Relying on continuing resolutions wasted billions, says Pentagon acquisition chief

The absence of a permanent budget for the first six months of the fiscal year likely cost the Defense Department billions in inefficiencies, according to the Pentagon's top purchasing official.

In a speech on Wednesday at the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation, Ashton B. Carter, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, argued that the seven continuing resolutions passed by Congress from October 2010 through the second week of April were highly ineffective and resulted in a waste of taxpayer resources.

"It is uneconomical to proceed in this herky-jerky fashion," Carter said. "It cost billions for us to operate in this way. It's like a hidden tax."

He said the lack of a permanent, fixed budget upset some carefully calibrated buying plans and caused the department to shelve other programs that had yet to commence.

Congress finally passed a fiscal 2011 budget for the last six months of the fiscal year last week.

Carter's address focused on his initiative to milk greater savings and more efficiencies out of the roughly $400 billion the department spends to procure goods and services. The acquisition chief said the era of ever-increasing Defense budgets was gone and that the department needed to do "more without more."

The leaner acquisition environment, he said, will feel very different to those in the Defense community who have "grown accustomed to a circumstance where they can always reach for more money."

While much of Carter's focus was on the $200 billion devoted to the services of acquisition, he also suggested that the department may not be done cancelling or scaling back several expensive major weapons programs.

Carter's office has already abandoned several weapons programs, totaling $300 billion, which were either over-budget or inefficient, or which involved a product of which the department had simply acquired enough. They include the presidential helicopter, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle and aspects of the Future Combat System.

And while the Pentagon has plucked most of the low-hanging fruit, "there undoubtedly will be more cancellations of that kind," he said.

The alternative to not addressing these problems, Carter said, is more broken programs, ineffective products provided to the warfighter and eroded taxpayer confidence in the department's ability to wisely spend money.

Repeating themes from many previous speeches on this subject, Carter outlined his 23-point plan to drive more efficiencies and savings out of an essentially flat Defense acquisition budget. The plan includes introducing more competition, reducing bureaucracy and unnecessary paperwork, improving the tradecraft of service acquisition, building up the procurement workforce and incentivizing better productivity from industry.

Carter added that the department plans to roll out a new Superior Supply Incentive Program in the coming months that will reward the best performers in the Defense industry with advantages in source selection, performance payments and nonmaterial recognition. The program is modeled after a plan originally scheduled to be introduced by the Navy but which Carter is expanding departmentwide.

"We are trying to reduce cost and not profit," Carter said. "We use profit as an incentive to reduce cost."

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:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


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