Not long ago, Air Force Gen. Robert T. Herres, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, summed up “the essence of the intent of Congress” in the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986.
The purpose of that Act, said General Herres, “can be focused sharply into one sentence: Increase the clout of the CINCs and the Chairman.”
That has happened. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is still charged with representing the service Chiefs, heeding their views, and building consensus among them. But he has become much more his own man as the top decision-maker and strongest voice of the increasingly “purple-suited” US military.
So have the Commanders in Chief of the operational, war-fighting commands—the unified and specified commands.
The legislation enables the CINCs to keep their distance from their respective service Chiefs. The Chairman is their official spokes man, and they now take straight to him their cases for what they believe they must have and must do to prepare for the combat that their commands would wage.
Over time, this will almost certainly diminish the sway of the individual services over the disposition of defense resources and the formulation of requirements, roles, and missions.
Decisions about such matters are and will be all the more meaningful in this time of scarcer resources and leaner force structures—and of the greater military risks for the US that will inevitably ensue.
In such context, it stands to reason that preparing to fight today’s war will take precedence over gearing up for tomorrow’s. This is already evident in the priority that the Pentagon has given to combat readiness and sustainability—at the expense of major program starts in the name of modernization—in the harder times at hand.
In the Catbird Seat
And when it comes to decisions about whether or not to go for big new systems, the joint-arms users are clearly in the catbird seat.
Accurate or not, said General Herres, “a strong perception of the framers of the reorganization legislation was that the Department of Defense was emphasizing functions rather than missions.
“The resource managers were believed to hold too much influence at the expense of the warfighters, and the acquisition process was producing equipment with insufficient thought as to effective joint integration and interoperability.
“The American people and Congress have told us in no uncertain terms that they expect more functional and technical interoperability among the services—the capability to mesh systems and forces into an integrated defense team.”
As Vice Chairman of the JCS, a post that the defense reorganization act created to help the Chairman handle his many new responsibilities, General Herres also emphasized that “the services are functional, and . . . the unified and specified commanders are the only military leaders with true operational missions—the business of force employment.
“The services must orient on force structure, training, and logistics in order to provide trained and equipped forces to the CINCs for the pursuit of their missions.
“There must be less talk of so-called roles and missions of the services and more meaningful, aggressive action to support the combatant commanders.”
The main responsibility for evoking such action now rests with the Chairman of the JCS, Adm. William J. Crowe, Jr., who began his second two-year term in the post last October 1.
Admiral Crowe has the wherewithal for doing so. As General Herres put it: “One of the farsighted results of the reorganization is that the Chairman has not only been given a number of new responsibilities, he also has been given the tools necessary to carry them out.”
For one, the Chairman now has at his personal disposal the entire Joint Staff, a 1,500-member purple-suited group of officers who are accountable to him alone and no longer to the Joint Chiefs as a whole.
As General Herres explained it, “This distinction is, in practice, particularly important,” because it means that “the Joint Staff may be guided by one voice,” just as “the priorities of the CINCs can be represented by one voice.
“The Chairman has always had the responsibility to ensure that the services’ programs were in line with national strategy. But now he has a specific role in the planning, programming, and budgeting system that he did not have before.
“He is charged with providing the Secretary of Defense advice on the extent to which the services and the [defense] agencies’ program and budget submissions conform to the CINCs’ warfighting priorities.”
Admiral Crowe’s second two-year term as Chairman will expire on September 30, 1989. The betting is that General Herres will succeed him, it being the turn of an Air Force four-star to head the JCS next time around.
Before becoming the first Vice Chairman of the JCS about a year ago, General Herres served as the first CINC of the unified US Space Command. He was succeeded in that slot by Air Force Gen. John L. Piotrowski, whose efforts in behalf of greater warfighting capabilities for his multiservice operational command may well have been given a boost by the new clout accorded the CINCs.
Among other things, General Piotrowski wants the US to develop and deploy radar systems in space to look downward for enemy bombers and cruise missiles. He also covets new radars or other sorts of sensors on land or in space to enhance his command’s somewhat deficient capability for surveillance of Soviet deep-space satellites.
The corporate Air Force is leery of such systems. Their costs would be burdensome in present conditions, and the Air Force budget would probably have to bear those costs.
But General Piotrowski is now in a position to make his pitch for them directly to the JCS Chairman, circumventing the Air Force leadership.
Whether he would make a point of doing this or would succeed at it is another matter. But at least he and all CINCs who want other things that their individual services shy away from are now free to take their best shots.
Space gets its share of attention, but does not stand out among the many major concerns expressed in Admiral Crowe’s recent testimony on Capitol Hill and in the Joint Staffs “United States Military Posture” document presented to Congress earlier this year.
The budgetary downsizing of the space-oriented Strategic Defense Initiative is rued, as is the termination of USAF’s antisatellite (ASAT) weapon development program, which fell prey to the budget and to the refusal of Congress to let the fighter-launched rocket weapon be tested against target satellites in space.
Much is said about the need for an ASAT weapon to redress the “serious asymmetry” between US and Soviet capabilities for controlling space and defending US space as sets. There is also considerable emphasis on the need to bring US spacelaunch capabilities up to snuff—which is yet another of General Piotrowski’s prime goals.
But as to the need for such new systems as space-based radars and other space-surveillance sensors, little or nothing is said. Perhaps later on.
Given the JCS Chairman’s bigger stick, his views are even more important and noteworthy nowadays. He embodies the great bulk of those views in his “net assessment”—an analysis of US and allied capabilities vis-à-vis those of the Soviet Union and other adversarial nations—that the reorganization legislation now requires of him annually.
As Admiral Crowe told Congress earlier this year: “Last year, I summarized my own net assessment. This year, as a result of the Goldwater-Nichols Act, the Joint Staff has completed its first in-depth net assessment.”
The US Military Posture document is representative of that. It covers all the ground—strategic and tactical nuclear forces, strategic mobility, maritime defense, NATO and Warsaw Pact forces in Europe, Southwest Asia, the Pacific theater, Western Hemisphere, Special Operations Forces, space, Africa, and much, much more.
Good News—And a Warning
Taking it altogether, Admiral Crowe had good news and a warning for Congress, declaring: “In summary, it is clear that the investments made in the last few years have materially improved the net assessment from the US standpoint.
“It is equally obvious that the picture is a dynamic one, that the Soviets are working diligently to- improve their position across the board, and that there are still a number of serious gaps in our own posture. On balance, we need a number of years’ growth before we can face the future with confidence.
“And now,” as he put it pointedly, “to the defense budget.”
The Chairman’s message here: It was extremely difficult to shape the Fiscal Year 1989 budget constrained to no real growth, and “we can do this for one or two years, but not as a long-term proposition.
“Moreover, we are depending heavily on Congress to approve the overall shape and content of this budget. Substantial changes in the fundamentals or even at the margin may very well increase the risks we have tried hard to avoid.
“We are engaged in a security marathon, and it would be folly to conclude otherwise. Thus, the Joint Chiefs of Staff strongly concur with Secretary [of Defense] Carlucci’s conclusion that we should aim for two percent real growth in the biennial Fiscal Years 1990-91 budget submission.”
Tying his net assessment to his position on the defense budget, Admiral Crowe said that “the global military balance has not changed appreciably since my testimony last year,” but made it plain that the balance will swing against the US II Congress fetters or refashions the budget even further.
The Chairman dealt extensively in his testimony with risks, commitments, and people, saying in part:
“It is important to understand that this may be only the beginning of greater risks in the defense planning and programming process. . . . Several years of negative growth in defense spending will inevitably lead to dangerously reduced capabilities and force structure.
“We should learn from our history. Four times in the last one hundred years we cut back precipitously in peacetime and then entered a major conflict unprepared. In each instance, we paid a needlessly high cost in treasure, lives, and stability.
“Of particular concern is the impact of cost-avoidance measures on our people. We are not cutting back on commitments. Yet we are asking our military personnel to take up the slack resulting from modest but nonetheless real cuts in force structure.
“Congress can do a great deal to ease this transition by ensuring that our military personnel remain confident in laws governing military compensation—including the benefits of active duty and the integrity of our military retirement system.”
The Dominant Threat
The JCS Chairman gave Congress a balanced but unrelenting assessment of the rise of Soviet military power—a reminder that, despite changes in Kremlin policies, “the Soviet Union remains the dominant threat to our national security and to a more secure and stable international environment.
“World power is still the name of the game in the Kremlin, and Communist Party leaders will do what is necessary to play that game.”
Over the last two decades, he said, the USSR has built the world’s largest nuclear and conventional forces supported by “a huge arms production program and a steady research and development program. Power projection capabilities are increasing at a steady pace, not only on and around Eurasia but also in space.
“The free world has accommodated to the Soviet penchant for numbers, but—even more worrisome—we are now seeing our traditional qualitative edge erode.”
On the other hand, said Admiral Crowe, the Soviet military machine is flawed on several counts. Among these are “pervasive personnel problems,” many undermanned units that would have to be filled out in war with “personnel far less competent” than those in today’s frontline units, deficient training of conscripts who serve too briefly to do much good, “persistent ethnic problems” in the ranks, the “lack of a regular core of career NCOs,” major logistical problems, unreliable equipment, poor maintenance, and “highly centralized,” inflexible command and control.
“On a more fundamental level,” Admiral Crowe testified, “there may be even more important forces at work. General Secretary Gorbachev and his Party colleagues seem to have concluded that the Soviet Union cannot remain a first-rate world power with a second-rate industry.
“Unquestionably, he wants to reshape the economy. It is not clear whether he will succeed.”
Noting that “Gorbachev reportedly has suggested that the Soviet General Staff move from a war-winning posture to something called ‘reasonable sufficiency,'” the Chairman added:
“We still do not know what that means in terms of military spending or force structure. We do know that the Soviet military and the Russian people have little stomach for unilateral disarmament. And we have yet to see any tangible cutbacks in military spending or production.
“Thus, if Gorbachev is going to reduce the burden of military expenditures, he must do so in the broader context of his arms-control agenda.”
What it comes down to, said Admiral Crowe, is that “the Kremlin remains as firmly committed as ever to a long-term military competition with the West and to the support of so-called ‘wars of national liberation’ in the Third World.”
Increasing Importance of SOFs
In this regard, the military posture statement puts much emphasis on the need of the US to be prepared to wage low-intensity conflict (LIC) in support of friendly nations facing military encroachment.
It states flatly: “LIC is the most likely and dangerous form of international conflict the United States will face for the foreseeable future and is the form of conflict totalitarian forces have chosen to wage against the West in pursuit of expansionist goals.”
The Joint Staff document also dwells at some length on the increasing importance of US Special Operations Forces (SOF), which now operate under a relatively new unified command and are making out like gangbusters when it comes to funding and political support.
“SOF,” says the document, “are especially effective in resolving crises and terminating conflicts that are still at relatively low levels of violence.”
Such forces are also tailored to counter international terrorism, whether state-sponsored or fomented by independent groups.
Declares the military posture statement: “The threat of international terrorism against the United States and other nations continues to pose formidable challenges. Targeting of US interests in Europe and the Middle East continues. These areas, along with Latin America, will probably remain the scenes of the greatest number of terrorist activities against US interests.”
The unified Special Operations Command (SOCOM), said Admiral Crowe, “is receiving a great deal of top-level attention while continuing to demonstrate its unique value in both low-intensity conflict and conventional conflict.”
SOCOM was established at Mac-Dill AFB, Fla., on April 16, 1986. Last year, in July, two other commands came into being—the specified US Forces Command (FORSCOM) at Fort McPherson, Ga., and the unified US Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) at Scott AFB, Ill.
They exemplify the steady trend toward jointness and interoperability of forces and toward more power for the CINCs and the Chairman of the JCS that the Department of Defense Reorganization Act aimed at bringing about.
“As a result of the Act,” Admiral Crowe told Congress, “I am much better positioned to solicit, integrate, and weigh the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, commanders of the unified and specified commands, and directors of the defense agencies—and to guide the work of the Joint Staff.
“Real progress has been made in the areas of resource analysis and net assessments. Overall, we are steadily improving our ability to integrate defense resources and war-fighting capabilities.”
Joint Doctrine Master Plan
Fundamental to such integration is a Joint Chiefs of Staff document now being prepared for publication later this year—one that will greatly advance the everyday practicality of “jointness” in the US military.
It is called the “Joint Doctrine Master Plan,” a blending of the doctrines of the individual services into amalgamated warfighting plans, the concerted likes of which the Pentagon has never seen.
As the US military posture statement explained it:
“Military doctrine provides the fundamental principles by which forces of two or more services are employed in coordinated action toward a common objective.
“Joint doctrine is promulgated by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and pro vides a framework for developing solutions to enhance the warfighting capabilities of the CINCs.
“The Joint Doctrine Master Plan will spearhead the development of CINC warfighting doctrine and enable the Chairman, JCS, to meet his responsibility for ‘developing doe-trifle for the joint employment of the Armed Forces.'”
The major aims of the master plan are to identify and fill voids in and among joint doctrines now more narrowly in effect, such as Air Force-Army doctrines for joint attack and joint suppression of air defenses, and to “bring all joint doctrine previously approved by all four services under the JCS publication system.”
The ultimate goal is to organize everything “into a systematic hierarchy that clearly links doctrine to procedures under a single capstone [JCS] manual.”
Such an endeavor would not be possible, of course, without influential inputs from the individual services. And so, despite the inexorable flow of power to the JCS Chairman and the CINCs, the service Chiefs are by no means being stripped of say-so in operational military matters.
As General Herres noted: “The natural assumption is that the new prerogatives of the Chairman and the CINCs have emasculated the roles of the service Chiefs. But I don’t believe this is the case.
“The law requires the Chiefs to continue to advise the Chairman and provide him the benefit of their experience, the expertise of their respective operating domains, and their service viewpoints.”
Moreover, General Herres continued, the service Chiefs remain responsible for force development and management, and each “can—and must—dissent from any position that the Chairman adopts that he feels is wrong.”
That having been said, however, General Herres got to the heart of what is going on, declaring:
“No one can intelligently argue any longer that jointness is not the most effective way to operate our military.”