The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staffs should be given more independence and authority in order to increase the military's influence over national defense policy, a Pentagon study panel said yesterday.
The panel, headed by Richard C. Steadman, a former Pentagon executive who chaired President Carter's transition team at the Defense Department, contended that the joint chief's voice in policymaking is now muffled by conflicting obligations.
The chairman of the joint chiefs, despite being the nation's highest ranking military officer, is empowered to do little more than pass on to the president and secretary of defense the consensual view of the military leaders of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.
Because of that and other restraints, the panel argued in its 79-page report, the chairman of the chiefs cannot comfortably review the budget requests of the individual services and recommen to his civilian superiors the best way to cut them.
Also, since the legal chain of command goes from the president to the secretary to the unified commanders in the field, the chairman and fellow chiefs are often left on the sidelines when important military issues are decided, the report said.
The secretary of defense should designate the chairman of the joint chiefs as "his agent" for supervising the unified commanders in the field and should also assign him "a formal role" in planning budgets and arriving at other military policy decisions, the panel said.
To underline the chairman's authority over such policy matters, the report added, he should be made a voting member of the Pentagon panel that reviews weapons proposals and then recommends whether they should be developed and produced. That panel is known as the Defense Systems Acquisition Review Council.
In discussing the relationship between the chairman and the individual commanders of such unified military outfits as the United States European Command, the panel said those commanders have neither a "single military superior in Washington" nor a "formal spokesman in the Washington arena to assure that their viewpoints are part of the decision-making process."
The report also called for more qualified officers to be assigned to the staff that writers position papers for the joint chiefs.
"The formal position papers of the joint chiefs of staff," said the report, "the institutional product, are almost uniformly given low marks by their consumers: the policymakers in the Office of the Secretary staff and by many senior military officers as well."
One reason for this, said the report, is that the positions set forth in the papers have been negotiated among the individual armed services until "They have been reduced to the low-west common level of assent.
If these and other changes should fail to make the chairman of the joint chiefs and the corporate body of the chiefs more helpful and influential in making military decisions, the panel called for "a drastic and controversial change": establishment of an independent body, called National Military Advisers, composed of senior officers with no obligation to either their individual [WORD ILLEGIBLE] or the joint chiefs.
Said the report of these advisers: "Their functions would be similar to those of the joint chiefs of staff today, but they would not be dual-hatted as chiefs of their services.
The report said "the major advantage" of such an independent body would be that it would have the time "and sole responsiblity to provide the best joint military advice responsibilities."
Defense Secretary Harold Brown could implement the changes to give more authority to the chairman of the joint chiefs without going to Congress for special legislation. But the independent outlined in the report would require new legislation.
Brown, in accepting the report which he has not yet assessed, said the thrust would be to "increase the stature and influence of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."
None of the recommendations is expected to be implemented, however, without the approval of President Carter, who requested a review of the national military command structure in September 1977.
In a separate rport, another former Pentagon executive, Paul R. Ignatius, recommended a series of streamlining actions to improve efficiency but said that, on the whole, the Defense Department is well managed.