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Release No: 830-03
November 07, 2003

Statement from the Secretary of Defense

The conclusion of the conference on the 2004 Defense Authorization Bill represents a legislative landmark. We are grateful to the leadership of Chairman John Warner, Chairman Duncan Hunter, Chairman Tom Davis, Rep. Ike Skelton and others. This legislation marks a significant step forward in our quest to transform the Department of Defense. The global war on terror has highlighted the importance of adapting this institution to the threats and capabilities of the 21st century.

The bill allows the Defense Department to set up a National Security Personnel System for the civilian workforce, and represents the most significant improvement to civilian personnel management since the Civil Service Reform Act of 25 years ago. These reforms will provide senior managers greater flexibility in managing our dedicated civil service, empower them to compete for high quality talent, offer compensation competitive with the private sector, and reward outstanding service. It will build greater pride in the civilian workforce and attract a new generation of civilians to public service.

Properly executed, this provision also will assist us in better utilizing the active duty force by making it easier to employ civilians in jobs currently filled by uniformed military personnel.

The legislation will improve our military readiness. The clarifications of the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act will provide greater flexibility to train our fighting forces in a realistic manner and allow us to carefully test and deploy critical technologies. These clarifications will help the nation face the threats posed in the 21st century while maintaining a high standard of environmental stewardship.

As we continue to transform the department, it is our goal to continue to provide the defense our nation deserves in the global war on terror and against the ever-changing threats around the world. This legislation is a major step toward that objective.

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