Hamre Says Defense Reform on Track
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
BRUSSELS, Belgium, Mar. 19, 1998 Five months after announcing a business reform plan aimed at cutting fat to save military muscle, Deputy Defense Secretary John J. Hamre reports progress is encouraging.
During an overnight stop here March 17, part of a five-day trip to Germany, Belgium, France and the United Kingdom, Hamre outlined Defense Reform Initiative achievements to date.
About 800 of the 1,000 employees slated to be cut or transferred from the Office of the Secretary of Defense have been identified by name, Hamre said. The reform initiative calls for a one-third cut of the agency's 3,000 employees.
Efforts are under way to create paper-free contracts, something the defense deputy admits even he thought was an impossible goal. "We've had detailed meetings with the services, and I actually think we're going to come very close to achieving that," he said.
Switching from paper-intense contracts to using credit cards for purchases under $2,500 is also on track, Hamre said. These represent 70 percent of all DoD purchases, he noted.
"We set a goal of trying to get 90 percent of all of our micropurchases done with credit cards by the year 2000. We're going to make that by this year -- two years ahead of schedule."
A major part of the defense initiative calls for increased competition in contracting out jobs, Hamre said. Plans call for opening 120,000 functions through the department to competition over the next four years.
"We've sat down with the military departments and this year we will hold 30,000 competitions," Hamre said. "That's about 10 times as many as we had last year."
Reducing excess infrastructure was another major thrust of the plan. Hamre said the fiscal 1999 budget submitted to Congress includes funds to knock down 8,000 old, obsolete buildings, which will save on heating and maintenance costs. "That's a very important issue because it saves money right away," he said.
Progress on closing more military bases in 2001 and 2005, however, is not as encouraging as other areas of the reform initiative. "We're asking Congress for permission to do two more rounds of base closures," Hamre said. "They're not happy about it. I'm still hopeful we will get permission, but it's an uphill fight. That's certainly going to be the hardest battle."
Privatizing utilities, on the other hand, is making good headway. "We've been very aggressive in working with the military departments on privatizing utilities," Hamre said. "We've entered into several nationwide contracts to help local base commanders find cheaper ways to get electricity and natural gas and to bring conservation measures into the department."
Improving educational opportunities within the department is another reform focus. Although no formal announcement has been made, Hamre said Pentagon officials have an individual who will serve as acting chancellor for DoD's new program for higher education.
Overall, Hamre said, the Defense Reform Initiative is "actually making a lot of progress." A Pentagon staff position is being added to ensure it stays that way.
"We are going to bring in an individual whose sole job is going to be to monitor this and to think up other ways where we can become more efficient," Hamre said. "I hope we have this individual on board in a month or so."