John Whitley, the nominee to lead the critical Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office talked with the Senate Armed Services Committee about the future of the chief management officer position.
As Congress increases pressure to eliminate the Defense Department's chief management officer position, the nominee to head the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office supports the purpose and function of the chief management officer.
John Whitley, who is up to be the CAPE's next director, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee Aug. 4 that he would ensure the chief management officer's "functions exist somewhere" if confirmed by the Senate even if legislation passes to eliminate the role.
"I have a tremendous working relationship with the CMO. If CMO continues and I were confirmed, I would continue to work closely with them," Whitley said. "If the legislation is enacted, we could realign those functions. So to me, the most important thing if I were confirmed… is that the functions exist somewhere and are being exercised."
Whitley's comments come as the Senate and House head into conference over the 2021 defense policy bill to reconcile differing approaches in how to remove or reimagine the short-lived CMO position charged with finding cost-savings and efficiencies through the DOD enterprise.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) started the line of questioning, saying the chief management officer position "never really had an opportunity to function properly."
"Without a CMO are you going to be able to have the staff? It seems like you're over-, I mean, you've got a lot on your plate right now. And if the CMO was ever allowed to do the job they were -- we're trying to get a one-year extension on that, and I'm hoping the NDAA will give us that to show the importance, if they have a direction of what their duties are," Manchin said.
Whitley, who is currently acting in the role vacated by Robert Daigle and was previously the Army's comptroller, said there were business reform opportunities, advocating for the role in answers to advanced policy questions.
"CAPE needs to work closely with organizations such as [acquisition and sustainment], comptroller, CMO, and the military departments, to conduct any assessment," Whitley wrote.
"If confirmed, I will work closely with the CMO to identify on which systems CAPE will conduct a cost estimate. CAPE and CMO already closely collaborate and I would plan to continue that relationship, if confirmed."
Manchin mentioned that the Senate was considering an extension for the CMO role, stressing its importance to finding cost-savings in DOD's business practices, going as far as to suggest the work wouldn't get done without the role.
"It really is needed. Without that commitment, you follow me, then we're not going to get it done because there would be too much -- even Secretary Esper -- it's too much for one person. But we have to get direct flow into that to know exactly what you're expecting from the CMO and get a mission statement."
Manchin also requested Whitley, once confirmed, provide a report on what he thinks the CMO role should be.