House Votes to Revamp Top Military Command

Times Staff Writer

The House overwhelmingly endorsed a revamping of top-level military command structure Wednesday in a move designed to streamline decision-making procedures and to eliminate inefficiencies caused by interservice rivalries.

The Democratic-controlled chamber voted 383 to 27 in favor of legislation that would enhance the power of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, officially designating him as the principal military adviser to the President.

The measure also directs that the chairman, currently Adm. William J. Crowe Jr., be included in all deliberations of the National Security Council.

Under current law, the five members of the Joint Chiefs, who head the various service branches, serve collectively as President Reagan’s top military advisers. In addition, the chairman of the panel presently participates in NSC meetings only when asked to do so by the secretary of defense.


The proposed change has been opposed by Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger, who has said that the current group command structure works well.

But critics have contended that it has served to delay and dilute the strategic value of military advice to the White House. They have blamed these inherent inefficiencies for military failures such as the bungled Iran hostage rescue and the Pentagon’s inability to reform its cumbersome procurement system.

Rep. Dave McCurdy (D-Okla.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, contended that the present setup has helped the individual service chiefs to protect their own turf and that it has discouraged reforms that might eliminate or reduce pet projects.

“The important thing is they need to rise above their individual priorities and establish national priorities,” McCurdy said during floor debate.


But Rep. Samuel S. Stratton (D-N.Y.), another Armed Services panel member, attempted to minimize the scope of major military miscues. Occasional mistakes, he said, “don’t mean the entire military hierarchy of advice is meaningless or dangerous.”

The measure, which will now be sent to the Republican-led Senate, also would give the chairman of the Joint Chiefs sole responsibility for the joint staff and make other changes designed to upgrade his administrative and advisory powers.