Sequestration and DoD: Watching that old pendulum swing!


pendulumWatching that old pendulum swing! Nothing puts me to sleep faster than the tick-tock of a clock. Better yet: a grandfather clock! I love sitting there watching the pendulum swing back and forth, back and forth. It’s hypnotic! So maybe that’s why I keep falling asleep as this “sequestration crisis” implodes around me! To my ears, it sounds more like the swinging of a big, cosmic, DoD pendulum.

Back in the day, the service components had to be fiercely independent. They were required to provide all the resources they needed to fight the war when they got there. Anyone who has been around a while remembers the day when each service provided for themselves, from fire control solutions to laundry!

In the late 90’s, faced with huge budget cuts (sounds familiar?) DoD started to look closely at this solution and decided to let go of some of the services. Remember A-76 Studies? Basically, it was a requirement to look at EVERY function and make a determination if it was “inherently governmental”. From then-President George W. Bush: “Government should be market-based–we should not be afraid of competition, innovation, and choice. I will open government to the discipline of competition”.

At the time, most service members that were in the midst of the process thought it was the end of the world. Quota’s rained down from DC to identify 10% for out-sourcing…. and then another 10%… and then another. This went on for years. It seemed very harsh and sometimes cruel. To us in the field, it often felt like some of the family jewels were being given away.

If my math is any good, I should be able to directly correlate what was outsourced to an equal reduction in federal employees. But c’mon, that didn’t really happen, right?!

Over the past decade, with DoD expanding its capabilities to fight two simultaneous wars, the C5ISR world of DoD stepped up to the challenge. I have had the distinct pleasure of watching our defense industries redefine the boundaries of what is possible. Through these great innovations, the capabilities of our forces have been multiplied.

As requirements came in faster than government could provide capabilities, it fell to the defense industry to step up and fill the void. Defense contractors filled many roles that really should have been done by government employees. As time went on, government recognized that some very core functions had been sent out to industry. DoD leaders assessed that it was time to bring these core functions back in house. For the past two years, in-sourcing has occurred at all. Basically, the federal DoD Civil Service grew again!

If my math is any good, I should be able to directly correlate this DoD growth to an equal reduction of defense industry. But c’mon. Who are we fooling! Over the past two years, defense industry has GROWN, not SHRUNK!

This back and forth is kind of hypnotic, isn’t it? Like a pendulum! If the details weren’t so important, I might just doze off.

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