Prepared Statement on the Defense Transformation Act for the 21st Century

U.S. Department of Defense Speeches, May 6, 2003 | Go to article overview

Prepared Statement on the Defense Transformation Act for the 21st Century


Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, for the House Government Reform Committee, Washington, DC, Tuesday, May 6, 2003.

Chairman Davis and Members of the Committee: When President Bush took office almost two and half years ago, he placed a priority on changing how America's military does business; he charged the Department of Defense to transform to meet the threats of 21st Century. When September 11th came, it only amplified the fact that, while the world had Changed dramatically, certain laws and regulations governing the Department of Defense were vestiges of an earlier, much different, much less immediate era. The American people need and deserve a transformed Defense Department, one that is poised and prepared to defend our national security in this new era, possibly the most dangerous America has ever confronted. A critical part of this transformation is the Defense Transformation Act for the 21st Century. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss with this Committee, focused as it is on reform, the Defense Department's perspective on this Act.

We have witnessed in Iraq another magnificent effort by our men and women in uniform and their coalition partners; they can claim a great achievement on behalf of freedom--for America and for Iraqis who were victims of a vicious regime. They have freed us from an enormous threat and given an entire people reason to believe that representative government is within their grasp. They performed their missions with incredible courage and skill, and we are enormously proud of them.

Along with those qualities, much of the success we witnessed came from certain transformational changes. Our unparalleled ability to conduct night operations has allowed us to virtually own the night, and the close integration of our forces has resulted in an order of magnitude change in how precise we are in finding and hitting targets from just a decade ago, to name just two dramatic examples.

And as we continue to wage the war against terrorism, it is imperative that we continually take stock of how we can further transform the Department of Defense--because when the world changed so dramatically on September 11th, it was vital that the Department of Defense change dramatically as well. As we have seen so vividly in recent days, lives depend, not just on technology, but on a culture that fosters leadership, flexibility, agility and adaptability.

Why This Legislation

To foster these qualities and bring DoD into the 21st Century, we need legislative help. One of the key areas in which we need your help is in transforming our system of personnel management so that we can gain more flexibility and agility in how we handle the more than 700,000 civilians who provide the Department such vital support--or to deal efficiently with those who don't. The ability to do so is nothing less than a national security requirement because it goes straight to how well we will be able to defend our country in the years to come.

In truth, this is neither a new nor a partisan issue. No less than three administrations have tried to fix a system that is, by most accounts, seriously broken. In an 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 jet liner, the Defense Department is still bogged down, to a great extent, in the micro-management and bureaucratic processes of the industrial age, when the world has surged ahead into the information age.

The Defense Information Systems Agency, for example, finds it difficult to recruit candidates so critical to this information age--the telecommunications, IT and professional engineering and science candidates who are also so attractive to industry--because of inflexible and time-consuming laws that govern recruiting. When industry can offer the best and brightest jobs on the spot at job fairs, we must compete for these same individuals using a hiring process that can take months. …

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