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Rumsfeld Asks for Personnel, Environmental Flexibility

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 22, 2003 – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has appealed to legislators to pass his recommendations to streamline personnel and environmental policies in the department.

Rumsfeld met with members of the House of Representatives May 21 and said his Defense Transformation for the 21st Century Act introduced to Congress last month is needed so the personnel systems can be as flexible as the nation's warfighting capabilities.

"We're dealing with terrorists that can move information with the speed of an e-mail; they can move money with the speed of a wire transfer; they can move people with the speed of a jet airliner," he said during a short media session at the U.S. Capitol. "And the Department of Defense, unfortunately, is still bogged down in industrial- age procedures, and requirements, and rules and bureaucracy."

He said the act will help enable the department to move from the industrial age into the information age. "If we're going to be able to properly organize, and train, and equip and defend the American people and our interests in the world, we're going to have to be able to be much quicker on our feet, more agile," he said.

He said that now, with the lessons of Operation Iraqi Freedom still fresh, there is an opportunity to make these changes. He said it is difficult to change bureaucracies and if Congress misses this moment, the opportunity for change may be lost.

He spoke specifically about changes in the civil service system. The legislation asks for the authority to speed up the hiring process. Currently, it takes at least three months to hire. This places the department at a disadvantage against private firms. "We're competing with corporations," he said. "They can walk in and say, 'You're hired,' and we can't do that."

The legislation also will give the department the flexibility to move civilian employees around to fill crucial slots. DoD estimates there are about 320,000 service members performing duties that should be done by civilians whether civil service or contractor.

"(These military personnel) are not doing military jobs for a very simple reason: The people in the department are rational," Rumsfeld said. "They know that if they use a military person, they can guide them, direct them, change them, reorganize his task, move him to something that's more appropriate."

Supervisors and managers can do the same process with a contractor, the secretary said. "You can't manage the civil service system," he said. "That's managed outside the Department of Defense."

The legislation would give managers in the department control to fill those 320,000 military-member jobs.

Other aspects of the legislation call for changes to the Marine Mammal and Endangered Species acts, "which are needed because of the aggressive litigation that's occurred," Rumsfeld said. These changes are needed to allow soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to receive the best, most realistic training possible.

Many training areas are now restricted under the acts. "We're going to end up sending men and women into battle without the kind of training that they need," Rumsfeld said. "And what we need is a few modest adjustments that will enable us to function within these pieces of legislation."

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