DOD Review Finds $5.7 Billion in Savings to Shift to Priority Missions

The Pentagon’s Defense-Wide Review would shift $5.7 billion from non-military defense offices and agencies to higher priority missions such as nuclear deterrence and technology investment.

The four-month review took aim at $99 billion in appropriated funding for the approximately 50 agencies that make up the “fourth estate,” including the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Defense Contract Management Agency, and the Defense Logistics Agency, among many others. The review recommended “right-sizing” entities such as medical treatment facilities, reducing the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, and reprioritizing missile defense research.

“These savings will be invested in cutting-edge innovation and warfighting requirements of our core missions,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Feb. 6 at the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies.

Additionally, the review found about $2 billion in programs that can be shifted from the “fourth estate” to the military services to reduce their overall size.

The release of the review comes just days before the Pentagon’s fiscal 2021 budget request, expected Feb. 10, which Esper said will include a new focus on multi-domain operations.

“Readiness and lethality rely on more than just new technologies and organizational changes,” Esper said. “To harness our full potential, we must modernize how we fight. Our budget request supports the development of a new, joint warfighting concept, which includes all-domain operations.”

The initiative will focus on the idea of dynamic force employment—a push to have the service’s deploy in a more quickly and agile way if needed—a “new concept that keeps the military operationally unpredictable and therefore more lethal, flexible, adaptable,” Esper said.

This will likely lead to increased investments in new capabilities and programs, such as the Air Force’s Airborne Battle Management System and the Joint All-Domain Command and Control initiative.

The Pentagon also is reviewing its force structure, organization, and footprint to find ways to free up funding for priorities outlined in the National Defense Strategy. The goal of the reviews, which have already started in U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Southern Command, is to shift the focus away from low-intensity operations such as drug interdiction and counter terror operations toward countering countries like China and Russia.

Reviews like these are necessary to ensure the Pentagon can accomplish its mission with level funding, or at best 3- to 5-percent real growth keeping pace with inflation. Tough decisions will have to be made, such as cutting back in certain areas or retiring legacy systems, to free up needed funding and Congress must help with that process, he said.

“We have to get our minds fixed on that because the nation has larger fiscal challenges,” Esper said “We have to brace ourselves for the fact that at best defense spending will be level. … Really what it means is we have to dig deep, we really have to look at ourselves, we should be able to defend our great country with the amount of money we’re given, and that means we have to make the tough choices.”