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April 27, 2021

Time to Chart a New Course for Pentagon Management, Inhofe Says

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), lead Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), today delivered opening remarks at a SASC hearing on management challenges and opportunities at the Department of Defense

Witnesses included: the Honorable Peter Levine, former Deputy Chief Management Officer, Department of Defense, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Defense Analyses; Dr. Adam Grant, Saul P. Steinberg Professor of Management, Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania; and Ms. Elizabeth Field, Director, Defense Capabilities and Management, Government Accountability Office.

As Prepared for Delivery:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for calling today’s hearing and I join you in welcoming our witnesses. 

Over the past few years, this Committee’s top priority has been ensuring we implement the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS). 

Reforming the Department of Defense remains the third pillar of the NDS. And the bipartisan NDS Commission told us that the Pentagon doesn’t possess the analytical capacity and capability to manage its daily tasks, let alone the aggressive innovation and reform demanded by the NDS.  

There are some who believe that only by cutting the Department of Defense (DOD) can we achieve more efficient outcomes. I don’t believe that. 

We spent the first half of the past decade cutting the budget in real terms—$400 billion—and telling the Department to do “more with less.” 

Under sequestration, both Congress and successive administrations pushed for meat-cleaver approaches to management. 

We did across-the-board reductions in civilians and headquarters staffs. We gave entire organizations with DOD flat-rate cuts to manage the budget. We punished people for taking risk and failing. We required thousands of reports a year. More and more, all the time—with fewer people and less funding.  

Ask any DOD worker — uniformed, civilian, contractor — who's worked for the department over the past decade, and they will vouch for this.

We eroded our human capital in every area. The DOD is not an attractive place for smart, talented young people to go and solve tough problems. Our witnesses from Google and Microsoft and industry told us that a couple of months ago.

I still happen to think we have the finest service members and federal civilians in the world, even after what we did under sequestration.  

But they need the right management structure, and the time and the space created by sufficient resourcing, to innovate and get to more efficient ways of doing business. 

So, I think we can increase the budget and improve our management. In fact, I think it’s a necessity to implement the 2018 NDS. We can walk and chew gum. 

We made some great strides in recent years alongside more adequate budgets. For example, we made more progress in the audit over the past three years than in the three decades before that. 

We’ve seen an explosion in the department’s interest in using data to making better decisions. The Pentagon is applying that to problems from workforce issues to weapons acquisition.

And we saw improvements in cross-functional teams and new ways of prioritizing budgets, though we still have a long way to go.

So, thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing. It’s been a dark decade for the Pentagon. I am hopeful our witnesses can give us some insight into how to chart a new course for Pentagon management, because we badly need it.  

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