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Military Overhaul Bill Sent to President

September 18, 1986|From Times Wire Services

WASHINGTON — The House on Wednesday approved and sent to President Reagan compromise legislation overhauling the nation's military chain of command in an effort to end interservice rivalry and waste in defense programs.

The voice vote approval came less than a day after the Senate also passed the bill on a voice vote.

"Our collective work can be summed up in one sentence: It will encourage the four services to think jointly, to plan jointly, to train jointly and, should the time come to go into action, to fight jointly. We are attempting to change a military mind-set," Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) said.

"It is far more important to the successful military defense of our nation than the production of a thousand MX missiles," Skelton said.

Tribute to Goldwater

The bill was named after retiring Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Bill Nichols (D-Ala.), whose subcommittee helped write the bill.

The last major Pentagon overhaul occurred in 1947, also in an attempt to end service rivalries.

The bill increases the authority of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the head of the five-member board that sits atop the military structure controlling the country's 2.1 million military personnel.

The chairman will become the chief military adviser to the President in place of the joint staff, although dissents can reach the White House. The new post of vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also is created.

The chairman, now almost powerless to control the joint staff, gains authority over the officers who are sometimes under pressure to promote their own service's point of view or risk their careers.

Critics have complained that the existing system of military advice and planning at the Joint Chiefs of Staff has resulted in the "lowest common denominator" position and that budgets have amounted to service "wish lists."

Sets Up 'Joint Specialty'

The new plan sets up a new "joint specialty" for officers, to develop a cadre of officers experienced at ensuring that joint operations go smoothly. They also get career protection under the bill.

The measure gives new operational and personnel authority to the 10 U.S. commanders around the world who are responsible for directing military operations in their areas should a conflict break out.

And it merges some civilian and military posts in the three military departments--Army, Navy and Air Force. Each department now has two staffs, one military and one civilian, often working on the same issues.

It also repeals the Navy's independent operating authority, which gives that service jurisdiction over naval reconnaissance, anti-submarine warfare and shipping protection.

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