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Goldwater-Nichols Revisited: A Proposal for Meaningful Defense Reorganization

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The Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 Goldwater-Nichols is frequently praised by civilian national security specialists and military leaders as correcting the organizational and structural deficiencies stemming from the National Security Act of 1947. Critics charge that prior to Goldwater-Nichols the Joint Chiefs of Staff JCS were unable to adequately fulfill their responsibility to provide pragmatic and timely unified military advice to the President, National Security Council, andor Secretary of Defense-collectively referred to as the National Command Authorities NCA. This caused the NCA to rely on civilian staffs for advice that should have been provided by professional military officers. Those calling for defense reform cited the conflict of interest inherent in the dual responsibilities of the Service Chiefs. Furthermore, they charged that the Service Chiefs did not have sufficient time to perform both roles i.e., head of their Service and member of the jcs. Goldwater-Nichols made the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs CJCS the principal military advisor to the NCA. No longer was the CJCS required to formally ask for, and receive, input from the Service Chiefs before answering a question posed by the NCA. Additionally, this major defense reorganization empowered the Commanders of Unified and Specified Commands CinCs and instituted a formalized joint officer personnel policy law Title IV. The Joint Staff was enlarged and strengthened to support the expanded role of the Chairman and the CinCs. Incentives were legislated to force the Services to assign quality officers to joint duty assignments. To the disappointment of those supporting radical reform, Goldwater-Nichols did not end dual hatting, create a General Staff, and abolish the JCS. For traditionalists, reform cost the Service Chiefs and Staffs their preeminent role in defense policy formulation.

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  • Administration and Management
  • Government and Political Science
  • Personnel Management and Labor Relations
  • Military Intelligence

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