By David H. Hackworth
31 December 1996


A Top Secret document was recently slipped to me. It's supposedly hot off the desk of the next Secretary of Defense. Since Bill Cohen is a rarity -- a politician with uncommon moral courage with a track record of tackling tough problems, a guy who has never been shy about making changes -- maybe it's authentic. Maybe, just maybe, he'll be the guy to cause serious Pentagon reform.


1) Fire Joint Chiefs boss John Shalikashvili. Replace him with a proven war-fighter. Short list of qualified candidates: USAF John Boyd; USA Bill Carpenter; USN Snuffy Smith; USMC Jim Jones.

2) Cut ninety percent of the dozens of assistant defense secretaries on staff.

3) Abolish all Service secretaries positions.

4) Direct the Services to can all of the Perfumed Princes who now make up seventy percent of the senior leadership. In the future, only war-fighters and truth-tellers will get stars.

5) Cut the officers' corps by 40 percent. Use the personnel spaces saved to beef up fighting units. Right now there are more staff officers and blubber than trigger pullers.

6) Merge the three Service academies and create a new outfit : The American Defense University, a graduate school for select officers. Then get rid of all the war colleges that are just jobs programs or holding pens for young and old colonels.

7) Put out the word that the only way anyone will be commissioned is after they've served three years enlisted service with a combat unit. Then candidates will go to a one year Ranger school like OCS. Only the best will survive. Only the best will lead our young people.

8) Stop the insane program where to be promoted officers have to scurry through a sleazy maze to get their tickets punched.

9) Kill the graduate program which requires officers to get masters degrees in self-serving nonsense stuff. Let them get their advanced degrees in Infantry, Armor, Artillery, Fighter Wings or aboard combat ships.

10) Make command a career field, and stop the sick system of trying to make every NCO and officer a jack of all trades and a potential flag officer.

11) Move the Pentagon to Iowa, and cut the staff by 70 percent.

12) Merge the Army and Marine Corps and disband the Air Force, returning their functions to the ground forces and the Navy.

13) Throw out the unworkable two-war strategy where the US must be able to fight two Desert Storms simultaneously, and develop a streamlined force that's ready for all the s--- that will be coming down in the 21st Century.

14) Get rid of the extraneous flagpoles. There are too damn many headquarters. Each has a flagpole, and I never saw a flagpole shoot a cannonball. For openers, cut by fifty percent.

15) Direct that: a) No one buck sergeant or below can be married; b) Any single women that gets pregnant will be discharged; c) No marriage between serving personnel; d) All serving men and women must abide by the same standard -- no more gender bending.

16) Study if we have gone too far with women in the military. Should we look at the Israeli approach?

17) Kill political correctness. I don't want "Yes Sir", "Suck Ass-types." I want people to challenge every damn decision that comes from higher up, beginning with mine.

18) Throw out the evaluation system that makes too many leaders lap dogs. Have one report : "WOULD YOU WANT YOUR SON TO SERVE IN THIS GUY'S OUTFIT IN COMBAT?"

19) Stop buying gold-plated gear; bust up the big defense contractors who have created the defense corporate welfare state; and make gear for the Grunts number one priority.

20) Tell the Prez I'm going to fight like a lion when he and his Do Gooders try to stick our nose into brawls which have nothing to do with defending America.

21) Make a new list when these items are on track. I've just begun to clean up this redundant outfit.

22) Oh... Assign a squad of Special Operations type to guard my butt, because this list will upset so many status quoers, all of whom will soon be doing their level best to toss me out of a high building.