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In 1940, Frank Knox contacted Ed Booz. As newly appointed secretary for the navy, he had a vision for a two-ocean navy, one that could win campaigns in both the Atlantic and Pacific. But the Navy was under-equipped. It did not have enough ships. Its headquarters were in a temporary building left over from World War I, and its telephone, internal mail, and intelligence systems were out of date.
“Men, what’s our job?” Knox asked his admirals. “To double the Navy,” they replied. They estimated that it would take about four years. “We have only half that time,” Knox said. “It must be done by 1942.”
“Ed Booz felt there could be no more important work than military consulting. So he and Jim Allen took on the assignment personally.”
Ed Booz felt there could be no more important work than military consulting. So he and Jim Allen took on the assignment personally. Allen inspected shipyards up and down the East Coast. Booz Allen suggested ways to revamp the Navy’s systems and services, cutting red tape, replacing old chains of command with new management units under each Navy bureau, and structuring ways for them to work together. Then Booz Allen’s people moved in to implement the recommendations.
Placing a consulting firm within the established bureaucracy had a catalytic effect on streamlining the system. Each Navy bureau had its own Booz man. “If I had a personnel thing to handle,” one executive recalled, “I wouldn’t go through the formal channels. That would take 3 weeks. I would just call up my Booz counterpart in the Bureau of Personnel and it was done by tomorrow morning. We never told the admirals how we did it. They looked upon us like miracle workers.”
Within 4 years the Navy had become the most powerful in the world. Booz Allen also helped the Army, Veteran’s Administration, and Navy jointly agree on medical terminology, promising injured soldiers better care and compensation than ever before. Speaking of Booz Allen’s role in the war effort, Knox was quoted by Fortune magazine in 1944 as saying that he had never spent the government’s money “more effectively.”