To Change Or Not To Change: Revision Of The Joint Chiefs Of Staff CSC 1984 SUBJECT AREA Strategic Issues TO CHANGE OR NOT TO CHANGE: REVISION OF THE JOINT CHIEFS STAFF Submitted to Dr. Berens In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements for Written Communication The Marine Corps Command and Staff College Quantico, Virginia 22134 Major R. M. McCormick United States Marine Corps CG11 102 April 6, 1984 TO CHANGE OR NOT TO CHANGE: REVISION OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF Thesis Statement: The central question is whether or not the current structure of the Joint Chiefs of Staff should be revised; more specifically, should any or all of the revisions proposed by Generals Jones or Meyer be adopted? The answer to that question is an emphatic NO! Outline I. Introduction II. Joint Chiefs of Staff Structure A. Composition B. Functions III. Five Reform Issues A. Authoring of the Chairman B. Quality and Timeliness of Advice C. Dual-hatted Roles D. Peacetime vs. Wartime Military Command Structure IV. Jones and Meyer: Proposal or Improvement V. Congressional Interest VI. To Change or Not to Change A. Chairman as the Principle Military B. Chairman in the Chain of Command C. Deputy Chairman D. Tenure and Selection of the Joint Staff E. Decrease the Role of Civilians below Secretary of Defense VII. Conclusion TO CHANGE OR NOT TO CHANGE: REVISION OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF INTRODUCTION The Joint Chiefs of Staff was formally established in 1947. Over the succeeding years minor changes have been made in the organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the most notable of which occurred under the direction of President Eisenhower in 1958. The calls for change have come from many varied sources, most often from those who are outside the organization and who speak with much ignorance. But in 1982, General David C. Jones, USAF who had spent eight years on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, his last four as Chairman, proposed major changes to both the organization and authority of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Shortly there- after, General Edward C. Meyer, USA who had been a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for four years as the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army proposed even a more radical revision. Their proposals were received with extreme interest by both critics and supporters of change. The great debate was on once again, but this time the advocates of change had two "insiders" who would lend much needed credibility to their argument. The central question is whether or not the current structure of the Joint Chiefs of Staff should be revised; more specifically, should any or all of the revisions proposed by Generals Jones or Meyer be adopted? The answer to that question is an emphatic NO! JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF STRUCTURE Before one can discuss reform of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, one should have a basic understanding of the composition and its functions. COMPOSITION The Joint Chiefs of Staff, as we know it today, was established in 1947 as a compromise between separately organized military services and the need for unified direction of all armed forces. Currently, the Joint Chiefs of Staff is composed of five voting members: a chairman, who can be from any of the services; the Army Chief of Staff; the Chief of Naval Operations; the Air Force Chief of Staff; and the Commandant of the Marine Corps. As a matter of interest, the Commandant of the Marine Corps was not a full-time voting member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff until 1976. With the exception of the chairman, all members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have dual responsibilities. His primary responsibility is as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but he also has the responsibility of providing military direction to his service, although he is supposed to leave the actual running of the service to his vice-chief of staff or assistant commandant. In reality, most service chiefs view the priority of their responsibilities in exact reverse to that just outlined. In exercising their service responsibilities, the chiefs are subject to the authority of their service secretaries. In the case of the Marine Corps, the Commandant is subordinate to the Secretary of the Navy. Although a secretary has no legal control over the joint activities of his chief, the service chief is responsible for keeping the secretary of his military department fully informed on matters being considered or acted upon by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In the joint arena the Joint Chiefs are under the authority of the Secretary of Defense and the President.1 The Joint Staff is headed by a director and is organized along conventional military staff lines: personnel, operations, logistics, plans and policy, and communications-electronics. The director is a three-star general officer appointed for a three-year term by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with the approval of the Secretary of Defense and the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Joint Staff performs all the normal staff functions except intelligence, which is carried out for the Joint Chiefs of Staff by the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Over one thousand military officers and about six hundred civilians make up the staff organizations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In addition to the Joint Staff, each service chief has from fifteen hundred to twenty-two hundred on his own service staff which participate in joint matters in one way or another. The affected service must clear every paper prepared by the Joint Staff which has an impact on that service, and the service chief must be prebriefed by his own staff prior to the triweekly Joint Chiefs of Staff meeting. One additional group who contributes greatly to the Joint Staff organization are the "Little Chiefs." They are three-star generals from the chiefs own services who are his operational deputies. They also meet triweekly and handle much of the routine Joint Chiefs of Staff business. FUNCTIONS The Joint Chiefs of Staff are the principal military advisers to the President, the National Security Council, and the Secretary of Defense. Subject to the authority and direction of the President and the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff shall:2 a. prepare strategic plans and provide for the strategic direction of the Armed Forces; b. prepare joint logistic plans and assign logistic responsibilities to the Armed Forces in accordance with those plans; c. establish unified commands in strategic areas; d. review the major material and personnel require- ments of the Armed Forces in accordance with strategic and logistics plans; e. formulate policies for the joint training the Armed Forces; f. formulate policies for coordinating the military education of members of the Armed Forces; g. provide for representation of the United States on the Military Staff Committee of the United Nations; and h. perform such other duties as the President or the Secretary of Defense may prescribe. FIVE REFORM ISSUES With this understanding of the composition and func- tions of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, let us now look at the five basic issues which have persisted in the reform debate. These issues deal with the authority of the chairman, the quality and timeliness of Joint Chiefs of Staff advice, the dual-hatted roles of the Joint Chiefs, the different peacetime and wartime military command structures, and the perceived or real weakness of the Joint Staff. Authority of the Chairman. Over the years, each Chairman has viewed his office differently and has applied his authority with differing degrees. The role has varied between that of moderator and consensus seeker to that of a strategist in a position of primacy within the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Usually, the Chairman comes from the position of service chief. He is appointed by the President to a two- year term with a one time two-year continuance in peacetime and unlimited appointments in time of war. By law the Chairman "may not exercise military command over the Joint Chiefs of Staff or any of the armed forces."3 Although he has standing authorization from the Joint Chiefs to respond on their behalf in emergencies, he runs the risk of exceed- ing his authority when this option is exercised. In short, the Chairman's status among the Joint Chiefs is that of spokesman or "first among equals."4 The Chairman's relationship with the Unified and Specified Commanders-in-Chief is one of agency, not command.5 The Chairman's role is limited to acting as agent for the Secretary of Defense in transmitting orders from the Secretary to the Commanders-in-Chief. By law, neither the Chairman nor the Joint Chiefs are in the operational chain of command. Consequently, there is no single military officer responsible for overseeing and directing the activities of the combatant commanders. The problem, as seen by John G. Vester, former Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, is that the distinction between one who commands and one who transmits commands can create confusion about the Joint Chiefs of Staff role in the chain of command.6 Quality and Timeliness of Advice. It has been argued that Joint Chiefs of Staff action as a committee is not an effective means for providing military advice. Although a high degree of satisfaction was found by civilian officials with the advice provided by the Chairman and the individual chiefs, the formal decision papers of the Joint Chiefs of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were found by former Secretary of Defense Harold Brown to be "worse than nothing."7 On the other hand, the Joint Chiefs of Staff perceive the need for caution in deciding on the scope of advice to give. As noted by Mr. Kester, If the Joint Chiefs respond to questions simply in terms of military capabilities, they may be dismissed as parochial military officers who don't understand the bigger picture; but if they offer their own analysis of geopolitical relations, or domestic consequences, they may be accused of meddling in areas in which civilian officials are more expert.8 In either event, the importance of the Joint Chiefs in producing substantive advice induces national command authorities to seek their advice elsewhere.9 The most frequent problems, however, arise in the annual budget review process wherein each service attempts to protect its slice of the budget pie. In attempting to reach common ground on budget levels, force structure, and procurement of new weapons systems, General Jones observed that the Joint Staff produces "a negotiated amalgam of service views" rather than a well-integrated plan.1O The outcome is that JCS decisions on budget issues are abdicated to civilian officials within the Office of the Secretary of Defense.11 Dual-hatted Roles. President Dwight Eisenhower's underlying principle in the 1958 Joint Chiefs of Staff reorganization was that, . . . separate ground, sea, and air warfare are gone forever....our country's security requirements must not be subordinated to outmoded or single-service concepts of war. To this end a Service Chief's duties as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff take precedence over all his other duties.12 Unfortunately, the creation of a Vice Chief of Staff for each service did not effectively remove the Chiefs from their explicit service-related duties. The problem, according to Lawrence Korb's study of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is that the 1958 amendment dealt with the symptom and not the cause: "The problem of the service chief is not that he cannot divest himself of his service duties. The real problem is that he does not want to."13 The dual-hat role compounds both service parochialism and the problem of time management to accomplish two jobs. Peacetime vs. Wartime Military Command Structure. Legisla- tion in 1953 and 1958 restricted the Joint Chiefs to the staff functions of planning and advising civilian decision- makers. Except for the task of transmitting directives from the Secretary of Defense to the Commander-in-Chiefs, the Joint Chiefs of Staff were removed from the chain of command. In peacetime, we "equip" and maintain forces through the service chiefs and service secretaries; but in wartime, we "fight" and employ forces under the operational command of the Commanders-in-Chief. The Commanders-in-Chief develop fighting strategies, but they must contend with the separate services for equipping an sustanability of their fighting forces. This dichotomy fosters a strategy - force mismatch and generates interservice conflict.14 Weakness of the Joint Staff. Joint Staff duty is not routinely pursued by able officers partly because of the tedious way work is conducted and partly because it is not an assignment which enhances either careers or promotions. During his tenure, General Jones noted, Officers come from and return to their services which control their assignments and promotions. The strong service strings thus attached to a Joint Staff officer provides little incentive -- and often considerable disincentive -- for officers to seek joint duty....15 Additionally, newly assigned officers too often arrive on the Joint Staff with little interservice experience. This problem is further compounded by statutory restrictions which limit the preiod of assignment to no more than three years.16 Thus service allegience, lack of joint experience, and tenure resrictions create a systematic problem. Jones and Meyer: Proposals for Improvement To remedy the above problems, General Jones and General Meyer proposed contrasting but major reforms for the nation's top military body. General Jones, after spending eight years on the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the first Chair- man to strongly advocate change at the Congressional level while still in office. In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, he cited four concerns that have repeatedly appeared in studies on the Joint Chiefs of Staff reform.17 a. Authority and responsibility are diffused between those who fight and those who make the preparations to fight. b. Military advice is often not timely, crisp, or very useful. c. Dual-hatting of service chiefs increases their parochialism and limits their perspective on joint matters. d. The individual service staffs tend to dominate the Joint Staff. General Jones' concern is for the country's warfighting capability which, he says, needs to be more efficient through better planning and support: "The combat effective- ness of the fighting force -- the end product -- does not receive enough attention."18 His concerns are reflected in a number of well publicized proposals:19 a. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff should be the principal military advisor to the President, Secretary of Defense, and the National Security Council. b. The service chiefs should be granted authority to advise in their own right when they strongly disagree with the Chairman. c. The Commanders-in-Chief should report to the Secretary of Defense through the Chairman rather than through the corporate Joint Chiefs of Staff body. d. A Deputy Chairman of four-star rank should be authorized to assist the Chairman. He would be chosen from a different service than that of the Chairman. e. The Joint Staff should work directly for the Chairman and not the corporate Joint Chiefs. f. Change is needed to improve the continuity and quality of the Joint Staff by eliminating assignment restrictions. Following General Jones' reorganization proposals, General Meyer recommended even stronger changes.20 He agreed with General Jones that the Chairman should be the principal military advisor, the Joint Staff should work directly for the Chairman, and that the Commanders-in-Chief should have an increased role in resource allocations. Additionally, he recommended: a. The service chiefs should be removed from the Joint Chiefs of Staff. b. A national Military Advisory Council should be formed of senior four-star officers who would be completely removed from their parent services. c. By legislation, the Chairman should be placed into the chain of command between the Secretary of Defense and the Commanders-in-Chief. d. The role of Department of Defense civilians below the level of the Secretary of Defense should be decreased significantly. Congressional Interest Congressional interest was aroused by the proposals of General Jones and General Meyer. Representative Richard C. White (D-TX) concluded that "organizational realignment of the Joint Chiefs of Staff...should be considered part and parcel of any national commitment to rebuild our defenses."21 As chairman of the Investigations Sub- committee, House Armed services Committee, he initiated public hearings in April 1982 to review the issue of reform of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Of those invited to testify, there were twenty-four military officers, seven former civilian leaders from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, five civilian scholars or members of study groups, and four members of Congress.22 Their testimony was as varied as their background and perception. TO CHANGE OR NOT TO CHANGE Based on research and my personal involvement as the Senior Aide de Camp to the Commandant of the Marine Corps during the latest Joint Chiefs of Staff reform debate, I have come to the following conclusions with respect to the Jones and Meyers proposals. Chairman as the Principle Military Advisor. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff should not be the principal military advisor to the President, Secretary of Defense and the National Security Council. The argument has been put forth many times that the Chairman's statutory limitations as a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs has fostered a rule of unanimity, an "agreement not to disagree," among the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As observed by General Jones: By law, if we cannot reach unanimous agreement on an issue, we must inform the Secretary of Defense... but we are understandably reluctant to forward disagreements, so we invest much time and effort to accommodate differing views of the Chiefs.23 This is simply not true. The Joint Chiefs very seldom do not reach unanimous agreement and in a timely fashion. What is wrong with legitimate disagreement? General Louis H. Wilson points out that the Joint Chiefs are very much like the Supreme Court in that no one demands, or expects, unanimity on constitutional issues. High level military decisions are no less complex than many Supreme Court decisions and should be reached with the same kind of independence.24 General Don Starry also strikes out against unanimity: It is this self-imposed unanimity rule which must be changed....where there are disagreements...the Joint Chiefs of Staff are providing an essential service to the Secretary and the President hy drawing up and displaying alternative courses of action.25 Chairman in the Chain of Command. The Commanders-in-Chief should report to the Secretary of Defense through the Chairman rather than through the corporate Joint Chiefs of Staff body. The present distribution of power within the Joint Chiefs of Staff is analogous to our Madisonian form of government wherein power is not concentrated in any single person or government body. As General Lyman Lemnitzer stated:26 . . .This country of ours is based upon a system of checks and balances such as we have in our National Government. It provides a sound system uniquely fitted to our democracy's mode of operating...an overly strong or single Chief of Staff concept is not compatible with our traditional governmental system. Deputy Chairman. The appointment of a Deputy Chairman would provide nothing more than another layer of bureaucracy serving only to isolate the Chairman from the service chiefs. Under General Vessey, each Joint Chief serves as Acting Chief during his absence on a quarterly basis. As the main argument for a deputy was predicated on numerous necessary absences of the Chairman, General Vessey's decision has provided the solution. Tenure and Selection of the Joint Staff. The Joint Staff should not be hand picked by the Chairman, nor should the staff work directly for the Chairman and not for the corporate Joint Chiefs. This is another attempt to strengthen the power of the Chairman. The creation of an elite corps of staff officers to fill the Joint Staff would be tantamount to re-creation of the infamous German General Staff.27 In the opinion of Admiral Hayward, "The inefficiency of the Joint Chiefs ... is quite correctable by our own leadership....;" therefore, legislative relief is not necessary.28 Decrease the Role of Civilian Below the Secretary of Defense. Only the Army has supported General Meyer's proposal on this decrease and has not received much legitimate discussion and most certainly has no chance for adoption. CONCLUSION The Joint Chiefs of Staff as a corporate body is at best flawed, but change for the sake of change is not the solution. Most certainly the establishment of an all powerful Chairman is not the answer. The testimony of four former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and my personal observation of both the past Chairman, General Jones and the present Chairman, General John W. Vessey lead me to believe that the effectiveness of the Chairman is personality de- pendent. The problems General Jones spoke of were primarily as a result of his own inability to lead the Joint Chiefs and to manage the Joint Staff efficiently. General Vessey, on the other hand, has taken charge, has proven to be an effective leader and the Joint Chiefs of Staff has, under his direction, provided the President, Secretary of Defense and the National Security Council with timely advice. Until reforms are proposed which will offer a realistic alternative to what we have now, I say leave it alone. NOTES 1Lawrence J. Korb, The Joint Chiefs of Staff: The First Twenty-Five Years. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976), pp. 3-4. 2JCS Publication Number 4, Section 2. Legal Authority, pp. I-2-1 - I-2-2. 3U.S. Laws, Statutes, etc., "General Military Law," U.S. Code, Title 10 - Armed Forces, 1976 ed. (Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1977), Sec. 143. 4General Edward C. Meyer, "The JCS - How Much Reform is Needed?", Armed Forces Journal International, April 1982, p. 88. 5John G. Kester, "The Future of the Joint Chiefs of Staff," American Enterprise Institute: Foreign Policy and Defense Review, Vol. 2, No. 1, February 1980, p. 5. 6Ibid., pp. 4-5. 7Dr. Harold Brown in testimony before U.S. Congress, House Armed Services Committee, Investigations Subcommittee, Reorganizational Proposals for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Hearings (HASC No. 97-47) (Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off;, 1982), p. 127. 8Kester, op. cit., p. 3. 9Dr. Harold Brown, HASC No. 97-47, p. 118. 10David C. Jones, "What's Wrong With Our Defense Establishment?", New York Times Magazine, 7 November 1982, p. 4. 11John G. Kester, HASC No. 97-47, pp. 509, 522. 12Richard C. Steadman, "Report to the Secretary of Defense on the National Military Command Structure," July 1978 (Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1978), pp. 4045- 4046. Also, HASC No. 97-47, p. 903. 13Korb, op. cit., p. 20. 14David C. Jones, New York Times Magazine, p. 3. 15David C. Jones, "Why the Joint Chiefs of Staff Must Change," Armed Forces Journal International, March 1982, p. 68. 16U.S. Code, Title 10 - Armed Forces, Sec. 143. 17General David C. Jones, HASC No. 97-47, pp. 53-58. 18David C. Jones, New York Times Magazine, p. 4. 19General David C. Jones, HASC No. 97-47, pp. 58-59. 20General Edward C. Meyer, HASC No. 97-47, p. 6. 21Congressman Richard C. White, HASC No. 97-47, p. 2. 22List of Witnesses, HASC No. 97-47, pp. III-IV. 23General David C. Jones, Armed Forces Journal International, p. 66. 24General Louis H. Wilson, HASC No. 97-47, p. 286. 25General Donn Starry, HASC No. 97-47, p. 661. 26General Lyman Lemnitzer, HASC No. 97-47, p. 153. 27General Louis H. Wilson, HASC No. 97-47, p. 283. 28Admiral Thomas B. Hayward, HASC No. 97-47, p. 104.
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