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Defense's Big Four Answer Pentagon Workers' Questions

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 12, 2002 – The Defense Department's Big Four took questions from the rank and file during a Pentagon Town Hall meeting Nov. 12.

Military and civilian Pentagon employees heard from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Richard Myers and Vice Chairman Marine Gen. Peter Pace.

Rumsfeld set the tone for the meeting by saying he appreciated the chance to speak to a cross section of workers. He said in the last 20 months that the department has made great strides not only in the war on terrorism, but also in transformation. He noted that such events "give us a chance to hear your thoughts, concerns and to thank you for the truly outstanding jobs you've been doing for our country."

He stated that these same months have marked a turning point for the Defense Department. "Not only have we conducted a new kind of war, but we have begun (a) historic transformation of the programs, the process and, indeed, the culture of the Department of Defense," he said.

He cited the new National Security Strategy, the new way of sizing U.S. forces and new ways of balancing risks as examples of the changes in the department.

"We've adopted a new approach to defense planning that initiates a capabilities-based approach as opposed to simply a threat-based approach," he said. "We're now considering new ways to strengthen our forces to deal with the new capabilities that exist in this 21st century world of ours."

Rumsfeld remarked on the changes to the Unified Command Plan that established U.S. Northern Command and merged U.S. Space Command into the U.S. Strategic Command.

He spoke about the new approach on deterrence that cuts nuclear arms, yet keeps enough to maintain true deterrence and takes advantage of changes in warfare to include conventional arms into the mix.

Finally, Rumsfeld spoke about changes to make the department a better steward of taxpayer money. "They deserve it and I'm determined to see that we make still more improvements," he said.

Myers picked up the baton after the secretary and quoted Abraham Lincoln: "As our case is new, so must we think anew and act anew."

Myers stressed that defense leaders are looking for new ideas and new ways of doing business. "If you hear a new idea and someone attempts to discredit it by saying, 'We've never done it that way before,' you ought to be concerned," he said. "Our armed forces have been and will continue to be asked to do things they've never been asked to do before. Don't be afraid to bring forward innovative ideas.

"If there's ever been a time that the leadership is willing to accept educated and calculated risk in our efforts, now is the time."

The audience asked the men questions ranging from headquarters reorganization to additions to the Uniform Code of Military Justice to changes in security at the Pentagon itself.

The leaders addressed headquarters reorganization. While the Pentagon is the main target of this, other headquarters are also affected. Overall, Rumsfeld agreed with the need for some headquarters reduction. "When I came back to the department after being away for 25 years, my impression has been that there are a great many people in uniform that are being asked to perform tasks that are not really military tasks," he said.

If the department can move these service members out of such assignments and replace them with civilians or contractors, then that will increase the number of military people available for duty. One example the secretary gave was in force protection. He is working with Congress to change the law to allow civilians to provide force protection to bases and installations in the United States.

"Then there are some things that we're doing that we don't need to do," Rumsfeld said. "We've got a good deal of duplication going on in this building.

"There are offices in the services that are doing things that are then being reviewed at a higher level in the services that are then being reviewed in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and then at a higher level and you've got three or four layers doing exactly the same dad-burned thing," he continued. "Seems to me there are too many people sending memos to people around here and too many people chopping on every single piece that moves through the place. It takes too long for anything as far as I'm concerned."

The crowd seemed to agree in applauding his remark. But the secretary will watch the changes being contemplated, he said.

"We have to watch that we do not reduce personnel levels to a point that we damage our military effectiveness," he said. The department also cannot put employees into a situation where so much is being asked of them that they leave "rather than serve in the defense establishment where we need them badly."

Myers said recent experiences and technological changes indicate that the "tooth to tail" ratio may need rethinking. There are headquarters elements classified as "tail" that no commander could go to war without, he said. That necessity makes those elements "tooth" and the department must go over the applicable laws and work with legislators to see how this changes the mix.

Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz told the audience that Congress has been working well with DoD in a bipartisan manner. The successes of the last year mean that "people want to be associated with the department."

"We're all privileged to be part of this great department at a time when the country needs what we have to offer so badly and when, I believe, we've performed so magnificently."

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Related Sites:
DoD News Transcript: Secretary Rumsfeld Pentagon Town Hall Meeting, Nov. 12, 2002


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