The reports about retired Adm. James Stavridis possibly being Hillary Clinton's vice presidential pick hardly had time to circulate Wednesday before he started taking indirect fire from a high-ranking former colleague who is still in the Navy.
Without mentioning names, Adm. Kurt Tidd, commander of U.S. Southern Command, said that a Pentagon reform proposal for the merger of SouthCom with U.S. Northern Command put forward by Stavridis in his new career as an academic was not the way to go.
NorthCom and SouthCom "are two full-time jobs in my book," Tidd said at an Atlantic Council forum on SouthCom's expanding mission to partner with Latin American allies against crime, drugs and human trafficking networks.
"NorthCom is focused exclusively on the defense of the homeland. That's a full-time job," Tidd said. "I think the American people expect us to defend the homeland. They also expect us to build these kinds of partnerships" in SouthCom.
Combining the two unified combatant commands would come "at the risk of hurting both, or doing one well," Tidd said, when "we know how to work together" already. Tidd was not totally dismissive of Stavridis' idea. "It bears study," he said, but putting it into effect "might open up a whole slew of unintended consequences."
The New York Times first reported Wednesday that Stavridis, the former NATO commander and now dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, was being vetted as a potential vice president choice for Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.
Stavridis' thoughts on structural reforms at the Defense Department emerged at hearings by the Senate Armed Services Committee last December on possible changes to the landmark Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, which set the roles and responsibilities of the defense secretary, the Joint Chiefs chairman, the service secretaries and service chiefs, and the unified combatant commands worldwide.
In their testimony to the committee, Stavridis and retired Gen. Norton Schwartz, the former Air Force chief of staff, said that NorthCom and SouthCom should be combined, and U.S. Africa Command should be folded into U.S. European Command.
"I absolutely think we should merge NorthCom and SouthCom, not only for the efficiencies, but I think there's cultural connections, to get Canada and Mexico, two of the largest economies in the Americas, into the flow of our work to the south," Stavridis said. (Canada and Mexico are now the responsibility of NorthCom.)
"AfriCom was a good experiment, but I think it's time to admit merging it back together" with EuCom, since much of the force is back in Europe and the headquarters is in Stuttgart, Germany, Stavridis said. "I think those connections in Europe and Africa would be very positive and well received in the African world."
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.