American Forces Press Service

Rumsfeld Tells Congress Changes Needed to Increase Flexibility

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 5, 2003 -- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld asked Congress to enact sweeping changes in the way the department is managed as he presented the defense portion of the president's fiscal 2004 budget request.

Rumsfeld told members of the House Armed Services Committee that to win the global war on terror, the U.S. military must be flexible, light and agile, "so that they can respond quickly to sudden changes in the world.

"The same is true of the men and women of the department," Rumsfeld continued. "They also need to be flexible and agile, so that we can move money, and shift people, and design and buy new weapons more quickly, and respond to the frequent sudden changes in our security environment."

The department does not have that kind of agility, he said, and that puts the United States at a decided disadvantage when confronting terrorists.

"In an age when terrorists move information at the speed of an e-mail, money at the speed of a wire transfer, and people at the speed of a commercial jetliner, the Defense Department, I regret to say, is bogged down in bureaucratic processes of the industrial age -- not the information age," Rumsfeld said. "Some of our difficulties are self- imposed, to be sure. But some are the result of law and regulation. Together, they have created a culture that too often stifles innovation."

The secretary used the fiscal 2004 budget as an example. He said the department started formulating the budget in March 2002 and completed its work in December. The Office of Management and Budget worked on it through this month. Congress will consider the budget and pass it in October or November 2004.

"That means that at any given time during the coming fiscal year that this budget will address, that plan that we developed last year will be ... 14 months to 30 months old while we are trying to implement the product that comes out of the Congress," he said. "And we'll be doing this in a world that is changing monthly before our eyes. At a minimum, we will always be between one and two-and-a-half years out of date."

Rumsfeld had other examples. DoD spends $42 million an hour, yet the department cannot move more than $15 million from one account to another without permission from Congress. He said that means any change must go through four to six committees and take months to accomplish.

"Today, we estimate we have some 320,000 uniformed people doing nonmilitary jobs, yet we are calling up reserves to fight the global war on terror," he said.

Rumsfeld said DoD prepares and submits 26,000 pages of justification and over 800 required reports to Congress each year. He said many of the reports are of marginal value, but they nevertheless take time to prepare.

"The point is this: We are fighting the first wars of the 21st century with a Defense Department that was fashioned to meet the challenges of the mid-20th century," he said. "It has to change."

The secretary called on the representatives to duplicate their work that created the Department of Homeland Security.

"I feel we should now address the Department of Defense," he said. "We are already working with a number of you and your staffs to fashion legislation that we could present to you later this year to try to bring the Defense Department into the 21st century and to transform how it moves money, manages people and buys weapons."

Rumsfeld said the department is looking to establish a National Security Personnel System to give more flexibility in how DoD manages its 700,000-plus civilian personnel. "Today, because that task is difficult, we find frequently we use ... people in uniform for nonmilitary jobs because we can manage them much more readily," he said. "We use contractors rather than civilian employees, again because you can manage a contractor more efficiently."

The secretary also wants to establish more flexible military retirement rules. He said the military trains and invests in officers and NCOs and then forces them out the door in their 40s or early 50s -- just as they are most productive. Those who want to serve longer should have the option of doing so, he said.

The secretary said the department can institute some of these changes, but others will need legislation. He said the department would continue to work closely with Congress to move some of these initiatives along.