The price tag on peace: How Washington can optimize the business of defense
Crisis in Ukraine, the international response to Boko Haram and a never-ending dance with an unstable North Korea are just a few of the big-ticket issues the U.S. military faces this year as it reaches into a thinner wallet. Washington will have to do more with less as it looks to spread just shy of $600 billion across efforts to stay on top of emerging threats around the globe.
The watchword: Efficiency.
"The military should—and can—operate more efficiently," Baker Spring, national security policy expert at the Heritage Foundation, wrote in a key report on military performance logistics. "Any system as far-flung and complex as the military's logistical system will operate better and more efficiently when it is supported by state-of-the-art information technology."
Officials in Washington are debating how the military does what it does just as Russia's activity in Ukraine has all but vaporized the illusion of a post-Cold War quiet period and put the world on notice. News outlets worldwide have covered Moscow's annexation of the Crimea region and the massing of 40,000 troops along the country's borders. The U.S. and its NATO allies have conducted war exercises in the region in a show of support for the former Soviet republics such as Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia that fall under the security of the NATO alliance.
Meanwhile, Russia continues to harbor Edward Snowden, the fugitive former U.S. contractor who is wanted for leaking documents detailing the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program. Snowden's temporary asylum is scheduled to run out this summer.
These and other developments could have major implications for the U.S. worldwide, particularly in regard to defense allocations. Even as Washington cuts its own budgets, it shoulders an inordinate portion of NATO expenditures, for example.
U.S. carries heaviest NATO burden
"For decades — from the early days of the Cold War — American defense secretaries have called on European allies to ramp up their defense investment," Hagel said during a speech in May, as the Washington Post reported. "We must see renewed financial commitments from all NATO members."
As America's stakes in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down and the national debt mounts, the U.S. is looking at the first major military cuts in more than 20 years, the Brookings Institution reports. President Obama's proposed budget for 2015 comes in at $595.6 billion, down nearly 15 percent from a robust $700 billion in 2011, according to news reports.
If the past is any indication, these cuts will induce reductions in force across the globe. The Obama administration has been drawing down troops worldwide since 2012 while simultaneously continuing the conversation about a strategic pivot toward East Asia, Brookings reports.
Finding logistical efficiencies will prove more important than ever as the U.S. continues to shoulder a disproportionate share of the global security burden.
"Congress must pursue efficiency and reform and eliminate waste in the defense budget," the Heritage Foundation said in its "2014 Defense Reform Handbook." The foundation says it has identified more than $200 billion in savings that can be achieved through expanding the use of public-private partnerships and performance-based logistics.
In addition to services such as supply chain and logistics management, solutions such as "real time situational awareness" and in-memory data platforms offered by SAP National Security Services (SAP NS2) and its partners enable military planners, analysts and operators to operate more efficiently without sacrificing America's national security.
These services could be just what Washington needs in a world where resources are stretched and potential conflicts simmer.
"Technology can be the key factor in enabling faster, better decision making, as well as higher performance, and meaningful efficiencies and cost savings in a budget-constrained environment," SAP NS2 President and Chief Executive Mark Testoni wrote in a Defense Systems editorial. "Government and industry must deliver solutions rapidly and collaboratively, and leverage evolving commercial capabilities, including cloud and big data analytics."