Despite a challenging budget and cost-cutting climate, providing the best possible support to service members remains at the forefront, leaders emphasized at the 2011 Defense Logistics Agency Industry Conference and Exhibition, held this week in Columbus, Ohio.

Ashton Carter, undersecretary of defense for acquisitions, technology and defense lauded the DLA community for their support during the Afghanistan build-up, and noted that while troop numbers decline in the region, the quality and level of support must remain high. New initiatives are in the works to build up intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities as well as supporting new civilian staff and Afghan Security Forces.

“Our overall objective must be to make the force there, which is going to be somewhat smaller over the next year, nevertheless more capable than the force that has been in Afghanistan this past year," Carter said.

While the push is to provide capability, gone are the days of providing it at any cost. Carter emphasized that the days of growing budgets are gone, and the government, defense industry, and congress will have to adjust and innovate rather than expect additional cash flow.

“The president, the secretary of defense, and the taxpayer are going to expect us to make every dollar we do get count," said Carter.

A part of stretching every dollar includes keeping current systems as long as possible, and lowering maintenance and administrative costs. Carter noted that the first goal was to eliminate underperforming and unnecessary programs, now the defense department has to look at everywhere it’s spending money where savings can be found.

Some of the greatest challenges brought by budget cuts will come in the way of cuts to civilian and contractor positions, said Undersecretary of Defense (Comptroller) Robert Hale. In order for any growth to occur budgets must typically grow by at least two to three percent per year. But with stagnant budget forecasts in the near future, both defense and industry will face challenging times, and will have to “take some risks, and stretch our dollars,” said Hale.

About $400 billion of the defense department’s $700 billion budget goes to contracted goods and services. Of that $400 billion, one quarter goes to procuring weapons systems and half goes to services.

While the defense industry will be expected to contribute to belt-tightening, maintaining capability and end-strength despite challenges is a major goal of the defense logistics community.

"A strong, technologically vibrant and financially successful defense industry is in the national interest," said Carter. "We need, collectively, to be stewards of that industry so it remains vibrant for the future."

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