WASHINGTON, D.C. - Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White plans
to add business practices to the Army Vision's current pillars of
people, readiness and Transformation.
Just shy of two weeks into his new job, the retired Army
brigadier general and former corporate CEO made that
"on-the-record" announcement during his first meeting with
Pentagon correspondents June 12.
"I spent 11 years in corporate America with Enron
Corporation, an energy company," White said. "...It is very,
very clear to me that there is enormous potential to improve the basic
business practices of this department."
To make that improvement, the Army needs to determine what its
core responsibilities are and then outsource non-core activities to
contractors who can give the Army a better-value proposition and
improved service, he said. "We're not just going to study it -
we're going to do it," White told the reporters.
While praising the Army's successful efforts to privatize
family post housing, White gave other examples where the Army has been
slow to contract out. One Army non-core activity he asserted is
installation utilities. Congress gave permission to the Department of
Defense to privatize its gas, electric, water and sewage plants in
1997. Only one Army post, Fort Hamilton, N.Y., has turned over all its
utilities to the corporate world in the ensuing four years, he said.
"Any business that was that slow in taking advantage of an
opportunity would not be in business very long," he said. "I
see no reason whatsoever why the Army is in the energy business ...
It's a stupid business practice for the Army to be running itself that
Another Army practice White questioned is that of having two
Army staffs working at the Pentagon - one working for the secretary of
the Army and the other for the chief of staff.
"My view is that we ought to step back and say there's got
to be a better way to run this railroad - to combine these things so
that we have one integrated staff that is still under civilian control
of the military, but more efficiently uses the people we have than it
has in the past," he said. "And that corporate entity aligns
better with the Joint Staff on its side of the table and the (Office
of the Secretary of Defense) staff on its side of the table."
On the issue of the Army adopting the black beret, White said
he fully supports the chief of staff's efforts and related how his
armored cavalry infantry platoon wore them in Vietnam in 1969. He said
surviving members of his platoon will be wearing them again in August
when they meet for an 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment reunion at Fort
McNair, Washington, D.C.
"There is a long tradition, not only in our Army, but in
virtually every NATO army and a lot of other armies around the world,
that heavy forces wore black berets," White said. "Any time
you stand out on NATO parade fields, you can clearly see that."
The secretary continued that he would like to see brass plaques
on textile mills around the country that state they make berets for
the finest Army in the world. Further, he would like to send young
soldiers wearing the black beret out to those mills from time to time
so all could take pride in the Army's symbol of Transformation.
Comparing the Army's current Transformation efforts to the Army
changing after the Vietnam War, White said today's Army is starting at
a much higher readiness level with a more lethal force. A disadvantage
is that the Army today faces less certain threats than the Army of the
'70s and '80s.
"What I am demanding of the Army is that we have the same
total commitment to Transformation that we had back in '72 and '73 -
that is not optional," he said. "...If there are any
disbelievers or people that don't quite see it that way, then they
need to get on board."
Asked about his position on the need for another Congressional
Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) study, White said that he believes
there currently is too much infrastructure to support the size of
today's Army. However, he warned that the decision for another BRAC
should not be made until the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) is
complete and the services have time to determine the force structures
they need to support its findings. The QDR is expected to be complete
by mid-July, he said.
On the subject of technology, White said the Army is behind the
civilian sector in applying it to the organizational structure.
"The Army has had its same hierarchy of forces - corps,
division, brigade, battalion, company - since Napoleon," he
explained. "Now along comes information technology. The impact of
information technology in the private sector is to flatten
organizations, widen spans of control, be more horizontal, because
everyone can very easily have the same situational awareness."
The secretary said he can envision the possibility of the Army
doing away with divisions 10 to 15 years from now. Instead, he said
the Army might have brigades reporting directly to corps or through
small mobile corps command posts.
The Army has a number of testing facilities, like the National
Training Center, which White said will allow the Army to experiment
with information technology for command and control now.
White accepted the fact that his views will likely cause a lot
of people to get excited, but said that was fine by him, as long as it
also caused them to think.