Washington (CNN) - The Pentagon is out to save $100 billion over the next five years in a major push to cut overhead costs, according to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Gates officially unveiled his plan at a Pentagon news conference Monday, announcing he is putting department acquisition chief Ashton Carter in charge of finding where the $100 billion will come from in the budgets beginning in 2012.
"The department's leadership has already taken strong action in this area, and needs to do more," Gates said.
"Other savings can be found within programs and activities we do need, by conducting them more efficiently. ... I'm confident we'll succeed," he said.
Washington (CNN) - U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he will urge President Barack Obama to veto a coming $726 billion defense authorization bill if it contains funding for unwanted projects Gates has been trying to cut for years.
Gates has been vocal about financial reform at the Pentagon, trying to rein in some big-ticket contracts and telling Congress to stop spending money on C-17 transport planes that are not needed and a $485 million alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The JSF engine program - already delayed and over budget - could end up costing taxpayers billions of dollars, according to Gates.
But with jobs at stake, Congress has ignored those requests for years and continued to appropriate funds for the C-17 and a second F-35 engine.
"The detailed conditions they [Congress] have imposed on the overall JSF program would make it essentially un-executable and impose unacceptable schedule and budget costs," Gates said Thursday at a Pentagon briefing.
Washington (CNN) - The U.S. Army is under fire for reversing a decision to have three companies compete for more than $500 million worth of work in Iraq, and instead keeping it under an existing contract without any bidding.
The $568 million contract for support work in Iraq stayed with contracting giant KBR under the existing sole-source contract - known as Logistics Civil Augmentation Program III (LOGCAP III) - after the Army initially requested bids from KBR and its main competitors, Fluor Intercontinental and DynCorp International, under a competitive contract system known as LOGCAP IV.
The contract work, covering everything from cleaning laundry to preparing food and providing fuel for troops and contractors in Iraq, would be done between September 1, 2010 and December 31, 2011, as the U.S. military begins a massive draw down of troops in Iraq.
KBR won the LOGCAP III contract under competitive bidding in 2001 and military commanders worried about the effects of changing an already existing set-up to another company's set-up.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Obama administration is creating 50 benchmarks to measure success in Afghanistan at a time when the United States is struggling to beat back a virulent Taliban presence there, senior U.S. officials say.
Crafting of the upgraded benchmarks is nearly completed, the officials said Wednesday, adding they will become a part of larger objectives for the path ahead in Afghanistan set by the administration in March.
The benchmarks were ordered by President Barack Obama and Congress earlier this year and will be monitored by quarterly reports back to Capitol Hill yearly, according to the officials.
The beefed-up metrics are similar to the Bush-era quarterly evaluations for Iraq and Afghanistan currently used by the Pentagon to report security progress to Congress. But the new evaluations will be made up of categories and subcategories that will measure how well objectives were met as opposed to the "yes or no" responses to single issues in the current reports.
The metrics will be based on inputs and outputs to show the full spectrum of a goal, according to one of the officials.
Gates told a Senate panel that a military option would only delay Iran's nuclear ambitions and drive the program further underground, making it more difficult to monitor, he said.
He said the better option would be for the United States and its allies to convince Iran that building a nuclear program would start an arms race that would leave the country less secure.
"Their security interests are actually badly served by trying to have nuclear weapons," Gates said. "They will start a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and they will be less secure at the end than they are now."
Gates was joined by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in an appearance before the Senate Appropriations Committee to discuss the 2009 supplemental request.
Clinton and Gates told the panel the United States and its allies should pressure Iran with tougher sanctions.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Pentagon will release "hundreds" of photographs showing alleged abuse of prisoners in detention in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2001 and 2006, Pentagon officials said Friday, but they maintained they did not show a systemic problem.
"I think it will be in the hundreds," said one official, who said the photos - not yet seen by the public – would be released by the end of May.
On Thursday the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said the Pentagon had agreed to release a "substantial" number of photographs by May 28 in response to an open-records lawsuit filed by organization. Pentagon officials said the photos were taken at facilities other than Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
Friday, Pentagon officials said the photographs are from more than 60 criminal investigations from 2001 to 2006 and show military personnel allegedly abusing detainees.
The officials rejected ACLU allegations that photos show a systemic pattern of abuse by the military.
"These photographs provide visual proof that prisoner abuse by U.S. personnel was not aberrational but widespread, reaching far beyond the walls of Abu Ghraib," Amrit Singh, an ACLU attorney, said in a statement. "What this demonstrates is that we have always been serious about investigating credible allegations of abuse," said Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates will not attend next months NATO Summit with President Obama in order to focus on the defense budget, according to Pentagon officials.
"Secretary Gates will remain in Washington to keep working on what is being called a "very difficult budget," this year, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.
The summit involves leaders of NATO member countries, but defense ministers often attend for behind-the scenes discussions.
"He had hoped to join President Obama in Strasbourg and Kehl to celebrate the alliance's 60th anniversary, but his work on the 2010 budget will not permit him to leave Washington then," another Pentagon spokesman, Geoff Morrell, said in a statement. "He simply needs more time to review all of our major weapons programs and assess how they fit into his efforts to strategically rebalance the department's budget."
Gates has repeatedly said there will be many tough decisions to be made in this budget on weapons programs. High-profile, and pricey, programs Gates will have to weigh whether to keep or to cut include the Air Force's F-22 "Raptor" fighter, the Army's $160 billion Future Combat System program and the over-budget and delayed new presidential helicopter program.
Asked why Gates would be skipping a NATO meeting where most ministers of defense will join their heads of state, Whitman said the Secretary believed there was very good U.S. representation in President Obama.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – U.S. military aircraft are practicing for worst case scenarios in the skies over the Washington, DC area in an effort to secure the skies on Inauguration Day.
On Wednesday, Air Force fighter jets and Coast Guard helicopters practiced chasing wayward planes that may fly into restricted areas around Washington.
The rehearsal is dubbed "Falcon Virgo" by the military.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Since 2006, he has garnered an image of fixing problems at the Pentagon - he was the anti-Rumsfeld, and his time was to be short.
But Defense Secretary Robert Gates now faces a host of issues he thought he would be leaving behind as the new administration prepares to move in and he stays on.
At a Pentagon briefing Tuesday, Gates summed up what he had to look forward to.
"I have no intention of being a caretaker secretary," he said. "Our challenges from the budget to acquisition and procurement reform, war strategy, care of wounded warriors, meeting the needs of war fighters, decisions on important modernization and capitalization projects and more all demand the personal attention of the secretary of defense, and they will get it."
That is heavy lifting for somebody who has said his new time as secretary of defense will be "open-ended."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - As administration transition teams around Washington crank into high gear, Pentagon officials are insisting that the complicated transfer of power from the Bush administration to the Obama administration - the first during a time of war since Vietnam - will go smoothly.
Teams in both Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' office, as well as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, have been working on the transition for months now, according to Pentagon officials.
"We are preparing to make this as smooth a transition as we can," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said earlier this week.
While officials say the transition is in good hands, little is being said about what discussions will occur between the Pentagon teams and President-elect Barack Obama's transition teams when they begin showing up within days or weeks.
"There is a recognition that given that we are a nation at war, that energy and effort [should] be sufficiently placed to ensure that we don't drop any balls, because national security and supporting our fielded forces that are engaged in combat is of paramount importance to this country," Whitman explained.