Tomorrow Admiral Michael Mullen, USN will be sworn in as the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Admiral Mullen takes the top U.S. military billet at a very difficult time:
1. The U.S. is bogged down in one division-sized (Afghanistan) and one corps-sized (Iraq) counterinsurgency operation.
2. The totality of U.S. ground combat power is committed to these two operations; only in extremis is it usable for another surprise contingency.
3. With the exception of main battle tanks, the Army and Marine Corps need to rebuild or repurchase virtually all of their ground vehicles.
4. Secretary Gates and the Congress want to expand the U.S. ground force headcount by at least 92,000 at a time when recruit quality has plunged compared to just a few years ago.
5. Sufficient funds are not likely to exist to fulfill the Navy’s shipbuilding program.
6. Controversy remains over the relevance and necessity of the F-18, F-22, and F-35 programs.
7. There is a large doubt among defense analysts whether the current plan for the U.S. military force structure is even relevant to likely U.S. security threats and contingencies over the 15 years.
8. Admiral Mullen’s two predecessors as Chairman were widely regarded as excessively submissive to their civilian masters.
9. The Department of Defense receives minimal assistance from the rest of the government as it attempts to complete its missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
There are doubtless many more entries one could add to this list. Glancing at this list and reflecting on the very mediocre record tallied by U.S. political-military operations during the past 60 years, one is inclined to wonder whether the National Security Act of 1947, which created the current Joint Chiefs arrangement, is responsible for any of these problems.
What is the cause of the string of disappointing U.S. military outcomes since World War II? Is it because the standing U.S. military since then has been too large, too bureaucratic, and too slow to adapt? Is it because American’s enemies have learned how to function in the modern world better than the U.S. government has? Is it because America’s civilian leadership since World War II has failed to understand the uses and limitations of military power and has committed America’s armed forces to inappropriate missions or in inappropriate ways?
Admiral Mullen’s most important role as Chairman is to be the President’s top military advisor. Second, he is to work with the service chiefs, the President, and the Congress to organize and prepare the armed forces for the tasks they will face. If America’s problems applying its military force are due to the causes listed in the previous paragraph, the duties of the Chairman’s job should cover those problem sources. In theory, at least.
Are America’s problems with political-military operations due to a flawed organizational structure? Or is it a problem with the people appointed (and elected) to fill the boxes on the organizational chart?
Will Admiral Mullen make a difference?
“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."
Tuesday, October 02, 2007