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Rumsfeld: People Key to Department's Transformation

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 17, 2005 – New weapons systems and state-of-the-art technology are important parts of the Defense Department's transformation, but the key to the process is the people involved, according to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

"I really do believe it's the people. It's the attitude ... the culture," the secretary said during an interview with the Pentagon Channel for its documentary "Facing the Future."

The Defense Department's transformation is working, Rumsfeld said, because its military and civilian leaders recognize the need and are giving the effort the top-level emphasis it requires. He said he's hopeful that emphasis will serve "almost like tossing a pebble in a pond," with a ripple effect that reaches throughout the department.

Rumsfeld said the terrorist attacks against the United States actually accelerated DoD's transformation plans rather than bringing them to an abrupt halt as some people may have thought. "The Sept. 11th attacks provided a sense of urgency for us and an impetus," he said. "And I think in an interesting way, it enabled us to change more rapidly because we had the need and the need was clear."

Despite positive leadership and a clearly recognized threat, the secretary acknowledged that letting go of Cold War-era conventions and transforming the Defense Department so it's better adapted to 21st-century threats and challenges won't happen overnight.

Part of that is because the threat constantly evolves, he said, and part is because, no matter what people may say about accepting and adapting to change, it simply defies human nature. People get comfortable in their patterns and habits, and change interjects a degree of disruption and uncertainty that most try to avoid, Rumsfeld said.

That problem is compounded in institutions, both in the private and government sector, and particularly in organizations as large as DoD, the secretary said. In both examples, he said the trick is to get people to let go of their old practices so they can adapt to the current requirements.

For the Defense Department, Rumsfeld said that means abandoning a force structure that's "organized, trained, equipped and conditioned to fight big armies, navies and air forces" and adapting one suited to new threats and challenges.

"The number of uncertainties increase as to where those challenges can come from and what their nature might be," he said. "That is a hard thing for people to adjust to."

But Rumsfeld said he's impressed by the way DoD's leaders are putting that resistance aside and embracing measures that are helping move the department forward. He said they're demonstrating an understanding of 21st-century circumstances and enough self-confidence that they're willing "to take risks and to alter the way things were being done."

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Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld

Related Sites:
Facing the Future Booklet (pdf)
Facing the Future Documentary

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