Another item from the oral history of Gen. Gordon Sullivan, Army chief of staff in the first half of the Clinton Administration. I was surprised to see this because there is in the Navy Department, especially the Marines, a genetic skepticism of the jointness mandated by the Goldwater-Nichols act, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary in October of this year.
When I covered the Pentagon, I thought the Army was pretty much down with G-N, especially after it found it could use jointness as a cover to impose its doctrine on others. (The Marines don't really have a doctrine, they have a culture, so they were pretty empty-handed when the Army staff guy said, "Well, here's our doctrine for this problem, what's yours?") I suspect the Army's eagerness to play the doctrine card even forced other services to come up with doctrine, if only in self-defense. It is kind of like an admiral's famous comment about logistics in World War II: "I don't know what it is, but I gotta get me some."
So Gen. Sullivan's concern here surprised me.
I have real doubts about the intended or unintended consequences of Goldwater-Nichols. I don't think we as a nation are truly getting the expertise, all we can, from the most senior military people…The Chiefs of Service can be cut out of the pack and the chairman can be politicized and can be dominated. I don't think that is good.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.