House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) on March 22 pressed the Defense Department’s top two officials to reveal the results of its Goldwater-Nichols review so that proposed changes could be included in the 2017 defense authorization bill.
“I’m anxious to see what you suggest even if it’s not all of the reforms that some of these other folks are pursuing,” he told Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford at the end of a HASC hearing. “With the [National Defense Authorization Act] markup basically for this committee about a month away, for us to have time to look at it, we want to see it promptly.”
Over the past few months, the Defense Department has conducted an internal review of the organizational structure of the Pentagon, including a second look at the Goldwater-Nichols Act that changed the chain of command in the late 1980s. Simultaneously, the Senate Armed Services, under the lead of chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), has pursued its own potential Goldwater-Nichols reforms.
Dunford called a review of the law an “imperative” given changes in the character of war today. Warfare has become increasingly transregional—spanning the boundaries of multiple regional combatant commands—and frequently combines multiple domains and functions, such as special operations or ballistic missile defense, he said.
“That has changed the nature of integration of the joint force, and frankly the requirements of the secretary to make timely decisions in a transregional, multi-domain, multi-function fight,” he said.
Although Dunford did not describe in detail any of the review’s findings, he said he believed the department should focus on three areas: ensuring the defense secretary can make quick decisions during a transregional, multi-domain, multifunction fight; providing the defense secretary added ability to prioritize and allocate resources in timely manner and giving the joint staff a greater role in strategic planning.
Carter told Thornberry he would be ready to present his recommendations shortly, some of which will require statutory changes. In past weeks, he has said the Pentagon will release the first findings of the review by the end of March (Defense Daily, March 17).
After the hearing, Thornberry told reporters that he is “sympathetic” with the point that the joint staff needs to have a greater hand in formulating transregional strategy.
“One of the concerns that I’ve had—a lot of folks on both sides of the aisle have—is that we don’t have much of a strategy, that we are making decisions on an ad hoc basis,” he said. “If he is suggesting that we put additional responsibility on him or the joint staff to do that, I think that is a very positive thing.”
Thornberry will attend a meeting tomorrow with department acquisition officials, including top weapons buyer Frank Kendall, to discuss Pentagon concerns about the HASC chairman’s new acquisition reform bill. The proposed legislation, released earlier this month, would make sweeping changes to the process, including mandating that future weapons have open architecture backbones and alterations to statutes that would increase companies’ intellectual property rights.
“This is the reason that I put out a draft a month ahead of time to allow not only the department, but outside folks, industry, all sorts of people to offer their perspective,” he said.
“I may disagree with the problems he’s got. I have no idea what they are, but I am suggesting more fundamental change this year in some ways than last year, and when you change things, you’re rearranging responsibilities and influence,” he added. “I’ve already heard some opposition from industry. I’m sure there will be some from OSD [the office of the secretary of defense], maybe from the services. … That’s okay. But I want to hear it and evaluate it and explain what they don’t like and why.”