National Security on a Boot-String Budget

January 20, 2012
By Beverly Schaeffer

The worldwide budget crisis isn't just an oft-repeated catch phrase-it's the real deal-and it's affecting how nations procure and oversee their security measures and infrastructure. In fact, the economy is recognized as one of the major concerns for security provision. In "Aligning Acquisition Strategies With the Times" by Max Cacas in this issue of SIGNAL Magazine, Cacas gleans crucial insight into the effects of national fiscal woes and suggestions for the way forward from Dr. Jacques S. Gansler, a former U.S. undersecretary of defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. In future fiscal years, the U.S. Defense Department must make major changes to the way it deals with the competing forces of decreased financial resources and continually morphing security challenges. Gansler suggests that it increasingly includes global commercial firms. And, the Defense Department's struggles are not much different than those at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This, he says, is because the DHS taps into many of the same national security industrial base firms that sell goods and services to the Defense Department: According to Gansler:

The need to improve the acquisition process extends beyond just the defense arena. Technology has changed dramatically; geopolitics has changed dramatically; international economics has changed dramatically; and most importantly, national security has changed dramatically.

Gansler explains that both the Defense Department and the DHS have to cover a full spectrum of national security challenges at a time when government budgets are by necessity being drawn tighter. In characterizing increases in defense and homeland security spending over the past decade, Gansler explains:

We're not talking about tank-on-tank from the Cold War. We're talking about war among the people; we're talking about everything from pirates to terrorists and unstable governments and even nuclear war. Since 9/11, we've lived in a rich man's world.

He also references the late President Ronald Reagan's signing of National Security Decision Directive-189, the National Policy on the Transfer of Scientific, Technical and Engineering Information, which says fundamental research can be done by anybody, anywhere, and published freely.

True acquisition reform can and will result from an overall cultural change in the Defense Department and the DHS, Gansler emphasizes. Officials in charge of contracting and acquisition must recognize the need for change.

Defense/DHS officials must be willing to take steps to improve security procurement. But are they? Are these decision makers ready to establish and reach appropriate milestones to determine if acquisition changes are working? Discuss your opinions and suggestions here.

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