New Clout for the CINCs

June 1, 1988

Not long ago, Air Force Gen. Robert T. Herres, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, summed up “the essence of the in­tent of Congress” in the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Re­organization Act of 1986.

The purpose of that Act, said General Herres, “can be focused sharply into one sentence: Increase the clout of the CINCs and the Chairman.”

That has happened. The Chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is still charged with representing the service Chiefs, heeding their views, and building consensus among them. But he has become much more his own man as the top deci­sion-maker and strongest voice of the increasingly “purple-suited” US military.

So have the Commanders in Chief of the operational, war-fighting com­mands—the unified and specified commands.

The legislation enables the CINCs to keep their distance from their respective service Chiefs. The Chairman is their official spokes­ man, and they now take straight to him their cases for what they believe they must have and must do to pre­pare for the combat that their com­mands would wage.

Over time, this will almost cer­tainly diminish the sway of the indi­vidual services over the disposition of defense resources and the for­mulation of requirements, roles, and missions.

Decisions about such matters are and will be all the more meaningful in this time of scarcer resources and leaner force structures—and of the greater military risks for the US that will inevitably ensue.

In such context, it stands to rea­son that preparing to fight today’s war will take precedence over gear­ing up for tomorrow’s. This is al­ready evident in the priority that the Pentagon has given to combat read­iness and sustainability—at the ex­pense of major program starts in the name of modernization—in the harder times at hand.

In the Catbird Seat

And when it comes to decisions about whether or not to go for big new systems, the joint-arms users are clearly in the catbird seat.

Accurate or not, said General Herres, “a strong perception of the framers of the reorganization legis­lation was that the Department of Defense was emphasizing functions rather than missions.

“The resource managers were be­lieved to hold too much influence at the expense of the warfighters, and the acquisition process was produc­ing equipment with insufficient thought as to effective joint integra­tion and interoperability.

“The American people and Con­gress have told us in no uncertain terms that they expect more func­tional and technical interoperability among the services—the capability to mesh systems and forces into an integrated defense team.”

As Vice Chairman of the JCS, a post that the defense reorganization act created to help the Chairman handle his many new responsibili­ties, General Herres also empha­sized that “the services are func­tional, and . . . the unified and specified commanders are the only military leaders with true opera­tional missions—the business of force employment.

“The services must orient on force structure, training, and logis­tics in order to provide trained and equipped forces to the CINCs for the pursuit of their missions.

“There must be less talk of so-called roles and missions of the ser­vices and more meaningful, ag­gressive action to support the com­batant commanders.”

The main responsibility for evok­ing such action now rests with the Chairman of the JCS, Adm. William J. Crowe, Jr., who began his second two-year term in the post last Octo­ber 1.

Admiral Crowe has the where­withal for doing so. As General Herres put it: “One of the farsighted results of the reorganization is that the Chairman has not only been given a number of new responsibili­ties, he also has been given the tools necessary to carry them out.”

For one, the Chairman now has at his personal disposal the entire Joint Staff, a 1,500-member purple-suited group of officers who are account­able to him alone and no longer to the Joint Chiefs as a whole.

As General Herres explained it, “This distinction is, in practice, par­ticularly important,” because it means that “the Joint Staff may be guided by one voice,” just as “the priorities of the CINCs can be rep­resented by one voice.

“The Chairman has always had the responsibility to ensure that the services’ programs were in line with national strategy. But now he has a specific role in the planning, pro­gramming, and budgeting system that he did not have before.

“He is charged with providing the Secretary of Defense advice on the extent to which the services and the [defense] agencies’ program and budget submissions conform to the CINCs’ warfighting priorities.”

Admiral Crowe’s second two-year term as Chairman will expire on September 30, 1989. The betting is that General Herres will succeed him, it being the turn of an Air Force four-star to head the JCS next time around.

New Clout

Before becoming the first Vice Chairman of the JCS about a year ago, General Herres served as the first CINC of the unified US Space Command. He was succeeded in that slot by Air Force Gen. John L. Piotrowski, whose efforts in behalf of greater warfighting capabilities for his multiservice operational command may well have been given a boost by the new clout accorded the CINCs.

Among other things, General Pi­otrowski wants the US to develop and deploy radar systems in space to look downward for enemy bomb­ers and cruise missiles. He also cov­ets new radars or other sorts of sen­sors on land or in space to enhance his command’s somewhat deficient capability for surveillance of Soviet deep-space satellites.

The corporate Air Force is leery of such systems. Their costs would be burdensome in present condi­tions, and the Air Force budget would probably have to bear those costs.

But General Piotrowski is now in a position to make his pitch for them directly to the JCS Chairman, circumventing the Air Force leader­ship.

Whether he would make a point of doing this or would succeed at it is another matter. But at least he and all CINCs who want other things that their individual services shy away from are now free to take their best shots.

Space gets its share of attention, but does not stand out among the many major concerns expressed in Admiral Crowe’s recent testimony on Capitol Hill and in the Joint Staffs “United States Military Pos­ture” document presented to Con­gress earlier this year.

The budgetary downsizing of the space-oriented Strategic Defense Initiative is rued, as is the termina­tion of USAF’s antisatellite (ASAT) weapon development program, which fell prey to the budget and to the refusal of Congress to let the fighter-launched rocket weapon be tested against target satellites in space.

Much is said about the need for an ASAT weapon to redress the “seri­ous asymmetry” between US and Soviet capabilities for controlling space and defending US space as­ sets. There is also considerable em­phasis on the need to bring US spacelaunch capabilities up to snuff—which is yet another of Gen­eral Piotrowski’s prime goals.

But as to the need for such new systems as space-based radars and other space-surveillance sensors, little or nothing is said. Perhaps la­ter on.

Given the JCS Chairman’s bigger stick, his views are even more im­portant and noteworthy nowadays. He embodies the great bulk of those views in his “net assessment”—an analysis of US and allied capabili­ties vis-à-vis those of the Soviet Union and other adversarial na­tions—that the reorganization legis­lation now requires of him annually.

As Admiral Crowe told Congress earlier this year: “Last year, I sum­marized my own net assessment. This year, as a result of the Gold­water-Nichols Act, the Joint Staff has completed its first in-depth net assessment.”

The US Military Posture docu­ment is representative of that. It covers all the ground—strategic and tactical nuclear forces, strategic mobility, maritime defense, NATO and Warsaw Pact forces in Europe, Southwest Asia, the Pacific theater, Western Hemisphere, Special Op­erations Forces, space, Africa, and much, much more.

Good News—And a Warning

Taking it altogether, Admiral Crowe had good news and a warning for Congress, declaring: “In sum­mary, it is clear that the investments made in the last few years have ma­terially improved the net assess­ment from the US standpoint.

“It is equally obvious that the pic­ture is a dynamic one, that the Sovi­ets are working diligently to- im­prove their position across the board, and that there are still a number of serious gaps in our own posture. On balance, we need a number of years’ growth before we can face the future with confidence.

“And now,” as he put it pointedly, “to the defense budget.”

The Chairman’s message here: It was extremely difficult to shape the Fiscal Year 1989 budget constrained to no real growth, and “we can do this for one or two years, but not as a long-term proposition.

“Moreover, we are depending heavily on Congress to approve the overall shape and content of this budget. Substantial changes in the fundamentals or even at the margin may very well increase the risks we have tried hard to avoid.

“We are engaged in a security marathon, and it would be folly to conclude otherwise. Thus, the Joint Chiefs of Staff strongly concur with Secretary [of Defense] Carlucci’s conclusion that we should aim for two percent real growth in the bien­nial Fiscal Years 1990-91 budget submission.”

Tying his net assessment to his position on the defense budget, Ad­miral Crowe said that “the global military balance has not changed appreciably since my testimony last year,” but made it plain that the bal­ance will swing against the US II Congress fetters or refashions the budget even further.

The Chairman dealt extensively in his testimony with risks, commit­ments, and people, saying in part:

“It is important to understand that this may be only the beginning of greater risks in the defense plan­ning and programming pro­cess. . . . Several years of negative growth in defense spending will in­evitably lead to dangerously re­duced capabilities and force struc­ture.

“We should learn from our histo­ry. Four times in the last one hun­dred years we cut back precipi­tously in peacetime and then en­tered a major conflict unprepared. In each instance, we paid a need­lessly high cost in treasure, lives, and stability.

“Of particular concern is the im­pact of cost-avoidance measures on our people. We are not cutting back on commitments. Yet we are asking our military personnel to take up the slack resulting from modest but nonetheless real cuts in force struc­ture.

“Congress can do a great deal to ease this transition by ensuring that our military personnel remain confi­dent in laws governing military compensation—including the bene­fits of active duty and the integrity of our military retirement system.”

The Dominant Threat

The JCS Chairman gave Con­gress a balanced but unrelenting as­sessment of the rise of Soviet mili­tary power—a reminder that, de­spite changes in Kremlin policies, “the Soviet Union remains the dom­inant threat to our national security and to a more secure and stable in­ternational environment.

“World power is still the name of the game in the Kremlin, and Com­munist Party leaders will do what is necessary to play that game.”

Over the last two decades, he said, the USSR has built the world’s largest nuclear and conventional forces supported by “a huge arms production program and a steady research and development pro­gram. Power projection capabilities are increasing at a steady pace, not only on and around Eurasia but also in space.

“The free world has accommo­dated to the Soviet penchant for numbers, but—even more wor­risome—we are now seeing our tra­ditional qualitative edge erode.”

On the other hand, said Admiral Crowe, the Soviet military machine is flawed on several counts. Among these are “pervasive personnel problems,” many undermanned units that would have to be filled out in war with “personnel far less competent” than those in today’s front­line units, deficient training of con­scripts who serve too briefly to do much good, “persistent ethnic prob­lems” in the ranks, the “lack of a regular core of career NCOs,” ma­jor logistical problems, unreliable equipment, poor maintenance, and “highly centralized,” inflexible command and control.

“On a more fundamental level,” Admiral Crowe testified, “there may be even more important forces at work. General Secretary Gor­bachev and his Party colleagues seem to have concluded that the So­viet Union cannot remain a first-rate world power with a second-rate industry.

“Unquestionably, he wants to re­shape the economy. It is not clear whether he will succeed.”

Noting that “Gorbachev report­edly has suggested that the Soviet General Staff move from a war-win­ning posture to something called ‘reasonable sufficiency,'” the Chairman added:

“We still do not know what that means in terms of military spending or force structure. We do know that the Soviet military and the Russian people have little stomach for uni­lateral disarmament. And we have yet to see any tangible cutbacks in military spending or production.

“Thus, if Gorbachev is going to reduce the burden of military ex­penditures, he must do so in the broader context of his arms-control agenda.”

What it comes down to, said Ad­miral Crowe, is that “the Kremlin remains as firmly committed as ever to a long-term military competition with the West and to the support of so-called ‘wars of national libera­tion’ in the Third World.”

Increasing Importance of SOFs

In this regard, the military pos­ture statement puts much emphasis on the need of the US to be prepared to wage low-intensity conflict (LIC) in support of friendly nations facing military encroachment.

It states flatly: “LIC is the most likely and dangerous form of inter­national conflict the United States will face for the foreseeable future and is the form of conflict total­itarian forces have chosen to wage against the West in pursuit of expan­sionist goals.”

The Joint Staff document also dwells at some length on the in­creasing importance of US Special Operations Forces (SOF), which now operate under a relatively new unified command and are making out like gangbusters when it comes to funding and political support.

“SOF,” says the document, “are especially effective in resolving crises and terminating conflicts that are still at relatively low levels of violence.”

Such forces are also tailored to counter international terrorism, whether state-sponsored or fo­mented by independent groups.

Declares the military posture statement: “The threat of interna­tional terrorism against the United States and other nations continues to pose formidable challenges. Tar­geting of US interests in Europe and the Middle East continues. These areas, along with Latin America, will probably remain the scenes of the greatest number of terrorist ac­tivities against US interests.”

The unified Special Operations Command (SOCOM), said Admiral Crowe, “is receiving a great deal of top-level attention while continuing to demonstrate its unique value in both low-intensity conflict and con­ventional conflict.”

SOCOM was established at Mac-Dill AFB, Fla., on April 16, 1986. Last year, in July, two other com­mands came into being—the spec­ified US Forces Command (FORS­COM) at Fort McPherson, Ga., and the unified US Transportation Com­mand (USTRANSCOM) at Scott AFB, Ill.

They exemplify the steady trend toward jointness and interoperabili­ty of forces and toward more power for the CINCs and the Chairman of the JCS that the Department of De­fense Reorganization Act aimed at bringing about.

“As a result of the Act,” Admiral Crowe told Congress, “I am much better positioned to solicit, inte­grate, and weigh the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, commanders of the unified and specified com­mands, and directors of the defense agencies—and to guide the work of the Joint Staff.

“Real progress has been made in the areas of resource analysis and net assessments. Overall, we are steadily improving our ability to in­tegrate defense resources and war-fighting capabilities.”

Joint Doctrine Master Plan

Fundamental to such integration is a Joint Chiefs of Staff docu­ment now being prepared for pub­lication later this year—one that will greatly advance the everyday prac­ticality of “jointness” in the US mil­itary.

It is called the “Joint Doctrine Master Plan,” a blending of the doc­trines of the individual services into amalgamated warfighting plans, the concerted likes of which the Pen­tagon has never seen.

As the US military posture state­ment explained it:

“Military doctrine provides the fundamental principles by which forces of two or more services are employed in coordinated action to­ward a common objective.

“Joint doctrine is promulgated by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and pro­ vides a framework for developing solutions to enhance the warfighting capabilities of the CINCs.

“The Joint Doctrine Master Plan will spearhead the development of CINC warfighting doctrine and en­able the Chairman, JCS, to meet his responsibility for ‘developing doe-trifle for the joint employment of the Armed Forces.'”

The major aims of the master plan are to identify and fill voids in and among joint doctrines now more narrowly in effect, such as Air Force-Army doctrines for joint at­tack and joint suppression of air de­fenses, and to “bring all joint doc­trine previously approved by all four services under the JCS publica­tion system.”

The ultimate goal is to organize everything “into a systematic hier­archy that clearly links doctrine to procedures under a single capstone [JCS] manual.”

Such an endeavor would not be possible, of course, without influen­tial inputs from the individual ser­vices. And so, despite the inexora­ble flow of power to the JCS Chairman and the CINCs, the ser­vice Chiefs are by no means being stripped of say-so in operational military matters.

As General Herres noted: “The natural assumption is that the new prerogatives of the Chairman and the CINCs have emasculated the roles of the service Chiefs. But I don’t believe this is the case.

“The law requires the Chiefs to continue to advise the Chairman and provide him the benefit of their experience, the expertise of their re­spective operating domains, and their service viewpoints.”

Moreover, General Herres con­tinued, the service Chiefs remain responsible for force development and management, and each “can—and must—dissent from any posi­tion that the Chairman adopts that he feels is wrong.”

That having been said, however, General Herres got to the heart of what is going on, declaring:

“No one can intelligently argue any longer that jointness is not the most effective way to operate our military.”