The Senate Armed Services Committee approved by voice vote Tuesday, and sent to the floor for quick action, the nomination of John H. "Jay" Gibson II as the Pentagon's first "chief management officer [CMO]" with a mandate to shake up the bureaucracy.
"This goes to the fundamental restructuring of the department," Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told defense reporters last month in anticipation of the confirmation of Gibson, a former assistant secretary of the Air Force and former chief executive of XCOR Aerospace.
"Congress has written in the law many, many times that we need to have a chief management officer," Shanahan said, and "a good portion of Jay's responsibility is going to help us transition organizationally and technically."
Under a re-organization plan approved last August, the new post of CMO will have major responsibilities in the areas of logistics and supply; real property; community services; human resources; health care; and technology systems.
Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, said he expects Gibson will get pushback in all those areas from the entrenched bureaucracy.
"You'll probably hear screaming and yelling" because of the belief among some career officials that "change is bad," Shanahan said.
However, "if you're going to have a more performance-driven operation, you have to unwind the bureaucracy and reorganize," he said.
Gibson is also expected to have major input in how the Pentagon overhauls the process by which the military buys and develops weapons when the split of the DoD's Office of Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L) takes place next month.
Under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2018, which is still bottled up over Congress' failure to reach a budget deal, AT&L is slated to be broken up in February to create a new undersecretary of defense for research and engineering (R&E)) and a new undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment (A&S).
In the lead-up to passage of the NDAA, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, both argued that splitting AT&L is vital to streamlining the cumbersome process of getting new weapons and technology into the hands of warfighters.
Shanahan said he expects Gibson to make changes in how the DoD operates that could not be undone by future administrations.
"We want to make sure that with the stroke of a pen or a few clicks of the keyboard, we can't undo progress," he said. "When you think about enduring change, you have to wire or alter the work so that you don't regress. That's the hard part about big bureaucracy -- is making enduring change."
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.