Nowhere does the politician-technocrat's fixation with reorganizing the bureaucracy look sillier than at the Pentagon, Defense recently completed a Harold Brown-ordered economy movement that resulted in almost no economy and even less movement.
On paper the reshuffle of headquarters operations is an unqualified success. New organization charts have been drawn, new agency titles created and commands have disappeared while others have consolidated. It is wonderful except that, for all the paper-shuffling and body-movement, not much change.
It that respect the reorganization is more or less typical of what happens when a new team takes over a government agency. It is given carte blanche to "improve" it - which often means destroying symbols left by the last batch of reorganizers to be replaced by new symbols.
Last year, Brown, the secretary of Defense> ordered changes in his top headquarters staff. In effect the master plan called for a transfer of Washington operations to the filed, and a reduction of between 20 percent and 25 percent in jobs. The ordinary person would think this meant some stuff would be moved out of Washington, and some people laid off or retired early.Wrong.
What happened is that Washington functions were transferred - on paper - to field units. But nobody moved and of the 2,900 positions abolished by the reorganization, only about 60 workers actually left the payroll. Whether any should have left is questionable, but the fact is the major job-cutback wasn't much.
The one thing Defense managed to do was to make sure that the reorganization was never called a reorganization. Instead it was labled an internal management realignment." The purpose of th semantic gamesmanship was to skirt President Carter's promise taht no federal worker would be fired, downgraded or otherwise "hurt" by reorganization. By calling the reorganization something else, DOD managed to wiggle out of that job protection caluse in the president's reorganization insurance package.
This week the General Accounting Office completed a study it had made of the Defense headquarters staff reductions. It concluded that despite some repackaging and paper transfers, very little changed at the Pentagon.
GAO's report on the realignment reorganization said: "Actions completed at the time of our review showed that the headquarters staff reductions were being achieved maninly by transferring functions, positions positions and people to other organizations. Although Office of the Secretary of Defense, Army, and Navy had reduced the number of positions by about 2,900, only 62 employes had been removed from Defense's payroll through retirement, resignation and involuntary separation. The Air Force had not carried out his plans."
The congressional auditors said that the plans prepared by Defense for the reduction were "comprehehsive," but said they didn't "identify the economies to be achieved. GAO could not determine whether these transfers had any adverse impact, primarily because few functional changes or physical relocations were involved. Most transferred functions, positions and personnel remained in the National Capital region."
Finally, GAO made an interesting discovery in its study of the streamlining, revamping and realignment. Not only did the action not save any money that GAO could find, it resulted in most of the Army, Navy and Defense units asking for more people.
"Since the reductions have been made, most Defense components studied have requested more personnel to carry out new functions which have been added." A few more economy moves like that and we will need a tax increase.
A couple of obvious questions come to mind from the Defense "streamlining." Among them: was it necessay? If the answer is 'yes,' then why were so few people eliminated, and why were the transfers from Washington to the field made only on paper? If the answer is "no," the question is why? to just about everything.