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:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


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