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Rumsfeld Attacks Pentagon Bureaucracy, Vows Changes

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2001 – Comparing the Pentagon bureaucracy to the old Soviet system, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he needs to "liberate" DoD from institutional inertia.

Doing so will move scarce resources from the "bureaucracy to the battlefield, from tail to tooth." Rumsfeld, speaking at the kick-off ceremony for the Acquisition and Logistics Excellence Week, said he sees the men and women of the department as allies in the fight against bureaucracy.

"They, too are fed up with bureaucracy," he said. "They, too, live its frustrations. I hear it every day, and I'll bet a dollar to a dime that they, too, want to fix it. In fact, I bet they even know how to fix it -- and, if asked, will get about the task of fixing it. And I'm asking."

DoD has already started down the path to management change. Rumsfeld is initiating changes to the 40-year-old Planning, Programming and Budgeting System. The PPBS is the annual process of forecasting threats, and matching them to programs and then programs to budgets.

The Tale of the Donkey

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld says he expects opposition to changes he would like to see happen in the department.

Rumsfeld spoke at the Pentagon Sept. 10 at the kick-off ceremony for Acquisition and Logistics Excellence Week. During his speech, he outlined initiatives he said would change the Pentagon bureaucracy and encourage innovation. He told a story to make his point about opposition to change.

"A man and a boy were walking down the street with a donkey and people looked and laughed at them and said 'Isn't that foolish. They have a donkey and no one rides it.'

"So the man said to the boy, 'Get on the donkey. We don't want those people to think we're foolish.' "

So they went down the road and people looked at the boy on the donkey and the man walking alongside and they said, 'Isn't that terrible that young boy is riding the donkey and the man is walking.' So they change places and go down the road.

"People see them and said, 'Isn't that terrible that strong man is on the donkey and making the little boy walk.'

"So they both get up on the donkey. The donkey became exhausted, came to a bridge, fell in the river and drowned.

"The moral of the story is, if you try to please everybody, you're going to lose your donkey."

Rumsfeld said he doesn't want the department to be like the story. "Our assignment is not to try to please everybody," he said. "This is not just about money, it's not just about waste. It's about our responsibility to the men and women in uniform who put their lives at risk. We owe them the best training and equipment."

Putting the well-being of those who go in harm's way as the department's first priority will give all those in DoD a constant star to steer by, he said.

"It's really a relic of the Cold War -- a holdover from the days when it was possible to forecast threats for the next several years because we knew who would be threatening us for the next several decades," Rumsfeld said. He called the PPBS one of the last vestiges of central planning left on Earth.

"We have combined the programming and budgeting phases to reduce duplicative work and speed decision-making," he said. The new threats that could crop up require this type of flexibility. He said the streamlined process would also be quicker and cheaper.

Streamlining the staffs is also part of the program. Congress has mandated, and Rumsfeld has ordered, a 15 percent reduction from fiscal 1999 levels of headquarters staffs worldwide.

The departments will also look for reductions in the separate staffs of the services. Currently, the Army, Air Force and Navy operate separate but parallel staffs for their civilian and uniformed chiefs. "These staffs largely work the same issues and perform the same functions," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld said Army Secretary Thomas White and Air Force Secretary James Roche will soon announce plans for realigning their departments to support information- sharing, speed decision-making and to integrate reserve component headquarters into service headquarters. Secretary Gordon England "is engaging a broad agenda of change in the Department of the Navy as well," he said.

Rumsfeld seems particularly disturbed by redundancy. "It's time to start asking tough questions about redundant staffs," he said. "Let me give you an example. There are dozens of offices of general counsel scattered throughout the department. Each service has one. Every agency does, too. So do the Joint Chiefs.

"We have so many general counsel offices that we actually have another general counsel's office whose only job is to coordinate all those general counsels."

He said there are other examples from public affairs to legislative affairs. "Now, maybe we need many of them, but I have a strong suspicion we need fewer than we have," he said. "We're going to take a good hard look and find out."

He said there is redundancy in supervising military medicine. He said he has asked the military departments and the undersecretary for personnel and readiness to complete the revamping of the military health system by the end of fiscal 2003.

Continuing on the redundancy theme, he said DoD has three exchange systems and a separate commissary system that all provide similar goods and services. "The Congressional Budget Office estimates that consolidating them could save $300 million," Rumsfeld said.

Focusing on the core missions of DoD and contracting out the rest also makes sense, he said. "Why is DoD one of the last organizations around that still cuts its own checks?" he asked. "When an entire industry exists just to run warehouses efficiently, why do we still own and operate so many of our own?

"At bases around the world, why do we pick up our own garbage and mop our own floors rather than contracting those services out, as many businesses do? And surely we can outsource more computer systems support."

With this in mind, Rumsfeld announced the Senior Executive Council will begin a review of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the Defense Logistics Agency and the Defense Information Services Agency. He, Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and the service secretaries comprise the council membership.

Other changes include:

  • Eliminating 31 of the 72 acquisition-related advisory boards.

  • Investing $400 million in public-private partnerships for military housing. Many utility services to military installations would also be privatized.

  • Tightening the requirements for other government agencies to reimburse the department for DoD detailees. The department is reviewing whether to suspend assignments where detailees are not fully reimbursed.

  • Committing $100 million for financial modernization.

  • Establishing a Defense Business Board to tap outside expertise to improve the department's business practices.

Rumsfeld said the battle against bureaucracy is a moral imperative because lives hinge on change.

"Waste drains resources from training and tanks, from infrastructure and intelligence, from helicopters and housing," he said. "Outdated systems crush ideas that could save a life. Redundant processes prevent us from adapting to evolving threats with the speed and agility that today's world demands."

He also said changing the bureaucracy to squeeze every cent out of new ideas and processes is a matter of national security. DoD needs the funds to modernize and transform the military.

"We must change for a simple reason: The world has, and we have not yet changed sufficiently," he said. "The clearest and most important transformation is from a bipolar Cold War world where threats were visible and predictable to one in which they arise from multiple sources -- most of which are difficult to anticipate and many of which are impossible even to know today."

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Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld at the DOD Acquisition and Logistics Excellence Week Kickoff - Bureaucracy to Battlefield, Sept. 10, 2001

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