WASHINGTON ― Last year, the Army’s top civilian and the service’s chief of staff spent about 60 evening hours running down a list of every last Army acquisition program, looking for places to save money.
In the end, about 200 programs were reduced, delayed or canceled to free up about $30 billion, Army Secretary Mark Esper told an audience at The Atlantic Council on Friday. And there are no regrets, he added.
“And as expected, we’ve seen some resistance,” he said. “As many of you know, canceling a program is often harder than starting a new one.”
Notably, the recently fielded Joint Light Tactical Vehicle will be getting a cut, officials have said, though precise numbers have not been announced.
“In some cases, we had more than what we needed. In others, we could accomplish the task with something already in the inventory,” Esper said. “And for a number of programs we decided simply that the upgrades just weren’t necessary.”
Army Undersecretary Ryan McCarthy told reporters earlier this year that the Army had given many of these companies a heads-up about their new plans. But many of them reached out to their congressional representatives to put pressure back on the service Esper said.
“In some cases, it’s argued that the Army’s priorities are simply misguided,” Esper said. “They say that we are making a tactical error, and their project is what’s needed to win the next war.”
But, Esper added, he will be sticking to the opinions of the tactical experts.
“Now I appreciate all that advice, I really do,” he said of the defense industry. “However when it comes to making the tough decisions about the future, the Army really relies on our general officers – who have been battle-tested for decades, who have extensive experience and have studied and war gamed the future.”
Their only motivation is to win that theoretical next war, he added, and bring soldiers home safe.
“And while the bias for defense companies is toward upgrading existing programs, the best way to build resilience into our industrial base is by adapting to the needs of the future,” he said.
Change is hard, he added, but his team is doing what they believe is right.