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Cohen Names Panel to Review Civilian Force, Defense Agencies

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 15, 1997 – The military had its turn under the microscope, now it's time to closely examine DoD's civilian side.

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen announced a Defense Reform Task Force will take a further look at DoD headquarters operations and supporting agencies just as the Quadrennial Defense Review closely examined the military. The goal is the same: eliminate unneeded organizations, functions and personnel.

DoD had six months to complete the congressionally mandated Quadrennial Defense Review, Cohen said. This was not enough time both to thoroughly examine DoD's defense programs and to study reforms within department headquarters and its supporting agencies and field activities, Cohen said. "A more thorough examination of these areas is needed, given the complexity and size of the task," he said.

Cohen said he wants to send a signal to the services. They have been asked to take cuts, he said, and "I want to indicate to them that I intend to have a corresponding reduction in my own operations."

Congress set May 15 as the defense review deadline. The defense reform task force deadline to report to Cohen is Nov. 30. A national defense panel of civilian defense experts will submit a critique of both DoD reviews to Congress in December.

The reform task force charter is to recommend ways to streamline the Office of the Secretary of the Defense and reduce redundancy among the Joint Staff, defense agencies, field activities and the military departments, DoD officials said. This includes such organizations as Defense Finance and Accounting Service, Defense Commissary Agency, On-Site Inspection Agency, Defense Logistics Agency and Defense Investigative Service.

"It is my hope that we will be able to help redesign our operations," Cohen said. While progress has been made in recent years by buying more off-the-shelf technology, computerizing operations and changing travel reimbursement procedures, much more needs to be done, he said.

Cohen advocates the use of credit cards for purchases under $2,500 rather than the burdensome 12-page purchase contract and the staff necessary to process and audit contracts and payments. "We have to have a revolution in our business practices," the secretary said.

Improving the way the department does business is the overarching goal, Cohen said. "Over the past decade, the American commercial sector has reorganized, restructured and adopted revolutionary new business and management practices to assure its competitive edge in the rapidly changing global marketplace," he stated in a prepared press release. "Now the department must adopt and adapt the lessons of the private sector so our armed forces can maintain their competitive edge in the rapidly changing global security market."

Task force members will work closely with DoD leaders, Congress and corporate leaders experienced in downsizing and making operations more efficient. Cohen said he hoped to combine the best minds in corporate America with the best in defense.

"It's one thing for a corporate executive to say, 'Here's how I achieved great savings and efficiencies.' It might work in the corporate world, it might not work in defense. I want to make sure we have a proper analysis along functional lines as well as operational lines."

Undersecretary of Defense (Comptroller) John Hamre will lead the reform effort. He said there is no "magic list of gurus" the panel will consult, but they will seek new ideas from outside the defense community. He cited a trip he made to Federal Express to learn about private-sector business practices as one of the best visits he ever made.

"If you just talk to us defense types, we would understand each other, but we wouldn't necessarily always get the freshest ideas," Hamre said. "There are lots of great things going on in this country in industry."

Asked why this review will be different from others done in the past, Hamre turned both thumbs to his chest and said, "In a nutshell? Because I'm running it, and I've got my butt on the line. The secretary has said, 'I want real things to happen. I want them to show up on the budget we submit next January.'"

Cohen named seven civilian defense experts to the panel and several more may be added. The present task force members are:

  • Michael J. Bayer: a consultant in business-government relations who served as an official in both the Energy and Commerce departments;
  • David Chu: director of RAND's Washington office and former DoD director of program analysis and evaluation;
  • Rhett Dawson: president, Information Technology Industry Council;
  • James Locher: former assistant defense secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict;
  • Arnold Punaro: senior vice president for corporate development at Science Applications International Corporation and former Senate Armed Services Committee staff director;
  • Kim Wincup: a program director at Science Applications International Corporation and a former assistant secretary of the Army;
  • Dov Zakheim: corporate vice president and director, Center for Policy Planning, System Planning Corp.; chief executive officer System Planning Corp. International; and former deputy undersecretary of defense for planning and resources.
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