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New SECDEF, DoD both claim independence from old ideas

Three days from now, something resembling “the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air” will indeed clap through the evening sky amidst heartfelt cheers, reminiscent of the night sky that spoke the United States’ independence from Great Britain. But that’s not the only independence being claimed or commemorated. Now as we head into the 4th of July weekend 235 years later, a new kind of independence is being claimed today – by new Secretary of Defense Leon and also by the itself.

New SECDEF, new mantra

Today the U.S.’s 23rd , Leon Panetta, stepped up to the plate and took the oath of office (Figure 1). Panetta, who vacated his office as director yesterday, says he has the needs of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families front and center. Though his predecessor and friend former SECDEF Robert Gates gained fame for revealing some of the DoD’s most controversial military technology cuts (all but the first increment of , the , and , to name a few), Panetta vows to keep the U.S. battlefield strong while declaring his own independence from the philosophy that everything boils down to either financial deficits or investing in military strength.

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Figure 1: Leon Panetta, former CIA director, took the SECDEF oath of office today at a Pentagon ceremony, replacing Robert Gates. DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey, U.S. Air Force

 

“As your leader, I will ensure that our nation continues to have the best-trained, best-equipped, and strongest military in the world – a force prepared to confront the challenges that face us,” Panetta said in a statement to the DoD today.

“As secretary of defense, I will do whatever is necessary to protect America and to meet the needs of the men and women who serve in harm’s way. … Even as the United States addresses fiscal challenges at home, there will be no hollow force on my watch. That will require us all to be disciplined in how we manage taxpayer resources,” emphasized the new SECDEF, who began his public service career as an Army intelligence officer in the 1960s and later became a Congress member, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and White House Chief of Staff.

“We must preserve the excellence and superiority of our military while looking for ways to identify savings. While tough budget choices will need to be made, I do not believe in the false choice between fiscal discipline and a strong national defense. We will all work together to achieve both,” Panetta asserted.

What remains to be seen: Will the Obama/Gates Fiscal Year 2012 proposed defense budget be altered? Proposed military program cuts for FY12 include the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV), in addition to the Army’s Non-Line-of-Sight Launch System and the surface-to-air missile programs. The projected $100 billion savings (from FY12-16) from these cuts is earmarked for an unnamed, new USAF long-range bomber program, six more unspecified Navy ships, faster modernization for Strykers, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and Abrams tanks, and refurb and repair efforts for Marine equipment. Meanwhile, the and aircraft, aircraft, and such as , , and , among other technologies, are on the FY12 budget’s “good” list. (See http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=62803 for more details.)

New IT education path for the DoD

Declaring its independence from the perception of total exclusivity in its daily IT modus operandi, the DoD has embraced a new way to beef up its arsenal against IT concerns such as cyber security and service-oriented architectures. Accordingly, the DoD announced today the implementation of its Exchange Program (ITEP), which serves as an “exchange program” (remember those high school exchange students when you were that young …) for IT professionals. Specifically, the personnel assignment swaps span anywhere from three months to one year, during which civilian DoD employees work for the private sector, and private-sector IT pros engage in a stint at the DoD.

The program, designed to facilitate mutual learning of best IT practices between the private sector and DoD, is slated to cover areas such as DoD infrastructure management, computing, and mobile devices.