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Chuck Hagel may not have been able to work with the ever-more powerful National Security Council staff, but this discussion of personalities misses the point. The key to success for a secretary of defense today is the ability to manage not White House aides but rather the Pentagon, which is the world's most complicated and dysfunctional bureaucracy. Ashton Carter, the president's choice as the next defense secretary, is a brilliant man and perhaps has made some friends at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Except for the largest government bureaucracy in the world, the Defense Department, which spends about $600 billion a year--more than the entire GDP of Poland--and employs 1.4 million men and women in uniform, 700,000 civilians, and another 700,000 full-time contractors. The Pentagon's accounts are so vast and byzantine that it is probably impossible to do a thorough audit of them.This radical critique of the Pentagon came from Republican Sen. John McCain.Forty percent of Pentagon spending goes to overhead, Gates points out in the book, and as many as 30 layers of staff sit between the secretary of defense and an action officer.
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