Richard P. Godwin, the corporate executive hired to spearhead reform of Pentagon purchases, described yesterday how "active resistance" to change throughout the Defense Department led to his resignation last week.
Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, Godwin, whose job as undersecretary of defense for acquisition was created by Congress last year, said his suggestions for improved management were ignored or rejected. In response to a question, he agreed that on some matters he was fed "gobbledygook."
Godwin said he had "almost 100 percent support" from Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger. But under questioning, he conceded that Weinberger, too, had failed to take action to push through reforms.
"My decision to resign rested simply upon my judgment that the Pentagon was not prepared to move ahead vigorously with the implementation of reforms and that the institution was not prepared to change the status quo," Godwin said.
Requests for detailed spending plans were ignored by the chiefs of the armed services, directives were sent out that diluted his authority and questions were raised about the scope of his powers, Godwin told the committee. "For some proposed changes, it was considered an assault on their turf," he said.
In many cases, Godwin said, he appealed directly to Weinberger, who then intervened to resolve the disputes. But in the end, Godwin said, "If your recommendations are disregarded, the only course is to resign."
For example, Godwin said, several months ago he requested financial information about Navy aircraft to help shape spending plans. "The secretary of the Navy decided he did not think it was necessary for the undersecretary of defense for acquisition to have this information, so he refused it on the grounds that these airplanes were not part of the acquisitions system," Godwin said.
He said that on another occasion, when he had requested financial data from the Air Force secretary, he was given misleading information suggesting that the program in question was clear of problems.
"You were given a bunch of gobbledygook in the form of data from the secretary of the Air Force -- right?" asked committee staff member Tony Battista. "Right," Godwin replied.
A former executive of Bechtel Group Inc., Godwin was supposedly given sweeping powers to oversee the estimated $170 billion in annual military purchases after procurement scandals and concern about bureaucratic inefficiency.
A commission appointed by the president and headed by David Packard, a former Pentagon official and chairman of Hewlett-Packard Corp., recommended creating Godwin's position and streamlining the procurement system. Congress endorsed the panel's findings and passed legislation to implement them where necessary.
Godwin told the panel that Congress should clarify its intentions, which, he said, were "not clear" to those at the Pentagon who wanted to continue "business as usual."
Few in the military appreciate that the Packard recommendations meant that procurement oversight involves "major decisions," not just "tweaking," he said. "Everyone agrees with need for change but not in the area in which they are operating."
Godwin's testimony provoked strong criticism of the Pentagon from several committee members. Rep. Dan Daniel (D-Va.) said he had "voted for his last increase" in the defense budget until changes are made. "There are so many turf sharks and such a high level of arrogance at the Department of Defense, we will never be able to be anything but marginally successful," he said.