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Oped Faceoff on DoD: Sec. Rumsfeld Vs Rep. Skelton

INTRODUCTION: The following two Op-ed opinion pieces appeared in recent days in the Washington Post Newspaper. They relate to Rumsfeld's push for a $400 billion appropriation for the Department of Defense in which he also pushes to largely eliminate Congressional oversight of the Pentagon's budget. The debate is especially interesting in light of the appointment of a secrecy nut as the new Director of the Office of Budget Management (OBM), and mainstream media reports on the several trillion dollars that the DoD is already unable to account for.


"Overhaul Without Oversight," by Congressman Ike Skelton

(The Washington Post 05/21/03 op-ed) (890)

(This column by Ike Skelton, a representative from Missouri, who is the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, was first published May 21 in The Washington Post. The column is in the public domain. No republication restrictions.)

(begin byliner)

Overhaul Without Oversight
By Ike Skelton

I believe history will show that the swiftness of America's military victory in Iraq was due in large part to the in-depth training of our officers in strategy and plans and to the military's application of that training in the operational plans developed in the months before the war. Many people, including the secretary of defense, had detailed lists of what could go wrong. We avoided those outcomes, partly thanks to luck but mostly because of deliberate military planning that sought out and compensated for potential risks and unintended consequences.

Last month, as Congress was departing for a two-week recess, the Defense Department submitted a 200-page draft "transformation" bill that requests extensive new authorities. It is not an understatement to say that this bill, taken as a whole, is the most sweeping defense reform legislation proposed since the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, which changed both the structure and the policies governing our military. The only thing that is obvious and consistent throughout the 50 provisions included in this bill is the aggregation of power sought for the Department of Defense, removing the legal restrictions and congressional oversight that should safeguard against any abuses, however unintentional. This approach is a rush to judgment that will affect vast numbers of people and, in many cases, will enshrine bad policy in law.

Major reassignments of constitutional authority such as this demand the same sort of thoughtful foresight as a war plan. In fact, the Goldwater-Nichols legislation took Congress four years to pass. The armed services committees of both houses of Congress held dozens of hearings and spent months drafting a comprehensive and bipartisan bill. We did this because the scope of the legislation was broad, the potentially unforeseen implications were numerous and the impact on the lives of all those who serve this nation was enormous.

The House of Representatives is to consider and vote on a defense authorization bill today that has much to commend it. It will authorize $400 billion to ensure that our forces remain the best trained and best equipped in the world. But it will also include large pieces of the transformation package -- even though the committee has held fewer than five hearings, and most of those with less than a week's notice. Without the time to investigate and ask the tough questions, we do not know what the implications of these changes are. And so we, unlike Gen. Tommy Franks in Iraq, cannot build a plan to avoid the worst outcomes.

The proposed legislation makes sweeping changes to both military and civilian personnel systems. On the civilian side, the Defense Department wants unfettered freedom to hire and fire its nearly 700,000 employees. Congress had a long, contentious debate over similar personnel proposals when creating the Department of Homeland Security. That legislation is barely being implemented now, and there has been no opportunity to evaluate its results. The Defense Department wants changes that are even more dramatic, including, just as one example, the repeal of laws preventing nepotism. What justification based on our national security or sound management principles can justify that? What message does this send to the hundreds of thousands who have dedicated their careers to the service of this nation? And why do such changes need to be rushed through now, when a successful military campaign has shown that the existing system works?

The department also is requesting extensive exemptions from a host of environmental laws that have helped safeguard the long-term health of our communities and of the global environment. As a solidly pro-military member of Congress, I believe the readiness and exceptional training of our troops are of paramount importance and should be taken into account in our environmental laws. But the Defense Department has not yet made use of the legal remedies that already exist to accommodate military readiness. Operations in Iraq showed the exquisite capability of the U.S. military trained under the current system. Changing the law at this point has not been shown to be needed for military readiness, but it will certainly undermine the legal structure that ensures the nation's environmental health.

The Constitution establishes Congress as a counterweight to executive authority for good reasons -- to guard against the excessive aggregation of any administration's power and to ask critical questions that allow better policy and better law to be made. When we in Congress are doing our jobs well, we ask what every American should want to know: Why is this necessary and what are the downsides of taking this action?

Without the ability to question and consider fully the implications of what we do, we abandon the planning needed to protect our nation's security and to protect those who serve their nation. We would not accept that of the officers planning a military campaign. We should not accept it from our political leaders either.

(The writer, a representative from Missouri, is the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:


New Threats Require New Flexibility for Pentagon, Rumsfeld Says

(Op-ed column in the May 22 Washington Post) (890)

(This column by Donald Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense, was first published May 22 in the Washington Post. The column is in the public domain. No republication restrictions.)

(begin byliner)

Defense for the 21st Century
By Donald H. Rumsfeld

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) laid out a number of objections on this page yesterday to the president's proposed Defense Transformation Act for the 21st Century. I respect Mr. Skelton's long service, but I disagree with many of his stated objections. Here is why.

Skelton argues that this legislation is the most sweeping overhaul of the Defense Department since the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act. He may be right -- but that is precisely the point. We are at this moment fighting the first wars of the 21st century with a department that has management and personnel systems developed decades ago, at the height of the Cold War.

The threats we face today are notably different from that era. We learned on Sept. 11, 2001, that our nation is vulnerable to enemies who hide in the caves and shadows and strike in unexpected ways. That is why we must transform our armed forces. Our forces need to be flexible, light and agile, so they can respond quickly and deal with surprise. The same is true of the men and women who support them in the Department of Defense. They also need flexibility, so that they can move money, shift people, design and deploy new weapons more rapidly and respond to the continuing changes in our security environment.

Today we do not have that kind of agility. In an age -- the information age -- when terrorists move information at the speed of an e-mail, money at the speed of a wire transfer and people at the speed of a commercial jetliner, the Defense Department is still bogged down in the bureaucratic processes of the industrial age.

Consider: we have more than 300,000 uniformed personnel doing jobs that should be done by civilians. That means that nearly three times the number of troops that were on the ground in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom are doing nonmilitary jobs that should be done by civilian personnel.

Why is that? It's because when managers in the department want to get a job done, they go to the military. They know they can manage military people, put them in a job, give them guidance, transfer them from one task to another and change the way they do things. They can't do that with the civil service, because it is managed outside the Defense Department by others, with a system of rules and requirements fashioned for a different era.

The defense authorization bill has grown from only one page in 1962 to a whopping 534 pages in 2001. The department is required to prepare and submit some 26,000 pages of justification, and more than 800 required reports to Congress each year -- many of marginal value, most probably not read. Since 1975, the time it takes to produce a new weapons system has doubled, even as new technologies are arriving in years and months, not decades.

We are working to fix problems that we have the freedom to fix. We have reduced management and headquarters staffs by 11 percent, streamlined the acquisition process by eliminating hundreds of pages of unnecessary rules and red tape, and begun implementing a new business management structure. But we also need legislative relief. That is why we are asking for:

-- Measures for transforming our system of personnel management, so that we can gain more flexibility and agility in the way we manage the more than 700,000 civilians in the department. And let me be clear: The provisions we have proposed explicitly bar nepotism.

-- Expanded authority for competitive outsourcing so that we can get military personnel out of nonmilitary tasks and back into the field.

-- Measures to protect our military training ranges so that our men and women in uniform will be able to train as they fight, while honoring our steadfast commitment to protecting the environment.

It is true, as Rep. Skelton notes, that the Goldwater-Nichols Act took four years for Congress to pass. But we do not have four years to wait before we transform -- the new threats are here now. If anything, our experience in the global war on terror has made the case for transformation even more urgent. Because our enemies are watching us -- studying how we were successfully attacked, how we are responding and how we might be vulnerable again. In distant caves and bunkers, they are busy developing new ways to harm our people -- methods of attack that could kill not 3,000 people, but 30,000 or 300,000 -- or more. And they are not struggling with bureaucratic red tape fashioned in the last century as they do so.

The fact is that the transformation of our military capabilities depends on the transformation of the way the Defense Department operates. This does not mean an end to congressional oversight. What it means is that we need to work together to ensure the department has the flexibility to keep up with the new threats emerging as this century unfolds.

(The writer is secretary of defense.)

(end byliner)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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