Sequestration is a once in a generation opportunity to address the changes needed to take the US military to the next level of capability.
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?
After more than a decade of overseas operations since Sept. 11, 2001, there is a needed moment of reassessment as to how to equip, train and even fund the military.
About the Author(s)
Anthony Cordesman and Robert Shelala II at CSIS have published a new report on the FY13 budget, finding it incredibly lacking. From the summary:
The analysis finds that a major gap exists between the broad, undefined strategic rhetoric in the new strategy and the budget-driven spending cuts in the FY2013 budget submission. Far too much of the prose in the new strategy has little more depth than the average fortune cookie. There are no clear force plans, procurement plans, personnel plans, or spending plans in most areas. The mission categories and priorities are not adequately explained or justified, and key areas of spending, like the projected expenditure on the Afghan conflict, raise serious questions. Moreover, the steady escalation of personnel and procurement costs also raise question as to whether the projected spending can buy anything like the projected force.