Are the latest round of budget cuts and organization realignments being proposed by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates marking a turnaround in the growth of the Combatant Commands (which some will remember as the regional CINCs)?
The rise of these regional commanders – and the growth into ueber-ambassador status -- was well laid out in Dana Priest’s book The Mission.
But in his January 6 pronouncement, Gates seems to point the way for these commands to now face a period of contraction.
The most obvious symbol will be a downgrade in rank in European commands. The heads of the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force in Europe will become three-star posts, downgraded from their four-star ranking.
The command’s will also shrink. Gates notes that each “is too large and too senior given the number of troops they lead and the military operations they oversee.”
EUCOM was put in the crosshairs by Gates already last year, but the measures now put forward are the first concrete ones to emerge as a result.
More is to come. “It is clear we have excess force structure in Europe,” Gates says. It will come down, but not before 2015 and not without talking with allies.
Other changes affect the combatant commands’ intel shops. Gates says most of those “are not directly engaged in the post-9/11 military conflicts.”
Gates wants to move to a new construct. “In place of having large, permanent, organic apparatus, staffed on a wartime level, the department will transition to an arrangement that can surge intelligence support as needed from the Defense Intelligence Agency.”
The move is only one of the steps Gates plans to tackle what he calls a “sprawling intelligence apparatus” that has seen “a proliferation of new intelligence organizations, many that are excess and duplicative, many that are spread out among the different services, agencies, task forces of various kinds and combatant commands.”