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New Personnel System Needed to Meet New Challenges

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 18, 2003 – DoD's military and civilian personnel systems need to be as flexible as the fighting forces they support, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld wrote in a Washington Post commentary today.

Rumsfeld used the article to urge Congress to pass the Defense Transformation Act. DoD needs the act to eliminate burdensome regulations, to be able to move military and civilian employees around more flexibly and to give employees the tools they need to do their jobs.

The legislation has been placed in the 2004 Defense Authorization Bill. That bill is in conference committee. DoD officials would not hazard a guess when the compromise bill would be voted on.

"In an era when our enemies are moving at the speed of satellites, cell phones and cyberspace, these burdensome regulations are not acceptable," Rumsfeld wrote. "The Department of Defense cannot meet the challenges of the future with an organization anchored to the past.

On the military side, the act calls for DoD to shift 300,000 service members out of jobs that could be done by civilians. "While the nation is asking tens of thousands of reserve troops to leave their jobs and their families to help fight the global war on terrorism, it is estimated that on-duty military personnel are serving in more than 300,000 jobs -- at additional cost to the taxpayers -- that could be filled by civilian workers but are not because the department doesn't have the authority to manage its civilian personnel," the secretary wrote.

The new National Security Personnel System would also reduce red tape and provide hiring flexibility, Rumsfeld noted. DoD would be able to offer promising people jobs immediately rather than having them fill out paperwork and wait six months. The new system would mirror hiring practices used in private industry.

If passed, DoD could deal with six or more national unions rather than negotiating with 1,300 separate local unions. It would also give DoD relief from certain environmental regulations that stand in the way of realistic training for U.S. forces as they face combat, Rumsfeld indicated in the piece.

It would also streamline DoD's acquisition process. "It now takes the department double the time it took in 1975 to produce a new weapons system this in an age when new technologies are coming on line in months, not decades," the he wrote.

Rumsfeld stressed that civilian employees will retain their fundamental job rights. The legislation would also change the way civilians are paid, promoted and rewarded.

Rumsfeld said DoD has done what it can within the department to spur this personnel transformation. Congress must pass the legislation to allow DoD to move forward.

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