Panel pushes Pentagon privatization

The Defense Department can save up to $70 billion by revamping its acquisition programs and contracting out more of its support services, according to a report released Thursday by a commission of business leaders and former government officials. The panel, known as the Tail-to-Tooth Commission, is chaired by former New Hampshire Sen. Warren Rudman and Josh Weston, retired CEO of Automatic Data Processing Inc. The "tooth" refers to combat troops and weapons systems, while the "tail" refers to infrastructure and functions that support warfighters. According to the commission, which is sponsored by a group of business leaders with an interest in national security policy, the tooth is becoming lean and mean, but the tail remains big and bureaucratic. According to the report, 70 percent of the Pentagon's budget goes to support functions, with only 30 percent paying for combat forces. The commission wants to shift Defense's budgetary focus from "tail" to "tooth." "The national interest is to make the U.S. military as efficient as we can," said Rudman. "I believe that if we apply business practices... you could get one-third of [the money] the services really need to perform their primary functions." The report identified 11 initiatives that could save the Defense Department billions of dollars. The money saved could be used to build up the armed forces and update weapons and equipment, the report said. The initiatives included expanding acquisition reform pilot programs, improving contracting processes, revising public-private competitions, closing unnecessary military bases and modernizing the defense budget and accounting system. The report also recommended that the following military operations be turned over to the private sector:
  • Military family housing
  • Long-haul Defense communications
  • Utilities on military bases
  • Supply chain management
Commission members acknowledge that their recommendations are not novel. "All 11 Tail-to-Tooth reforms have been recommended by previous panels that have reviewed Pentagon practices over the past 15 years," the commission said. The report included step-by-step instructions on how to actually implement the reforms. "This is a blueprint for action, it's not a report about what other people should do," Weston said. "We're not talking about chicken feed here. We're talking about something that could be a monumental difference to the Defense Department." Bob Welch, vice president for government operations at Acquisition Solutions Inc., says the commission's recommendations are "right on the money." Welch was the top procurement official at the Commerce Department under the Clinton administration. "It will just take management and leadership over at the Pentagon to embrace it and say we're going to do this," Welch said. "It's really hard to change the way people have been taught to do business." Rudman and Weston said the group plans to lobby for Defense privatization and downsizing in Congress, in the Pentagon and at the White House. "We're not trying to lecture people and tell them 'Here's what we think you should do and here's when you should do it,' but we think this is a good kick-start," Rudman said.
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.