Computer Security, Y2K Effort Top Hamre Accomplishments (corrected copy)
By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 22, 2000 Even after nearly three years on the job, John J. Hamre said it's hard to pin down exactly what a deputy secretary of defense is supposed to do. But for someone who isn't sure, he has a long list of accomplishments.
Hamre leaves DoD March 31 after his tenure as deputy secretary and four years as DoD comptroller to be the president and chief executive officer of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.
"I was once asked what does the deputy secretary of defense do, and I said he does only one thing, anything and everything the secretary tells him to," he said. "My job is to make sure the department does for the secretary what the secretary wants.
"[Defense] Secretary [William S.] Cohen operates like the chief executive officer, and I'm the chief operating officer," Hamre said. He also took the lead on several special projects.
Soon after taking office, Hamre was charged with improving the department's "cyber protection." Hamre said DoD computers came under a cyber attack for several days in early 1998, and he had a meeting with several DoD automation experts.
"I remember asking, 'Who's responsible for protecting us?' and the answer was, 'Nobody is.' We didn't have a place or an organization that was responsible for protecting our computers and networks," he said.
DoD automation experts went to work on a fix right away. Their early defensive measures were tested in March 1999, when the Melissa virus struck computers all over the world, causing widespread damage to networks. The virus hit DoD computers as well, but was contained within 12 hours, Hamre said.
As a result of these efforts, the Joint Task Force Computer Network Defense became fully operational on June 30, 1999. Each service now has its own command center, which monitors that service's computer networks and reports directly to the joint task force.
"We didn't even know how many networks we had three years ago," Hamre said. "We now know how many there are; we know what kind of systems they run; and we know who's responsible for running them."
Hamre's second major project was to prepare DoD's computer infrastructure for the year 2000. The effort cost DoD $3.5 billion, but was nearly 100-percent successful. Except for an easily fixed glitch in a ground station for a satellite- based intelligence system, DoD weathered New Years Eve unscathed.
Some have questioned the necessity of DoD's large expenditure, but Hamre said it was justified by the program's success.
"Could we have spent less money to patch over the systems? Maybe," he said. "But we now have the best understanding of our information infrastructure that we've ever had in the life of the department. We now know the configuration of the internal workings of every one of our major systems.
"We got the entire department to realize how dependent we are on these systems," Hamre continued. "I think now the senior warfighters know that they are dependent on these computer systems, which they probably took for granted in the past."
The Defense Reform Initiative, which Hamre spearheaded, has been a wide-ranging effort to modernize and streamline the department's business practices. His efforts under this initiative have taken Hamre in several directions. Perhaps most notably, he moved the department toward paper-free contracting.
Hamre said that in 1993, the Defense Finance and Accounting Center in Columbus, Ohio, had 17 linear miles of shelf space devoted solely to contracts - row after row of nothing but paper.
"We were choking on paper," he said. "We were making lots of mistakes, in no small measure because we were struggling with all this paper."
Today that department is 90-percent paper-free. "Now you go out there and you see people working at relatively clean workstations. They've got computer terminals on their desks. They're pulling up contracts and are looking at them electronically," he said. "Now they're even getting the invoices in electronically, rather than having them come in on paper, so it's a much more efficient operation."
Hamre said he met with a group of defense contractors in January, and they were uniformly appreciative of how effectively and quickly the bills get paid now. He said it also saves the department money because fewer mistakes get made.
Another example of streamlining is the use of the International Merchants Purchase Authorization Card, which allows individuals to make purchases for their own organization using a Visa card. This drastically cuts down on paperwork, time spent processing purchase requests, and the time it takes to pay for purchases.
Five years ago, the department made about 300,000 purchases with IMPAC cards. This year DoD personnel will make nine million purchases, worth more than $5 billion, Hamre said.
Hamre said that DoD faces both immediate and long-term challenges. He said, in the near term, recruiting is a major challenge, mostly because of the caliber of people DoD is seeking.
"When we recruit, we're not competing for the guy whose only option is to flip hamburgers," he said. "We're recruiting for the guy who has lots of options, options for jobs, options for junior college, options for college. We're looking for a higher quality cut."
This is further complicated by the current attitudes, about the military. "We're living in a country where people don't think about their military as much. There aren't as many bases, so people don't live around bases like they used to," Hamre said. "We're coming to a generation where the parents of today's recruit pool weren't in the military themselves, so it's harder to recruit."
DoD is working to address these recruiting challenges, he said.
Defense procurement will be the department's biggest long- term challenge, he said. "The budget we just submitted is $60 billion, but that's not going to be enough in the long run to buy the modern equipment we'll need."
Hamre said the toughest job DoD leadership faced was to turn around the DoD budget. After an unprecedented decline in defense spending, the fiscal 2000 budget started an increase of more than $112 billion through fiscal 2005. "History will say that was one of the most important things we did," Hamre said.