Congress Is Revisiting Problem of Duplication in US Armaments Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Nunn Takes Up Issue
Peter Grier, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor
LET'S see, how many air forces does the United States have? There's the Air Force, of course. That's one. Navy carrier planes, two. Army helicopters, three. The Marines have both carrier jets and copters. That makes four.
This proliferation of air arms is a favorite target for critics grumbling about what they call one of the Pentagon's grossest inefficiencies: duplication of roles in US military services. Overlap, according to critics, is everywhere, from weapons development to training and even missions.
Politicians have periodically tried to streamline the services since the days of President Harry Truman. Now Congress is again talking about reducing military duplication.
Since one of the backers of this effort is the influential chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Sam Nunn (D) of Georgia, lawmakers might actually make some progress this time.
"This is a long-term debate, and the answers are not clear," said Senator Nunn at a recent meeting with defense reporters.
Earlier this year Nunn gave a speech widely noticed in Washington that slammed defense redundancy. With military technology changing at a rapid pace while the defense budget shrinks, according to Nunn, the Pentagon can no longer afford the luxury of services designing similar weapons or training to fight in similar roles.
Accordingly, this year's Senate version of the defense authorization bill makes some changes in the name of efficiency that are already raising hackles in the military.
The Senate eliminated funds for upgrading the Air Force's EF-111 electronic warfare plane and gave the money to the Navy for its radar-jamming aircraft, the EA-6B. The Navy's plane, according to a Senate committee report, shows "superior capability."
The Senate legislation calls on the Army and the Marine Corps to "seek ways to complement each other's capabilities." This is one of the most sensitive of redundancy issues, as the Marines feel the Army is more and more edging into their mobile assault role. …