An interesting and intriguing idea from former SECDEF Harold Brown.
Mr. Brown posits the idea that, in an era of bloated gov't/defense, one area where cuts could occur and not negatively impact readiness is to eliminate the Service Secretaries and much of their staff. He opens thusly:
The four military services in the Defense Department differ in their roles, missions and skills — which are good reasons to retain their separate identities. But as the duties of the uniformed service chiefs have converged with those of the civilian secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force, the latter have become redundant appendages. Eliminating those positions would save money and streamline management, a good example for the rest of government. In today’s climate of fiscal austerity, cutting overhead is better than cutting defense programs.
To me, what makes this an idea worthy of consideration is that it points out some reform already done He points out how Goldwater/Nichols fixed some problems but internal reform was never completed. It sets up one of those "yeah, why exactly are we doing this" situations.
One of the hardest parts of reform is getting rid of the old/redundant. Brown tells an interesting story which is equal part funny and headshakingly dopey:
I am reminded of an apocryphal piece of Washington history. In the 1950s, the Army reexamined its Table of Organization and Equipment. It found that an artillery battery contained one soldier whose presence and function were unexplained. The position was that of the man who, during combat, had held the horses that drew the caissons carrying the guns. The horses had gone, but not the personnel slot. Let’s retire another set of horse holders.
This requires law change (difficult enough, especially when 'creating jobs' is the buzz word in all of DC and the Legislature). And there will be howls of protest from several pockets of entrenched bureaucrats and legacy thinkers who always opt for "go slow" or "we need to study this" options.
As long as the civilian oversight responsibilities are properly allocated, and especially if acquistion streamlining could be realized by doing this, it is very worthy of serious consideration by the next SECDEF.
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