Pentagon chief wants streamlined, more nimble U.S. military structure

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 05, 2016 3:45 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Tuesday called for changes in the U.S. military that would cut inefficiencies, streamline the acquisition process and improve the ability to respond quickly to threats such as Islamic State.

The proposals by Carter, speaking to an audience at Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington, cut across all branches of the Defense Department because they affect its top leadership and service chiefs.

He said some of the measures could be put in place "over the coming weeks" under existing authority while others will require legislative action.

Some of the proposals aim to overcome organizational inefficiencies within the vast U.S. military that Carter believes do not allow it to best address transregional threats like the one from the Islamic State militant group, which stretches from Afghanistan to Africa.

Carter's proposals, which did not go into specifics, follow a review of the Goldwater-Nichols law of 1986, which made sweeping changes to the structure of the U.S. military and has been criticized for being outdated.

Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, looking at whether Goldwater-Nichols needed to be updated because of changing security threats including Islamic State and North Korea.

Carter said the role of chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff ought to be clarified to help move troops quickly across regional commands and provide military advice for current and future operations.

He said the Pentagon would try to simplify some headquarters positions so that some jobs now filled by four-star generals could be done by lower-ranking officers in the future.

Carter added that service chiefs would be involved more in making decisions on defense acquisitions. He said the Pentagon would seek to streamline the acquisitions process by reducing the amount of paperwork required.

In order to make the acquisition process simpler, Carter said he would look at potentially reducing the number of members on the Defense Acquisition Board, which gives advice on acquisition programs.

In recent congressional testimony, Michele Flournoy, a former top U.S. Department of Defense official, said the Goldwater-Nichols law was leading to a "tyranny of consensus" and "bloated headquarters."

Reaching a consensus had "become an end in itself in too many areas," including strategy development and acquisition, she said in her written testimony.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali and Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Bill Trott)