A Flatter Pentagon

The Pentagon is not structured to handle the series of global and strategic challenges the United States now faces, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Wednesday at the Bipartisan Policy Center. McCain said the Pentagon is often aligned by functional issues, regional geography, and separate warfighting domains. “Put simply, the Department of Defense is struggling to do the vital work of strategic integration, marshalling the different functional elements of our defense organization to advance unified strategies and implement them effectively,” McCain said. “To succeed in this strategic environment, we need to break down barriers to strategic integration and build flatter, faster moving, and more flexible organizations.” McCain noted the Senate’s defense authorization bill would require the secretary of defense to create six cross-functional teams to address the highest priority defense missions and also pick one combatant command to be reorganized around joint task force headquarters rather than service headquarters in an effort to improve strategic integration. Defense Secretary Ash Carter has referred to some of the reform proposals in the defense bill as micromanagement. “The reaction to these reforms in the Pentagon has been, predictably, hysterical—it’s the end of Western civilization as we know it,” McCain said. “But the resistance of entrenched interests is to be expected on the road to reform.” But McCain subsequently said he wants to see a collaborative decision-making process across the government to meet the challenges as the “world grows more and more unsteady,” referring to Tuesday’s attacks in Istanbul. The relationship between the Pentagon and Congress, he said, “is not what it should be.”