General Powell backs away from some of his modest recommendations

January 29, 1993|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- In his latest assessment of the military's future, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has backed away from some of his earlier modest recommendations for reducing duplication in the roles and missions of the services.

The changes in the report, "Roles, Missions and Functions of the Armed Forces of the United States," by Gen. Colin L. Powell are a sign of the difficulties President Clinton and Defense Secretary Les Aspin face in realigning the military's roles as the four services try to hang onto their missions at a time of reduced funding.

During the presidential election campaign, Mr. Clinton called for reducing "redundancies" within the armed forces, following the lead of Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee.

General Powell first presented his vision of the military's role in the post-Cold War era in a December draft. That draft rebuffed the kind of sweeping changes that Mr. Clinton had called for during the campaign and was notable for its conservatism.

Many military experts saw the draft as a defense of the status quo, but aides to General Powell insisted that its proposals for reducing duplication were significant.

Now, however, even some of the relatively modest recommendations in the December draft have been dropped in the face of objections from the military services.

"At this time, given the huge uncertainty of how far the defense budget is going to drop, the services are going to hang onto their roles and missions because they justify funding," said Robert Gaskin, a former Pentagon official and vice president of Business Executives for National Security, a group that seeks efficiency in military spending.

General Powell's revised assessment is in a new draft of the NTC report, which was issued Jan. 22. A Powell spokesman said the general planned to present the report to Mr. Aspin in several weeks and that more refinements might be made.

The revised report, an unclassified document that has not been officially released, retains what General Powell considers to be his most important recommendation: the creation of a new command to conduct joint training of forces from the different services for intervention in regional crises, for United Nations peacekeeping and for disaster relief.

But it drops his earlier recommendations to consolidate all space operations under the Air Force.

Instead, the draft report suggests that a review be conducted to determine if the space mission should be assigned to the Strategic Command, which oversees the strategic nuclear arsenal. Under this arrangement, Army, Navy and Air Force space programs would be components of the Strategic Command.

The revised report also abandons a suggestion that Air Force Special Operations helicopters, which are used to search for and rescue downed pilots, be assigned to the Army. That recommendation was opposed by the Air Force.

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