DEFENSE REFORM

SECDEF Don Rumsfeld makes the case for the Defense Transformation Act in a WaPo op-ed.

While I agree with all of the stated goals and trust his judgment on these things, I am amused by the opening line:

Congress will soon decide whether the Department of Defense is to join the rest of the world — and many newly revamped parts of the federal government, such as the Department of Homeland Security — in entering the 21st century.

Given the amazing display put on during the combat phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom, it is rather hard to argue that the US military isn’t a 21st century force–let alone that it lags behind the rest of the world or any other branch of the US government.

That hyperbole aside, the need for bureaucratic reform is longstanding:

Today it takes, on average, five months to hire a federal employee, 18 months to fire one and collective bargaining with more than 1,300 separate union locals to implement critical reforms. These negotiations can take years to accomplish.

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The new National Security Personnel System the president has proposed would reduce red tape, provide the hiring flexibility necessary to attract the best candidates quickly and competitively, and offer all employees a performance-based promotion system that rewards excellence rather than longevity. Instead of a bargaining process that requires negotiations with more than 1,300 separate local units, the new system would work with a half-dozen or more national unions, which would retain and protect all the rights of union workers but do so through a more efficient and reasonable process that would not take years to navigate.

Having once tried to crack the archane federal hiring process, I can attest to the idiocy of it. This is especially true for slightly higher level positions, say GS-11 and higher. One has to prepare a resume on the order of 20 pages, listing in minute detail the job functions for each position on has had over the years, so that a personnel clerk with no knowledge whatsoever of the job being hired for can arbitrarily score it to cull the top candidates. The system is also heavily biased to promote people already in it rather than hire better qualified outside candidates. This is even true for positions in intelligence and national security where it has long been obvious that the current hiring system produces the wrong skill sets.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.