Letter to The Honorable Jim Inhofe, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, The Honorable Jack Reed, Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, The Honorable Adam Smith, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee & The Honorable Mac Thornberry, Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee - Manchin, Young, Ernst, Vela, Palmer Lead Members in Calling On NDAA Conferees to Save Chief Management Officer, Uphold Accountability At DOD
Dear Chairmen Inhofe and Smith, Ranking Members Reed and Thornberry, and Conferees:
As you begin conference negotiations on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 National Defense
Authorization Act (NDAA), we write to urge the preservation of the Chief Management Officer
(CMO) position, which Section 901 of the House-passed bill and Section 911 of the Senatepassed bill seek to prematurely terminate. Despite these provisions, the CMO has broad
bipartisan and bicameral support.
The CMO position has the vital task of reforming the Department of Defense (DoD) to improve
performance and increase accountability, key tenets of the National Defense Strategy (NDS). As
Members of Congress we all have a responsibility to the American taxpayers to work to achieve
the objectives of the NDS as efficiently as possible, and the CMO position is essential to
accomplishing that goal.
In 2018, more than fifteen years after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) initially
recommended the establishment of a standalone CMO position, the Fiscal Year 2017 National
Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) finally authorized the creation of a CMO as third-incommand at DoD to ensure that they would have requisite resources to do their job. Congress
approved this structure because all previous efforts undertaken by DoD had failed to achieve the
transformational business reform necessary to improve readiness and our ability to respond to
rapidly developing threats. Alarmingly, both the House and Senate-passed FY21 NDAA bills
would abruptly terminate the CMO position and transfer those responsibilities back to the
Deputy Secretary of Defense. We already tried that in 2007. It did not work.
The fundamental problem plaguing the CMO position is a lack of authority and resources. Rather
than further eroding the limited authority that currently exists, we should come together to
demonstrate the broad, bipartisan support that exists for this important position. Congress should
reaffirm our mandate for cost savings from the DoD by requiring the Secretary of Defense to
issue an official charter for the position of CMO to codify that position's authority within the
hierarchy of the Department. The DoD has already concurred with this recommendation. Let us
come together -- Democrats and Republicans -- to give DoD the resources it needs to get the job
Our current CMO, Lisa Hershman, was only confirmed to the position by the Senate on
December 19, 2019. The initial 2005 GAO study that recommended the establishment of this
position recommended a lengthy tenure of 5-7 years. This period of time would allow the CMO
to overcome the learning curve of entering the DoD from the outside, have multiple budget
cycles to correct mistakes and make systemic reforms, as well as bridge presidential terms to
reduce the influence of politics on the position. Let us at least give Ms. Hershman a fighting
chance, and come together to adopt the changes needed to make this position work. The U.S.
taxpayers that we represent deserve that.
The retention of the CMO position not only has bipartisan support in both the House and Senate,
it is endorsed by outside organizations such as the Heritage Foundation, FreedomWorks, Citizens
Against Government Waste, and the Center for American Progress. We commend you on your
leadership and commitment to our Servicemembers, and we look forward to working with you to
protect and preserve the CMO position within DoD to better support our men and women in
uniform and increase our ability to respond effectively to rapidly developing threats.