A task force made up of familiar names from both parties and the Pentagon was launched Wednesday to study the Pentagon’s personnel policy and recommend reforms. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, former Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.), retired Marine Corps Gen. James Jones, and Blue Star Families CEO Kathy Roth-Douquet will co-chair the the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Task Force on Defense Personnel. Speaking during a kick-off event in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Panetta said the reform is needed because the combination of budget uncertainty and the growing number of threats abroad is straining the force. “I don’t think in the 50 years that I’ve been in public life that I’ve seen as many flashpoints in the world that we have to confront,” Panetta said. “It is absolutely incumbent that the United States provides strong leadership when it comes to that kind of world we’re confronting. And in order to provide strong leadership, you need to have strong military power.”
Roth-Douquet noted Blue Star Families surveys show the willingness of military members to recommend service to their children has dropped precipitously, from 80 percent at the end of the Cold War to a recent 47 percent. “[The drop] is not because of the nature of the service itself,” Roth-Douquet said. “The mission is still very compelling. It’s because of the barriers to living the kinds of lifestyles that make our families feel safe.” Personnel reforms, like making it easier for military spouses to work, she said, can solve the problem. But Jones said the proposed reforms would not be “a budget drill” or “a cost-cutting exercise on the backs of retirees or Active Duty forces.” Evaluating ways to make the Pentagon more efficient, the DOD’s personnel policies, and the tooth-to-tail ratio will all be on the table, he said. “This is serious work, and I think that there’s an awful lot that we can do to bring innovative ways of looking at things a little differently and making them more efficient,” he said.