The efficiency reforms announced yesterday by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are about leading by example, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Dr. Jim Miller said Dec. 5.
Across-the-board cuts to the defense budget have affected nearly every corner of the Pentagon, but the present uncertainty in defense budgeting is only part of the reason for the changes, Miller said.
There are actually five issues driving the reforms, he said. First, Congress directed that a number of deputy under secretary positions be eliminated. Hagel announced yesterday that five of these positions would be eliminated – all of them non-presidentially appointed, Senate confirmed.
“We’re going to consolidate from essentially seven reporting lines under the under secretary to five assistant secretaries – to meet Congressional guidance,” Miller said.
The second issue is budget, he said. By fiscal year 2019, the defense budget must be reduced by 20 percent, and the number of personnel has to be reduced by about the same amount, the under secretary said. “That will be done systematically and in stages,” he said.
“Third, the reality is that the world is changing,” Miller said. “We have seen increasing threats to the homeland. … The most obvious is in cyberspace,” he said, adding that threats are also on the rise from outer space and weapons of mass destruction.
Additionally, as other nations face the same budget challenges as the U.S., Miller said, “The need to really think of security cooperation as a driving element of strategy is even greater than it has been in the past.” Therefore, even the overall number of OSD personnel is being reduced; the department is actually adding a deputy assistant secretary who will focus on security cooperation.
And fourth, Hagel wants to take better advantage of the expertise of Andrew Marshall, the director of the Office of Net Assessment. The office serves as a sort of internal think tank for the Defense Department, responsible for identifying emerging or future threats and opportunities for the United States. The office will now report to the under secretary for policy, Miller said.
“It will retain an independent voice,” he added. “Moving it closer is intended to help that ‘out-of-the-box’ and more ‘out in the future’ thinking have even a greater role in the development of strategy and policy.”
Finally, Miller said, as U.S. involvement in Afghanistan draws down and with Iraq operations ended, the raison d’etre for the Task Force on Business and Stability Operations has faded. Many of its functions will be transferred to other government agencies and outside groups, principally the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development — by the end of 2014.
“It’s been particularly valuable for helping the Afghans begin to develop their potential for mineral exploitation, oil and gas exploitation and, in some cases, small businesses and building entrepreneurship,” he said.
This is not the first time OSD Policy has reorganized, Miller said. As the Defense Department evolved following 9/11, so too did the policy office. Additional emphasis on strategy and global strategic affairs followed the terrorist attacks, he said, and led to the creation of new deputy under secretary positions for each. Those positions have been eliminated in the reorganization and their functions will be folded into other offices, Miller noted.
There are about 500 military and civilian personnel assigned to OSD Policy. The reforms will reduce that number by 12 percent between fiscal years 2015 and 2019, and contract support personnel will be reduced by a third over the same period. Cuts to the entire Defense Department are expected to save at least $1 billion over five years and reduce OSD staffing by about 200 personnel.
“We are going to make the organizational changes in several phases over 2014, and the reduction in funding and personnel systematically, thoroughly, thoughtfully over the next five years,” the under secretary said.
A workforce implementation team stood up recently to help ease the department through the transition, Miller said. “That will stay with us for some time as we systematically work through this,” he added.
“I am confident, and the [defense] secretary is confident … that with these changes we will continue to be able to support him effectively and we will continue to be able to perform our mission effectively,” Miller said.