By Amaani Lyle DoD News, Defense Media Activity
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md., September 30, 2015 — The defense logistics program is “doing what it was built to do,” showing cost savings in recent years despite budgetary restraints, the principal undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics said at the National Defense Transportation Association’s fall meeting here today.
At the event, co-hosted with U.S. Transportation Command, Alan F. Estevez praised Transcom’s “unparalleled” ability to deploy and sustain forces across long distances with a continued focus on acquisitions, innovation and cyber, even though fiscal year 2017-2021 budget plans could be built on the precarious 2016 budget, still in wet cement and pending congressional approval.
“We’re building off a ‘16 budget that doesn’t exist, … and whatever we get in the ‘16 budget is probably going to be lower than that $538 billion,” Esteves said of current defense funding that sequestration cuts could pare by $38 billion.
Estevez warned that the Defense Department could end up with funding less than sequestration levels, at about $498 billion, under a yearlong continuing resolution. “Over the last six years, we’ve gone into a continuing resolution every first quarter,” he noted.
“All these things to save money for the budget actually cost the American people dollars and they cost your military combat power, and that is not a good place to be,” Estevez said. “But that’s the reality we’re living in today.”
Readiness, Force Structure, Modernization
In the meantime, he said, DoD and Transcom will build on the budget foundation the department has, with a lens on force readiness, force structure and modernization.
“The hollow force is not something we want to revisit,” Estevez said. “If we trade away our modernization, that means we end up fighting in the ‘20s and ‘30s with the tools that were bought in the ‘80s and ‘90s.”
Moreover, he said, competitors could suddenly nose ahead with better capabilities and acquisitions, depriving the United States of the battlefield edge it has enjoyed for decades. “One of the things we have lived with for the last 30 to 40 years is we never go into it in a fair fight, because we have better stuff,” he said.
Developing Cyber and Innovation
Transcom’s cyber networks, similarly to those of the Office of Personnel Management, are prime targets for network breaches, Estevez said. The military and industrial base comprise the logistics realm, he added, but a reliance on the commercial sector – particularly Silicon Valley -- will increase as Transcom bolsters its innovation and cyber capabilities. DoD has since set up a Defense Unit Innovation Experimental in Silicon Valley, where he said “great things” are going on.
“One thing we’re not going to get from Silicon Valley is a weapons system,” Estevez said. But there are some great tools that we can build into our weapons system,” he added, such as robotics and other technology in development there.
Estevez also described improvements in Transcom’s acquisitions. “More programs are showing cost savings over the last five years in their acquisition than have gone up, which is a dynamic number,” he said.
Ultimately, he said, DoD senior leaders perceive logistics as one of the differentiators in readiness. “There’s always a risk of cutting too much on the logistics side, and we’ve got to watch out for that.” That logistics capability, he added, is what creates the capacity to go into combat.
As Transcom continues support of operations to thwart the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, with concurrent attention to logistics capabilities in Europe and across the Asia Pacific region, Estevez emphasized the command’s importance.
Importance of Logistics
“When Defense Secretary Ash Carter was undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, Estevez said, Carter told him in an amusing way how important logistics is, saying, “Logistics is like oxygen: when you got it, you don’t think about it. When you don’t got it, that’s all you think about.”
To keep the U.S. advantage, Estevez said, a Joint Staff and combatant command leadership summit is scheduled in the coming months. “We are going to have a contractor force out there no matter what fight we’re in,” he added, “and we’ve got to plan for how that contractor force is going to operate with us.”