Getting Ready

By Sebastian Sprenger / October 2, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Two stories posted yesterday shed some much-needed light on the goings-on at the Pentagon as the Bush administration winds down.

First up:

Joint Staff officials are beginning a sweeping review of combatant command and service priorities that could lay the groundwork for the next administration’s decisions early next year on everything from Afghanistan to weapons of mass destruction, according to defense officials.

The analysis is part of the military’s second “comprehensive joint assessment,” a little-known process piloted last fall. As part of this year’s iteration, military leaders in June asked the combatant commanders and service leaders to compile a list of resource priorities, concept-development and experimentation plans, and assessments of the security environment in their areas of responsibility.

In response to the data call, the combatant commanders crafted lists of “warfighter challenges” specific to their regions, describing where they want to see increased investment, according to a defense official.

Joint Staff officials now are beginning to comb through the heaps of data, trying to determine trends, we’re told.

This year marks the second time the military establishment is conducting an annual comprehensive joint assessment. The drill will be soon be codified in the upcoming CJCS directive 3100.01B, which governs the Joint Strategic Planning System.

Officials said the timing of the exercise is opportune, as it is expected to flesh out a comprehensive portrayal of all happenings at the COCOMs just when a new president-elect weighs his first defense-related moves.

Cynics could argue the CJA, like many other Pentagon plans and strategies drawn up toward the end of the Bush era, is doomed to have a limited shelf life.

But, officials say, the review is the product of a supposedly apolitical military caste whose advice has merit regardless of who moves into the White House.

The other story of note concerns the transition to that next administration -- and efforts to figure out which issues, according to the current leadership, should matter most to the next:

The Pentagon's top brass are homing in on about 10 issues identified this summer as crucial matters for the next president and his Defense Department transition team to address as they take the reins of the U.S. military bureaucracy early next year, according to Pentagon officials.

Nearly all of the top issues are classified secret, and most deal with geopolitical challenges, these officials say. They are part of a wider package of 90 briefings detailing issues of lesser import that are expected be of interest to an incoming administration.

“They deal with issues such as sustaining the fight and making the appropriate fiscal decisions at the right time,” said one Pentagon official who has seen the briefings. “It’s not a wish list.”

The story adds important details on the work of the Chairman's New Administration Transition Team, led by this general.