TCS Daily

Competence, Conservatism, Commitment Mark Rumsfeld's Defense Team

By Ken Adelman - March 19, 2001 12:00 AM

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is now comfortably ensconced in office. His deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, was confirmed last week and had a gala "welcoming ceremony" with a full military parade last Friday. And other top appointees have been either nominated or put into the clearance process, shortly to be confirmed.

Hence the time is ideal to forecast the nature of the national command authority over the next four years.

What is "Team Rumsfeld" like? How will it work? And how well will it do?

Without a doubt, the Pentagon will be a powerhouse -- probably the most effective department of the Bush administration and surely, to those of us deeply concerned with national security, the most important.

As to the "corporate culture" of Defense, here are my conclusions based on my having worked for Don Rumsfeld three times (beginning in 1970, and in the Pentagon as his assistant), and having been a close friend and colleague of Ambassador Wolfowitz' for the past 20-plus years.

First, Team Rumsfeld will be experienced and competent. Secretary Rumsfeld emphasized on Friday that he considered himself a veteran -- this being his second Pentagon tour -- before realizing that it was the third tour for Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz. The other top jobs will likewise be filled by security experts, most of whom also served before in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Nearly all, when out of office, were part of the larger defense establishment. Virtually no positions are going to political operatives. Hence their knowledge and networks are extensive on national security issues.

There will be no on-the-job training, no learning curve as is common in most departments at the onset of any administration. From day one, this team will operate as professionals. With Rumsfeld and the secretaries of the Army, Air Force, and Navy generally from the corporate world, the Pentagon management will be tight and crisp. Endless debates over policy and procurement, as practiced in the Clinton administration under its first defense secretary, Les Aspin, will not happen. Similarly, no peripheral issues like "gays in the military" will soak up executive time and effort, and sap outside support and confidence.

Secondly, Team Rumsfeld will be conservative. Even as a congressman for eight years from Chicago's largely liberal district near north shore, Rumsfeld was conservative. As head of the liberal Office of Economic Opportunity (the "war on poverty") beginning in 1969, Rumsfeld surrounded himself with such conservatives as his chosen Special Assistant Dick Cheney and his Director of Operations Frank Carlucci.

And Rumsfeld brought a conservative perspective to all other subsequent, jobs. When the Ford administration was rushing headlong into a SALT II Treaty before the 1976 campaign, Rumsfeld faced off with the seemingly-omnipotent Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to stop any trade-away of U.S. cruise missiles, and thus to squash the treaty. This he did for sound conservative reasons. And, thank goodness, as cruise missiles have since become the weapon of choice of Presidents Reagan, Bush and even Clinton.

Likewise Paul Wolfowitz, though an academic by training and inclination (he just left as dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced and International Studies), has been a staunch conservative throughout his life. Even while at the State Department in the normally squishy job of director of policy planning, he proved himself to be the most conservative of advisors.

So, while the Colin Powell State Department will be marked by careerism, the Rumsfeld Pentagon will be marked by conservatism.

Third, Team Rumsfeld will be decentralized on most acquisition issues. While Rumsfeld will make the major procurement decisions, the three service secretaries will be empowered as never (if ever) before. Rather than ceremonial positions, these will be powerful posts. Service rivalries will be mitigated by an imposed cohesion among the three, who will meet as an inter-service acquisition board acting with, and under, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld. More details cannot be given now -- but watch for inventive appointments and procedures here.

Which leads to our fourth and final prediction -- Team Rumsfeld will be innovative. Those re-entering the Pentagon do so to make a difference, rather than to make a career. Most, like Rumsfeld, come at the end of wildly successful lives both in and out of government. They joined the administration not to become something important, but to do things important.

So watch for real innovations and dramatic changes. As to what type and when, stay tuned to Defense Central.


TCS Daily Archives