Report: Defense Secretary Considers Replacing Pentagon’s No. 3 Official

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis speaks to reporters during a news conference at the Pentagon, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis speaks to reporters during a news conference at the Pentagon, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Secretary James Mattis isn’t happy with his chief management officer, according to a media report.

After just seven months as the third-ranking official in the Pentagon, the Defense Department’s first chief management officer might be on the way out.

According to a report Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal, Defense Secretary James Mattis is planning to fire CMO Jay Gibson, who was elevated in February from deputy CMO with a congressional mandate to find efficiencies and savings in the department. Mattis has not been happy with Gibson’s performance, according to the Journal, which cites several anonymous officials.

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan reportedly told Gibson of their boss’ displeasure last month and has scaled back the latter’s portfolio while they search for a replacement, Gordon Lubold reported.

Spokespeople for Gibson and the Pentagon declined to comment when reached by Nextgov.

The department will have to fill the position, per a congressional mandate.

Lawmakers created the CMO in the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, however, the position’s duties were then split between the deputy secretary of defense and the deputy CMO. In the 2017 NDAA, congressional appropriators included a requirement to appoint a CMO in early 2018, giving that position significant powers and putting it third in line to the secretary of defense.

The 2018 NDAA went further, clarifying the responsibilities of the position and adding a mandate to lead the department’s adoption of cost-saving IT and unearth and use data to find efficiencies.

The CMO position has wide-ranging duties, all coalescing around finding cost savings in the department’s $640 billion budget. Per the NDAA, Gibson was to find those savings through the use of technologies like cloud, reducing the footprint of the department’s support offices—known as the fourth estate—and analyzing data.

In a June 27 interview with Nextgov, Gibson said those efforts were all well underway, including nine teams working on gathering data on specific areas like IT, contracting and human resources..  

“We’ve started to have some informal conversations within the various aspects of the fourth estate and the military departments,” he said. “This summer is when we’ll really be kicking this off more in a formal process.”

Those teams are expected to report back by the end of the calendar year.