DOD covered up report that said it could save $125 billion in overhead

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Enlarge / This slide deck got pulled from the Defense Business Board website after DOD leaders allegedly moved to suppress the data behind it.

In January of 2015, as the Defense Department was chafing under the sequestration of its budget, the Pentagon leadership got some great news. A study prepared by the Defense Business Board (DBB) and a team from the global management consulting giant McKinsey and Company found that even with “moderate” changes to business practices, the DOD could save $125 billion over five years.

That would be enough to fully fund operations for 50 Army brigades, 10 Navy carrier strike group deployments, or 83 wings of F-35 fighter aircraft (one wing being about 36 aircraft—purchase price not included) for each of those five years. And all that savings could be had simply by fixing the military’s bureaucratic back-office, according to the study—a force of more than one million uniformed government, civilian, and contractor employees. DOD’s bureaucratic force is now almost as large as the military’s active duty force itself, which stands at 1.3 million soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen.

That good news, however, did not fall upon welcoming ears. DOD officials had no real idea how much bureaucratic overhead was costing them, as the costs were never accurately measured. When they saw the numbers from the DBB, the Washington Post reports, some of the Pentagon’s leadership was afraid of a legislative backlash. After DOD officials had complained for years about not having enough money to Congress, the department feared findings would trigger further cuts to the DOD’s budget. So the data for the study was designated as sensitive, and an overview of the report that had already been published to the Defense Business Board website was pulled.

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