Thursday, November 16, 2006


Woe to those who try to make major changes in major federal agencies like the military and intelligence agencies. Those who cut red tape will find the red tape just wraps itself around your neck. Every form, rule, process, procedure and document was put in place by experts, committees, lawmakers, special interests, etc. and is guarded like Cerberus by someone's empire within the bureaucracy. This is why Rumsfeld mainly acquired the expected backlash when he set out to change the military and intelligence agencies from the Soviet era model to the post-Soviet era model. Some generals and administrators bristled mostly because Rumfeld dared to tread upon their territory and question or supersede their authority. And when mistakes are made, which will always happen in government, they found reasons in the red tape to choke him with. It is true that Rumsfeld's style was abrasive, but those who try to work with the system and not step on anyone's toes won't make any significant progress in the Federal bureaucracy within their lifetime. Rumsfeld did the dirty work needed for change, and now Gates can come in to continue without the negative baggage Rumsfeld had to take on. I used to work for the Federal government, so I know personally the bureaucracy I talk of. This is why I bear no malice to Rumsfeld.

"He drove everybody crazy with his "snowflakes" -- brief memos on subjects as petty as whether a particular reporter had arrived late for a briefing and as monumental as "are we winning the war on terror." He was into everything. If ever there was civilian control of the Pentagon it has been during the past six years. But there is a fine line between civilian control and meddling, just as there is between self-confidence and arrogance. Many senior officers felt Rumsfeld was telling them how to do their jobs and that they had to expend inordinate amounts of time responding to his "snowflakes." One of them said just yesterday that with Rumsfeld gone "all the energy that's put into satisfying his thirst of details can be put into doing work."

Rumsfeld came into office determined to "transform" the military by which he meant changing it from the old Cold War behemoth equipped and trained to fight the Soviet Union into a smaller, more agile force able to respond to unexpected threats. That unexpected threat materialized with a vengeance on 9-11, long before the military had been transformed. Transforming the military and fighting a war at the same time is a double whammy -- like trying to overhaul a car going 60 miles an hour, according to the chief of staff of the Army. Rumsfeld didn't just want to win in Iraq, he also wanted to figure out why, with more than two million men and women on active duty and in the reserves, it is so hard to keep 140,000 troops in Iraq. Why is it, he wanted to know, that the Army is stretched so thin when a full 40 per cent of the soldiers in uniform have never been to Iraq?"

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