By MARCUS WEISGERBER
ANKARA — US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he plans to forge ahead with bureaucratic Pentagon reform initiatives despite the uptick of global threats and military activities in recent months.
There will be a “continued focus on the reform measures that we have undertaken” — including changes within acquisition, military healthcare and the nuclear enterprise — in the months ahead, Hagel said.
“There are probably another half-dozen reforms that we will continue to put high priorities on,” Hagel said Monday during a briefing with reporters at the tail end of a weeklong trip to Europe.
When Hagel took over as defense secretary in late February 2013, experts saw him as the person who would rein in military spending following more than a decade at war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Last year, he set forth reform initiatives, including reducing the sizes of the headquarters. He has proposed cuts to the size of the military while making investments in new, high-end weapons.
But since then, Russian forces have invaded parts of Ukraine and the US military is gearing up for a long fight against Islamic State militants, which have spread across parts of Iraq and Syria.
“As many of these more immediate threats that face our country and the world … must be a priority, that said, we also have other responsibilities,” Hagel said.
Filling key DoD undersecretary and director positions — many of which have been vacant for months — with individuals who will be responsible for carrying out these reform plans will help advance these initiatives.
“I will personally be involved in each one of them as we start to work through some of the responsibilities that we’re giving our own senior members of our leadership,” he said. “I think we can do more with the kind of talent we have in our management at the Pentagon.”
Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, who came to the Pentagon in May, will be at the center of many of these reform projects, Hagel said.
Work “is going to be a tremendously important asset to the Pentagon on this” and “spearhead most of the reforms,” Hagel said.
The deputy secretary is leading an effort to determine what types of new technologies could help the US military outperform adversaries of the future.
“Given the current budget environment, innovation will be critical,” Hagel said on Sept. 3 during a speech at a defense industry conference in Newport, R.I.
Frank Kendall, the Pentagon acquisition chief, is standing up a Long-Range Research & Development Planning Program “aimed at assuring our technological edge through the next several decades,” Hagel said last week.
Kendall has been rolling out numerous acquisition improvement projects in recent years and is working with Congress in major procurement reform efforts.