Acting Army Secretary Pushes Public-Private Partnerships

Solar panel field at Fort Hood, Texas

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – More public-private partnerships between the Army and industry are needed to save money in an era of declining budgets, the Army’s top civilian official said March 17.

The service’s budget has declined about 40 percent since the height of the Afghanistan War a few years ago, Acting Secretary of the Army Patrick Murphy told members of the military and industry at the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force Symposium and Exposition in Huntsville, Alabama.

“Public private-partnerships truly have a practical value … because every dollar you can save in one area can be recommitted to spending in other areas,” he said. “By reducing overhead costs we can better fund those who are on the front lines.”

As an example, the Army has formed a public-private partnership with Apex Clean Energy to build and implement a renewable energy project at Fort Hood, Texas. Once completed, it is expected to generate about 65 megawatts of electricity for 40,000 soldiers and their families, Murphy said.

“For this one project alone we’ll save $168 million over the course of that contract,” he said. “That’s enough money … to purchase eight Apache attack aircraft or 10 [joint readiness training center] rotations. When I’m telling you that we have to be more efficient [and] we have to be innovative, that’s what I’m talking about. And if you have ideas out there on how we could do more projects like that or things like that, let us know.”

The Army also needs better metrics and insight into how it manages its money, he said, noting that the service still has not met congressionally mandated auditability requirements that were put into law more than 20 years ago. Murphy said he is confident that the Army will be fully auditable within 18 months.

“Efforts like this, which are not sexy … will make our Army more efficient, investing fewer dollars to accomplish the same outcomes,” he said. “It will also make us a more effective Army by freeing up more dollars to invest in readiness. We have to make every dollar count.”

After 15 years of counterinsurgency warfare, the Army needs to position itself to battle advanced adversaries, the head of the service said.

“We have to prepare for the next fight, which is high-end ground combat,” he said, citing Russia and well-armed Russian proxies as potential enemies. But the Army is struggling to do that as resources dwindle, Murphy said.

“We are mortgaging our future readiness and our modernization programs to invest in readiness today,” he told reporters after his speech.

Asked if his service will get the short end of the stick as the Navy and Air Force push forward with expensive modernization programs in the coming years, the Army leader said: “We’re a people business and [lawmakers] have to invest in the best of the best. They can’t look the other way and be focused on those shiny objects” that other services are procuring.

Photo: Defense Dept.

Topics: Business Trends, Doing Business with the Government, Partnering, Defense Department, DOD Leadership

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