Esper Starts Setting Up Pentagon “Night Court” to Review Duplicate Department Efforts

Esper Starts Setting Up Pentagon “Night Court” to Review Duplicate Department Efforts

Over the past several weeks Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s staff has been conducting internal reviews in which various DOD offices outline their programs in order to cross-check them for duplication of effort, Breaking Defense reported Monday.

The DOD-wide process, informally referred to as “Night Court” on occasion, is Esper’s effort to implement changes in how the agency spends funds on an ongoing basis and not amassing changes as a single, large savings plan, a Pentagon spokesman told reporters.

“It’s going to be an ongoing process. If he makes a decision, it’s not going to be ‘I have to look through everything and then make some decisions,’” said DOD spokesman Jonathan Hoffman. “If he sees a program that needs to end or be moved, he’ll make that decision as quickly as he can,” he added.

Details about specific programs that have been, or may be, trimmed have not been provided, according to the report.

Esper, previously the Army Secretary, implemented a similar internal review of Army programs that led to a “Night Court” process. That process, performed in 2018 and early 2019, allowed the Army to re-direct approximately $33 billion toward new weapons development programs.

Last month Assistant Defense Secretary David Norquist issued a DOD memo under Esper’s direction indicating a “Fourth Estate” review would be included in efforts to trim the agency’s back-end business processes and funnel savings to support the National Defense Strategy, as On Base reported.

The “Fourth Estate” is a group of 27 Pentagon sub-agencies which together spend more than $100 billion a year, according to a 2018 GAO report.

“My commitment is to look throughout the DOD enterprise, beginning with the Fourth Estate, and look for ways to find money to invest in those technologies,” Esper said last month.  “I’m looking for programs that don’t have as much value relative to another critical war-fighting capability, absolutely,” he added.

DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber Smith

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