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HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, DC, Tuesday, February 25, 1986. The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 9 a.m., in room 2216, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Bill Nichols (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
STATEMENT OF HON. BILL NICHOLS, A REPRESENTATIVE FROM
ALABAMA, CHAIRMAN, INVESTIGATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE Mr. NICHOLS. The subcommittee will come to order.
This morning we continue our hearings on Department of Defense reorganization.
Our first witness is the Honorable Robert Komer, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.
STATEMENT OF HON. ROBERT KOMER, FORMER UNDER
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR POLICY Mr. KOMER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I have no statement to make. Because the House and Senate are already well into drafting bills, I thought it would be more useful if I could comment on any questions that you all might have.
I would say in general, however, that I am a strong advocate of Defense reorganization, have been for years, have participated on a number of the committees that made various recommendations to that effect.
I would like to emphasize in testifying before you that I am testifying as a participant in the Defense decisionmaking process. I spent 4 years under Harold Brown in the Defense Department at the top level. I have dealt with the Chiefs personally and individually and severally. As a result, I feel that I have some understanding of the way the process works or has not worked in the past, and how it might work better in the future.
Mr. NICHOLS. All right. Let me begin with the staffs, the consideration being given to combining certain of the staffs, the most usual proposal being a combination of the Secretaries' staffs with those of the service Chiefs. Would you comment on that? Is that a good idea? Is that a bad idea?
Mr. KOMER. With respect to the service Secretaries and the service staffs, I would agree that it seems to be sensible to combine the civilian and the military components. They do not completely duplicate each other by any means and, by and large, the service military staff is much larger, in my experience, much better informed. It's the institutional memory because political appointees like myself come and go.
I would think that you could get considerably greater efficiency and save a lot of spaces by combining the service military and civilian staffs. I would go further than what was sent to me as a possible House bill.
Mr. NICHOLS. If we elect to do that, how much micromanagement would you suggest from the Congress? Would you simply leave that reorganization to the Secretary of Defense? Or would you leave it to the various departments to make those changes? Or would you try to specify a certain percent reduction in overall staffs? Or a combination?
Mr. KOMER. Some variant of all of those proposals, Mr. Chairman. I must say all my experience has been in the executive branch. When I first saw what your subcommittee sent out in the way of Defense reorganization proposals a few days ago, it rather horrified me that you were overspecifying.
My own instinct is that one should pick the top management people that they believe qualified to do the job and then allow that top management a good deal of flexibility in deciding how to organize. By and large, I think the Congress should task the Secretary of Defense functionally but leave it to the Secretary of Defense as to how many assistant secretaries he wants, for example, and what jobs they should have, et cetera, et cetera.
Mr. NICHOLS. Mr. Komer, the Senate staff report has suggested a reorganization of the Office of the Secretary of Defense along mission lines. What would be your position on the Senate proposal?
Mr. KOMER. That came from an experience I had, Mr. Chairman. In fact, my personal experience is about the only time the Defense Department has ever organized anything in policy terms along specified lines. I was the adviser to the Secretary of Defense on NATO. I, in effect, ran NATO policy for the Secretary.
My experience was that this is a good thing. I started out by suggesting that my appointment be a temporary one, that this not be an effort to create a permanent new job in the Defense hierarchy. When I left, I had modified that view considerably. So, in a sense, this proposal by the Senate staff has only one basis, and that is the experience that I had in running NATO affairs.
By and large, I think that I would support having an Assistant Secretary for NATO affairs, an Assistant Secretary for the rest of the world, and an Assistant Secretary for Strategic Forces. But I would have them all under a single Under Secretary for Policy.
There has to be the proper balance between centralization and decentralization. I think that that would give it to you.
Mr. NICHOLS. Would you favor an under secretary of Defense for readiness?
Mr. KOMER. No, sir; I would not, probably-I mean mainly-because readiness can be interpreted to cover so much of the Defense Department's business that this guy would be in everybody else's racket.
We don't even know what readiness means. I have never seen an acceptable definition of it for operational purposes.
Mr. NICHOLS. One of the issues that is causing a lot of conversation on both sides of the Congress is the provision that we included in our bill last year which would create a Deputy Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. That position would complement the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. The Deputy Chairman would out rank the other Chiefs. He would serve in the absence of the Chairman.
Do you support that?
Mr. KOMER. Yes, sir, I do. I would not support it if he were made junior to the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Mr. NICHOLS. Why?
Mr. KOMER. Because I don't see how he can function as Chairman in the absence of the Chairman himself. I don't see how he can effectively manage the Joint Chiefs of Staff unless he has seniority. If he's junior, they're not going to pay much attention to him.
I gather that all of the current Chiefs of Staff are opposed to this because they don't think another four-star officer besides the Chairman should be picked and put over them. I am sorry about that. But it seems to me that for effective management of the Joint Chiefs of Staff the deputy should be second only to the Chairman and not junior to the Chiefs.
Mr. NICHOLS. What about the argument that the Chiefs use, that it's desirable and it broadens their expertise to serve a 3-month hitch as Deputy Chairman and sit in the chair and preside. If it broadens their experience, isn't that a good argument for doing it the way we do now?
Mr. KOMER. No, sir. I think that it would be a good argument if there were no better arguments. I do believe that for the present members of the Joint Chiefs to serve in the Chairman's chair, so to speak, is a broadening influence. But by and large, it's not the most efficient way to run the business.
Mr. NICHOLS. Generally speaking then, I gather you support the bill which was passed by the House last year and sent to the Senate?
Mr. KOMER. Yes.
Mr. Komer, in referring to the draft bill prepared by this subcommittee, you mentioned that you thought it was overspecifying. Can you be a little more specific in where it overspecifies, sir?
Mr. KOMER. Yes, I can. In particular, when you get down to page 3, joint officer personnel, there are rather detailed criteria for assignment and promotion. Then you get over to the military departments, and you have lots and lots of detail, and the same with defense agencies on pages 7 and 8.
Now, it may be just that looking at this de novo I found it more detailed than I would be happy with, were I in a position to execute it. But the more specific you are, the more detail you get into, the more chance you've got of doing something wrong. And then the Congress will have to go back and change it. If the difficulties we have had in getting Defense reorganization bills through the Congress in the past is any indicator, if something is wrong, it may take ten years to change it.
Mr. LALLY. On the other point you discussed with the Chairman about the Deputy Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I recall that a couple of times during his tenure Chairman Nichols had General Vessey over here to discuss this proposal for a deputy chairman with him. As I recall, General Vessey was opposed to a deputy chairman. He said that the Chiefs themselves had studied the problem, and they were unable to agree upon a charter for the Office of Deputy Chairman.
In view of that comment from the Chairman, could you comment on those views of the former Chairman as to the necessity for a Deputy Chairman?
Mr. KOMER. Well, sir, you mentioned General Vessey, who was the last chairman before Admiral Crowe. I could mention General Jones, who was the chairman before him and who thought that he needed a deputy. I think you will find that views vary among present and past chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. By and large, I am much more of General Jones' persuasion than General Vessey's.
The point is, do you want to have a man who can replace the Chairman, with the Chairman's authority over the Chiefs, on those occasions when the Chairman is out of town or is incapacitated by illness or something like that? The job is big enough for two people to work it. There have been a number of proposals for other functions for the deputy. He could, in addition, serve as Director of the Joint Staff, although I don't think much of that idea.
I would suggest that General Vessey's expressed views were influenced by the context in which he operated.
Mr. LALLY. He did establish the rotation, the quarterly rotation of the other chiefs. And as I recall, his comment was that up until that time it had been the senior chief in town and that you did have this frequent change in a crisis period where maybe you had three or four different acting chairmen. He felt that the designation of one person for each quarter eliminated that possibility and gave the continuity which was required for an acting chairman.
Mr. KOMER. It was an improvement, I believe. I wasn't there at the time, so I can't speak to it from personal experience or observation.
But my experience has been that serving as a service chief, as Chief of Naval Operations or Chief of Staff of the Air Force or Army, does not give one much background or experience to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A service Chief wears two hats. He spends perhaps 95 percent of his time on his job as service chief and 5 percent of his time on his job as a member of the JCS. I don't see how he can have adequate experience of and knowledge of the kinds of problems that the Chairman needs to advise the President and the Secretary of Defense.
Mr. LALLY. Thank you, Mr. Komer.
Mr. BARRETT. Mr. Komer, what do you think of the idea of doing away with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and establishing some sort of general staff, perhaps along the lines that the Senate recommend ed, or as Representative Skelton or Gen. Maxwell Taylor have recommended in the past?
Mr. KOMER. I think that's a proposal that has a lot going for it. Generally, if I thought it were politically feasible, I would favor it over the past or the presently developing House bills.
I don't think the Joint Chiefs of Staff is a very effective organization. I think we need a more effective one. I think we, above all, need to remove this conflict of interest, where the same man who is the chief uniformed advocate of his service's, inevitably rather parochial, policies proceeds to judge its military effectiveness by going downstairs into the tank and putting on his other hat as a member of the JCS. So, it does seem to me that separating the service chiefs from the people who provide the military strategic advice is a good technique.
I am most unimpressed with the criticisms against it. One criticism against it, as you know, is that the member of this military council-General Meyer proposed that back in 1982, I recall—that the member will be cut off from his service. Well, he will have served 35 or more years in his service. How does he get cut off from it? He is not the immediate superior; that's true. But as a result, he may be able to get more free-wheeling advice.
I think that strategy is a subject which has been utterly and adequately discussed, analyzed, decided upon in the U.S. Government and in the national security part of the U.S. Government in particular. You are never going to get adequate attention to preferred U.S. strategy without a very substantial military input. You are never going to get a very substantial military input unless you have people working on it full time and not devoting 5 percent of their time to it.
I was having lunch with a Chief of Staff, and it was the day on which they were going to have a JCS meeting at 2:00 or 2:30 in the afternoon. At about 2:15 he began to get nervous that he ought to get briefed for the JCS meeting. Well, I walked out at 2:20, and in the 10 minutes before the JCS meeting, probably while he was walking down from the second floor or the third floor to the first floor, the chief got briefed on the business for that afternoon. Now, I don't think that's an acceptable basis on which to operate.
Mr. BARRETT. But if you went in that direction, would it follow that you would create a general staff of officers? Would you take young officers at a certain age and train them in joint matters and create a cadre and have a separate joint promotion system-
Mr. KOMER. I am glad to debate that
Mr. BARRETT. Give them some sort of badge of distinction and those sorts of things?
Mr. KOMER. That is separable. I think you could have a separate Joint Chiefs of Staff or national military advisory council without going to a general staff system for the staff. I do believe, from historical analysis as well as my own experience, that a real general staff system would greatly improve our strategic and policy planning. Now, I would add that, too, if I had my druthers. I would add the creation of a regular general staff system, multi-service, to the creation of a separate joint military council, or whatever you want to call it.
Mr. BARRETT. Let's back off just a little bit from those measures that you say are beyond the boundaries of the politically feasible at this point. Considering the JCS bill that we passed last year in the House and which has some prospects for being passed, you have said that the proposals that we sent you are too detailed. How would you protect service officers when they go into joint billets? Yesterday Admiral Train indicated that he himself had participated in intimidating officers who serve in joint assignments. He indi