Is That Paper Necessary?

By Alphin, H. E. | Army, November 2007 | Go to article overview

Is That Paper Necessary?


Alphin, H. E., Army


50 Years Ago in ARMY

Paperwork and nonessential administration are not only expensive, but they also reduce our fighting effectiveness. We expend millions of precious man-hours in preparing, processing, reading and filing papers. This appalling waste is inexcusable during peacetime, but more deplorable in wartime when every man's effort is vital to victory. If we do not streamline admiriistration now, we cannot expect to do so in the thick of an emergency. Our administrative burden is not confined to personnel matters or adjutant general activities, but embraces all staffs, branches, services and command echelons. A large part of the paper empire, from company level up, concerns supply, training, communications, procurement, maintenance, transportation, storage and distribution.

Few of us realize that the average field army has about 48,000 paper shufflers who use about 18.5 percent of its vehicles, 41 percent of its housing and 14 percent of its tonnage. We can do without this mountain of paper and accompanying actions. While some paperwork is essential for administrative effectiveness, much of it is a millstone around our necks.

Many factors brought about this condition. Various reports, forms and summaries are retained because they are nice to have, or are held in file just in case someone might call for them. Sometimes a considerable volume of nonessential paperwork is maintained by an overzealous empire-builder in an attempt to justify his position.

Our primary concern, then, is to reduce the size of this ever-growing colossus. The solution is not an easy one. It would be simple for the secretary of the Army to publish an order discontinuing certain procedures, reports, forms, regulations and certificates. Our system is so complex, however, that each directive or form must be evaluated for its essentiality. Every person, from company clerk to Army Chief of Staff, can help to chase paper or cut red tape.

We must ask ourselves if this paper or administrative action is really necessary. Nonessential records must be destroyed instead of being initialed and filed, and we must recommend elimination of any nonessential action required by higher headquarters.

Here are some actions that should reduce the paper burden. Publish or prepare only forms and reports that are positively essential. Delegate responsibility for control and corrective action without requiring funneling at each unit level. File only that needed material which will facilitate search by using a smaller number of expensive cabinets and saving thousands of man-hours. If it isn't required, burn it. Eliminate letters involving transmittal, receipt acknowledged, reports of corrective action and the like. Maintain only needed publications. More than 10,000 persons are posting complete sets of Army regulations when only a few directives are really needed. …

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