Fourth Estate under the Microscope

With sequestration now playing havoc with budgets, Defense Department officials are going to look very closely at ways to gain savings by “driving down tail to strengthen tooth,” said Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Along these lines, DOD is scrutinizing the costs of the so-called “fourth estate”—the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the combatant commanders’ staffs, and the defense agencies, he said in a May 7 speech in Washington, D.C. “The fourth estate represents a fifth of the department’s budget,” said Carter, and it merits as much scrutiny as the military services. “There are real savings to be realized here,” he said. Carter told the Daily Report following his talk that these costs are not just headquarters staff functions, but support agencies like the Defense Logistics Agency. “I do believe we need to shrink [headquarters functions] also, at least as much as everything else,” said Carter. But most of the money in the fourth estate is in field agencies, combat support, and other functions. “They are doing important work, but they must receive the same amount of scrutiny,” he said. (Carter transcript) (For additional coverage of Carter’s speech, read Pentagon Strategy Review to Drive Budgets and On the Offense in Space.)