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—John A. Tirpak

Defense Secretary James Mattis launched Pentagon overhauls on two fronts with a brace of Feb. 17 memos to all services and DOD agencies.

The first was Mattis’ order to the department to start “implementation” of Congress’ plan to abolish the position of Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, as directed by the Fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. Under the NDAA, the Pentagon will establish two jobs in place of the old one: an Undersecretary for Acquisition and Support, and an Undersecretary for Research and Engineering.  

Mattis’ memo, originally obtained by Politico Pro, directs the DOD to get going realigning all the old AT&L offices and positions under the two new jobs, and he wants the results quickly (answers are due to him by Feb. 27, to meet a congressional deadline of March 1.)

He also wants options for creating both a “Chief Innovation Officer” and a “Chief Management Officer.” The latter could be yet another Undersecretary position, he said, acknowledging that such an approach “will require a change to existing law.”

Mattis’ memo also requested a plan for a “more optimized organizational structure and process” to support information management and cyber operations.

The second memo directed all DOD departments and agencies to look at consolidating separate service functions that aren’t necessarily related to their fighting domains. These include, “human resource management, financial management, … real property management, acquisition and contract management, logistics and supply chain management, healthcare management, base services (including retail operations, base lodging, and Morale, Welfare and Recreation [MWR] services), and cyber and information technology management.”

The “explicit goal” of these reviews will be to identify “business services and tasks that no longer merit individual service department approaches.” Mattis said the services do and must have “unique competencies” in their domains, but “we have sometimes allowed our focus on service uniqueness to extend into business operations, leading to duplication of effort and costs we can no longer afford.”

Mattis wants answers by the end of this month and fully fleshed-out plans “for consideration in the FY 2019 program cycle.”

Such consolidation has previously been fraught with peril for some services, notably the Air Force. With the creation of the “Joint Base” format a few years ago, the Air Force, with the best hospitals, wound up providing medical care to other services in some locations, without a commensurate increase in funding, compelling the service to draw on other accounts to meet the need.