Cover Story

Thinking outside the 5-sided box

"Thinking outside the 5-sided box" Continued...

Issue: "Mounting a defense," May 25, 2002

Even bureaucracies created to overcome change-resistance have resisted change. In 1997, the DOD established a Defense Management Council that included high-ranking military representatives and senior executives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense. This civilian-like "board of directors" was designed to break down organizational "stovepipes" and create cooperative approaches to DOD struggles. But "the council's effectiveness was impaired," the GAO reported, "because members were not able to put their individual military services or DOD agencies interests aside to focus on department-wide approaches to longstanding problems."

Mr. Rumsfeld has tackled some of those problems since taking office last year. A Washington veteran who served as defense chief under Gerald Ford, his acerbic manner at first chafed at underlings when he reentered the job. But after 9/11, Mr. Rumsfeld's no-nonsense rhetorical style and utter disdain for political hokum came across as just what the country needed. (His candor so charmed the press that the liberal magazine Vanity Fair recently featured the conservative defense secretary on its cover. The photo, which also pictured Gulf War masterminds Dick Cheney and Colin Powell, imparted the distinct impression that, well, grownups were now in charge of matters of state.)

Some changes so far on Mr. Rumsfeld's watch: In April, he reorganized the military theater commanders-in-chief (CINC), assigning every part of the globe, including the continental United States, to a combat command. This sweeping change, the first of its kind in more than half a century, unifies force structure, supplanting a system in which "functional" and combat CINC responsibilities overlapped. Now there is no confusion about who's in charge.

Feminists are also no longer in charge at the Pentagon. The DACOWITS (Defense Committee on Women in the Services), as conservatives knew and hated it, is gone. The committee was launched 50 years ago to address the needs of the growing number of female service members. But over time, it morphed into a tax-funded feminist lobby that pressed hard for such political goals as putting women in ground combat, while branding dissenters as "anti-woman." Rechartered in March, DACOWITS now will focus on real military women's issues such as family separation and childcare.

Mr. Rumsfeld also chucked the Pentagon's two-theater war doctrine in favor of an approach that calls for the military to be ready to fight multiple regional conflicts and respond to large-scale "asymmetric" attacks such as those on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Important changes all, each ushered through quickly with executive support. But other changes to DOD management may have to run the bureaucratic gantlet: Pentagon officials thought "transformation" was such a good idea that they established a new office to manage it-the "Office of Transformation."

Can another internal DOD jurisdiction really be an effective agent of change? Or will it only add more hoops?

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