Marshall appointed to National Defense Panel

jmink@macon.comMay 6, 2013 

As military installations face uncertainty in the midst of budget cuts, a former congressman from Macon has been named to a panel that will review the Department of Defense’s assessment of itself.

Jim Marshall, a U.S. representative from 2003 to 2011 and now president of the United States Institute of Peace, was appointed to the eight-member National Defense Panel by U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash. The panel is responsible for assessing the Department of Defense’s review.

The Quadrennial Defense Review is required by Congress and looks at the strategies and priorities of the Department of Defense, according to a release. The review sets a long-term course for the Department of Defense based on its perception of threats facing the United States. The National Defense Panel then reviews the Quadrennial Defense Review, looking at the report’s assumptions, risks and findings.

“Initially it was set up so the Department of Defense would go through its planning process and create a report,” Marshall said, “and then the panel would review the report and conduct a study ... to determine whether it agreed with the assumptions in the report and the recommendations.”

That process has changed in recent years. Now the National Defense Panel is in place when the Department of Defense conducts its review, and the panel has access to that review process. The defense review and the panel’s review are presented around the same time, Marshall said.

For now, the Quadrennial Defense Review has not started its planning process, and the National Defense Panel is waiting for two other panelists to be appointed by the defense secretary.

Marshall’s appointment comes in the midst of federal budget slices and a 2014 budget that requests that a Base Realignment and Closure Commission be established in 2015. Federal officials have estimated that the Department of Defense has about 20 percent more infrastructure than it needs.

The panel likely will review the request for a BRAC in 2015, Marshall said.

“There’s no doubt that the question of another round of BRAC will come up,” he said. “But I’m not going to prejudge what the DoD will recommend or what the panel will recommend.”

In the event that another round of BRAC is approved, the panel would likely review the processes of the last commission, determining whether they were effective and appropriate. It would be surprising if the panel discussed individual bases, Marshall said.

Locally, the 21st Century Partnership is working to defend Robins Air Force Base in the event of a BRAC review.

“We are being prudent in our preparations and will continue to drive our efforts towards securing Robins Air Force Base -- the economic engine of Middle Georgia -- BRAC or no BRAC,” retired Maj. Gen. Robert McMahon, president of the 21st Century Partnership, said in a recent email.

Besides assessing the Department of Defense’s review, the National Defense Panel conducts an independent review of possible force structures and resource requirements for the Defense Department and then provides recommendations to Congress and the secretary of defense, according to the release.

Marshall is no stranger to military practices. A Vietnam War veteran and member of the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame, Marshall has served on the House Armed Services Committee and cochaired the Congressional Air Force Caucus. He also served as chairman of the board of visitors of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

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