Proposed Changes to Goldwater-Nichols Vary

Congress and the Obama Administration agree the structure of the military’s chain of command needs rethinking, but their proposed changes to the 30-year-old Goldwater-Nichols Act remain out of sync, the Congressional Research Service found. In a report released May 25, CRS outlined the numerous restructuring proposals included in the House and Senate Armed Services committees’ versions of the Fiscal 2017 defense authorization bill and compared them with the Pentagon’s recommendations. The CRS found the “Administration has appeared to take a somewhat more conservative view of defense reform.” For instance, the committees’ drafts proposed extending the length of time the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff serves for from two to four years, while the Pentagon did not. But there is some common ground. In April, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the role of the CJCS must be clarified and suggested whoever holds the position should be allowed to “help synchronize resources globally for daily operations around the world” and “provide objective military advice for ongoing operations, not just future planning.” The committees both included similar proposals in their drafts. The House passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act on May 18; the Senate is scheduled to debate its version next week.