Defense Transformation Efforts Gain Momentum, Officials Say
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 2, 2007 Ongoing efforts to transform the Defense Department into a leaner, more efficient 21st-century organization are gaining momentum, senior officials involved with transformation said here yesterday.
Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon R. England’s business acumen gained from years of experience as a private-sector executive complement his role as quarterback for departmental transformation, Paul A. Brinkley, deputy undersecretary of defense for business transformation, told reporters during a roundtable discussion at the Pentagon.
Improving efficiency throughout the department’s business operations is one of England’s key focal areas, Brinkley said. The deputy secretary’s “drive and leadership” have accelerated transformation and related change across the department, he added.
The annual Enterprise Transition Plan submitted to Congress at the end of September reported that 81 percent of 282 overall transformation milestones from last year were met, said David M. Fisher, director of the department’s Business Transformation Agency that was established in October 2005. The report, he said, serves as a metric of progress.
Unmet milestones are checked to determine why they weren’t achieved, Fisher explained, noting that some may be discarded based on decisions reflecting changed circumstances.
On April 30, England instructed Brinkley’s office to implement state-of-the-art Lean Six Sigma management processes across the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Fisher said. Lean Six Sigma is a total quality management-type of business methodology that, among other things, addresses wasteful practices that squander resources and hinder organizational efficiency and agility.
The military services have been extremely successful in applying Lean Six Sigma principles, Elizabeth McGrath, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for business transformation, said.
For example, the application of Lean Six Sigma principles trimmed 5,000 pounds of weight from the KC-135 tanker airplane, which resulted in considerable fuel savings for the Air Force, McGrath said.
Lean Six Sigma methodology also was employed by U.S. Army Material Command at Fort Knox, Ky., to reduce the backlog of M1 Abrams tanks to be repaired from 85 to zero over a six-month period, according to the latest transformation transition plan report submitted to Congress.
And, the Air Force’s 58th Maintenance Squadron reduced the time required to inspect MH-53J Pave Low helicopters by 43 percent thanks to Lean Six Sigma, according to the report.
Lean Six Sigma principles, according to the annual report, are now being applied to streamline the security-clearance process, to improve medical care for wounded servicemembers, and to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of departmental correspondence.
The Defense Department also is working to establish Lean Six Sigma training courses for managers, McGrath said.
The Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System, which employs modern business processes and information technology to improve military-pay operations, is among the department’s biggest transformational initiatives, Fisher said.
This system replaces several outmoded, non-integrated systems and is slated to be implemented across the Army on Oct. 1, 2008, Fisher noted. Air Force implementation of the new system, he said, is scheduled Feb. 1, 2009.
DIMHRS is just one of 27 new information-technology systems contained within the Business Transformation Agency’s portfolio, Fisher said.
Another contracting-related initiative called “Iraqi First” is used by overseas-deployed U.S. forces to obtain needed supplies while boosting the Iraqi economy, Brinkley said.
“If you’re buying something within the (Middle East) region, and it can be bought from Iraqi businesses, you should buy it from Iraqi businesses, because that stimulates the economy,” Brinkley explained.
More than 5,000 private Iraqi companies have registered in the program, he said, adding that more than $400 million in U.S. contracts have been let to Iraqi-owned firms.
The National Security Personnel System that’s being implemented to manage and assess the Defense Department’s civilian workforce is another part of transformation, Brinkley said. NSPS outlines departmental goals and recognizes individual achievement made toward meeting those goals, he explained.
“You have to give your employees clearly articulated requirements for what they have to do,” he said. “There’s a contract on both sides to this.”
NSPS “forces you to have a strategy,” while linking employee pay to performance, McGrath said. “It is something that outside industry does all the time,” she said.