Our armed forces are legacies of the Second World War with a departmental scheme designed in 1947 to obstruct the emergence of a national unified military command structure. This dysfunctional, service-centric arrangement is reinforced by a congress without the understanding or the interest to extract real capability from an overly expensive military establishment. A strong Chief Executive with an interest in return on investment (ROI) and an understanding of product innovation could cut the Gordian Knot in short order, but I don’t see one on the horizon.
For the moment, we have an enormous Marine Corps determined to replace the US Army and a shrinking US Army determined to become a second Marine Corps! Carl Forsling did a fine job of characterizing the problem in his recent article: http://www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2015/09/25/a_marines_view_of_the_army_vision_108510.html
“The Army Vision, more than the other services’ planning documents, suffers from a problem the U.S. military has faced many times before. The services are in competition with each other for slices of a pie in a zero sum game. What the services choose to focus on competing individually is much different than would they would each be assigned were the choice made by someone trying to actually optimize the nation’s defense portfolio. Is 450,000 the proper size for the Army and 182,000 the proper size for the Marine Corps? I don’t know, and I suspect we really never will, because the capabilities of our armed forces, as determined in an environment of internecine competition, are driving the nation’s defense strategy, vice the other way around. The Army Vision is just the newest example of this problem. While duplication of effort was tolerable when the Defense Department was flush with money, in an era of cutbacks, the Defense Department will find itself foundering budget-wise, and possibly in combat as well.”
No one cares to raise tough questions about the strategic utility of large airborne or amphibious forces. No one wants to deal with the multiple air forces inside the US military. In my new book, I address the issue in the conclusions after demonstrating that every major scientific-industrial power discovered during the 20th Century the necessity for a national military “High Command” and supporting GS system. I hope we don’t have to experience decisive defeat to learn this “lesson,” but it seems we may.
Thanks to the 1947 National Security Act, the senior leaders of the armed services possess the authority and the funding to determine what they will buy and how they will fight with minimal interference from the president or Congress. The Goldwater-Nichols Act created unified commands on the strategic level, but left the money and, ultimately, the power entirely in the hands of the service chiefs.[i]
The missing link is the national machinery—an American military high command—to direct the strategic preparation and conduct of military operations, to allocate strategic resources, and define strategic military needs. Similar proposals for a unified American military high command and staff organization were presented on 25 February 1943 by officers in the War Department. According to the study’s authors, the recommendations “were based on the acknowledgment that all of our U.S. war experiences to date (from Pearl Harbor to the present date) point to the necessity for unity of command on all levels.”[ii]
The machinery that answers this requirement is a national defense staff with a defense chief. Together with his staff, the Chief of Defense would answer directly to the secretary of defense and the president for the day-to-day administration of the armed forces, as well as for the warfighting readiness and development of the capabilities residing in all of the services. The Chief of Defense would exercise operational control over the armed services and issue directives on behalf of the commander-in-chief, the president, for the strategic planning and development of the armed forces. The Chief’s directives would have the effect of binding law.
EXCERPT from the Concluding Chapter: Margin of Victory: 5 Battles that changed the Face of Modern War, (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, March 2016).