The Reorganization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: A Critical Analysis

The Reorganization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: A Critical Analysis

The Reorganization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: A Critical Analysis

The Reorganization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: A Critical Analysis

Excerpt

In recent years there has been a burgeoning national debate over possible basic changes in the defense decisionmaking structures and processes of the U.S. government. This discussion has led to a number of conferences and publications designed to advance ideas whose effect would be to alter fundamentally the way in which national security decisions are made and executed by the United States. Although some members of the professional military have participated in these public discussions, much of this debate has been conducted by former members of the civilian policy community or by academic specialists with little direct experience in defense decision- making.

Moreover, this debate has coincided with a trend toward increased centralization of the decisional process resulting from unprecedented advances in communications technologies. At the same time, bureaucratic structures have imposed a large number of new layers between the central decision point and the field. The effect of both trends has been to make the locus of the decision remote from the field. A large number of the proposals set forth in the "reform" literature fail to address adequately the fundamental structural problems resulting from such trends. Of even greater consequence, the effect of certain proposals would be to enhance an already excessive process of centralization. Therefore, it is appropriate to develop a critique of reorganization proposals and plans based upon criteria related to the security needs of the United States in the late twentieth century.

On January 30-31, 1986, the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis convened a conference to provide an opportunity for extended discussion of the role (existing and proposed) of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; command, control, and communications in defense decisions; civil-military relations in the American context; strengths and weaknesses of the defense decisional process in selected other countries; the lessons of historic experience with special reference to the general staff system; and alternatives to present reform proposals. The present volume is composed of revised versions of papers presented at this conference.

Since the convening of this conference, the Congress has given its approval to legislation designed to reorganize the process through which policy and operational decisions are made. The effect of this legislation, and the ultimate shape of the decisionmaking structures through which U.S. national security policy is determined, are as yet open questions. This Foreign Policy Report is published with the hope that it will make a constructive contri-

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