Small Wars Journal


Is the Chairman a Disruptive Thinker?

Sun, 08/26/2012 - 8:41pm

An article in the most recent edition of the Naval War College Review takes a critical look at the cost of joint reform and offers some interesting recommendations to maintain the benefits of jointness in a fiscally austere environment:

“Jointness represents an inefficient compromise between two schools of thought: on one hand, complete unification of the military, and the other, maintaining a service-centric structure. Joint organizations and processes, many of which were created during periods of practically unconstrained spending during the Cold War and after September 11, 2001, are layered upon the existing overhead of the services.

Over the past twenty-five years many practitioners, elected officials, and scholars have written extensively on the positive and negative aspects of Goldwater-Nichols legislation and the extent of its implementation throughout the Department of Defense. However, a gap exists in the current literature—an assessment of the total cost of implementing and maintaining the current joint structure. This assessment must include the total cost of military, civilian, and contractor support to joint staff work; facilities; additional work levied across the enterprise to support joint processes; and the cost of developing joint products, exercises, and assessments. That total cost of Goldwater-Nichols implementation should then be compared to the benefits derived from twenty-five years of reform to determine if the congressional mandate has provided good value for the American taxpayer.”

The article also highlights the critical role the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs had in stimulating the G-N reform movement 30 years ago:

“In a closed session of the House Armed Service Committee in February 1982, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General David Jones, U.S. Air Force, told Congress that the system was broken and that despite his best efforts he was not able to reform it— congressional action was needed. This testimony was ultimately the catalyst for bringing about the Goldwater-Nichols reform, though it would take nearly five years to garner enough support in Congress, the Pentagon, and the White House to pass the watershed legislation.”

Considering the numerous acquisition debacles, the broken personnel system, and the conduct of military operations over the past decade, will our current Chairman step forward with bold ideas for reform or will he simply defend the status quo in the face of forthcoming fiscal cuts? Could the current national fiscal problems and the public’s mandate to reduce military spending actually force much needed changes in the US Military?