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Rumsfeld Shares Transformation Philosophy with Chinese Military

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

BEIJING, Oct. 20, 2005 – The roadblocks to military transformation "are enormous," and overcoming them requires leaders who believe in and advocate the changes being introduced, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told members of China's Academy of Military Science here today.

Rumsfeld, who visited the prestigious academy during his three-day visit to China's capital city, responded to a Chinese army officer's question by discussing his efforts to transform the U.S. military.

The Academy of Military Science is China's equivalent to U.S. military war colleges and conducts research programs for the Chinese armed forces. Much of that effort is directed toward helping China expand and modernize its military.

"We are deeply impressed by your efforts in advocating and promoting the transformation of military forces in the United States," Senior Col. Huang Xing told Rumsfeld during a question-and-answer session following Rumsfeld's address to the group.

Huang asked the secretary what challenges he faced along the way and how he overcame them.

"The obstacles are enormous," Rumsfeld quickly acknowledged. "Things at rest tend to remain at rest," he said, alluding to people's inherent tendency to want to stick with what they know and are comfortable with rather than change.

Instituting change, particularly in a large organization like the U.S. military, requires far more than issuing a directive or barking an order, Rumsfeld told Huanag and the other Chinese officers.

"Big institutions ... can't simply be commanded. They need to be persuaded," Rumsfeld said. "They have to believe that what you are having them do that's new is the right thing to do and the best thing."

But the persuasion doesn't stop with the force, the secretary told the group. In the United States, it extends to the Congress, which funds the changes being made, and to defense industries, which must respond by changing their operations to produce new or different equipment need.

These industries also resist change because they "have an interest in continuing to build and make the things they are currently building and making," Rumsfeld said.

Five years at the helm of the U.S. military's transformation, Rumsfeld said he's concluded that the key to success boils down to people. It requires choosing leaders who believe in and advocate change and placing them at "multiple leadership centers" throughout the organization, he said.

"There is no way that a big organization can be led from the top," the secretary said. "It has to be led from throughout by people who have the same culture and the same orientation and the same desire to see those changes implemented."

Toward that end, Rumsfeld said, he and his senior staff throughout DoD seek out leaders who "are innovative and ... bold ... and interested in being joint, that is to say, having all the services work together intimately," Rumsfeld explained.

Once these leaders are identified, the next step, the secretary said, is "seeing that they are spread throughout the Department of Defense and carry that message."

The Chinese officer also asked Rumsfeld how he's coped with obstacles while transforming the department and the military.

"Energetically and imperfectly," Rumsfeld quipped, receiving chuckles from his audience. Then, turning serious, the secretary added, "but hopefully."

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Donald H. Rumsfeld

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