President Trump, please fix the Pentagon

The midterm elections were a meh: the House went blue, the Senate stayed red, and the media was predictable. The follow-on story that I paid more attention to was the Pentagon failing its first audit.

I’m not surprised. As someone who has watched a number of wars come and (not) go, spending has been all over the place, and for an agency as large as the Pentagon, they are going to find plenty of waste. When President Trump told the Pentagon to plan on a 700 Billion, and not a 733 Billion, people claimed he would be hurting national defense. Actually, combined with the audit, we should be looking for savings, because it’s not that we aren’t spending enough money, its that we aren’t getting the right deal for our money:

– Civilian Employee Reform. It is borderline impossible to fire employees for mediocre performance, let alone criminal action. The VA is in the limelight, but there are plenty of other Pentagon agencies that have personnel that just need to be moved on. It’s not hard to find poor performing employees, but it requires a Herculanean effort to get rid of them, something that too many managers just aren’t willing to do.

– Acquisition Reform. We spend a lot of money on research, development and procurement, yet we follow antiquated rules. Most are set by Congress, which allows the funneling of funds into specific districts. When such rules are changed, savings are found, as the Air Force demonstrated recently.

– Individual Augmentation. Imagine that you come off of a long sea duty deployment and finally get a break on shore duty. Surprise! You’re going to Afghanistan. The individual augmentation program has been going on since the late 90s, taking Navy Sailors off shore duty and thrusting them into Army support jobs. Not only is this expensive, but it rips Sailors from jobs we need them to do state-side. In some cases, we are missing 40% of a command’s Sailors due to augmentation. It also breaks their sea/shore rotation. This, on top of the fact the Army continued to use Navy Sailors while drawing down it’s force, needs to be stopped.

President Trump should use the audit as a tool to weed out the inefficiencies in the Pentagon. It will help make the force more lethal while also minimizing cost increases.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

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