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Report Calls for Biggest Changes Since Eisenhower Era : Major Pentagon Reforms Urged in Study

February 26, 1985|JAMES GERSTENZANG | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — An 18-month study of the Defense Department recommended Monday some of the greatest shifts in nearly three decades in the Pentagon's senior civilian and military operations to make "substantial improvements" in the effectiveness and efficiency of U.S. armed forces.

The study, conducted by Georgetown University's Center for Strategic and International Studies, recommended:

--Strengthening the authority of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, making him the principal military adviser to the President, the secretary of defense and the National Security Council--a role now given to the entire Joint Chiefs.

Long-Range Policies

--Expanding the role of the undersecretary of defense for policy to make sure that long-range policies are reflected in budget decisions.

--Shifting to a two-year defense budget process rather than continuing the current annual review, which has been criticized as incurring needless expense because it prohibits long-term planning.

--Trimming the staffs of the secretary of defense, the military departments and the congressional committees dealing with defense issues to increase efficiency "and to reduce the tendency" for senior officials to become too deeply involved in management details.

Eisenhower's Reforms

The report reflects the work of defense experts from former administrations, Congress and the corps of retired senior military officers but not the current Administration. The wide-ranging remodeling it recommends, if carried out, would be the most sweeping since a reorganization undertaken by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958.

The recommendations were endorsed by six former secretaries of defense, who called the study "an impressive effort to survey" the problems in the nation's defense establishment, which includes Congress, the Pentagon and other government offices responsible for national security.

The six former Pentagon chiefs--Robert S. McNamara, Clark M. Clifford, Melvin R. Laird, Elliot L. Richardson, James R. Schlesinger and Harold Brown--said that the U.S. defense establishment suffers from "serious deficiencies" in organization and management.

But the likelihood of implementing many of the recommendations, either through legislation or executive order, is unclear. Proposed changes in military organization have met with strenuous objections in the past, and the Pentagon issued no comment Monday on the proposals.

'Hard to Have Progress'

"Clearly, it's hard to have progress unless both sides of the (Potomac) river are interested in supporting it," said Philip A. Odeen, a former member of the National Security Council staff and chairman of the project. (The Pentagon is across the Potomac from Congress and the White House.)

Eisenhower, who was a retired five-star general when he became President, strengthened the role of the defense secretary but was largely unsuccessful in efforts to enhance the role of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and to separate the individual military services from specific combat commands covering geographical areas.

The study cited rivalry among the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps--as well as the yearlong budget struggle to which senior officials must devote more and more time--and declared that failure to complete Eisenhower's proposed reforms "is among the root causes of current problems in the U.S. defense establishment."

Two-Year Budget

"Substantial improvements can be made in the effectiveness and efficiency with which the United States plans, acquires and operates its forces," the report said.

At a news conference at which the study was made public, Sen. William S. Cohen (R-Me.) declared: "A two-year budget is possible."

Such a shift would give Congress "an opportunity to deal with the budget on a long-term basis and get . . . out of the business of micromanagement," said Cohen, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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