For decades, 1 of the biggest debates successful Washington has been astir subject spending – 1 successful each 7 dollars we spend. Many defence leaders person questioned whether we’ve got our priorities straight, not to notation the countless stories of overspending, duplication, and weapons systems that we conscionable don’t need.
David Walker, the erstwhile Comptroller General of the United States, says that asking whether we tin chopped spending is the incorrect question. “Of people determination are things we tin streamline and prevention a batch of money,” helium says. “But the existent contented is that we request to recognize the risks of the future, and enactment our resources there.”
“It’s not conscionable astir cutting. It’s astir doing the enactment to marque smarter choices.”
Listen to the afloat speech here:
This speech has been condensed and edited.
Matt Robison: How overmuch bash we walk connected defense, and however has it evolved?
Dave Walker: The defence section is astir 15% of the national budget. That’s really dramatically down from what it had been for galore decades. But it’s inactive the largest portion of discretionary spending, which is what Congress authorizes each year.
Matt Robison: Where does it go?
Dave Walker: It’s not each successful places that radical deliberation about. For example, we walk a batch of wealth connected probe and development. We walk a batch connected bases. There’s of people a important magnitude for ongoing operations. And there’s a batch for compensation [pay for personnel].
Matt Robison: The Pentagon seems similar it could beryllium truthful big, truthful complex, and truthful intricate that it’s astir unmanageable.
Dave Walker: It is the largest azygous entity successful the United States. By definition, that means it’s hard to manage. Plus, the apical leaders connected the civilian broadside are governmental appointments, truthful astir of them are successful their occupation for possibly 2 to 3 years. But the biggest contented is that the Pentagon is simply a bloated bureaucracy. We walk mode excessively connected what is referred to arsenic “tail” – overhead costs – which leaves little for “tooth,” which is warfare fighting.
So 1 of the things that we truly person to bash is to consolidate a batch of silos and importantly trim what we walk connected administration.
Matt Robison: So are we spending excessively overmuch connected defence overall?
Dave Walker: There’s perfectly an accidental for redeeming a important magnitude of wealth connected overhead. We request to execute connected that. But we besides request to bash a amended occupation of assessing aboriginal credible risks. What capabilities bash we request successful bid to code those risks? Unmanned vehicles, cyber warfare, abstraction – these are each going to beryllium large successful the future. Plus to what grade should we person progressive work versus reserve? Because reserve forces are a batch much economical than progressive duty. These are strategical questions.
Matt Robison: It sounds similar it’s not rather the close question to inquire “are we spending excessively much?” The close question is what problems bash we request to lick successful the future, and are determination opportunities to bash things better?
Dave Walker: I agree. What are the threats? What are the opportunities? And however bash we re-engineer for the future?
Matt Robison: What astir classical examples of overspending? From the fabled $600 hammer to the trillion dollars connected the Joint Strike Fighter – is determination a important magnitude of bloat successful weapons systems spending?
Dave Walker: There are decidedly examples. We haven’t ever made large choices. Take the F-22. It is the astir precocious combatant successful the world. And it is phenomenal. But it is incredibly expensive. So who are we going to usage this against? We can’t merchantability it to anybody else, adjacent allies.
By comparison, we person the F-35 which was $35 cardinal each, portion the F-22 was implicit $200 million. Plus, the F-35 was going to beryllium purchased by galore of our allies.
The Pentagon has starting adopting much champion practices [to inquire questions similar this]. It’s inactive got a mode to go. Believe it oregon not, determination are parts of the of the Defense Department that don’t adjacent support their inventory connected computers. We often don’t adjacent cognize what worldly we adjacent have.
Matt Robison: So if you had full powerfulness implicit the Pentagon and implicit each of our subject spending, what reforms would you institute?
Dave Walker: First, I’d instrumentality risk-based analysis. What are the credible threats, some existent and future? I would dramatically trim the size of overhead. That would mean consolidating and eliminating a batch of entities. I would determination to accelerate adoption of champion practices connected acquisition and sourcing: meaning amended information absorption and fiscal management.
There’s a batch of accidental to walk smarter. But we’re talking astir large transformational change. It requires enactment that has patience, persistence, perseverance, and is consenting to endure symptom earlier you prevail.
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Matt Robison is simply a writer and governmental expert who focuses connected trends successful demographics, psychology, policy, and economics that are shaping American politics. He spent a decennary moving connected Capitol Hill arsenic a Legislative Director and Chief of Staff to 3 Members of Congress, and besides worked arsenic a elder advisor, run manager, oregon advisor connected respective Congressional races, with a absorption successful New Hampshire. In 2012, helium ran a come-from-behind contention that nationalist governmental analysts called the biggest astonishment triumph of the election. He went connected to enactment arsenic Policy Director successful the New Hampshire authorities senate, successfully helping to coordinate the legislative effort to walk Medicaid expansion. He has besides done extended backstage assemblage enactment connected vigor regulatory policy. Matt holds a Bachelor’s grade successful economics from Swarthmore College and a Master’s grade successful nationalist argumentation from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He lives with his woman and 3 children successful Amherst, Massachusetts.