As the Senate weighs legislation requiring the Pentagon to create the position of chief management officer, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has added the job to Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England's portfolio. But the unilateral move has not quieted the department's critics.
Gate's action "does not address the longer term needs that the Government Accountability Office and others have identified," Comptroller General David Walker told CongressDaily Thursday.
In a Sept. 18 directive, Gates expanded England's official role to include "serving as the chief management officer of the Department of Defense." The directive requires England to oversee the Pentagon's push to overhaul its business operations, through steps such as combining hundreds of separate accounting systems and improving the procurement process.
The move came as the Senate resumed consideration of the fiscal 2008 defense authorization bill, which includes language mandating the creation of a CMO.
The language also requires other bureaucratic changes, including the addition of a deputy chief management officer in the department, below England. It also would force the Army, Air Force and Navy to designate their respective undersecretaries as chief management officers.
Outside groups -- including GAO, the Defense Business Board, the Institute for Defense Analysis and the Center for Strategic and International Studies -- have in recent years issued a host of reports arguing the Pentagon needs a full-time, high-level CMO with enough time and power to push through changes in the department's financial systems, supply chain, information technology, weapons acquisition system and other areas.
The congressional auditing agency has repeatedly argued that, under the current structure, senior Pentagon officials are too busy and not on the job long enough to get the department's programs off the high-risk list.
Defense officials, including England, have said adding a management chief beneath him would create an unneeded bureaucratic layer. Although a response from the Pentagon was not available at press time, Gates' directive is consistent with the department's position that England already functions as a CMO.
-Dan Friedman, GovExec.com