. McFarland, assistant secretary of defense for acquisition, addressed the department's budget challenges at Aviation Week's Defense Technologies and Requirements Conference here.

"They're too sharp, too quick," she said. "We cannot reduce the force fast enough, and we cannot preserve the integrity -- that means [a] hollow force. So we're very concerned about how to maintain a level."

McFarland said the department's fiscal 2015 budget request seeks to ensure that "our systems -- that's our mission, our program, our capabilities -- are maintained," and to make sure the programs can be executed.

"So in order to make the trades fit in a lower top line, you basically squash out programs or you eliminate them," McFarland said. "And that is inefficient. It's ineffective." The department used Better Buying Power initiatives in the process of putting this budget request together, she said.

"It's not a mantra, it's not a reform," McFarland said. "It's a continuous process … with tools in it to allow our workforce a cheap means of achieving a better price for the goods. We're not after profit. We're trying to find a way to get our prices down, so we can afford more within what we have for funds."

Sequestration impedes that approach, she said.

"You cannot do some of the better acquisition tradecraft when you're confined to a very specific spend," she said. "It means you slow down programs, even though you could achieve them quicker and [more] efficiently. You have to push a budget caused by a depressed top line out to the right, which means the program of raw cost goes up."

As a consequence, DOD officials had to make some hard choices to retain as much efficiency as they could while providing for viability, she added.

McFarland also revisited the six priorities Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel outlined for budget and strategic planning efforts in November 2013.

One is institutional reform. "We're not just looking at how we do the tradecraft with acquisition," she added, "but how we can change the way we do business to be more efficient."

Hagel's second priority is re-evaluation of the military's force planning construct, McFarland said, and the third is to prepare for a prolonged military challenge.

The secretary's fourth priority is to protect investment and emerging military capabilities such as space, cyber, special operations forces and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. "We have really taken a close look at those areas as necessary to protect our investments for the future," McFarland said.

"His fifth is balance," she continued. "Balance in every area -- capacity to capability, active to reserve forces, forward station to home base, conventional to unconventional forces. What is the appropriate balance? That is the challenge for us."

The secretary's sixth priority is personnel, and "that is related to compensation … one of the toughest challenges that we have," McFarland said.

"Compensation also needs to be addressed in terms of how we can make what we have affordable," she said. "Right now, people -- personnel -- account for more than 50 percent of our available budget. So we have to take a look at what we're doing. We can have a very well-compensated, unequipped force, or we can have a balance. And that is a very, very tough challenge."

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