WASHINGTON, December 6 (Sputnik) – US President Barack Obama's new nominee to be Secretary of Defense will focus on Pentagon's budget, not changes in military strategy, experts from the Washington-based Henry L. Stimson Center think tank told Sputnik following the announcement on Friday that Ashton Carter is slated to run the Department of Defense.
"Carter is a technocrat more than a strategist," Barry Blechman, a distinguished fellow and national security expert at the Stimson Center, said. "The most important changes he individually will be responsible for will be reforms in the budget process."
Carter will come to the Pentagon as it is faced with reduced defense spending and congressionally mandated sequestration – a 10-percent cut to the budget. Congress has been funding the Defense Department on continuing resolutions — or short-term budgets — for several years, making planning all the more difficult for the Pentagon.
"The Pentagon clearly, given budgetary situation, caps on spending, faces difficult choices, and those choices can be made easier if some of the wasteful practices are changed," Blechman said, identifying reform in the procurement process and eliminating duplication in back office administrative functions as top priorities for the department.
"Congress has for years curtailed changes that the military and administration have wanted to make to reduce personnel costs or get rid of obsolete weapons to free up more funds to purchase new weapons. It is very important that the Department of Defense be permitted to do this," Blechman said.
To manage the budget, the Pentagon will need to reform acquisition efficiency, compensation and the retirement system, Matthew Leatherman, a Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense Advisor at the Stimson Center, told Sputnik.
"Taken together, these reform plans encompass virtually the entire Pentagon budget," Leatherman said.
While managing such reforms have challenged Defense Secretaries for at least a generation, Leatherman said caps on the defense budget also create an opportunity for the leadership to make changes.
However, according to Leatherman, the same caps "have aggravated differences in Congress, which must sign off on most changes the Secretary could recommend."
Carter served as deputy Secretary of Defense under Leon Panetta and Chuck Hagel. He has served in various capacities for 11 Secretaries of Defense, including a three-year stint as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs under in the administration of former US President Bill Clinton. Unlike Chuck Hagel, who resigned earlier this week, Carter does not have any military experience.
Obama's Defense Secretary nominee now has to pass confirmation by the Senate.
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