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American Forces Press Service

Pace Proposes Interagency Goldwater-Nichols Act

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., Sept. 7, 2004 The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff suggested a Goldwater-Nichols act for all of the federal government to improve the way the country responds to terrorism.

Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace made his suggestion here at a Marine Corps Association/Naval Institute forum looking at the global war on terrorism today.

The Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 strengthened the position of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and created the position of vice chairman. It made the services act more in concert and forced the services to place their best people in joint billets.

Pace said that at the time, the service chiefs had to be forced to the position. "In the 1980s, the service chiefs did not want to give up some of their prerogatives," he said. "But I believe that history has shown us that by giving up some of their service prerogatives, the service chiefs got back much more than they gave up, as joint chiefs."

Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown how far the U.S. military has come. He said that during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm the battlefields were "deconflicted" meaning the various services carved out exclusive niches and did not have to work together.

In Iraq, "I believe the capabilities and capacities of the U.S. military on that battlefield were finally the realization of the dream that was the Goldwater-Nichols Act," he said. In recent actions, the U.S. military worked together as a joint team.

But that alone will not win the war on terror, he said. "The U.S. military and our coalition partners around the world can certainly do what militaries do: We can take the fight to the enemy on the battlefield and we will prevail. There's no doubt about that," Pace said. "But that is not enough. We will not defeat terrorism as a threat to our way of life simply through the use of force."

Pace expanded on a favorite topic of defense leaders: that the United States must address the systemic problems that cause disaffected youth to join terrorist organizations.

He said military force has a place in the war on terrorism in providing the security for peaceful institutions to grow. "But at the end of the day, the victory will come in the education process, the victory will come in the economic promise that is out there for these nations," he said.

"We need as a nation to be able to harness all of the elements of our national power as we move forward for the next decades in fighting terrorism," he continued.

He said in his experience serving as the operations chief on the Joint Staff and as the vice chairman that the interagency process now in effect does a good job of presenting the president with options. "But once the president decides to do something, our government goes back into its stovepipes for execution Department of State does what they do, DoD does what we do, the Department of Treasury etc.," he said.

There is no one underneath the president who can follow through on decisions and order different agencies to accomplish what must be accomplished. "Do we then need a Goldwater-Nichols-like event for the interagency?" he asked.

In the 1980s, the United States had the best Army, the best Navy, the best Air Force and the best Marine Corps in the world. "But they did not work jointly," he said. "Arguably today, we have a great State Department, a great Department of Defense a great department of Treasury," but again they do not work jointly.

Pace suggested asking cabinet officials to give up some of their day-to-day authority. Different federal agencies, then, would be in charge of different aspects all under the National Security Council. So, if there is an operation in Iraq, then the State Department might be the lead agent. If there is another operation in Afghanistan, then DoD might be the lead. "This would give to the cabinet officials the authority we currently give to our combatant commanders when we assign them missions," he said.

The cabinet official would be in charge of a "Joint Interagency Task Force," Pace said. On a day-to-day basis this would give the individual the authority to accomplish the mission.

Pace said this is just a proposal to start a discussion. "I don't have the answers," he said flatly. "But this is important and we should begin the discussion."

Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff