- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2001

"Do not allow terrorism to alter our way of life," was Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's remarkable advice immediately following the attack on the Pentagon.
What wise advice from the man most responsible for our national security. For Osama bin Laden and his radical Islamic followers and allies, the goal is as President George W. Bush told the nation to destroy America's traditions and institutions. So, Mr. Rumsfeld made the perfect riposte.
By an amazing coincidence, on the very day preceding the Pentagon bombing, a briefing was held there for reporters and interested parties to announce a reform of the Defense Department bureaucracy and force structure. It was inspiring to see the level of commitment starting with the president and the seriousness of the planning.
Following the next days tragic events, the opportunities to restructure can only become greater. For it is not a matter of efficiency per se nor even saving money. If the Defense Department is not properly organized, it cannot properly fulfill its mission, which necessity today is now apparent to all. As the defense secretary correctly said even before Tuesday's confirming events, reform is "a matter of life and death, ultimately, every American's."
We have written before on the desperate need to restructure American forces for the realities of the 21st century world. American forces are, at best, formed upon World War II principles, meaning they are a half-century out-of-date. It is not after-the-fact prognosticating to say that terrorism and space protection are not given sufficient attention. Readers of this space know this has been a constant refrain. For example, some have blamed air traffic controllers for not sending a warning when the Boston fights veered off course. They did, but it was too late. The problem is that a space command should be monitoring those patterns constantly.
The good news is that to "transform the force" was listed as Management Imperative No.1 in the plan leading personnel reforms, modernizing business practices and infrastructure, and innovation in the industrial base. That is exactly the correct order of priorities.
The most critical and the most difficult (but not mentioned in the supporting materials) is to fully integrate the military commands into the service departments. The present duplication simply makes no sense. The problem is the integrated commands, where all services are represented, and deciding which service should house them. They must simply be assigned by secretarial fiat and get it done. The large support agencies, likewise, need to be integrated into that structure. Fortunately, the Defense Logistics Agency, the Defense Information Services Agency and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service are specifically slated for reform.
Reform will receive the highest attention from a new Senior Executive Council, including defense undersecretary Pete Aldridge, Army secretary Thomas White, Navy secretary Gordon England and Air Force secretary James Roche although including the military leaders by convening the full Armed Forces Defense Council should be considered. Private sector efficiency experts could use a bit of leavening by the chiefs and it would build support among the uniformed personnel.
While some of the rhetoric against "duplication" mentioned in minor areas such as legal counsels suggests an aroma of public relations and picking on the services, one hopes that full integration will top the old central Defense Department game of building its own central bureaucracy as it cuts the rest. The good news is that base-closings, consolidation of the B-1 bomber force, financial management modernization and privatization of nonmilitary functions have already begun.
The danger is that after the Pentagon and New York bombings, Congress will be in a generous mood. Structural reform could fall to the way side as the price of more generous funding. That would be a tragedy. Congress should stop treating the Defense Department as protecting local pork when unnecessary bases need to be closed or facilities consolidated for security reasons. The National Guard needs to be protected because today it is central to the mission, not because it is in someone's state. Procurement's job is to get the right weapons, not to give demagogues a platform to nitpick accounting standards. Civil rights are important but no one will have rights if there is not security first.
Still, we have lost if we change our way of life unnecessarily. Sure, increase airport security but do things that will help such as securing the flight deck from outside access and adding more air marshals; but 4-hour waits at airports will only drive the airlines out of business. Reform the military and secure the airspace but do not let the terrorists prevail by eliminating the freedom to travel and other liberties and be thankful for having level-headed leaders like Mr. Rumsfeld.

Donald Devine, former director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is a columnist and a Washington-based policy consultant.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide