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Roles and Missions

Management has not adapted the roles and missions of the major organizational components to changing conditions.

Organizations throughout DOD have extremely detailed statements of roles and missions. But close examination showed many of these organizations do not function the way their statements say they should. Organizations have taken on different roles and missions for a number of reasons: because they were told to make the change; because a subordinate organization did not perform; because external pressure forced the most expedient change to be made; or because functions were consolidated, and it seemed there was no other central place for the new organization.

OSD itself is an organization which would insist it has a well-defined role and mission. It seems clear that the OSD organization should set long-term objectives for DOD, develop policy, coordinate the activities of the services, establish overall priorities for projects among the services, and follow up to ensure that policies are executed and missions accomplished. Yet we found widespread feelings that OSD interfered with the service organizations by micromanaging their businesses, and that OSD was not performing the function that subordinate units needed the most: setting long-range objectives and leading the way, consistent with the limitations imposed by the political process.

Interviews with former Chairmen of the JCS revealed a major common thought: warfare has changed dramatically in the past 25 years. We will never be able to fight again as we did in World War II; yet we have made few adaptations to the warfare of the future by changing the roles of the services or by redefining the interfaces between them.

We found people expressing a number of reasons why they thought roles and missions had grown fuzzy. They felt that neither Congress nor the services ever really faced up to the existence of OSD at its inception. The most noticeable evidence of this was that many staff functions which were placed in OSD were never 'completely eliminated from the staffs of the Service Secretaries. Over the years, OSD's role was perceived to have been altered dramatically under some Secretaries. Roles also grew unclear because emphasis was on the political, the expedient, the doable. People told us, "We really shouldn't have given them that job to do. It was doomed to be ineffective, but we had to do something. We did what we could do, not necessarily what was best."

This lack of clarity naturally created problems in the organization. The area of turf battles was the single topic discussed by every person we interviewed. Obviously, when roles and interfaces are not clear in an organization, it invites and even encourages turf battles. In the longer term, the issues which cause these struggles for identity lead to new organizations to counteract or to watch the "offending" organization.


DOD top management should jointly define for each of the major organizational components in DOD the ideal role and mission which would enable iť to perform best its share of the total mission in the future.

DOD management should give particular emphasis in its role review to the following topics:

The proper division of roles among OSD, the Service Secretariats, and the staffs of the Service Chiefs -- within these staffs, there are many firmly entrenched organizations performing similar functions. We recommend that each function be consolidated to the greatest practical extent, and then be placed where it will be performed best. We also recommend that the function and the people performing the function be removed from the other organizations.



Centralization vs. decentralization
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The proper role of the JCS -- to improve the
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Management of the acquisition of new weapons systems we have recommended that acquisition functions be separated from the research and engineering functions to put additional emphasis on the execution phases of the acquisition process. See the prior chapter and Issue OSD-23 for a more detailed analysis of this recommendation.

DOD management should work with subordinate management to develop the ideal roles and missions for its units, following redefinition of major component roles above.

Personal Accountability

Management does not clearly delegate authority along with responsibility.

We interviewed many managers who exhibited little keen sense of responsibility, who voiced in different ways a sense of futility about their jobs, and who felt they could not really do anything to influence the course of actions. They felt a remoteness from the action and a concern that good performance was not really recognized and rewarded.

As we probed deeper, we found a widespread belief that all authority rested somewhere up at the top of the organization and that individuals could not really decide anything by themselves. There appeared to be a perception at the working levels that the top of the organization did not really trust or rely on them. There seemed to be a pervasive feeling that if an individual manager stuck out his or her neck to make a tough decision, the personal risks were so high as to outweigh the potential benefits.

We developed a feeling that the system was at fault more than the people themselves, and felt that the attitudes we found need more probing.

We found several underlying causes for these common feelings of impotence. A manager in DOD really understands that his or her decisions are made in a goldfish bowl. Congress, the press and the public are perceived to pounce on the slightest move a person makes which would set him or her apart from the pack.

The use of committee's throughout DOD serves to confuse and separate authority and responsibility. Early in 1981, there was an intensive campaign to eliminate or consolidate committees. DOD eliminated 187 committees, or 30 percent of those in existence. But 437 committees remain, 153 of them in OSD 85 of these in Research and Engineering, 26 in Health Affairs, and 24 in Manpower, Reserve Affairs and Logistics. In addition, there are scores of groups which are not called committees, but which function in a similar manner,

such as task forces and study groups.

One high-ranking OSD official told us, "Committees result in consolidating the opposition and in generating the lowest common denominator actions and recommendations. They are used as convenient stalling mechanisms. They are sieves, and by the time the information reaches the Secretary, only the pap remains."

The frequent investigations by outside groups further serve to heighten a manager's feelings that he or she is not trusted. A DOD manager is the target of outside investigations the General Accounting Office (GAO) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) continually, and periodically, from investigations such as ours.

Further, there were strong feelings that the reward system did not really recognize individual initiative and tough decision-making. Managers felt they would do much better to fit in and survive than to excel and stand out. Clearly, the reward system is not totally helpful. It tracks seniority. Lower and middle managers are probably overpaid for what they really do, and top managers are underpaid, by statutory limitation, compared to their private sector counterparts.

Another negative impact of the reward system in the broadest view concerned self-policing by managers. If they "blow the whistle" - that is, if they muster the courage to say, "My program should be slowed or stopped." they run a major risk of damaging their careers. Thus the system motivates them to continue until someone else shuts them down, which does not often happen.

These feelings of lack of personal accountability start a chain reaction that ultimately has a profound negative effect on the entire organization. First, managers begin to delegate their responsibility back up to where they perceive the real authority is. Then, the upper levels of the organization become overloaded. They respond quite naturally by adding deputies and assistants. When this process does not totally solve the problem, they begin adding layers to the organization, and this diffuses authority and responsibility even further.

This is in direct contrast to private sector experience which has clearly demonstrated that the effectiveness of a large, complex organization improves when authority is delegated down into the organization along with responsibility. Decisions then are made by those with either the most pertinent knowledge of the situation or with the highest stake in the outcome of the decision.


For a number of reasons Government, and DOD in particular, does not delegate authority well. The impact of holding authority at the top of the organization of creating the perception of holding authority is to weaken the entire organization. The lower not really create and innovate: they respond to the hierarchy rather than propose and initiate; they pass the buck upward to avoid risks, or do what they think the boss wants. This results in tremendous overloads at the top of the organization.

The one-on-one structure of the Secretary and Deputy Secretary simply does not offer any relief for this overload. This is why, in the previous chapter, we recommended creation of a Defense Executive office to strengthen the Secretary's ability to coordinate operations, reduce his span of control, and provide a crisp, clean structure which would make delegation of authority easier.

Beyond the Secretary's immediate office there are delegation problems well down into the organization. Each level needs to examine itself very carefully and develop ways to delegate more effectively.


DOD top management should develop a program to delegate specific authority for actions down into the organization along with responsibility.

DOD top management should move to take decision-making authority out of the hands of committees, to assign specific authority to the single individuals who should make these decisions, and to eliminate any committee not specifically needed for communication.

DOD management should ensure that promotion and other appropriate rewards go to those managers who set and achieve challenging objectives.

Management Focus

Management focuses on activities instead of results, the short term versus the long term, and the expedient rather than the ideal.

While management by objectives has proven itself effective throughout the private sector, management by activity is firmly entrenched in Government, and DOD is no

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