Lynn Pledges Reform at Pentagon, but Confirmation Stalls

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  Space News Business

Lynn Pledges Reform at Pentagon, but Confirmation Stalls

By JOHN T. BENNETT

posted: 30 January 2009
03:44 pm ET






WASHINGTON
— The confirmation of William Lynn, U.S. President BarackObama’s nominee for deputy defense secretary, stalled Jan. 22 after lawmakers raised questions about his lobbying work for a major defense contractor.

In a statement released Jan. 22, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he needs more information from the Obama administration given “stricter rules” governing the appointment of former lobbyists to senior posts. “The committee will await the administration’s assessment as to whether the new rules will preclude Mr. Lynn, who was a registered lobbyist for a defense contractor, from participating in key Department of Defense decisions, and if so, whether a waiver will be forthcoming and what the scope of the waiver will be.”

Lynn
has been a senior lobbyist for Raytheon Co. of Waltham,
Mass.
, a top Pentagon contractor.

Levin’s request for more information comes after a Jan. 15 confirmation hearing for
Lynn
and three other Obama picks for senior Pentagon posts, during which Levin indicated he would move as quickly as possible on the nominations.

During the hearing, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) pressed
Lynn
on how his recent role with Raytheon might affect his ability to perform the duties of deputy defense secretary.

Lynn
replied that he would work closely with the Pentagon inspector general to abide by rules that define steps defense officials must take to avoid conflicts of interests when decisions are being made that include former employers.

The main focus of the hearing, however, was on the Obama team’s plans for the Pentagon. Lynn and the other nominees suggested they will “move away from” supplemental spending measures, overhaul the Pentagon’s weapons procurement process, and pack the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) with policy decisions.

The nominees told the committee they plan to spend the first few months of the administration conducting three top-level budget and strategy reviews.

Those reviews will include examining and revising the 2010 Pentagon budget blueprint left behind by the now departed administration of former President George W. Bush, according to written comments provided to the panel by
Lynn
. The team, in its first months, also plans to “review the second [fiscal year] 2009 supplemental appropriation submission,” wrote
Lynn
, a top Pentagon official under former President Bill Clinton and currently a Raytheon executive.

The deputy secretary nominee also stressed the Obama team plans an “expeditious completion” of the 2010 QDR.

Mich�le
Flournoy, Obama’s selection for undersecretary of defense for policy, said the 2010 QDR must take a close look at the kinds of warfare the
U.S.
military should be designed to fight in the future.

Flournoy
held two strategy planning posts in the Clinton Pentagon and recently co-founded the Center for a New American Strategy, a
Washington
think tank.

The 2010 quadrennial study likely will be the Obama administration’s first major defense policy blueprint. When asked about a range of topics from missile defense to a new long-range bomber, Flournoy said answers to such complex issues will be decided in the upcoming QDR process.

Robert Hale, the president’s pick for Pentagon comptroller, told the committee the department “needs to move away from” using supplementals to finance the wars in
Iraq
and
Afghanistan
.

Many lawmakers and budget analysts have slammed the Bush administration for allowing the services to pack the war spending bills with billions for new combat systems.

Hale, a former U.S. Air Force comptroller, said because the team will have only a few months to review and make changes to the 2010 budget plan, a second 2009 war supplemental is unavoidable. But Hale signaled the days of supplemental budgeting could be over after that measure goes to Capitol Hill.

“In later budgets, we should be better able to minimize dependence on supplementals,” Hale wrote in written answers to the panel’s advance questions. “Regardless of the year, we should avoid including predictable costs in supplemental requests.”

Lynn wrote in his written testimony that “a key issue” for the Obama team during its review of the 2010 budget “will be the formulation of new guidelines for what costs are appropriate for supplemental requests and identifying items that should be funded in the base budget.”

Hale said if the Obama administration uses the special spending bills, it might subject the measures to new “DoD scrutiny” similar to that given to annual budgets. He added the Obama Pentagon would submit to lawmakers “early information regarding supplemental requests.”

In written comments,
Lynn
called moving away from supplementals “an objective.”

Lynn and Hale indicated both the formal 2010 budget plan and the second 2009 supplemental might not be delivered to lawmakers until April. Defense budget experts have said delaying the budget submission by a few months is common practice for a new White House.

Lynn
also identified reforming the military’s acquisition system as a “high priority” under the incoming team. He went so far as to suggest acquisition changes the Obama administration might implement could require amending the Goldwater-Nichols Act, which reorganized the department more than 20 years ago.

“Acquisition reform is not an option. It’s an imperative,”
Lynn
told Levin during the hearing.

In his written testimony,
Lynn
said the goal of acquisition reform would be “improving stability, realism, accountability and effective execution.” He called for more “independent assessments of costs, technology readiness and testing maturity – particularly during the early stages of programs.”

Lynn
also highlighted several ailments that the incoming team likely will target for changes.

Lynn
said the department must set requirements for major weapons “up front” and resist unnecessary changes later in the development cycle. Such changes, called requirements creep, typically happen during the developmental phase of new systems when more and more features are added to a conceptual platform, often substantially inflating total program costs. And because the changes are made after initial cost estimates have been approved by senior Pentagon officials and Congress, it triggers sticker shock and heartburn in both Pentagon and on Capitol Hill.

The hearing did not feature much talk about individual weapons. But when questioned about the Army’s Future Combat Systems (FCS) effort, which experts have placed on the list of major programs Obama’s team might consider cutting, Lynn held his cards close.

“Underlying technologies of [FCS] are going to be essential to the future” Army force structure,
Lynn
told the panel. But “in exactly what form” will be determined after the new team conducts a “complete review” of the multibillion-dollar program, which is led by Chicago-based Boeing and SAIC of San Diego.

Jeh
Johnson, the nominee to be the Pentagon’s next general counsel, also appeared before the panel.