DOD board: Shift soldiers out of the office

Defense Business Practice Implementation Board Web site

The Defense Department is taking a closer look at what it considers to be its core competencies in an effort to shift uniformed personnel to their intended warfighting roles.

The armed services have 1.3 million people in uniform, about 300,000 of whom are deployed overseas. A large portion of the remaining 1 million, however, are filling roles that DOD civilian employees or contractors might handle better, said retired Marine Maj. Gen. Arnold Punaro, a member of the Defense Business Practice Implementation Board, during a public board meeting July 30.

The effort parallels the Bush administration's push to outsource jobs that are not inherently governmental. DOD officials are looking to move uniformed personnel out of jobs not regarded as inherently military.

But on the same note, Punaro said he expects each service to determine for itself what is inherently military, unless the Pentagon establishes a standard definition.

"We are trying to force the military to justify why 320,000 to 380,000 of its uniformed members are working in nonmilitary jobs," Punaro said.

Tom Modly, executive director of the board, said the services are traditionally not good at defining core competencies. The services don't want to label something as noncore for fear of losing it to an outside source or losing funding for that job, he said.

"When we asked each of the services to define what was core for them, a thousand flowers bloomed," he said.

David Chu, undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness, said that having the flexibility to extract uniformed personnel from jobs in which they never should have been placed will be vital to continuing the department's transformation efforts.

DOD is seeking flexibility through the Defense Transformation for the 21st Century Act, which was sent to Congress in April and remains in committee. Meanwhile, appointing a leader for the effort to determine core competencies for military personnel is the top priority, said David Walker, U.S. comptroller general.

"We need to develop institutional criteria using a set of established factors to determine what is inherently governmental and what is inherently military," he said. "Otherwise, [the services] will all come up with their own."

Six areas that Punaro listed as likely to free uniformed personnel are:

* Defense Finance and Accounting Service.

* Defense Commissary Agency.

* Child care.

* DOD dependent schools.

* Real property management.

* Base operations, utilities and maintenance.

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