Requests Power to Reorganize Services
WASHINGTON, April 13 - Defense Secretary Donald
H. Rumsfeld is asking Congress for broad new powers to reshape the
uniformed services from the highest ranking officers down to
reservists and supply clerks.
If approved, the legislation would put Mr. Rumsfeld's stamp on
personnel practices for years, even decades, to come, powerfully
influencing assignments and promotions at the top of the chain of
command and refocusing many people lower in the ranks on fighting wars
rather than pushing pencils.
Mr. Rumsfeld's legislative requests, which Congressional aides said
today were delivered this weekend and would be circulated broadly to
members on Monday, are certain to spark debate. But they could receive
a more sympathetic hearing in the wake of the campaign in Iraq, which
is already seen as a victory for advocates of a leaner and more agile
military, one that is both more sophisticated and deadlier.
David S. C. Chu, the under secretary of defense for personnel and
readiness, described the plan as the most sweeping reorganization of
military personnel since the Eisenhower administration.
He said the proposed legislation requests greater flexibility over
personnel policy affecting the very senior levels, allowing a defense
secretary to extend the tenure of generals and admirals in especially
important jobs, while easing the early retirement of those unlikely to
be promoted further.
Lower in the ranks, the legislation would clear the way for
transferring a large number of military support jobs to civilian
employees - about 300,000 are under consideration, Mr. Chu said -
increasing the numbers of combat troops without adding to the roughly
1.5 million people in uniform today. And it would change the peacetime
schedule of reservists, who have been called up by the tens of
thousands over the past two years for the campaign against terror.
Active-duty military personnel could switch into the Reserves for a
number of years if family pressures or desires for education made
full-time service difficult, and then return to the active service,
which does not happen now.
Reservists could opt for specialties that guarantee more active
service time and mobilization if that fit their lives; others,
depending on the specialties they chose, would be confident of less
time on active duty beyond the weekend a month and two weeks a year of
Senior Pentagon officials and Congressional aides who have read the
legislation say its most significant, and probably most controversial,
proposals provide for longer tenure for some of the most senior
generals and admirals, raising the retirement age from the current 62
years and allowing a number of four-star positions to serve beyond one
term. For example, the chiefs of the armed services must now retire
after four years unless Congress declares war or a national
Mr. Rumsfeld already experimented with this process, asking Gen. James
Jones to depart early from his post as commandant of the Marine Corps,
a four-year job that had been the final post for the top Marine
four-star general, to serve as commander of all American and allied
forces in Europe.
Even at lower levels of the general and flag officer corps, the goal
would be to have more senior military leaders spend more than the
traditional two years in a single job.
The legislation has been written and rewritten since late last year,
and Mr. Rumsfeld hinted at some of the designs in January in a speech
to the Reserve Officers Association.
services "make a terrible mistake" by "having so many
people skip along the tops of the waves in a job and serve in it 12,
15, 18, 24 months and be gone," he said. "They spend the
first six months saying hello to everybody, the next six months trying
to learn the job and the last six months leaving. I like people to be
in a job long enough that they make mistakes, see their mistakes,
clean up their own mistakes before they go on to make mistakes
To ease the
growing numbers of senior officers whose advancements would no doubt
be slowed by longer-serving superiors, the legislation seeks to allow
any officer of one-star and above to retire with full benefits even if
he has not served the full three years set by law today.
By law, all officers "serve at the pleasure of the president,"
and can be asked to retire at any point. The legislation would ease
financial hardships of early retirement.
Mr. Chu said certain positions would be untouched by any new rules to
lengthen tours of duty, and he cited the commanders of ground
divisions, naval battle groups and air wings, whose responsibilities
are focused on readiness and war fighting and less on carrying out new
policies. However sweeping these proposed changes may be, Mr. Rumsfeld
chose not to pursue two significant proposals that had been aired
privately with some members of Congress.
One previous proposal, to consolidate a number of senior staff
positions of the Joint Staff under the defense secretary, would have
required rewriting the Goldwater-Nickles legislation that set up the
current system of the Joint Chiefs and regional combatant commanders.
The idea of merging personnel, which was viewed by some officers as an
attempt to reign in the independent analysis of the military's Joint
Staff, is not in the proposed legislation.
Also absent from the proposed legislation is a suggestion to eliminate
a number of assistant secretary of defense positions, consolidating
Mr. Rumsfeld has made no secret that he views his personnel decisions
as equally significant to changes he may bring to weapons procurement
strategic doctrine, and he has begun interviewing each candidate from
all of the four armed services for every position of one-star and
above, according to senior aides.
This involvement in the advancement of senior officers, which is far
more detailed and hands-on than previous defense secretaries, has
rankled some in the officer corps who say Mr. Rumsfeld is weeding out
the high command to preserve only like-minded officers.
In broad terms, Mr. Rumsfeld does not argue with that assessment.
"My whole life as an executive has proven to me the importance of
people," he said during the speech in January. "That's why
selecting them is so critical."
Assuring long-term Pentagon changes requires senior leaders with the
"orientation, attitude, energy and intellect to move big chunks
on their own initiative," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "If you get the
right people, those ripples go out in exactly the right way, and for a
Mr. Chu said that Pentagon analysis found more than 300,000 military
jobs that could be filled by civilians. The proposed legislation would
allow the Pentagon to "convert some of these posts that could be
civilians to civilian status," using those personnel slots
"for other new kinds of structure that the country will need in
the years ahead," he added.