In this edition of On DoD, we take a look back at one of the key events that made the military we have today what it is. 2011 was the 25th anniversary of the Goldwater-Nichols act. We marked the anniversary on Federal News Radio with a special series on how the major Defense reorganization made its way through Congress, and how lawmakers dragged the Pentagon, largely against its will, into a culture of jointness.
Today’s show is an extended version of one of the interviews that led to our series with one of the key people behind Goldwater-Nichols: Jim Locher. At the time, in 1986, he was a professional staff member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, working for both the chairman, Barry Goldwater, and the ranking Democrat, Sam Nunn. A staff study that Locher led formed the basis for the legislation. Locher went on to write a book about the history of Goldwater-Nichols, Victory on the Potomac. After working in Congress, he went on to serve as an assistant secretary of Defense, and now serves as the Executive Director of the project on national security reform, which is pushing for tighter integration of the national security missions of the non-DoD federal agencies.
Our interview begins with Locher’s account of the testimony of General David Jones in 1982. Jones was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time. He broke ranks with the rest of the Pentagon’s leadership, and told Congress the joint chiefs system didn’t work. As Locher says, he knew at the time he was launching a “holy war” against the Pentagon bureaucracy.