WASHINGTON ― The House Armed Services Committee has approved a plan for the elimination of the Pentagon’s chief management officer, which was created three years ago to spearhead reforms within the department.
Under the proposal, the defense secretary would decide how the No. 3 civilian job is replaced.
The panel approved Ranking Member Mac Thornberry’s amendment during its markup of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday. It was approved by an unanimous voice vote as part of a package of amendments.
“I have come to the conclusion that Congress is largely responsible for making this an impossible job, and we need to figure out something different,” Thornberry, of Texas, said on a conference call with reporters. The matter wasn’t discussed at the markup.
Under the HASC-approved plan, the defense secretary would transfer the duties of the CMO to an official he selects, so long as that person was not the chief management officer before that date. The Secretary would have to act within 30 days of the NDAA’s enactment.
The House plan sets up a conflict with the Senate Armed Services Committee-approved plan, which would mandate the CMO office be broken up no later than Sept. 30, 2022. That bill, under floor consideration this week, is expected to reconciled with the HASC bill after it passes the House.
The Senate plan would transfer the majority of authorities to the deputy defense secretary, who would have a new, subordinate performance improvement officer to pick up some of the CMO’s duties.
A Defense Business Board task force formed to examine the position concluded it was “mostly ineffective” at taming the department’s bureaucracy and urged that it be scrapped. The board offered three options to replace it and a warning that the budget of Pentagon support functions is getting in the way of core war fighting functions as DoD competes with a rising China.
In recent weeks, CMO Lisa Hershman has defended the CMO position and said that under her watch, DoD successfully identified $5.7 billion to be reallocated from current support agencies towards new priorities such as hypersonic weapons and artificial intelligence.
Joe Gould is senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.