Aspin looks at joining panel to study military

January 16, 1994|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- The departing defense secretary, Les Aspin, may be staying on the Pentagon payroll after all.

Mr. Aspin has told his designated successor, Bobby Ray Inman, that he would like to serve on a high-level Pentagon commission that will study how to reduce duplication in the roles and missions of the armed forces, perhaps even as the panel's HTC chairman. Congress created the panel when it approved the military budget last year.

Associates say Mr. Inman, who is expected to be confirmed as defense secretary by the Senate later this month, is "intrigued" by the idea of appointing Mr. Aspin to study one of the most vexing problems facing the military.

Some Pentagon officials expressed amazement that Mr. Aspin could be put on a panel to reorganize the military, especially when they say his own disorganization and indecision contributed to his dismissal.

Even Mr. Aspin's biggest supporters acknowledged that leaving the elevated world of defense secretary, with chauffeured limousines, meetings with world leaders and control over 1.7 million troops, for what would amount to a consultant's job in his old office would be a bit unorthodox.

"Of course it's a comedown, but it also makes some sense," said a long-time friend of Mr. Aspin's.

Close associates say Mr. Aspin would bring broad intellectual and analytical skills to a knotty subject that he is familiar with and eager to tackle.

"It's a little weird that he'd want to do it, but Les is an ideas man who never met a series of options he didn't like," said one long-time associate. "He'd be superb at it."

Mr. Aspin has hailed as one of his proudest accomplishments the long-term review of the military's war-fighting strategy that the Pentagon conducted last year. Producing a high-level report to streamline the military would be similarly attractive, aides said.

Moreover, Mr. Aspin believes that deep additional savings can only be achieved now by rigorously weeding out the redundant missions within the armed services.

"It's the kind of deep-think intellectual thing that would appeal to him," said one senior Pentagon aide.

Mr. Aspin is mulling over an array of job prospects once he leaves the Pentagon.

If he takes a seat on the commission, it would likely be a part-time position allowing him the freedom to pursue other interests.

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