Inside the Pentagon takes a look today at what to expect from the defense bills percolating on Capitol Hill:
As lawmakers prepare to mark up the fiscal year 2014 defense spending and policy bills, congressional defense committees are expected to follow the Defense Department's lead in ignoring the possibility of sequestration cuts.
Their decision to proceed without regard to sequestration, while not unexpected, seems all but certain to feed into a repeat of last year's debates in Washington over DOD's inability to absorb tens of billions of dollars in across-the-board cuts and efforts to avert them through a broader compromise on taxes and spending.
"The Armed Services Committee is guided by the budget," Tara Andringa, a spokeswoman for the Senate authorization panel, said in response to a question about whether the committee would adhere to the post-sequestration Budget Control Act caps in drafting a defense authorization bill next month. "If the Senate and House have not agreed on a budget, we would normally look to the Senate budget, which provides a non-sequester limit for DOD. The Senate budget (like the President's budget and the House budget) assumes that the sequester can be avoided through other deficit-reduction measures."
Sticking with financial matters:
The quality of cost estimates prepared by the services for major weapon systems is improving, according to a new report from the Pentagon's top cost estimator.
The 2009 Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act directs the Defense Department's cost assessment and program evaluation office to provide Congress a yearly report "summarizing the cost estimation and cost analysis activities . . . during the previous year and assessing the progress of the Department in improving the accuracy of its cost estimates and analyses."
In the report for fiscal year 2012, dated April and posted online this week, Christine Fox, CAPE director since the post was created by the 2009 reform law, writes that "the overall quality" of cost estimates prepared by the military departments continues "to improve and provide more relevant support to decision authorities." The report attributes such improvements to "actual cost information for DOD programs" generated as the result of a "long-term initiative to collect contractor cost and software data reports."
The annual report -- required by law, dated April 2013 and released May 14, 2013 -- finds that the quality of cost estimates prepared by the services for major weapon systems is improving.
What will the SCMR mean for the reserves?
Members of the Reserve Forces Policy Board have urged Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to include National Guard and Reserve priorities in the ongoing Strategic Choices and Management Review, seeking more directly than before a comparison with the active-duty military in the face of shrinking budgets, according to a May 6 memo from the group.
Citing the "steadily increasing" costs of active-duty forces, board chairman Arnold Punaro says reserve forces "offer an affordable option, retaining capability and capacity that can be used when needed. Making arbitrary cuts, for the sake of component equity, does not make sense. The board strongly recommends the preservation of reserve component capabilities and that the department should actively consider the reserve component to mitigate the increased risk associated with further active component end strength reductions, either intentional or unavoidable as a result of declining resources."
The board's memo comes at a time when senior leaders have hinted that big changes are coming for how the Guard and reserves will be deployed. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter last week spoke of new and "innovative" ways for using the reserve component, arguing the closing of the manpower-intensive ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would amount to a new "frontier" for it.
A May 6, 2013, memo from the Reserve Forces Policy Board to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
The latest on JSF, posted this morning:
F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program officials want permission from Congress to accelerate the development of multimillion-dollar testing upgrades to better assess the aircraft's vital electronic warfare capabilities and mitigate the risk of costly software delays, according to documents and officials.
A major reprogramming request recently drafted by the Defense Department includes plans to shift $62 million in fiscal year 2013 to begin new investments in electronic-warfare test resources that would "provide critical test assets" for the initial operational testing of the F-35, which is being developed for the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Air Force by Lockheed Martin. The president's FY-14 budget request allots funding for the effort in the outyears, but the reprogramming would launch the EW upgrade program sooner to get more value -- a move that would constitute a "new start," according to the draft reprogramming.
Pentagon rules and lawmakers generally discourage the use of the reprogramming requests to start programs except in extraordinary situations when the money is required to meet validated requirements for warfighters' emerging or urgent operational needs, and when the department has committed to budgeting follow-on funding.
More from today's Inside the Pentagon:
The Pentagon is poised to release an updated strategic management plan that will elevate end-to-end business processes and cost mindedness from mere goals to overarching "guiding principles," according to a senior defense official.
In a brief interview Tuesday, Deputy Chief Management Officer Beth McGrath said the newest incarnation of the strategic management plan, expected by July 1, would have fewer goals than the prior version. The document lays out management objectives for the Defense Department's business operations.
The September 2011 SMP, signed by then-Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn, articulated seven business goals for fiscal years 2012 and 2013 and called for increasing the buying power of the department, building agile and secure information technology capabilities and increasing energy efficiency.
One of those business goals was to re-engineer and make use of end-to-end business processes. That idea has been elevated to a "guiding principle" for the department with the hope that it will influence every goal, McGrath told Inside the Pentagon.
The March 12, 2013, report states that the Defense Department is engaging in a number of activities to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its business operations in addition to updating its strategic management plan.
More news of note:
The Defense Department has asked Congress for the authority to distribute up to $100 million worth of excess U.S. military equipment in Afghanistan to countries that have supported the Northern Distribution Network, according to a legislative proposal sent to Congress.
The Pentagon is seeking $39.6 billion for information technology in the upcoming fiscal year with an eye toward increasing defensive cyberspace capabilities and developing the joint cyber force under a new planning model, according to newly issued budget documents.
Administration officials last week offered details about a new anti-missile warhead that could one day replace the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle, describing the effort as an attempt to gain better reliability and performance through the use of a modular, open system architecture.
The Air Force and the United Launch Alliance this week put the service's fourth Global Positioning System IIF satellite into orbit with a successful launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL.
. . . yesterday, some very good stuff:
The Army, the Marine Corps and U.S. Special Operations Command remain undecided on whether to jointly establish a permanent strategic landpower office pushed by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno.
In a bid to help improve the resilience of military systems before they are produced and deployed, the Pentagon has issued new guidelines to enable the developmental testing community to better develop a "robust cybersecurity" strategy.
And two more documents:
On April 26, 2013, the Defense Department forwarded to Congress its first package of legislative proposals to be considered along with the Pentagon's fiscal year 2014 spending request.
On May 7, 2013, the Defense Department forwarded to Congress a second package of legislative proposals, including a request to extend the Defense Exportability Features (DEF) pilot program -- which began in FY-12 and is set to terminate at the end of FY-14 -- from FY-15 to FY-20.