Navy working to meet cost-cutting goals, admiral says

Officials are looking for redundancies in organizations and programs, according to chief of operations.

The recent order by Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the military services find $2 billion in savings in their fiscal 2012 budgets is "an appropriate challenge" that is causing the Navy "to look very hard at how we do things," the Navy's top officer said Tuesday.

"This is a real good opportunity," Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations, said in an interview.

During a speech to the Maritime Systems and Technology symposium in Arlington, Va., Roughead told the international audience of naval officers and defense industry representatives that he understands that most of the other navies are facing the same fiscal challenges as his Navy.

In the face of those challenges and a powerful wave of new global maritime security threats, the U.S. Navy "doesn't need to do everything, nor do we want to," he said while making an appeal for more international partnerships.

"The biggest question for all of us is: What are we able to afford?" said Roughead, who also warned: "We can't spend our way out of the problems we face."

Roughead cited some of the actions the Navy has taken to reduce spending, including stopping the DDG-1000 next-generation destroyer program at three ships, cutting two Littoral Combat Ships when the costs went too high and terminating a number of other programs.

Asked after the speech how he was responding to Gates' order that the services find escalating levels of annual savings in an effort to cut $100 billion over five years, the four-star admiral said he was taking it "very seriously" and had his staff and flag officers working on it.

They are looking for "redundancies" in both organizations and in programs, he said.

Roughead noted that Vice Adm. Kevin McCoy, commander of the Naval Sea Systems Command, who was at his side, already had found some redundancies, including "a logistical effort we had under way that really could be picked up by somebody else."

Neither he nor McCoy would identify that program.

McCoy also was enthusiastic about meeting the savings requirement, saying his command had been working toward greater efficiencies in organization and processes. But now, he added, "We're taking a hard look at things we've taken for granted."

That includes some programs and stocks of parts and equipment they discovered were no longer needed because the systems they were bought for had gone away. By eliminating those unneeded stocks, the command could save money on warehousing and on leased facilities, McCoy said.

And, he noted, because Gates has promised the services they can keep the money they save, "we can put it into things we really need."

Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn has said the goal of the cost-cutting program is not to reduce the defense "top line" or total funding but to allow the services to increase spending on essential operations and modernization by more than the 1 percent annual increase expected in future defense budgets.