WASHINGTON — The Senate gave overwhelming approval Wednesday to the most far-reaching reorganization of the nation's armed forces in 30 years in an effort to ease interservice rivalry and to encourage cooperation in joint military operations.
The bill, which was resisted by many Pentagon officials, was approved 95 to 0.
The measure strengthens the authority of the chairman of the military Joint Chiefs of Staff and the heads of joint commands while reducing that of the individual uniformed service chiefs and making hundreds of changes in current military procedures.
It is the product of more than four years of hearings and study by the Senate Armed Services Committee, its chairman, Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.), and its ranking Democrat, Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.).
Goldwater, who contended that cooperation among the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps is so poor as to endanger the success of military operations, made passage of the measure the centerpiece of the final years of his long legislative career.
Tribute to Goldwater
Goldwater retires at the end of the year and the Senate, in an unusual tribute, voted to name the entire bill, "The Barry Goldwater Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986."
Similar legislation is making its way through the House.
The legislation, in effect, gives the chairman of the joint chiefs and the commanders of the worldwide unified commands more authority to set priorities and guide and coordinate military policy.
The Senate bill designates the chairman as the "principal military adviser" to the President, the national security adviser and the secretary of defense. The other members of the joint chiefs would be designated as military advisers.
Complaints About Advice
Many officials have complained that military advice from the joint chiefs was diluted and neither timely nor useful.
The measure provides that the chairman may be appointed for up to eight years. At present a chairman is allowed to serve for a maximum of four years.
The legislation also creates a position of vice chairman and designates him as the nation's second highest ranking military officer after the chairman. In effect, both he and the chairman would outrank the chiefs of the uniformed services, a provision that was hotly contested by the Pentagon.
Another provision requires a cut of 10% or about 17,600 in the Pentagon's civilian work force.