Ongoing Defense Department Reforms Align With National Defense Strategy

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Aug. 05, 2020) -- The Defense Department is responsible for defending the nation and its interests around the globe, and must also be ready to help partners and allies as well. Maintaining the lethal, combat-ready force to carry out that mission is expensive.

The department can increase its own combat effectiveness by pursuing new ways to make the dollars it gets from Congress go farther than they have in the past. That means reforming how it does business to become ever more efficient and responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars.

Reforming the department for greater performance and affordability is one of the lines of effort central to the National Defense Strategy laid out in 2018. It's something Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper has been focused on since he took office last year.

"This means making difficult choices across the DOD, which are essential to ensuring that our time, manpower, and resources are directed toward NDS priorities," Esper said. "We have already made great strides to that end."

As part of the reform effort, a defensewide review identified around $5.7 billion in defense reforms and efficiencies across the DOD's "Fourth Estate," which includes 29 separate agencies and organizations within the department that are not part of the military services. These agencies include the DOD Education Activity, the Defense Health Agency, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Defense Media Activity, among others.

A departmental audit also helped to accelerate reform efforts. In the last year, the department completed its second-ever annual departmentwide financial statement audit, which covered assets of more than $2.9 trillion. The effort improved the quality of enterprise data used to drive decision-making and also helped to ensure the department remains good stewards of government resources, Pentagon officials said.

The department also reviewed all of its existing regulations as part of its reform efforts and reduced regulatory burdens to save $132 million. Now, Esper said, the department is working toward a 15% reduction in DOD solicitation provisions and contract clauses. That effort should be complete by the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year.

A "blank-slate" or "clean-sheet review" of combatant commands is also aiding reform efforts. The review was undertaken to consolidate and reduce legacy missions, tasks and posture to optimize their operational footprint.

Those clean-sheet reviews have already generated savings in time, money, and manpower that can be realigned toward higher-priority NDS requirements. At the same time, changes made as a result of the reviews will improve posture, readiness and flexibility of U.S. military forces around the globe.