New Pentagon leaders discuss corporate strategies

The Pentagon's new civilian leaders want to bring corporate-style management to the largest federal bureaucracy. The Bush administration's civilian nominees to head the Army, Navy and Air Force told lawmakers at a Senate confirmation hearing Thursday that a senior management team will set the direction for the Defense Department. The team will be headed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and will also include Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Pentagon acquisition chief Peter Aldridge and the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force. There will be no military service members on the team. James Roche, a senior executive for the Northrop Grumman Corp. and the nominee for Secretary of the Air Force, said the committee would ensure "jointness" at the Defense Department's highest levels. For example, he said, the committee could coordinate cost-reduction initiatives for all Defense agencies. Tom White, a retired Army one-star general and energy company executive tapped to be Secretary of the Army, said the team is similar to executive committees of commercial corporations where a handful of top executives come together to coordinate key decisions and strategy. The team members themselves would meet regularly on a "personal level" rather than relying on staff members to coordinate Defense management, White added. The move signals the Bush administration's push for greater civilian control at the Defense Department. The Clinton administration relied heavily on the uniformed military chiefs to manage the services and often found department-wide reforms and budget cuts thwarted by parochialism in the services and by Congress. Lawmakers have been wary of the new approach and have said that any reforms will still need congressional support. Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told each of the nominees that they would be expected to "fight hard" for their individual departments. Warner said he expects the nominees to be confirmed. Gordon England, executive vice president of General Dynamics and the nominee to head the Navy, faced the toughest questions at the hearing regarding potential conflicts of interests. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told England he should be particularly careful when making decisions that would have an impact on Defense giant General Dynamics--including reviewing the company's recent bid to acquire Newport News Shipbuilding, one of the Navy's largest contractors. Each of the nominees said they have divested themselves of any financial interests with companies who do business with the Defense Department.
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