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DoD Working to Improve Active, Reserve, Civilian Workforce

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

FALLS CHURCH, Va., April 27, 2006 – The Defense Department is seeking ways to foster sweeping changes in its civilian, reserve and active forces, DoD's top personnel official said here April 25.

Any changes would be aimed at making the department more agile and effective, David S. C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, during his keynote speech at the Combined Workforce Conference here.

Chu said DoD plans to convert thousands of military jobs to civilian positions. Other initiatives include transforming the armed forces, prolonging careers for retirement, and basing military promotions on preparedness rather than time in service.

DoD needs to better integrate its people because people are the core of the organization and the reason it has been successful, Chu told the conference audience. "It was their performance in the first Persian Gulf war almost 15 years ago that restored the American military to its place as the most respected institution in our society," Chu said.

Pointing out that integration of the National Guard, reserve and active forces into a "total force" isn't a new issue. Chu noted that former Defense Secretary Melvin Laird coined the phrase "total force" a generation ago. Laird used the term in describing how the active duty and reserve communities were brought together to thwart the Soviet Union's efforts to dominate Western Europe and the oil fields of the Persian Gulf, Chu said.

He said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's single, most important charge from the president is transforming the armed forces to meet challenges of the early 21st century.

Emphasizing that transformation is about much more than hardware, Chu said: "Yes, new weapons systems are important. But ultimately it's the people who are operating those systems that make the difference."

Therefore, he said, it's important to effectively manage how DoD manages its people, how it treats them, and how they're recruited, motivated and retained so the nation can retain the finest fighting force in the world.

Chu discussed the three broad strands that are the focus of DoD's personnel agenda -- civilians, active military forces, and reserve components. "The issue is how we bring these together most effectively in this early 21st century period to produce the military capabilities that we must have to defend our people and our society," he noted.

He said one of Rumsfeld's central concerns is how to restore the civil service to its rightful place as an equal partner with the military. "Too often in recent years managers have avoided using a federal civil service solution because the system has been too cumbersome," Chu said. "It doesn't give us an agile and responsive capacity."

DoD is working toward having civilians play a larger role in the defense of the nation. "The department is in the process of converting about 20,000 positions from military to civil status," Chu said. "And there are plans to convert at least 10,000 more positions."

Chu also said many changes have been made in the way DoD looks at the reserve forces. "Historically, since World War II, the United States saw the reserves as a strategic asset, perhaps mobilized once in a generation," Chu said.

He added that the National Guard has generally been used for home tasks but not current operations. But that began to change in the last decade and expanded enormously after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Chu said.

"We made the decision in the department that the reserves would really be part of the operational force, an integral part of the total force," Chu said. "We recognized that reservists are not able to serve continuously, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Therefore, we have to be judicious and prudent in our use of reserve components."

About 500,000 guardsmen and reservists have been mobilized since Sept. 11.

Officials are working to bring civilians, reservists and active-duty personnel together into one integrated community, which would make the total force more agile and more responsive, Chu said.

"Unlike the Cold War where we had a very well-developed idea of what was the problem and what might be the solution, now, we can't foresee with the same kind of certainty what the military operation of the future might look like," he said. "We have to be able to respond much more quickly than was true in the Cold War."

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David S. C. Chu

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