Congress is moving to increase the war powers and longevity of the nation’s top military officer, while removing any whiff of politics by delinking Senate confirmation from presidential election years.
Giving the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff more say in how to fight an ongoing war is a result of Congress‘ frustration with the Obama administration’s execution of conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, a former war planner says.
The reforms are part of Congress‘ and the Pentagon’s ongoing restructuring under the landmark 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act. It transformed the armed forces into regional combatant commands to run operations in the Middle East, Europe, the Pacific and other areas. It also gave rise to U.S. Special Operations Command, putting unconventional warriors on a par in importance with infantry and air power.
Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff currently serve two two-year terms, unlike their brethren — the chiefs of the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Army and National Guard — who serve one four-year stint.
The change would mean the chairman, who is the chief military adviser to the commander in chief and to the defense secretary, would serve a four-year term and undergo only one Senate confirmation, not two, unless a president wants to extend the tenure.
“The committee believes that a longer term of office for the chairman provides greater stability and continuity of military leadership at the Department of Defense,” the budget policy bill states. “Furthermore, by staggering the chairman’s term of office such that it is not aligned with the 4-year presidential election cycle, the committee believes that the chairman’s role in providing independent military advice to the president and Secretary of Defense is reinforced.”