As the budget axe continues to cut costs throughout the defense department, top military officials from some of the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons programs vowed to help reduce costs at the Navy League’s annual conference.
Vice Admiral David Architzel, who oversees Navy aircraft programs, said he was focused on making "every dollar count as we go forward." Vice Admiral David Venlet, who heads the Pentagon’s costly F-35 fighter program, said he is determined to keep the contentious program on track with its new, more realistic plan.
"I hear cost concerns from everybody every day," Venlet told Rueters. "I believe I’ve got a boundary on my development progam that I must live within. We would be irresponsible to not exercise discipline."
The call for more cost effective weapons programs follows congressional and defense urging for a more efficient acquisition process to overhaul the current process, described as lengthy, costly and inefficient.
Venlet will review costs associated with the most expensive defense project in history (the F-35 program) with executives from Lockheed Martin Corp, key suppliers, Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter, and his counterparts from the eight international partners. He said the manufacturing processes with the jet was stabilizing and the study of costs will help to avert future cost increases.
The growing concerns over the U.S. budget deficit means that defense companies need to focus more on cost, weight and energy efficiency as they develop new weapons systems, said assistant Marine Corps Commandant General Joseph Dunford at the conference. He also said current budgetary concerns are reforming the way the military defines its needs. In the past, senior military leaders had largely been "spectators" to that process and now costs are being factored in as military requirements are established, he said.
Even with the efficiency savings of $178 billion over five years proposed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates last February, lawmakers are pressing for greater savings in fiscal 2012 and beyond. Last month, the Government Accountability Office reported that costs for the Pentagon’s 98 biggest arms programs rose by $135 billion over the past two years to $1.68 trillion. Plus, recent missions such as the Japanese nuclear disaster and Libyan air strikes have put further strain on spending, defense officials admitted.