Cohen's Cutters

tshoop@govexec.com

Secretary of Defense William Cohen on Wednesday announced the formation of a new Task Force on Defense Reform to recommend ways to improve management of DoD's agencies and streamline its business operations. The task force was formed as a result of the nearly completed Quadrennial Defense Review.

At a press conference, Cohen said that the QDR had exhaustively reviewed DoD's defense program, but had not had time to explore reforms in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Defense agencies, DoD field activities, and the military departments. The new task force will focus on these areas.

"It's something that I need to send a signal to the services, who I've asked to make a number of reductions in their operations," said Cohen. "I want to indicate to them that I intend to have a corresponding reduction in my own operations to make sure that they don't see a cutback in terms of the tooth but see the tail continue to grow, as it has, almost exponentially, in a number of years."

Cohen said that he has no specific targets for job cuts in connection with the task force's review. But according to DoD, the task force will specifically be asked to develop a "blueprint for further streamlining and reform" of Defense agencies, field operations and the Secretary's office.

"I don't want to prejudge what the panel will say to the Secretary and what he may choose to do himself," said DoD Comptroller John Hamre, who will lead the task force. "But I do know he intends to see a much leaner, more agile [Office of the Secretary of Defense] when it's all done."

Hamre did not specify how much money the department expected to save as a result of the task force's work. "One of the reasons were not trying to advertise big numbers right now," he said, "is because it tends to create a political reality that everybody measures against. And the first thing we want to do is change our business practices and reform our way of doing business, not just politically hit a target."

The task force's members are:

  • Michael J. Bayer, a consultant in business-government relations who served as an official in both the Energy and Commerce departments.
  • David Chu, director of RAND Corp.'s Washington office and former DoD director of program analysis and evaluation.
  • Rhett Dawson, president of the Information Technology Industry Council.
  • James Locher, former assistant Secretary of Defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict.
  • Arnold Punaro, senior vice president for corporate development at Science Applications International Corp. and former staff director of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
  • Kim Wincup, a program director at Science Applications International Corp. and a former assistant secretary of the Army.
  • Dov Zakheim, a former deputy undersecretary at DoD who is now vice president and director of the Center for Policy Planning at the System Planning Corporation and chief executive officer of SPC International.
Cohen said that several other members may be named.
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