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EDITORIAL COMMENT: The Serving Line


March 2013
Preserving a Relationship for Success

The Department of Defense is bracing for the outcome of decisions being made in the coming months with regard to federal spending and how any resulting budget cuts, whether planned or only anticipated, will impact the military.

In this volatile environment, each military service relies on maintaining strong relationships with its subsistence vendor partners to become more efficient and reduce costs. Unfortunately, with looming federal budget cuts jeopardizing the specialized conferences and training that unite the military logistics food community, creative alternatives are needed to sustain that strong partnership.

For example, one goal the Army set to achieve in the year ahead is better collaboration and education on how to do business within its foodservice program. This includes keeping foodservice partners up to date with Army needs as well as achieving the best training available for its culinary specialists.

Similarly, Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support plans to trim by 10 percent over five years the costs associated with its annual subsistence sales. It plans to reach the 10 percent goal in increments of 2 percent a year over five years beginning this year.

A key to that ambition is relying on strong cooperation from its industry partners, including manufacturers and subsistence prime vendors, to achieve efficiency, reduced costs and better competition for its business to drive down prices.

A showdown on government spending is set for March. An agreement on the federal budget must be reached by March 1; if not, then sequestration, $110 billion in across-the-board spending cuts in military and domestic programs, is triggered. Later in the month, a continuing resolution to finance the government at fiscal 2012 levels expires on March 27.

Over 10 years, the military faces implementation of $500 billion in acrossthe- board spending cuts.

Predicting the outcome as Congress and the president face off in the ongoing federal budget battle is difficult. In preparation for actual and potential cuts, each defense component is submitting plans to Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter's office. At the same time, the department is also taking steps in case either the continuing resolution is extended for the whole year or sequestration cuts are implemented.

“What we're trying to do is take steps that are reversible,” Carter explained. “They're harmful if they last the whole year. But if I take them now, I'll be better off later in the year.”

For the Department of Defense, the question is how to avoid making irreversible changes in anticipation of the federal budget negotiations.

Subsistence, meanwhile, may change permanently in the wake of the federal budget battle if the specialized training conferences that bring the military logistics community together cannot be maintained and the morale-boosting culinary competitions are no longer held.

Preserving the strong partnership bonding the military logistics food community will rely on novel, innovative solutions that keep both sides working together until the federal budget outlook improves. Meanwhile, all the partners need to collaborate on creative solutions that will continue the success into the future.