Defense Secretary Robert Gates delivered a tough message earlier today for his department’s bureaucracy (not to mention its contractors): The spending spree is over. Read an account of his Kansas speech and some of his planned changes at our sister publication, Military Times, here. And the Washington Post’s article has this interesting detail on contracting:
Among Gates’s apparent targets for major cuts are the private contractors the Pentagon has hired in large numbers over the past decade to take on administrative tasks that the military used to handle. The defense secretary estimated that this portion of the Pentagon budget has grown by as much as $23 billion, a figure that does not include the tens of billions of dollars spent on private firms supporting U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The defense contractors, who populate new office towers throughout Washington’s suburbs and have been a major driver of the local economy, are a significant source of budgetary bloat, Gates said. “We ended up with contractors supervising other contractors — with predictable results,” he said in the speech Saturday.
The WaPo said Gates is prepared to stay on past this year to make sure his changes stick. Since defense spending is often viewed as sacrosanct in American politics, this could be the first shot fired in a major budgetary war.