' Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
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Jewish World Review May 13, 2003 / 11 Iyar, 5763

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.

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'Transformation, part deux'

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | George W. Bush made a central plank of his 2000 campaign platform the "transformation"of the U.S. military. By appointing Donald Rumsfeld and his team to run the Pentagon, President Bush found people with the vision, courage and tenacity needed to make the policy and hardware choices that will do much to determine whether the armed forces will be as effective in contending with future threats to the Nation's security as they were recently shown to be in liberating Afghanistan and Iraq.

They cannot do the full job of transformation alone, however. If the promise of such changes is to be fully realized, Congress must give urgent and broadly favorable treatment to a package of legislative initiatives now under consideration on Capitol Hill.

Under the rubric of the "Defense Transformation for the 21st Century Act of 2003," Secretary Rumsfeld proposes literally to transform the way the Pentagon works in three critical areas: how it develops and buys military hardware; how it recruits, compensates and manages the department's 750,000-person civilian workforce; and where and how it trains the troops.

On the face of it, there is an obvious need for clearing away much of the thicket of congressionally mandated restrictions, reporting requirements and associated regulations that today afflict the Department of Defense in each of these areas. Accordingly, the suggested revisions have generally found favor among legislators charged with overseeing the Pentagon. They are, predictably, running into resistence from others in Congress who are exceedingly sensitive to government watchdog groups, public employee unions and environmental activists for whom concerns about national security come second (if that) to their respective special interests.

There is, nonetheless, an overwhelming national interest in effecting the sorts of legislative relief needed to achieve what might be called "Transformation, Part Deux." In particular, Congress needs to give Pentagon managers both responsibility and authority to streamline their operations, notably by employing practices critical to successful private sector ventures. Streamlining should be undertaken as well with respect to congressional requirements for duplicative reports whose preparation consumes immense amounts of staff and executive time seemingly unjustified by their use on Capitol Hill.

Since the early 1980s, the Defense Department has successfully experimented with improvements in personnel practices that have made possible considerable enhancements to civilian work-force performance and morale, while permitting some cost-savings. Secretary Rumsfeld proposes to draw on this experience, the recommendations of numerous independent review panels and the insights he and others have garnered in the business sector, to devise a new National Security Personnel System.

These personnel management changes are not simply desirable; they are essential. The Pentagon faces an impending crisis as aging baby-boomers, who comprise many of its most experienced civilian employees, begin to retire in droves. Flexibility not currently afforded to managers -- especially with respect to expedited hiring of needed personnel, the ability to reward outstanding service and greater latitude to reassign or terminate non-performers -- will enable the Pentagon's civilians to keep pace with, and support, the transformation of the capabilities of their military counterparts.

One of the most controversial aspects of the Defense Transformation Act is among its most commonsensical: The military needs to be able to train as it intends to fight -- something that it is increasingly unable to do on the lands and in the waters set aside for that purpose due to creeping (in some cases, galloping) environmental-related strictures.

The Rumsfeld team is both environmentally sensitive and mindful of the fervor any effort to undo "green" statutes and regulations typically engenders. Faced with the real threat to training and readiness arising from current inhibitions on movement over military bases' beaches, in litoral waters and on off-road areas, however, the Pentagon is seeking legislative protection from still further restrictions that would have a truly crippling effect. This is absolutely the least Congress can do to support the troops.

The Defense Transformation Act is neither a panacea nor is it incapable of improvement by national security-minded professionals. Aspects of the bill bearing on foreign dependency, depot-maintenance and contracting-out of Pentagon activities, for example, are matters on which there will likely be disagreement and room for vigorous debate -- even among people animated exclusively by the desire to secure the most transformed and capable U.S. military possible.

The bottom line is, nonetheless, clear: The Congress has a duty to do its part in securing such a transformation. Unless acquisition, personnel and training and readiness improvements are made in tandem with the sorts of changes Secretary Rumsfeld has put in train with respect to operating, equipping and overseas deployment of the armed forces, the full benefits of transformation will be denied the military and the Nation they serve so well.

As legislators are subjected to the inevitable pressure to resist these sorts of changes -- whether externally generated by interest groups or emanating from their own reluctance to change familiar ways of doing business -- they have an obligation to ask themselves as Ronald Reagan did their predecessors a generation ago: If not now, when? If not we, who?

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JWR contributor Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. heads the Center for Security Policy. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


04/29/03: Shooting the messenger
04/15/03: Who's next?
04/08/03: Winning the peace
03/05/03: A friend in need
02/25/03: The plot thickens
02/18/03: Who's 'with' President Bush?
02/11/03: Islamists' White House gatekeeper
02/04/03: The Powell report
01/28/03: Bush's finest hour
01/14/03: North Korean scorecard
01/07/03: Nuclear meltdown
12/17/02: Serious about defending America
12/03/02: Defining 'regime change'
11/26/02: With friends like the Saudis...
11/19/02: The Jayna Davis files
11/12/02: Could Israel die of thirst?
11/04/02: Against us
10/22/02: Too clever by half?
10/17/02: 'Drain the swamps'
10/08/02: The temptations of George Bush
10/01/02: Return of the San Francisco Dems
09/24/02: The next crusader?
09/17/02: It is no accident that advocates of coercive inspections have opposed prez's goal of regime change
09/10/02: A model for Iraq
08/27/02: Beware 'consensus leadership'
08/20/02: To Iraq or not to Iraq?
08/13/02: Trading with the 'enemy'
07/30/02: Who's trashing Ashcroft?
07/23/02: Wall Street's 'poisoned apples'
07/16/02: Back on the China front
07/09/02: See no evil?
07/02/02: Rethinking peacekeeping
06/25/02: Political moment of truth on defense
06/19/02: Inviting losses on two fronts
06/12/02: Make missile defense happen
06/04/02: The next 'Day of Infamy'?
05/29/02: Bush's Russian gamble
05/21/02: The 'next war'
05/15/02: Ex-presidential misconduct
05/07/02: When 'what if' is no game
05/02/02: Careful what we wish for
04/24/02: The real 'root cause' of terror
04/02/02: First principles in the Mideast
03/26/02: 'Renounce this map'
03/20/02: The inconvenient ally
03/12/02: Adults address the 'unthinkable'
03/05/02: The Saudi scam
02/26/02: Rumsfeld's 'now hear this'
02/19/02: Where's the outrage?
02/12/02: Post-mortem on 'Pearl Harbor II'
02/05/02: Spinning on the 'Evil Axis'
01/29/02: A challenge for the history books
01/22/02: Who pulled the plug on the Chinese 'bugs'?
01/15/02: No 'need to know'
01/08/02: Sentenced to de-nuclearize?
12/18/01: Missile defense mismanagement?
12/11/01: Is the Cold War 'over'?
12/04/01: A moment for truth
11/29/01: Send in the marines -- with the planes they need
11/27/01: 'Now Hear This': Does the President Mean What He Says?
11/20/01: Mideast 'vision thing'
11/13/01: The leitmotif of the next three days
11/06/01: Bush's Reykjavik Moment
10/30/01: Say it ain't true, 'W.
10/23/01: Getting history, and the future, right
10/16/01: Farewell to arms control
10/05/01: A time to choose
09/25/01: Don't drink the 'lemonade'
09/11/01: Sudan envoy an exercise in futility?
09/05/01: Strategy of a thousand cuts
08/28/01: Rummy's back
08/21/01: Prepare for 'two wars'
08/14/01: Why does the Bush Administration make a moral equivalence between terrorist attacks and Israel's restrained defensive responses?
08/07/01: A New bipartisanship in security policy?
07/31/01: Don't go there
07/17/01: The 'end of the beginning'
07/10/01: Testing President Bush
07/03/01: Market transparency works
06/27/01: Which Bush will it be on missile defense?
06/19/01: Don't politicize military matters
06/05/01: It's called leadership
06/05/01: With friends like these ...
05/31/01: Which way on missile defense?
05/23/01: Pearl Harbor, all over again
05/15/01: A tale of two Horatios
05/08/01: The real debate about missile defense
04/24/01: Sell aegis ships to Taiwan
04/17/01: The 'hi-tech for China' bill
04/10/01: Deal on China's hostages -- then what?
04/03/01: Defense fire sale redux
03/28/01: The defense we need
03/21/01: Critical mass
03/13/01: The Bush doctrine
03/08/01: Self-Deterred from Defending America
02/27/01: Truth and consequences for Saddam
02/21/01: Defense fire sale
02/13/01: Dubya's Marshall Plan
02/05/01: Doing the right thing on an 'Arab-Arab dispute'
01/30/01: The missile defense decision
01/23/01: The Osprey as Phoenix
01/17/01: Clinton's Parting Shot at Religious Freedom
01/09/01: Wake-up call on space
01/02/01: Secretary Rumsfeld
12/27/00: Redefining our Ukraine policy
12/19/00: Deploy missile defense now
12/12/00: Sabotaging space power
12/05/00: Preempting Bush
11/28/00: What Clinton hath wrought
11/21/00: HE'S BAAAACK
11/14/00: The world won't wait

© 2001, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.