Defense aims to cut office uniforms

Defense Business Practice Implementation Board Web site

Defense officials will take a closer look at ways to use more civilians in the back office and shift uniformed personnel into the role they were intended to fill: warfighting.

The armed services have 1.3 million people in uniform, about 300,000 of them overseas. A large part of the remaining million are filling roles that may be better handled by civilians in the Defense Department or civilian contractors, a retired general said today. "We are trying to force the military to justify why 320,000 to 380,000 of its uniformed members are working in non-military jobs," said Ret. Marine Maj. Gen. Arnold Punaro, a member of the Defense Business Practice Implementation Board.

Punaro outlined six specific areas:

* Defense Financing and Accounting Service.

* Defense Commissary Agency.

* Defense Child Care.

* DOD Dependents Schools.

* Real property management.

* Base operations, utilities and maintenance.

DOD officials want to move uniformed personnel out of jobs they don't consider "inherently military," an initiative comparable to the government's push to outsource jobs that aren't "inherently governmental."

The two also share similar difficulties: As government struggles to define what is governmental, Punaro said he expects each service to determine its own definition of inherently military, unless DOD establishes a standard benchmark.

Defense officials will start by finding one high-level person to lead the crusade to define what is inherently military. Dov Zakheim, the department's chief financial officer, suggested James Roche, the current secretary of the Air Force and the president's intended nominee for the job of Secretary of the Army.

A realistic goal would be to aim for changes five years from now, Punaro said.

Military officials have testified recently that the number of combat-ready and combat-support personnel continues to dwindle, despite the size of the volunteer armed forces. Yet Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said he doesn't want to increase the number of troops in the services, thus forcing the department to develop alternative methods of increasing combat strength.

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