Pentagon chief seeks efficiency reforms

WASHINGTON • US Defence Secretary Ash Carter has outlined several broad changes he envisions will make the Pentagon more efficient in combating global threats such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Speaking at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think-tank, Mr Carter suggested updates to the Goldwater-Nichols Act, a sweeping 1986 Pentagon reform law that restructured America's vast military.

Borne from lessons learned during the Vietnam War and the botched 1980 Iranian hostage rescue mission, the Act sought to soothe rivalries and fix a lack of cooperation between the services.

Observers say the reforms need updates to reflect the nature of 21st century threats and warfare. For instance, Mr Carter said he wants to clarify the role of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pentagon's top officer who serves as the defence secretary's principal adviser.

"More steps (are needed) to strengthen the capability of the chairman and the Joint Chiefs to support force management, planning and execution across the combatant commands, particularly in the face of threats that cut across regional and functional combatant command areas of responsibility," he said.

Despite the extra influence of the chairman, a position currently held by General Joe Dunford, Mr Carter said the role would remain outside the Pentagon's direct chain of command, which flows from the president to the defence decretary and then the relevant commanders.

He also called for simpler military acquisition processes and a greater coordination between combatant commands, such as the Africa Command and the European Command, to deal with transregional threats such as ISIS.

The Pentagon can execute some of its proposals under its own authority and will do so in the "coming weeks", Mr Carter said. Other decisions will need congressional approval.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2016, with the headline 'Pentagon chief seeks efficiency reforms'. Subscribe