Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel recently announced his intention to cut Pentagon headquarters and staffs by 20 percent. It is easy to make such promises but difficult to actually implement them. Large bureaucracies have a way of outsmarting, outmaneuvering or simply outlasting political appointees’ efforts to reform them.
So it was very good news when the Secretary announced that he had appointed former Air Force Secretary Michael Donley to head the review process that is intended to streamline DoD’s top level management and identify the specific cuts. Secretary Donley is a Pentagon veteran with long experience on Capitol Hill. The latter will serve him well when it comes to dealing with members of Congress reluctant to see even one job exit their district or state. A true public servant, it is characteristic of Secretary Donley that he would agree to take on this task only weeks after a five year stint as Air Force Secretary.
Secretary Donley appears likely to get crucial support for his effort from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his former associates, the other service secretaries. Just recently, Army Secretary McHugh and Chief of Staff General Odierno published a memorandum to all their subordinate headquarters and commands directing them to make 25 percent cuts in staff personnel and other costs.
These reductions cannot come soon enough given the damage that sequestration is going to do to procurement and R&D spending. An even more important step, however, would be to create an industry-DoD high-level group to identify unnecessary, burdensome and costly acquisition processes, procedures and regulations that should be eliminated.
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