President plus Goldwater equals military reform. Historic changes could cut rivalry among services
The distribution of power within the United States military will soon change in ways that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. President Reagan's endorsement has now been added to the single-mindedness of influential Sen. Barry Goldwater (R) of Arizona, virtually assuring that some sort of sweeping Pentagon reorganization bill will become law this year.
In general, this reorganization effort aims to:
Meld the often-fractious Army, Navy, and Air Force into a more unified defense team through historic changes in lines of military authority.
Make purchase of weapons more efficient, by centralizing procurement responsibility.
The President's blue-ribbon Commission on Defense Management, headed by industrialist David R. Packard, is one of several major reform factions. By again explicitly endorsing the Packard panel's interim report on Wednesday, President Reagan made it clear he is in the camp of those who want big change.
Though the President appointed the commission and said, ``I will act promptly and firmly'' on its recommendations when he received a copy of its interim report in February, his repeated declaration this week of firm support for the panel's proposals was by no means a foregone conclusion. Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger said when the panel was formed that he didn't think reform was necessary, and top military officials have privately criticized reform proposals.
Another factor making it more likely that the Pentagon is about to be shaken is the tenacity with which reform groups in Congress have proceeded.
The House began passing bits and pieces of defense reform legislation last year. But reformers have made perhaps their most important gains in the Republican-led Senate. Mr. Goldwater, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and an undeviating hawk, has apparently decided that military reorganization is to be the crowning achievement of his career, which will end when he retires this year.