Academic journal article Naval War College Review

BUILDING THE PURPLE FORD: An Affordable Approach to Jointness

Academic journal article Naval War College Review

BUILDING THE PURPLE FORD: An Affordable Approach to Jointness

Article excerpt

Given the enormity of the U.S. national debt and the pressure to reduce Defense spending, surviving the forthcoming era of austerity will require innovative approaches to Department of Defense (DoD) organization and processes. Some of this innovation may require a reversal of previous efforts intended to improve effectiveness and efficiency within the DoD. Preserving operational capacity must be the top priority in any budget-reduction discussion. Unfortunately, the current approaches advocated within the Pentagon, on the Hill, and by influential Beltway think tanks call for reducing spending by trimming inefficient processes, eliminating end strength, and terminating costly acquisitions programs. The U.S. government should be hesitant to cut one plane, one ship, or one Marine until all options to reduce overhead and to streamline organizations have been fully considered. These options must include critically examining the sacred purple cow of jointness.

As former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates noted in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute in May 2011, "Sustaining this 'tooth' part of the budget- the weapons and the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who use them-is increasingly difficult given the massive growth of other components of the defense budget, the 'tail' if you will-operations, maintenance, pay and benefits, and other forms of overhead. America's defense enterprise has consumed ever higher level[s] of resources as a matter of routine just to maintain, staff, and administer itself."1

Further, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff(JCS), Admiral Michael Mullen, echoed a similar sentiment in a June 2011 speech to service members warning against taking the "easy choices." He stressed that "when I say all things are on the table, all things are on the table." He added, "We need to avoid just making the relatively easy decision to just cash in force structure, we have to go through everything else before we get to that point, because that's why we're here."2

For the foreseeable future, and until deficit spending and the national debt are brought under control, Defense spending will remain at the center of any serious federal budget discussion. Given these realities, the fiscal trade space is clear- DoD accepts the cost of inefficiency at the peril of operational capabilities. The Defense Department and Congress must take this opportunity to evaluate the results of previous reform efforts and determine what is working well and what can be improved or eliminated. In the process, policy makers must face the reality that jointness is inherently inefficient.

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 on 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 staffwork; 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 whether the congressional mandate has provided good value for the American taxpayer.

Certainly, jointness has brought many improvements to the U. …

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