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Drezner for the Defense

Good soldier Dan Drezner tries to mount a defense of the Bush intelligence "reform" plan:

A side note on the intelligence reform question -- Mark Kleiman and Amy Zegart raise some disturbing questions about whether Bush's proposals for a National Intelligence Director would have sufficient authority to improve our intelligence capabilities. Zegart's speculation is particularly troublesome: "my warning bells go off whenever I hear the word "coordinate" so much in one press conference."

I'm cautiously optimistic, for two reasons. First, I suspect Bush is trying to mimic the Goldwater-Nichols reforms of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1986 -- and if memory serves, the JCS is neither in the operational chain of command nor does it possess budgetary authority is [sic: "as is?"]. Bush explicitly compared the two in the press conference.

I don't think that's right. This is Google-research not genuine knowledge on my part, but here goes. First:
The Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986, sponsored by Sen. Barry Goldwater and Rep. Bill Nichols, caused a major defense reorganization, the most significant since the National Security Act of 1947. Operational authority was centralized through the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs as opposed to the service chiefs. The chairman was designated as the principal military advisor to the president, National Security Council and secretary of defense.
"Operational authority was centralized through the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs as opposed to the service chiefs" sounds like the CS is in the operational chain of command. And then there's this, providing a description of some of the Chairman's job responsibilities:
(4) Advice on Requirements, Programs, and Budget.
(A) Advising the Secretary, under section 163(b)(2) of this title, on the priorities of the requirements identified by the commanders of the unified and specified combatant commands.
(B) Advising the Secretary on the extent to which the program recommendations and budget proposals of the military departments and other components of the Department of Defense for a fiscal year conform with the priorities established in strate gic plans and with the priorities established for the requirements of the unified and specified combatant commands.
(C) Submitting to the Secretary alternative program recommendations and budget proposals, within projected resource levels and guidance provided by the Secretary, in order to achieve greater conformance with the priorities referred to in clause (B).
(D) Recommending to the Secretary, in accordance with section 166 of this title, a budget proposal for activities of each unified and specified combatant command.
(E) Advising the Secretary on the extent to which the major programs and policies of the armed forces in the area of manpower conform with strategic plans.
(F) Assessing military requirements for defense acquisition programs.
(B), (D), and (F) here would seem to vest a rather large amount of budgetary authority in the Chairman's hands. Ultimately, the Secretary of Defense is in charge, but at the sub-SecDef level authority is concentrated in the hands of the Chairman rather than dispersed to the service chiefs or the regional CINCs. (C) also provides the Chairman with a useful weapon to use in a dispute with the SecDef, namely a formal procedure by which he can make his views known and which, given the fact that the officer corps is more respected in public opinion than are politicians, I would think is a non-trivial factor in how these things work out.

I'm open, however, to alternative interpretations of the aforementioned items as parsing legislative language is not within my domain of expertise so I might be misconstruing this.

August 4, 2004 | Permalink


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Why is he doing this?

Posted by: Brad DeLong | Aug 4, 2004 2:06:48 PM

I think the CINCs report directly to the SecDef, not to the chairman of the JCS.

Posted by: praktike | Aug 4, 2004 2:12:26 PM

You are correct, sir.

From the JCS web site (http://www.dtic.mil/jcs/ - click on 'Organization', then 'Joint Chiefs'):
Under the DOD Reorganization Act, the Secretaries of the Military Departments assign all forces to combatant commands except those assigned to carry out the mission of the Services, i.e., recruit, organize, supply, equip, train, service, mobilize, demobilize, administer and maintain their respective forces. The chain of command to these combatant commands runs from the President to the Secretary of Defense directly to the commander of the combatant command. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff may transmit communications to the commanders of the combatant commands from the President and Secretary of Defense but does not exercise military command over any combatant forces.

I don't really see a valid comparison between JCS and the "new & improved" intel structure... If anything, JCS is more like what we have right now: a "senior intel boss" (the DCI), a la the Chairman, in charge of the various armed services, but with limited authority to order people to actually do anything. The JCS Chairman is strictly the senior military "mouth" to the Pres & SecDef. That's apparently all George Tenet was on the intel side.

Where's the improvement?

Posted by: legion | Aug 4, 2004 2:40:35 PM

August 04, 2004 A NATIONAL HEALTH CARE PLAN THAT MIGHT ACTUALLY WORK The brilliant Kerry Advisor Prof Brad Delong (who should be a Republican) in a very interesting analysis of Health Care finance. I think I agree with him as much I hate to admit it.

The plan seems to basically involve using the treasury as the reinsuror of last resort. The insurance companies act just as they do now but on all claims uop to $20,000 or something like that. Once a claim reaches that threshold the goverment then pays the bills as reinsuror.

Insurance premiums would be much lower so more people would be able to buy it. It actually sounds pretty good to me except that I would want the Republicans to design and implement it so it really works.



Posted by: Adrian Spidle | Aug 4, 2004 2:57:15 PM

That's apparently all George Tenet was on the intel side.

Um, yeah. But isn't the point of this exercise to break that job away from Tenet (or whoever the DCI is), since he already has 3 jobs (manage the CIA, be the analyst-in-chief, and coordinate the intelligence community. So the proposal is to let the head of the CIA continue to manage the CIA and be the analyst in chief, but move the coordination of the intelligence community to a different level.

Posted by: Al | Aug 4, 2004 3:24:40 PM

Gee, nowhere in the cited provision do I see "control" over any budgets. All I see is a lot of "advising", "recommending", and "submitting". Now how is that different from what Bush proposed?

Posted by: Al | Aug 4, 2004 3:27:09 PM

Bush's proposal isn't intended to create a real intel czar, but only to appear to implement the 9/11 Commission findings.

Rumsfeld is unalterably opposed to anyone having control over the 80% or so of the intel budget that is in the DoD.

So, no line control over budgets, no personnel hiring and firing, not in the cabinet, not in the Exec. Office of the President (WH), not in the operational chain of command. A coordinator, with no direct access to the president. This is a position with exactly the same relevence and power as the (unused) power of the Director of Central Intelligence currently has: none.

Whitewash. Disengenuousness. Artfully crafted words that mislead greatly, but don't quite lie directly. The virtual truth (or virtual lie).

This whole charade needs to be put on the table until some adults who really want to improve things are in charge.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Aug 4, 2004 4:37:14 PM

Al, please read and, if you can, respond to MY's interpretation, which makes clear how the JC's authority has some teeth. In any case, it's apples to oranges, since there is already a single source point of responsibility for military budgeting (SecDef); there is noting close to that in intell, and that is precisely the problem - the problem that Bush refuses to address.

The 9-11 Commission is making it perfectly clear that they don't think Bush's proposal follows their recs in any meaningful way. Would you care to argue with them as well?

Posted by: JRoth | Aug 4, 2004 5:07:27 PM

I am not sure if the "he" in Prof DeLong's question referred to Drezner or Bush, but presuming Bush, it is a good question. The WH proposals should be looked at very carefully, because although politics could be the main motivation, the WH will also consider this an opportunity to achieve some structural changes and advantages. Reference:Homeland Security.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Aug 4, 2004 5:19:39 PM

JRoth, you can't tell me what to do. If I feel like reading before responding, I'll read before responding. Not because you told me to. Who made you King of the Universe, Mr. Smartypants?

Posted by: Al | Aug 4, 2004 7:05:25 PM

This isn't even google, it is my memory of plan of attack. The JCS is not in the chain of command.

However, the chairman of the JCS is not the military Czar. It is rather important to the US system of government that we don't have a military Czar. The cJCS in theory and, in this administration in practice, is a subordinate to the secretary of Defence, expected to follow orders without question and not allowed to offer his subordinates an authoritative interpretation of those orders.

The current DCI ranks higher than the CJCS. Think how many chairmen of the JCS you can name. With all respect, I doubt you would back far before they guy who was CJCS when Clinton took office.

To reduce the DCI to a sort of Chairman of the joint chiefs of intelligence staff would be to do the opposite of what the 9-11 committee recommended. It might be a good idea, but it would be a more vigorous rejection of their proposals even than that proposed by Bush.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann | Aug 4, 2004 7:06:06 PM

I like the issue Bob McManus raises, but I do wonder just what that advantage is supposed to be. Is it merely the cosmetic approach of setting up an Intelligence head who can be ignored, or something else? Because what I see is a proposal that makes less and less sense the more one examines it. Watching Lehrer the other night, the woman (sorry, didn't get her name) from the Administration made the same comparison to JCS, and Lehrer was also confused. I'd say the point is that the JCS report to a cabinet level officer with hiring and budgetary control. Why not Intelligence? Does the JCS comparison really hold up at all?

But more basic, it seems to me, is something that's come up also with Ridge's actions this week - it's been three years. The reforms proposed by the commission are neither surprising or new. Why do the Bush folks seem so resistant, and why does security and intelligence within the country seem so hard for them to get their minds around? Really. I don't get it. It's why I think the rest of this stuff about hating Bush, while cute, is quite beside the point. Why does anyone think this Administration is doing enough on intelligence and security? And isn't that reason enough to make a change?

Posted by: weboy | Aug 5, 2004 8:35:15 AM


You win. You're right. I am not the boss of you. I'm sorry.

Posted by: JRoth | Aug 5, 2004 9:45:59 AM

Weboy, if you start out with the attitude that you trust the Bush administration, then it is only natural to suppose that they are secretly doing enough on intelligence and security.

They can't tell you about the good stuff they're doing because it has to stay secret. Trust them, and it will all work out.

If you start out with an attitude of distrust then you get no evidence that would encourage trust and considerable reason to distrust them, thereby confirming your prejudices.

Posted by: J Thomas | Aug 7, 2004 12:08:59 PM

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