(Washington, D.C.): George W. Bush made a central plank of his 2000 campaign platform the "transformation"of the U.S. military. By appointing Donald Rumsfeld and his team to run the Pentagon, President Bush found people with the vision, courage and tenacity needed to make the policy and hardware choices that will do much to determine whether the armed forces will be as effective in contending with future threats to the Nation's security as they were recently shown to be in liberating Afghanistan and Iraq.
Congress' Supporting Role
They cannot do the full job of transformation alone, however. If the promise of such changes is to be fully realized, Congress must give urgent and broadly favorable treatment to a package of legislative initiatives now under consideration on Capitol Hill.
Under the rubric of the "Defense Transformation for the 21st Century Act of 2003," Secretary Rumsfeld proposes literally to transform the way the Pentagon works in three critical areas: how it develops and buys military hardware; how it recruits, compensates and manages the department's 750,000-person civilian workforce; and where and how it trains the troops.
On the face of it, there is an obvious need for clearing away much of the thicket of congressionally mandated restrictions, reporting requirements and associated regulations that today afflict the Department of Defense in each of these areas. Accordingly, the suggested revisions have generally found favor among legislators charged with overseeing the Pentagon. They are, predictably, running into resistance from others in Congress who are exceedingly sensitive to government watchdog groups, public employee unions and environmental activists for whom concerns about national security come second (if that) to their respective special interests.
Why Relief is Needed
There is, nonetheless, an overwhelming national interest in effecting the sorts of legislative relief needed to achieve what might be called "Transformation, Part Deux." In particular, Congress needs to give Pentagon managers both responsibility and authority to streamline their operations, notably by employing practices critical to successful private sector ventures. Streamlining should be undertaken as well with respect to congressional requirements for duplicative reports whose preparation consumes immense amounts of staff and executive time seemingly unjustified by their use on Capitol Hill.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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