Monday, January 12, 2015

White House micromanaging

Several former officials, including Defense Secretary Bob Gates, have complained that the Obama White House "micromanages" the Pentagon and other parts of the national security complex. I suspect that those complaints are exaggerated.

Every White House seeks tight control of the subordinate bureaucracies, though few achieve it. Message discipline has always been tightly enforced. NSC staff have always probed the cabinet departments for information and have offered suggestions. Gates objected to a direct phone line between the NSC and a wartime combatant command. But former Defense Secretary Harold Brown told me of his outrage when a Carter NSC staffer tried to order a deployment of an aircraft carrier to a trouble zone. The Reagan NSC was criticized for running operations.

I'd like to get more evidence on the micromanagement charge,since I know the Obama NSC staff had frequent high-level meetings, sometimes two or three times a week, when all kinds of views could be aired prior to decisions. 

On Fox News, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, was asked the question. Here's his answer:
On is the White House micromanaging the Pentagon?: "[I]t's the wrong metric in terms of defining the relationship between the military and our elected leaders. What I can tell you is the metric that we should be focused on is access and whether my advice —influences decisions… I feel no constraints in providing my advice to him and that my advice, over the past three-and-a-half years, has influenced his decisions. "You know, whether someone wants to characterize the desire, the almost insatiable appetite for information about complex issues as micromanaging, they can have at it. But for me, the metric is access and advice."
I agree.

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