- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2001

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is taking steps to run the Pentagon more like a corporation than a giant bureaucracy, planning a super committee of senior civilian leaders to put in place President Bushs vision of a transformed military.
At the same time, Mr. Rumsfeld is sending signals that he wants to loosen Congress and the generals grip on Pentagon operations, say Capitol Hill and Pentagon sources.
"Rumsfeld has a mantra: 'We have to reassert civilian control of the Department of Defense," said a congressional defense staffer who has spoken with Rumsfeld aides. "He believes that under the administration of the last eight years that the civilian leadership was weak and ineffective. And when there is weak and ineffective leadership, the uniform officers will fill the vacuum."
The executive committee will include the secretaries of the Air Force, Army and Navy, as well as the Defense Departments undersecretary for acquisition, the comptroller and possibly the undersecretary for policy. The high-powered panel would be run by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, according to sources familiar with the Pentagon reorganization.
The sources said the committee represents, better than any other Rumsfeld change, how the defense secretary plans to import proven corporate management techniques to a building that often gets bogged down in bureaucratic decision-making. The committee would make major recommendations and decisions on weapons-buying, finance and police.
"Its the 'Department of Defense Inc.," said one source. "You have Rumsfeld, the chief executive officer, and then you have committee members. They are like your business sections chiefs. You have the guys who run the Navy, Air Force and Army, and then you have the comptroller as the financial officer."
Mr. Rumsfeld, who returned to head the Pentagon a second time after spending a quarter-century as a corporate leader, views the executive committee as the best chance of streamlining Pentagon decision-making, especially the time-consuming weapons-buying process. The sources also said he views an executive committee as an effective means to carry out Mr. Bushs mandate to transform the armed forces from a Cold War force to one better able to tackle future threats.
The Pentagon is in the process of carrying out Mr. Bushs order for a top-to-bottom review to establish a new national military strategy, and the weapons and force structure to match it. The executive committee then would carry out the studys mandates.
"This board is going to set the policy for the Department of Defense," said one source.
Added a general officer: "These guys are very much businessmen. They understand the divisions of this corporation they are taking over.
Mr. Rumsfelds corporate management approach was underscored by his picks for service secretaries. James G. Roche (Air Force), Thomas E. White (Army) and Gordon R. England (Navy) all have extensive corporate experience running programs and divisions. The White House has not yet announced its nominations to the Senate. The president has tapped Edward C. "Pete Aldridge, an aerospace executive, as undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, a post commonly called "acquisition czar."
One source said that if Mr. Rumsfeld wants the service secretaries to be more directly involved in major acquisition decisions, he will have to ask Congress to change the landmark Goldwater-Nichols Act.
The law redistributed decision-making power throughout the armed forces. The planned committee gives the service bosses more acquisition power than prescribed in the law, said the source, who is knowledgeable about Pentagon regulations.
While Mr. Rumsfeld is planning a corporate-style executive committee, he also is attempting to shift the balance of power from Congress and the top brass to the Pentagons civilian leadership, say congressional defense aides and department sources.
"The last eight years, a fair amount of deference was given to the military," said the general officer. "Things are changing. There are varying amounts of alarm and dismay at whats going on. But I think everything will be OK."
The Rumsfeld inner circle generally has locked out the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Congress from the strategic review. On the subject of who will get top policy jobs, especially in weapons acquisition, congressional sources say they are getting the message from Rumsfeld people that he does not want policy staffers who are beholden to members of Congress.
"Everybody is aware of the strategic study," said Loren Thompson, chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute, a conservative think tank. "The problem is that none of the people who thought they were players have been invited to participate, which at least worries them and creates a great deal of resentment."
Potentially more troublesome for the Bush administration is the resentment building up on Capitol Hill, especially among Senate officials. Once Mr. Rumsfeld trots out his new vision for national defense, Senate aides said in interviews, his plan has no chance of becoming reality without the support of key Senate players.
Said a senior Republican defense aide: "I dont think anybody is happy with Rumsfeld. I dont know of anybody, be it in the industry, the generals or Congress, that is happy with Rumsfeld."
This aide, and others interviewed for this story, spoke on condition of anonymity.
"Following the course of keeping many of the key players in the dark probably isnt going to help them in the long run," Mr. Thompson said. "Theyre going to need all of the help they can get on the Hill and with the services if they really want to get it through. But right now a lot of those key players are irritated with them."
Said the senior congressional aide: "He can do anything he wants to do in the strategy review. But in the end, hes got to deal with us. So he ought to cut us in now. But what hes doing is ostracizing all of us."
While several former and current members of Congress were mentioned as service secretary candidates, Mr. Rumsfeld in the end picked three businessmen. Congressional staffers seeking jobs are asked first about corporate experience. If the answer is "none," their chances of winning an important policy job diminishes.
One senator who has openly challenged the Rumsfeld regime on key issues is Senate Armed Services Chairman John W. Warner, Virginia Republican.
Mr. Warner publicly disagreed with the presidents refusal to ask Congress for $6 billion in emergency defense spending. The senator openly warned the administration it would have a fight on its hands if Navy carriers were deleted from the five-year defense plan. "As history shows, a president proposes and Congress disposes," he said in a written statement.
Mr. Warner, however, said in an interview he is happy with Mr. Rumsfelds stewardship.
"Im not unhappy with him, no," Mr. Warner said. "I am very satisfied in the manner in which he is dealing with me and other members of my committee."
At a March meeting of Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Warner and eight other committee members, the defense secretary spent part of the time complaining about extensive congressional oversight.
When Mr. Rumsfeld was defense secretary in the mid-1970s, the Armed Services Committee produced a bill with 17 pages of legislation. The current defense authorization bill has 534 such pages.

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