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FEATURE Inheriting a Shambles at Defense For Gates, Fixing Iraq is Just a Start BY JASON VEST Few in Washington thought it would actually happen, but on November 8, there it was: a vaguely humbled-looking Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, finally being shown the door. As his increasingly McNamara-esque visage withdraws from the scene, all eyes turn to his nominated successor, Robert M. Gates, Texas A&M president and former George H.W. Bush CIA chief. Everyone seems acutely focused on one matter: how Gates will handle Iraq. But as critical and obvious as that issue is, it obscures Robert Gates an even more important reality: Iraq is really only a reflection of a larger institutional problem. On Rumsfeld’s watch the Pentagon’s perennial management and budget woes have gone from a mess to an utter shambles. “Rumsfeld will have two legacies. One is the warit’ll go down in history as much as Rumsfeld’s war as Bush’s war,” says Winslow ‘Wheeler, a veteran former Senate staffer and investigator who now runs the Straus Military Reform Project at the Washington, D.C.-based think tank, the Center for Defense Information. “But initially, people will probably miss the other legacy, which is the total mismanagement of the Pentagon. He inherited gigantic problemsones that had nothing to do with Iraqand made them worse. Iraq is only one part of Gates’ job. He’s going to have to undo a disastrous legacy on budget, program, and management issues!’ Despite all the at-odds-with-reality praise once lavished on Rumsfeld for his supposedly brilliant management style \(2002’s The Rumsfeld Way: The Leadership Wisdom of a Battle-Hardened Maverick probably won’t be meeting audits have long shown Rumsfeld to be a less-than-able Pentagon steward. In 2002, for example, Bush’s own White House Office of Management and Budget initi ated the President’s Management Scorecard, a sort of quarterly report card assessing the top management of 25 major federal agencies and departments. It uses a “Stoplight Scoring System,” with green for suc cess, yellow for mixed results, and red for unsatisfactory. Wheeler notes that the DOD’s columns are more often defined by red and yellow than green. “The last time I checked, DOD ranked 24 out of 25hardly a ringing endorsement,” Wheeler says. Another solid indicator of the true nature of Rumsfeld’s legacy can be found in the files of the Government Accountability Office, the congres sional investigative arm. Of the hundreds of GAO inves tigative reports devoted to the Defense Department on Rumsfeld’s watch, 25 deal in some way with Iraq. The other 861 have titles that, in many cases, indicate that Iraq wasn’t the only crisis crying out for Rumsfeld’s attention. Some pull no punches \(“DOD Wastes Billions of Dollars through Poorly understated \(“Hurricane Katrina: Better Plans and Exercises Need to Guide the Military’s Response to Catastrophic quency with which subtle-yet-pointed phrases like “actions 6 THE TEXAS OBSERVER DECEMBER 1, 2006