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ditions in the field. They might direct that we hit targets up in the northeast section of the country when the monsoon season had brought weather that made it impossible to hit those targets. Targets elsewhere that could have been hit went unattacked, and those selected couldn't be attacked. We would sit there paralyzed for two weeks at a time with nothing happening. This is a problem, of course, that goes beyond the reorganization of the Defense De partment and the Joint Chiefs. It is a problem of getting decisions made properly at the right level, where the decisions are made.
I might add, sir, that in the years that I was involved in the formulation of policy, military policy, and with regard to how we pursued the war in Vietnam, the major initiatives for most of the major combat operations that involved changes in our situation in Vietnam came from levels above the JCS. The JCS advice was, by and large, disregarded. The attacks across the border in Cambodia, the attempts to cut the pipeline, these were all things that originated above the level of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sometimes opposed by the JCS.
Our problem in getting a decision at the highest level of the government is our greatest task, and one that I wish you could find some time to get the committee to focus on-how we get that decisionmaking authority focused so that when a decision gets transmitted down in the form of an order, it makes sense so that it isn't countermanded by somebody else in the chain the next day. It is frustrating to hammer out an agreement across the river at the White House level, think you have got something, and find that the Secretary has countermanded it the next day and it can't go. This is a difficult task, I know, because you have to bring the State Department into this, the CIA, and other agencies in Government that have something to say about it.
Let me say that in our efforts to streamline things and to get matters into the hands of responsible individuals, we have sometimes caused ourselves problems. The National Security agency, for example, used to be an agency that was responsible to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In my tenure, the decision was made to have that agency report directly to the Secretary of Defense, and I saw the operational impact on me as the commander later on trying to fight the air war. I will give you an example.
I mentioned earlier that when the enemy introduced some of these new weapons systems, we had no knowledge at all as to what their characteristics were. The strella hand-held surface-to-air missile that was causing great destruction to our aircraft was a case in point. I asked for information on how this thing operated, so I could respond operationally.
Back in the old days you went to the intelligence officer in your unit who had a chain-of-command arrangement whereby he could get the people who knew something about technical intelligence on the phone and in a few minutes you had some sort of answers. I waited 9 days to get any technical information or advice on this new weapons system. We had to wing it on our own in the meantime. You know, what altitude was it effective at, how did it operate, what was the mechanism that was used for aiming and guidance. All those things essential for countering the weapon were denied me for 9 days because an agency, now remote from the military responsibilities of the conduct of the war, controlled it. Later on, when I ran into command and control problems because the enemy was netting all its radars and we were going blind when we flew out of our coverage up in the north and the enemy was gaining great tactical advantage, I asked to get National Security Agency information made available immediately on a timely basis to conduct combat operations properly. And I was a commander in the field trying to deal with an agency that didn't even report to the Joint Chiefs of Staff-most difficult to get a response and to get people to react. They ultimately did. But, believe me, it was far more difficult than it would have been with a clearcut arrangement where the military had control and the responsive agencies reported to them. Some of these agencies get so big and so intertwined with their own responsibilities they begin to lose sight of the poor little guy in the field who is trying to fight the war. That is something we have to worry about.
Mr. NICHOLS. Let me go back to the staff, if I might, for just a minute. We have got about 400-old people on the staff of the JCS. The argument frequently has been, General, that no one wants to serve on that staff. It is the kiss of death. A bright young officer wants a command. He doesn't want to be stuck away from his branch of service, away from his contemporaries on a staff here in the Pentagon. So, some thought is being given to trying to make that staff duty perhaps a little more attractive, certainly, that staff duty should not in any way be an impediment toward the normal promotion of a very qualified officer. Have you got any ideas on that?
General Vogt. Yes, sir; I wrestled with that problem when I was the director. I recall vividly one year when the promotion list came out of the respective services that the Joint Staff people were, in fact, lagging behind their contemporaries in the service staffs, and I made an issue of this, and I did it in a very direct way. I went to the Chiefs of the services. In one case in particular, the selection to the level of Navy captain, it was rather glaring. My commanders were falling far short of what would have been a reasonable quota, and I went to Admiral Zumwalt, who was the CNO at the time, and I said to him, “Look, one of two things is happening here. Either you are sending me people who aren't as good as they should be, and that explains why they are not being promoted, or you are sending me your good people and then forgetting about them or discriminating against them once they get down there. Now what is it?" I showed him the figures and said, in fact, they were not keeping pace with his own staff on the promotion list. The next year that was revised dramatically and the Joint Staff guys came out very well. The same thing applied with the other service Chiefs. When I went to them and explained the situation to them, the problem was hammered out. It was something that I think involved a little personal involvement on the part of the director and the Chiefs. And these were very reasonable men. When you explained what was happening, you got results. Now, maybe it will take a law to make that a perpetual thing. I don't think that is needed. There is another danger, and it is this: If people think that the way to get promoted fast is to gravitate toward the desk jobs in the Joint Staff, and they start shying away from the cockpits and the combat positions in the field, you are going to have great strategic guidance from the top and soldiers who can't or won't fight adequately at the other end. And I have worried about this, when we start establishing quotas at the expense of the people who are doing the fighting. I have been at both ends. I have been a combat commander in the cockpit, and a squadron commander in World War II, over at a beachhead in Normandy, wondering how these people are faring back in the Pentagon, and elsewhere, who never saw the war, wondering what motivated them in some of the decisions they were making. But believe me, it helped me understand in my greater responsibilities later how to conduct a war and how to fight a war. You have got to get in there and get shot at and hit a few times to really understand the meaning of combat command and what it is all about in the field.
I would personally not like to see a system where we have officers who spend the bulk of their career not facing the enemy or the potential enemy, but facing combatants in Washington, because you will have, as I say, people who will do that job superbly, but you won't have the guys that are going to have to do other jobs in the field. So, I would be cautious about that one.
Certainly, some emphasis is required to get the proper people there. They ought to be rewarded if they do the job properly. But let's not do it at the expense of the guy who is going to fight the war. Some of the finest officers are those guys out in the cockpits, sitting on those ships, facing those dangers every day. They are the ones that are called upon to make the command decisions in the field when the Pentagon isn't at your elbow telling you what to do.
Mr. NICHOLS. One final question on my part. Talk to us about the Deputy Chairman. In our conversations with the Joint Chiefs, who sat as a panel to testify, and otherwise, it is apparent that this issue is probably one of the most sticky issues that we face, the creation of a Deputy Chairman. First, is he needed in your judgment; second, what rank would you give him; third, if he is needed and can be utilized, what responsibilities would you assign to him?
General Vogt. Well, sir, I think, as is the case with most deputies, you wind up with people who really don't have the responsibility or the authority, nor do they have the respect and the kind of responsive reaction they should be getting, because they are, in fact, the No. 2 man. In most military chains of command, the No. 2 man isn't, in fact, the guy in the chain. Go out to CINCPAC for example. The commander in chief, Pacific, is always the commander in chief, Pacific. He never has a deputy designated as such. He has a chief of staff. The reason for that is the feeling that they have had over the years that you can't create in a deputy a man with sufficient stature to talk to the CINC's or the component commanders and the heads of governments and what have you. I rather suspect that what you are going to wind up with is somebody with a name and a title but without the aura that is going to be required to do the job properly.
Mr. NICHOLS. If I may interrupt right here, why should people look down their noses at a deputy chairman or a deputy commander? What is demeaning about that job in the eyes of contemporaries?
General Vogt. I might ask that about the Vice President of the United States, sir. It is sort of analogous.
Mr. NICHOLS. Mr. Barrett, do you have any questions?
Mr. BARRETT. Yes, sir; I do have a question about the command arrangements in Vietnam. What would have been the right command arrangement in Vietnam, in your view?
General VOGT. There should have been a commander responsive directly to the JCS in Washington. When I was there it would have been General Abrams. He would have had responsibility for the conduct of the entire war, in the north in Laos, in Cambodia, and in South Vietnam as well. Instead, as I said, we had this divided authority and it led to great problems for me. I had the same airplanes called upon to do all these other jobs with various commanders telling me how those airplanes ought to be used, and it got into quite a tussle from time to time. The enemy would be advancing in the south, about to take Quang Tri or something else, and I would get an order from the guy in the north to put most of my air up to the Hanoi area that day. This is insane.
Mr. BARRETT. Would that have included the naval elements off of Vietnam too?
General Vogt. Absolutely.
Mr. BARRETT. Then that would have been in effect a unified command?
General Vogt. It would have been a combat command responsive directly to the JCS, which I think you made a provision for in your bill, if I read it correctly.
General Vogt. That is what I was getting to. I was going to ask you, General
General Vogt. Absolutely.
General Vogt. I saw that in the bill and I agree with it 100 percent. I think it is an excellent way to approach the problem.
Mr. BARRETT. There is another provision in the bill that requires that the unified command plan be reviewed periodically, and I will just tell you that the thinking behind that is the very situation you described in Vietnam. Surely, no one could agree that that far away Pacific commander was the right commander in the chain of command in Vietnam. The idea there is that worldwide conditions will change, and the unified command plan should respond to those changing conditions.
General Vogt. That is correct. That is what is difficult about trying to do this in law. Really, you should make provisions for it but not direct it. I think the Secretary of Defense is the key here. A strong Secretary of Defense could have ironed out this command arrangement problem a long time ago. But he didn't in the case of Vietnam. Successive Secretaries didn't. They got, you know, advice from one JCS member, advice from another. In some instances the advice from the Chairman wouldn't necessarily have been the best advice. Had he been in a strengthened position, he would have given the wrong advice. Generally speaking, when we had Navy commands in there they tended to want to perpetuate the CINCPAC structure. They didn't want to go the other route. The Army member and the Air Force member would tend toward the other direction. In that case I think it would have been wise to listen to those guys, and we wouldn't have had the problems that I de scribed that I had later on. I think it is ironic that even when I got promises from the commander in chief himself as I did from the President, nothing happened. He couldn't clean it up. I wish you luck in advising a cleanup that will clean up something that we were unable to do when I was there.
Mr. BARRETT. That is the next question, on the chain of command. The chairman asked you about putting the chain of command in law-the President to the Secretary of Defense to a unified commander. As you know, that has been considered the chain of command for decades. But it is not in the law. You described a situation where the Secretary of Defense was in the chain of command. He countermanded orders that had been developed in another way. I don't want to get into the argument about who should be in the chain of command at any given time, but I want to ask you this about the law. It seems to me that the President should be able to decide who he wants in the chain of command, and if we were to put it in the law that the Secretary of Defense is in the chain of command, that might limit the President in the situation that you were describing.
General Vogt. I think what has been confusing in the past is what is the National Command Authority. The National Security Act of 1947, as I recall, talked about the National Command Authority being responsible for the flow of information and orders down to the combat commanders. Now, in the past nobody has been willing to define who the NCA is. The Chiefs for a while liked to believe that they were in the National Command Authority structure. In fact, they were not. As I read the National Security Act of 1947, as amended in the 1950's, it in effect said the JCS are advisers. They are not operators. They are not in the chain of command. They are advisers to the Secretary of Defense, to the National Security Council and to the President. That is all they are purported to be.
This problem came up when I was a director. Some question was raised about the authority of the Chairman to act as the chief operator. I described the process. WASAG would meet, decisions would be made, there would be a new directive to go out to the commander. The Chairman would prepare the message. It was actually done by the director and the staff. He would OK it. Then it would have to be initialed and approved by the Secretary of Defense before it was submitted to the wires and sent to the commander. Some people thought this was, in effect, giving the Chairman too much authority. The issue was raised, and it was settled by the same Dave Packard that is heading this Commission today. He simply prepared, with my help, the DOD directive. I have forgotten the number of it but I can probably dig it out of the records some where. That directive said that the Chairman is effectively in the chain of command and will carry out for the Secretary of Defense the drafting of messages and orders to the field commanders for the conduct of the war in Vietnam, and that is how it worked. It was done simply with a signature by the Secretary of Defense, prepared by Packard, and nobody ever questioned it from that point on. And that is how it worked.