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Efficiencies Necessary as Pentagon Transitions, Lynn Says

Deputy Defense Sec. William J. Lynn being sworn in 2009 alongside his wife, Mary Murphy. Photo: defense.gov
Photo: defense.gov

Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III again voiced his support for Pentagon budget cuts and reorganizations, as the Defense Department enters what he called a significant period of transition.

Lynn said it was the fifth such transition, or as he called it, “inflection point,” for the Pentagon. The last one came after the Soviet Union dissolved, and the three previous followed some of the last century’s major wars and conflicts: World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

During the speech before the World Affairs Council in McLean, Va., Lynn positioned the Pentagon’s efficiencies as essential to making the current transition a success, a goal, which in the past, he said, DoD has fallen short of.

“What the four transitions have in common is each time we’ve gone through this, we’ve suffered … a disproportionate loss of capability,” he said. “In shorthand, we’re 0-for-4 in managing these transitions.”

But contrary to detractor’s criticisms, Lynn said the goal of the restructuring was not to “break the force,” but “to adapt to the fiscal situation we’re in.”

Lynn said the Pentagon has learned some key lessons from past transition points:

1)      Make difficult decisions early, because resources will only become scarcer and budget woes will likely only grow grimmer.

2)      “Pure efficiencies”–or doing the same things with less money–will not work this time around, Lynn said.  “You are going to have to eliminate lower-priority organizations, lower-priority activities,” including the U.S. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., he added.

The Pentagon’s proposals to trim the bottom line — $100 billion over five years—has drawn the ire of some  congressmen, contractors and community members, since Secretary of Defense Robert Gates laid out specifics in August.

However, others have praised the measures and Gates for a forward-thinking strategy.

Lynn and other top DoD officials testified before the House and Senate last week about the Pentagon’s plans.

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