Washington Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Monday declared a war on bureaucracy in the Pentagon, saying he wants to combine some civilian and military staffs, cut duplicate positions in the military services and shift some jobs to the private sector.
In a Pentagon speech, Rumsfeld gave few specifics but said the changes are vital to saving every penny for modernizing the nation's military. The secretary argued that a bloated bureaucracy is nothing less than an adversary posing a serious security threat.
The Defense Department is composed of 1.4 million active duty men and women in uniform, another million in the National Guard and Reserves and about some 659,000 civilian employees.
"Today we declare war on bureaucracy, not people, but processes," Rumsfeld said, arguing the campaign is aimed at shifting "Pentagon resources from the tail to the tooth."
Rumsfeld gave no specific numbers for his vision of consolidation and savings in the Pentagon's $300 billion-plus budget.
The secretary pointed out that the Army, Navy and Air Force each have a general counsel's office, and that another exists to coordinate them all; that three separate commissary and exchange systems exist to purchase supplies for the services, and that in the Navy, "One out of every five officers is a physician."
Each service also has a separate public affairs office and liaison organization to deal with Congress, he added.
"I have a feeling we don't need as many as we have," he said.
He said it was silly for the Defense Department to have its own employees doing payroll paperwork and housecleaning services that could be better done by the private sector.
Rumsfeld argued that private industry could not conduct business the way the government does and survive. The Pentagon must reform its financial information and computer information systems and close unneeded military bases, he said, in order to become more efficient.
"We must transform the way the department works," he said, adding he would require the Army, Navy and Air Force civilian service secretaries and other senior aides to conduct the cost-saving effort.
The defense secretary said Congress had mandated a 15 percent cut in the Pentagon's headquarters' staff by 2003, and that his moves were in part in response to that requirement.
"It's not just the law, it's a good idea, and we are going to get it done," Rumsfeld pledged.
He also said he intends to have the department submit revised legislation to Congress that would offer more flexible compensation and other incentives to keep military personnel on the job at the peak of their careers.
Rumsfeld said his effort would not be accomplished in the short term, or perhaps even during a potential eight-year span. Achieving change inside the Pentagon may be "like turning a battleship," Rumsfeld said, but even "a little bit of change goes a very long way."