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Briefing on Process and Accomplishments of Business Initiatives Council

Presenters: Vice Adm. Joseph W. Dyer, USN
November 07, 2001 2:00 PM EDT

Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2001 - 2 p.m. EST

(Briefing on the process and accomplishments of the first round of Business Initiatives Council initiatives with Vice Adm. Joe Dyer, U.S. Navy, chair, Business Initiatives Council Executive Steering Committee; Rear Adm. Robert E. Cowley, U.S. Navy, executive director and Navy representative, Business Initiatives Council; and Richard McGraw, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. See related news release at http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/2001/b10152001_bt510-01.html )

McGraw: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We have a few people. Today we have in the briefing room Vice Admiral Joe Dyer, who I'll introduce in a minute, who is the chair of the executive steering committee of the Business Initiatives Council, or BIC, and Rear Admiral Robert Cowley, the executive director and the Navy representative on the BIC.

The Business Initiatives Council was created in June of this year by Secretary Rumsfeld. It's comprised of the service secretaries and headed by the Under Secretary of Defense Mr. Pete Aldridge. They recommend -- their task is to recommend good business practices and find and implement cost savings that offset -- could offset the funding requirements for personnel programs, infrastructure, revitalization, recapitalization, equipment modernization, anything having to do with transformation.

The responsibility of the executive committee for the first round -- and it is in several rounds -- of the Business Initiatives Council was handled by the Navy, which is why you have two admirals here today. And it passes now to the Air Force, and the next time we do this we will have Air Force people briefing. The admirals are here to answer your questions on how the BIC process works and give you some idea of how recommendations are developed -- were developed, I should say, in the first round of the initiatives.

So Admiral Dyer and Admiral Cowley, if you'll come up, please.

Dyer: Well, thank you for the opportunity to meet with you folks today. We've been doing what we believe is some exciting work, and it's a good opportunity for us to be able to share with you.

As we just discussed, the council is really set out to do good business practices and to find greater value for money in terms of the department's pursuit of defense materiel and defense procurements and business in general.

What we want to do today is just give you a quick overview of the initiatives and give you an idea of some of the things that we are out to address. I will tell you that our mission looks at reducing operating costs, at eliminating duplication across the services, aligning DoD's conduct of business, finding a way to put speed into meeting our heightened customers' demands and better and better serving the war-fighter, and allowing -- importantly, allowing the services to retain savings and to reallocate to higher priorities within the services and to provide motivation for bringing forward good ideas.

For those of you that have followed these attempts in the past, I would say that there are two important differences to the Business Initiative Council. One is this ability of a service to retain savings and to do good things with them. Just simply stated, that's a tremendously greater motivator than finding that money taken away from those that are working so hard to save.

The second piece is, why is this not just another study to those of you that have been in this room and have heard other initiatives discussed in the past? I would offer as the answer to that the strong and energetic support of Under Secretary Aldridge, Pete Aldridge, in his horizontal alignment with the three service secretaries. They come from a business background, they have a business perspective, and they're out to work with us to do our business better.

Mr. Aldridge specifically gave us a directive to be action- focused, to look wide across the Department of Defense in our workforce and to be gladiators in the front line of what Secretary Rumsfeld has called the battle of bureaucracy.

Mr. Aldridge chairs the BIC and the Executive Council, which ultimately reports to the secretary of Defense. BIC members are the three service secretaries, Mr. Aldridge as chair, but also include the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Pace. So there is a link to the Joint Staff and a link to the operators in that regard.

The group that I led over this last several months was a group of three-stars from each service that led the Executive Steering Committee. The heart and soul of what we were out to attempt to do probably falls into seven broad functional categories: acquisition management, installations and logistics, resource management, information technology, manpower and personnel, research and engineering, and finally, test and evaluation.

Let me turn the podium over to Lieutenant -- Lieutenant Commander, sorry -- recently-promoted, I might add, Rear Admiral Bob Cowley, and ask him to quickly describe some of our approaches and some of our products. And then we'll be happy to take your questions.

Cowley: How are you all doing this afternoon? I'm going to talk a little bit about our activity during Phase I and just how this thing operates.

The BIC is based on a phased approach. Each one of the phases consists of six months. Each phase has a different service in the lead. Navy began as the lead service actually back in May, which is pre-BIC, and we concluded our part of this in September. Air Force took over in October. Their piece of this runs through March of next year. That will be followed by an Army lead, and a Marine Corps lead after that. The BIC is actually chartered to run through the end of FY '03, although it could be extended, I suppose, based on its success.

The objectives of Phase I were pretty simple but really quite challenging. We had to initially get this thing organized, and we had to do it in a very compressed period of time. I've seen comparable initiatives take as long as six, eight months to get going and produce a result. We weren't -- we didn't have that much time.

We had to begin by developing a normative process whereby we could go out to the seven constituent communities that Admiral Dyer talked about and basically find these candidate initiatives, vet them through the BIC structure, and present them to the service secretaries and Secretary Aldridge for their approval so that we could begin to implement them.

In the initial phase, we focused on what we called quick-hit initiatives, and these are initiatives that really have little or no investment and have potential to positively impact FY -- fiscal year '03 budget execution. In order to do this, why, we had to go out and leverage the talents of the folks that populate the working boards within each of those seven functional areas that the admiral talked about.

In describing to them the effort they had before them, we told them that we were looking for initiatives that were process-focused and not project-focused. We find that many of the project-focused initiatives are much too narrow to have interest across the services. We wanted these initiatives to have a measurable savings or a benefit.

Now we differentiated between savings and benefit, because a number of these things are kind of focused on reducing cycle time, and it gets right difficult to quantify that cycle time in dollars and cents, but it's a good thing to do things quicker than we're doing it today. So we're looking for that benefit as well.

We also told them that if you're going to recommend one of these as an initiative, you've got to have a champion or a project manager who's going to successfully see this thing through the implementation.

One point I wanted to make here -- the Joint Staff representative that we have on these working teams is really the voice of the warfighter customer, so we've drawn the warfighter into this process, as well. It isn't something that's, you know, coming out of Washington and is going to be presented to them. We have the joint staff there as their voice in the debate as we're considering these various initiatives.

The criteria that we use to judge these initiatives is three-fold. Number one: does it touch the warfighter? That was probably the most important. Number two: again, does it have a measurable savings or benefit? And number three: does it have a common good across the services? We wanted to have things that would have ecumenical benefit across all of the services.

So where are we in all this? Well, in mid-September, we brought our initial portfolio of these quick-hit initiatives forward to the service secretaries and Secretary Aldridge, and they approved 10 of them. Right now we have action plans in development, which will include estimates for the savings, a baseline we're going to report against, and that will be presented to the service secretaries and Secretary Aldridge in the December time frame.

Once we have their approval on the action plans, why, then we'll begin to go ahead and implement these things.

And I want to talk about three of the initiatives that we had, just to give you a sense of kind of the scope and the magnitude of what we're looking at here.

The first one is recovery auditing. This one involves the use of contract contingency fee audit services to identify and recover overpayments for goods and services that were paid for with working capital fund money.

The second one: web-based or electronic invoicing and receipt processing. Today that's a very manual transaction-based process, and what we propose to do with our initiative is to electronically enable it. Any time you got a manual process, you end up with multiple re-keying of data, and that drives the error rate. So by putting an electronic process in place, we're going to reduce that error rate. And then, in addition, we believe, we're going to significantly improve the cycle time. So that'll be a good thing.

And the last one we're looking at that I'm going to talk about here is the Enterprise Software Initiative. And under this initiative, we intend to rationalize and streamline our acquisition process for commercially available software products through a bulk buying approach. Basically, what we do on the front end of this thing is we aggregate our requirements, and then we go out and buy in bulk, and we achieve a volume savings. Now that's the concept. It's a little bit more difficult in execution.

Now these initiatives really kind of lay the groundwork for where we're headed in the future. We're looking at some longer-term initiatives, as well as taking a look at some enterprise-wide processes. And let me just touch on a couple of those.

We've been invited to take a look at the DoD supply chain, the contract closeout process, the roles and responsibilities of staff and line functions under Title X, and also the military education process.

Now some of these you may know, such as the DoD supply chain. There's currently an ongoing initiative that the DoD Joint Logistics Board is chairing, to take a look at that and how that might be re-engineered. And it's not our intent to run in parallel or to duplicate anything they're doing. We're going to work in concert with them and, you know -- and combine our efforts, so that we end up with a common solution set to these problems.

We've found that, you know, there are number of these parallel initiatives ongoing, and it would be our intention to begin to synchronize these and kind of bring them into a common process whereby we end up at that common solution set.

So we're looking to act a little bit as an integrator, I think, as we proceed through this.

Let me turn the podium back over to Admiral Dyer, and he can --

Dyer: Thanks, Bob.

Cowley: Sir.

Dyer: Probably the emerging themes that one might pigeonhole the efforts that we've been doing in the initial phase would be people processes; a second would be corporate operations; and then acquisition management. We have wonderful acquisition people within the Department of Defense, and one of the questions that we've asked is what makes your business hard? What shackles could we take off of you that would let you be more efficient and more productive and, first of all, quicker, in husbanding taxpayers' resources in providing defense?

We are making good progress to date. We are working corroboratively. We are building the capability to track and measure our savings. We have many of the initiatives that are within the department's decision power, and we have some others that are going to take -- downstream, not necessarily in this first phase, but downstream are going to take some iterations with the Hill and some meaningful dialogue with the folks across the way.

There's no shortage of good ideas and no shortage of good things to do. So we think we've got a lot to do ahead, but we think we've got some traction. We know we have the support of the department's senior-most leadership, and that really goes a long way when you sit where Bob and I do in terms of being able to get your heart and your energy into these kinds of efforts.

So, we'd be happy to take your questions, if you have some.

Yes, sir?

Q: Is part of the goal of this to get people from the logistics folks and turn them into trigger pullers, or to get kind of more trigger pullers, or more sort of frontline combat people and reduce the tail? And how many folks do you think you can shift to that way from kind of tail functions to tooth functions?

Dyer: We haven't looked at it specifically in terms of shifting people from one discipline to the other. But I will tell you that the department, in the acquisition disciplines that we described -- engineering, test and evaluation, financial et cetera -- we have a tremendous demographic challenge.

I'm the commander of the Naval Air Systems Command, by way of an example. The mean age of people in my organization is 48 years old. So we have a tremendous threshold of retirement that we're facing. One of the things that we hope -- I hope these initiatives will deliver, will allow us to increase our productivity, such that we can marry up with the recruiting challenges and the retirement challenges that we have ahead of us to be able to sustain the materiel establishment.

So more of that vein than as transfer, as you were indicating.

Yes, ma'am.

Q: How is the acquisition management initiative different from the acquisition reform pilot programs that they did in -- from '93-'94 on JASSM and JDAM to bring the costs down?

Dyer: Let me comment real generally, and then I'll ask Bob to speak to that, as well.

Those tended to be program oriented. And those were good initiatives. But it looked at buying, just as you are saying, a particular weapon or system and our approach to that. Things that the BIC are taking on are broader in scope and more general in nature, to really change the way we do business in general, as opposed to the way we might secure a particular weapon system.

Q: And so how do you measure savings under the criteria that you just mentioned?

Dyer: Well, it's harder. And that's one of the reasons we have to work on metrics tracking and get a better handle on time. But there is certainly -- let's take one example that Bob mentioned. We have been buying -- not tactical software now, but much of our business software, we've been buying it as multiple entities.

Cowley: A stand-alone basis.

Dyer: A stand-alone basis with different activities.

We're a huge buyer, and huge buyers, when they buy collectively, can negotiate a better deal. And we intend to employ that power, much as some large corporations have done. We intend to bring that to the department.

Cowley: Let me just follow up on that. I mean, we're certainly going to see savings on programs, but when you attack things on a program basis, you end up solving the same problem six times on six different programs. So we're beginning with process, and our objective is to intrinsically change the process by -- processes by which the department operates.

If you look back for the decade we've just been through of acquisition reform, we probably weren't as effective as we might have been. And one of the reasons for that is because we tried to implement the reforms along functional lines. And if you look at the way our processes work, they flow across those functional -- those different functional pipes that the admiral talked about.

So what we're doing in the BIC is we're looking at these process initiatives from a holistic perspective. We're taking a systems approach to this thing. We don't want to go forward with an improvement in one functional area on the back of another. You're just squeezing the balloon, you're moving the deck chairs around. We want to look at it holistically and make sure that we're actually moving forward from a process perspective and that those processes are well understood and implemented across the department.

Now, part of that is flowing that down into the programs; so, yeah, you're going to see savings on those programs. That's why we're taking, you know, the additional time we are to make sure that we build, you know, the method so that we are able to articulate those savings and to demonstrate that we're making a difference and we can measure it.

Yes, ma'am?

Q: But to take one of the things that you have under corporate operations processes, the raise below threshold -- or programming thresholds, could you explain in kind of layperson terms what that actually does, and maybe put it as an example, even a theoretical example of a program manager, what that allows him or her to do?

Dyer: While Bob is remembering the exact numbers, I will speak to it from the program manager's perspective.

This is one we need to work with the Hill because we have limits on dollars that can be redistributed from one account to another. And we call that reprogramming. And an example would be when we need to take dollars that are specified for a particular weapon system and move them over and to do some other priority or emergent or, for many business reasons, we need the flexibility that all of us enjoy in our own household budget accounts, let's say. We have a fairly low level of reprogramming authority, which has not been raised for about 13 years. And inflation over those years has continued to compress our flexibility in being able to move without going back to the Hill for permission, move dollars from one account to the other. And we would ask that we update that in recognition of inflation and other issues so as to give us more freedom to manage.

Cowley: We have yet to establish an estimate for that. That's one of them that we'll be presenting the service secretaries.

Dyer: The limits, though, is what I was trying to remember. I think it's --

Cowley: I think there was still some discussion as to that, Admiral.

There were two proposals that we were trying to synchronize.

Dyer: Current limits we can get you. But I don't remember it off the top of my head. A single-digit millions of dollars.

Q: Right. Let's say that you want to raise it from $10 million to $20 million for procurement accounts and four to six for R&D.

Cowley: Four to six for R&D. And --

Q: I'm sorry, four to 10 million for R&D.

Cowley: For R&D. But we're still trying to synchronize two proposals as to what we would actually raise it to.

Dyer: But this again is one that has come up from our workforce when we said, "What could make you more efficient and what would give you more freedom to manage?"

Q: And the Hill would have to approve that?

Cowley: I don't believe it's statutory, but I believe that it's in conference language. And so it would have to be done in concert with the four committees over on the Hill. I believe there would have to be consultation.

Dyer: It's one in which we would certainly want a consensus with the Hill before we changed.

Sir.

Q: I have a general question and a couple of specific ones. How is this different than, say, the defense reform initiatives or any of the other acquisition-type reforms that have come out of the Pentagon over the past decade? What sets this apart? What's different about it?

Dyer: Well, my answer to that was the same one I hinted at at the beginning. I have participated in a number of those. And as we started this initiative, I will promise you I had that question in my own mind. It is the business perspective and the partnership that Under Secretary Aldridge has formed with the service secretaries. Let me give you an example.

Some of these undertakings in the past fell victim to trying to achieve consensus at too low a level. And if you couldn't achieve consensus, a good idea has never made it to the top, and never made it to fruition. What Mr. Aldridge has done with the service secretaries is to say to us, "We'll worry about consensus at our level. Bring those good ideas forward, and we'll deal with them at a higher tier than has often been the case in previous undertakings."

Q: I have a question, gentlemen. Talking about dollars and cents and money and auditing and so forth, there was a briefing not too long ago, or maybe it was a few months ago, about changing the -- the comptroller is going to change the way DoD does business with its financial management and that they weren't real specific, but they did mention the auditing, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. I don't see anything specific about that as far as the actual organization of how DoD manages -- is that a direct, or might it be addressed as an organization further down the road, or -- ?

Dyer: I don't have enough specific knowledge to speak to your direct question with regard to the comptroller. I will tell you that because the BIC is, I think, well organized and because it is supported by the service secretaries and the acquisition leadership, we are finding more and more opportunities. We must work very, very closely with the comptroller. But we are -- we purposefully did not undertake initiatives or initial -- take initiatives that others already had good traction with. And I suspect that's the case, but I don't have enough detailed insight to answer your specific question.

Q: What would you say in this case when it -- dealing with the auditing and recovering -- web-based invoicing, and also recovering the funds and so forth, just basically you're trying to get monies you haven't received yet -- clients --

Cowley: On a number of those, we've talked with Mr. Lanzillotta, the deputy comptroller, as well as Tina Jonas. But you're right; the web-based invoicing does -- you know, some of that is in their territory, and we're working in collaborative fashion with them to try to bring this initiative forward.

We're working with Mr. Bloom over at DFAS to try to bring this initiative forward and bring it to fruition.

So we are kind of working back and forth, you know, across the two. I know Mr. Orr, who's the current executive director, has been in consultation with Mr. Lanzillotta on how we can collaborate to make these things happen.

Q: Would it be accurate, then, to say that because some of these issues have been addressed in past forums that you're putting extra emphasis on it through your unique positions to identify -- to say, "Yes, this has been perhaps a long-term problem that we need to try to solve" --

Cowley: And maybe accelerate them. We're hoping to accelerate them.

Dyer: I think that's fair and -- to accelerate, as Bob says. And also, these are in many cases things where people in the acquisition workforce said, "If you can help us with this, we will find you greater speed and, as a by-product of greater speed, greater efficiency and more value for money."

Q: Thank you.

Q: What are you looking at, at a time frame? Some of these issues either require, you know, no working Congress, just a change of the way you do business now. What are you looking at to get them implemented?

Dyer: Well, we're -- from our September meeting, we have 10 that we're off to step out on smartly. Now there's a distribution there of those that -- we can just do it and do it now.

Q: Yeah.

Dyer: There are some that are going to require decision memoranda, as a minimum, out of the undersecretary. And there are some, like the thresholding, that will require a dialogue across the Hill.

But I'll go back again to my respect for the under secretary and the three service secretaries, and appreciation for their business perspective. They've got a bias for action, and as we're bringing good ideas forward to them, they're actioning.

Q: I mean, these -- when did these ideas go forward to them, and when can we expect action?

Cowley: Well, these ideas have already gone forward to them. They've approved -- are pursuing them as initiatives. We're going back to them on the -- I believe it's the 10th of December -- the 3rd of December -- excuse me -- the 3rd of December with action plans. So we're talking fairly near term here. And then once we have those section plans approved, why, we'd begin to implement those that are immediately actionable.

Q: Okay.

Cowley: Yes, ma'am?

Q: A quick question. If I missed this, please forgive me, and then a follow, unrelated. Do I understand you correctly that you don't really have an estimate for how much these initial 10 efforts are going to save right now, that you're still developing those metrics?

Dyer: Our initial phase of the Business Initiative Council was to establish some momentum and even some excitement within the acquisition and business workforce and leadership of the department.

Read that "low-hanging fruit" -- things that we thought we could deliver upon fairly quickly. And, you know, in our business, few things succeed like success, and frankly, we wanted to go get some of them.

Let me give you a rough order-of-magnitude estimate. This initial set of 10 initiatives we think represents the potential for something in the neighborhood of a quarter of a billion dollars. Now, longer term and harder initiatives we're confident can generate considerably more. But we're looking for some successes out of these first 10, and some demonstrable accomplishments therein.

Q: For the layperson, can you please explain the consequences of not doing what it is you're trying to do for the Pentagon? If you are not successful, what does this mean?

Dyer: It's slower, it's harder, and it takes longer, and it costs more.

Q: In terms of a recovery audit here, can you give a sense of what's the magnitude of the problem in terms of overpayments over the last two or three years from a working-capital point? Are we talking in the billions of dollars or hundreds of millions?

Dyer: It's -- I don't think it's at all an issue of gross overpayment or financial discrepancy. It's an issue of speed. Just takes us forever to sort it out. It's like balancing your checkbook for two-and-a-half weeks.

Q: Okay, as opposed to sloppy bookkeeping that's allowing overpayments to companies --

Dyer: Yes. It's -- certainly there's some of that. I mean, if you're running a multi-multi-billion-dollar effort, there are things to be adjusted. But in terms of problems that would represent eyebrow-raising -- it's not that. It is the speed with which that we are able to close out the books.

Q: The carrot here is that each entity would get a contingency fee based on the speed at which they recovered.

Dyer: A percentage of the amount that they would recover, that's correct.

Q: Is this a large hunk of the $250 million in short-term savings?

Dyer: I don't recall what the percentage is. That will be developed, you know, when we go forward with these detailed plans. I mean, these are rough order-of-magnitude numbers that we've got to refine as we develop these action plans and go back to the secretaries and make sure that they're comfortable with the baselines that we're working with.

Sir?

Q: A quick question about this theme of the services and the organizations getting to keep their savings. I remember --

Dyer: I like that theme. It's very important. (Chuckles.)

Q: I remember that this was one of the major kick-off points for this initiative and for the work that you started doing last spring. Can you give us a snapshot of what you've learned in the interim between March and September that gives you continued confidence that this will, in fact, come to pass -- that those savings will stay with the people who saved the money and that they won't be reabsorbed? In other words, how can you guarantee to the skeptics out there that they'll get to keep the money that they're saving?

Dyer: Well, back to nothing succeeds like success. We have to demonstrate. But we have long recognized -- and certainly these leaders with their business perspectives recognize the motivational dampening of good works generating no reward. Now they do collectively, and not that we don't all pursue that. We do. But for a program team to be able to save money with an innovative idea and then to apply it in an area where they know they have specific need just generates more intellectual and emotional investment in doing good things.

Q: What do you have to change in the regulations of how business is done now in order to ensure that they will get to keep their savings?

Dyer: I would answer you -- from my personal experience, I do not believe we have to change any regulation at all. We just have to be respectful of the motivational power that comes from people seeing fruits of their own labor.

Cowley: There's no regulatory inhibitor here.

Dyer: Sir?

Q: On the people-process changes that you outline, it seems like the concern there is sort of the workforce crisis or the human capital shortage. Is that what the issue is there? Is that what you're trying to address, and could you comment on that?

Cowley: To a degree. I mean, we're looking at -- with the priority placement, the process just takes too long to be able to hire the engineering and the scientific talent that we need. And we find that as that process elongates, why, we lose a good number of those candidates. And so we're looking to compress the time that it takes so that we're able to get those people hired in a reasonable period of time before they find employment elsewhere.

And, you know, as far as the 180-day waiver, we've got a number of people getting out of the military who have those talents that we need to replace some of the talent that we're losing on the civil service side, and we want to be able to, you know, in a reasonable period of time, re-engage them in the business of the department. We're really looking to compress the cycle time. Excuse me.

Dyer: Well, same point. If speed sounds like a recurring theme, it's because it's a laser-focus with this group. Let's pretend for a minute -- this is probably true. Let's pretend you're a crackerjack public affairs person, and we really want to hire you. Your service probably hired you in a few weeks. If we wanted to hire you right now, it'd take 170 days, and your patience for waiting around to hear from us -- probably not that great. That's one of the speed issues that we're trying to accomplish.

Q: On the position regulations, when the DoD changed the regulations and issued a new rewrite over a year ago --

Dyer: This is the 5,000?

Q: Yeah. They were supposed to address the cycle time and taking -- accounting for O&M costs over the life cycle.

Would you say that those regulations are not being helpful enough to the system, that you have to go back now and maybe do more?

Dyer: No. They are very helpful. And certainly greater focus on O&S costs is one of the acquisition emerging success stories.

But again, these initiatives are in a different -- a bit of a different character than the 5,000. Now, I'll tell you that even in the new 5,000 series, given that nothing is perfect, if the hands-on experts say we're shackled by a particular section of this and we think we can do things faster still by a redress, then the establishment of the BIC is such that it will take good ideas wherever we can find them. But it's a little different undertaking, more process and business perspective than just that fairly focused acquisition reg that you see in the 5,000 series.

Q: So it would make it easier to get a waiver than -- (inaudible)?

Dyer: Perhaps. And some of the longer-term topics that we are discussing, the ease of getting waivers in some areas is a topic that will be undertaken.

Sir?

Q: Sir, manpower mix management flexibility. Is that in terms of mixing more contractors into the DoD workforce, essentially?

Dyer: I think that one is an intellectual construct, in the following sense. We are beginning to have greater and greater appreciation that we need the freedom to manage a total force, and a total force in our business is active duty and reserve military, it's Civil Service, and it is also our support contractor partners in accomplishing our business. And we would propose that we need to look at that as a system as opposed to any dealing with it in particular entities as may have been the case in the past.

Q: So you're trying to mirror private-sector practice in that case, private-sector corporate practice?

Dyer: I wish I had said that.

Q: What are these limits on civilian full-time equivalents? I guess I don't understand that. It's in the same issue you were just discussing. Eliminate civilian full-time equivalents. Sorry.

Cowley: Well, in the defense planning guidance, they have thresholds. And as the admiral said, we want to be able to manage this holistically, like they would in a private corporation, rather than having to manage it in fragmented fashion. It may make more sense, you know, to maybe change the mix. So that's --

Dyer: Full-time equivalents is a head count.

Cowley: Right, head count.

Q: I write for the average soldier. What will this mean to "Private Snuffy" in the next couple of years? How will this have an impact on his ability to do his job or what his life in the service is like?

Dyer: Well, let me give you a hope, an example from our past. If you go back to Desert Storm, when you could buy a better GPS receiver in a sporting goods store than we in the acquisition community were able to deliver with speed, I hope we would find the speed to be able to get needed equipment to warfighters in the field with a greater speed and efficiency than has ever been the case in the past.

Probably -- I have a 2:45, so this is -- probably needs to be our last question.

Yes, sir?

Q: You mentioned some longer-range initiatives that would be harder. I know you don't have specifics yet, but could you maybe touch on a couple of areas or a couple of things that you plan to address in the future?

Dyer: Well, if you recognize that there are many candidates for things to do -- Bob, have you got a favorite you want to talk about?

Cowley: Resource financial management. We're working with the comptroller to provide program managers flexibility to respond to program imperatives. They change over time, and the regulations are fairly stringent. The admiral touched on this earlier. And I think that's an area that we would find very fruitful to work with the comptroller community on.

Dyer: Well, listen, we are genuinely excited. We think we are supported by the leadership -- we know we are. That, again, is one of the things that gives me energy to continue to want to work this. And we look forward to coming back to you. Probably the Air Force three-star leadership will be here the next time. But we look forward to staying in touch with you and letting you know how we progress. So thank you all very much.

Cowley: Good talking to you all.

Q: Thank you.

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