Seeking Flatness

The Defense Department should move toward a “flatter, more effective, and less costly” organization with shorter chains of command and fewer flag officers if it wants to cut its staggering overhead costs, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Saturday. In a speech marking the 65th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day in Abilene, Kans., Gates said the gap between him and an action officer “may be as high as 30 layers,” compared to 17 layers just a decade ago. The Pentagon “continues to maintain a top-heavy hierarchy that more reflects 20th century headquarters superstructure than 21st century realities,” Gates said, noting that industry has “flattened and streamlined the middle and upper echelons of its organization.” Gates wants scrutiny of any offices that primarily report to or supervise other headquarters and secretariats; jobs that “could be converted to a lower grade;” and agencies with overlapping functions. (Gates speech)