Future is bright for Defense reforms, Pentagon official says

The Pentagon's latest business reform initiative will fare better than previous attempts to bring corporate-style management practices to the Defense Department because it has top-level support across the military services, Navy Vice Adm. Joe Dyer said Wednesday. The reforms were reflected in proposals announced last month by the Pentagon's new Business Initiatives Council (BIC), a group that includes the service secretaries and Defense acquisition chief Pete Aldridge. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld created the panel earlier this year to improve the department's business operations and to save millions of dollars by streamlining hiring practices, simplifying financial management rules and expanding acquisition reforms. Dyer, commander of Naval Air Systems and chairman of BIC's executive steering committee, told reporters at a Pentagon briefing Wednesday that previous Defense reforms have fallen short because they lacked consensus across the services. By having service secretaries oversee the reforms, he said, the new effort stands a far better chance of succeeding. In the past, such reforms were carried out by less senior officials. Additionally, the Pentagon will motivate managers to implement the reforms, and save money, by guaranteeing that they can keep the dollars they save for their programs, Dyer said. Changing Defense policy will speed the implementation of some of the reforms, but others will take longer because Congress will need to revise existing laws or rules, Dyer said. For example, lawmakers would have to approve any changes that would make it easier for the services to move money from one program to another without congressional approval. Dyer said BIC will have action plans in place for a series of 10 reforms by early December. The service picked easier reforms to start with to achieve early success and build momentum for tougher future reforms, he said. Among the 10 initiatives approved were:
  • Waiving the 180-day waiting period required before hiring military personnel for civil service jobs in key positions.
  • Encouraging and expanding the bulk purchase of commercial software and cellular telephone services.
  • Eliminating the Pentagon's annual planning guidance that calls for a set number of full-time civilian equivalent positions throughout the Defense Department, thus giving managers more flexibility in how they manage personnel.
  • Giving program managers greater flexibility in reprogramming research and development and procurement dollars.
  • Expanding the use of recovery auditing to track overpayments to contractors.
  • Creating a Web site to coordinate schedules at Defense test ranges.
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