As Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel tries to make do with less, he is weighing the possibility of taking away the independence of a small internal Pentagon think tank beloved by many in Washington’s national security elite.
U.S. defense officials confirmed this week to the Daily Beast that Hagel is considering moving the Office of Net Assessment (ONA), which now reports directly to him, to the purview of the policy shop at the Office of the Secretary of Defense. While the budget for the internal think tank is a tiny fraction of the budget for most major weapons systems, the plan to close it has met stiff opposition from Capital Hill and others in the defense policy community.
Already, leading members of Congress—including the chairman and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee—have implored Hagel to save the small think tank. In a letter earlier this month to Hagel, Rep. Howard McKeon, the Republican chairman of the committee, and Rep. Adam Smith, the committee’s ranking member wrote, “We believe that any marginal savings the Department hopes to achieve by shuttering the office do not outweigh the benefits it provides."
Here is more about ONA from Wikipedia. Here is more on Andrew Marshall, the 92-year-old who runs the secretive think tank, which often released studies and reports that are classified.The Obama administration says that its plan is not to eliminate the ONA, but rather it may decide to absorb its functions under a different department. “There’s no plan to eliminate the Office of Net Assessment,” one defense official said. “The function of ONA will likely continue. We are looking at how to organize all of the leaders within OSD.”
The Washington Post says that the think tanks costs about $10 million a year to run. The WPost article also notes that ONA contracts out much of its research to private think tanks, and the primary recipient of Marshall's grant money is the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) in Washington, DC.
ONA reportedly has less than a dozen employees.
The article also notes that Marshall has "nurtured generations of national security thinkers" and has helped them sure jobs at think tanks, among other places.
CSBA recently released a report urging the Pentagon to rethink its business strategy.