Thursday, July 7, 2016

Clash Brewing Over Congressional Proposal to Create Nimbler Military Commands

As the House and Senate begin the process to reconcile vastly different defense policy bills, House Armed Services Ranking Member Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., hinted that he is weighing support for Senate language that would downsize the military command structure and require the secretary of defense to create nimbler organizations.

This is one of many provisions in the Senate version of the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act that seek to overhaul the Pentagon’s civilian and military organizations. These reforms have long been advocated by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., as part of a broader effort to rewrite the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act.

McCain has pressed the case that current geography-based organizations are too rigid to respond to opportunist enemies like the Islamic State.

During a breakfast meeting with reporters July 6, Smith insisted that he has not yet made up his mind on whether he will support the Senate language on this matter, but suggested he would be inclined to back measures that flatten the military bureaucracy and give commanders more flexibility to respond to threats.

“I am intrigued by the possibility of going in this direction,” Smith said.

The White House firmly opposes the Senate language on grounds that it micromanages the military and creates additional bureaucracy.

Smith said he would weigh the objections raised by the Obama administration as the NDAA conference moves along. This is far from a “yes” or “no” answer, he said. “Does McCain have the exact right formula? Is the White House completely wrong in the criticism? No and no. But I think we have to move in that direction.”