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ORGANIZATION OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF A. EVOLUTION OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF
1. The JCS in World War II
Before World War II, a Joint Board of the Army and Navy prepared joint war plans and worked on other issues that required interservice coordination. However, it was not designed to direct the Army and Navy in wartime operations and served only in an advisory capacity.
Shortly after the United States entered World War II, President Roosevelt informally created the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) to work with the British Chiefs of Staff in a new supreme military body, the Combined Chiefs of Staff. The latter body had been set up by the United States and Great Britain to direct their mutual war effort against Nazi Germany. As originally established, the JCS was an informal body that was organized simply by identifying the U.S. officers whose responsibilities most closely matched those of the members of the British Chiefs of Staff.
Nonetheless, the JCS played an important leadership role during the war, particularly in the European theater. Working closely with the President (the only civilian in the chain of command), the Joint Chiefs exercised a great deal of flexibility in carrying out their duties. From its position in the chain of command immediately below the President, the JCS planned and directed U.S. military operations.
Initially the JCS consisted of the Army Chief of Staff, the Commanding General of the Army Air Forces, and the Chief of Naval Operations. Later, the Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief was added to serve as an intermediary between the President and the Service Chiefs.
2. The National Security Act of 1947
Virtually all plans for the postwar unification of the Services into one national military establishment took for granted that the Joint Chiefs of Staff would be continued. Two years after the end of the war, Congress passed the National Security Act of 1947 (Public Law 80-253), which has remained, with amendments, the foundation for the U.S. national security establishment. This Act established the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a permanent body with a Joint Staff limited to 100 officers drawn in approximately equal numbers from each of the Military Departments. The Act restricted membership of the JCS to four individuals: the Army Chief of Staff, the Chief of Naval Operations, the Air Force Chief of Staff, and the Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, "if there be one." In practice, the latter position was never filled. The Act also created the position of Director of the Joint Staff, to be appointed by the JCS.
The National Security Act of 1947 defined the duties of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as follows:
(b) Subject to the authority and direction of the President and the Secretary of Defense, it shall be the duty of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
(1) to prepare strategic plans and to provide for the strategic direction of the military forces;
(2) to prepare joint logistic plans and to assign to the military services logistic responsibilities in accordance with such plans;
(3) to establish unified commands in strategic areas when such unified commands are in the interest of national security;
(4) to formulate policies for joint training of the military forces;
(5) to formulate policies for coordinating the education of members of the military forces;
(6) to review major material and personnel requirements of the military forces, in accordance with strategic and logistic plans; and
(7) to provide United States representation on the Military Staff Committee of the United Nations in accordance with the
provisions of the Charter of the United Nations. (c) The Joint Chiefs of Staff shall act as the principal military advisors to the President and the Secretary of Defense and shall perform such other duties as the President and the Secretary of Defense may direct or as may be prescribed by law.
In comparison with the Nation's other defense institutions, the JCS has changed remarkably little over the years. The basic concept underlying the institution has survived intact for over 37 years. However, amendments to the National Security Act of 1947 passed by Congress in 1949, 1953, 1958, 1967 and 1978 did make some changes in the statutory organization of the JCS and beyond those statutory changes, the organization has experienced some evolution in its nature.
3. The National Security Act Amendments of 1949
In 1949, under the impetus of recommendations made by Secretary of Defense James Forrestal and by the Hoover Commission, President Truman sent a message to Congress recommending the unification of the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force in a new Executive Department to be known as the Department of Defense. The National Security Act Amendments of 1949 (Public Law 81-216) responded to Secretary Forrestal's conviction that there should be a "responsible head” for the JCS by creating the position of Chairman. The former billet on the JCS for “Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, if there be one,” was abolished. The President was to appoint a Chairman, with the advice and consent of the Senate, to serve for a term of two years, with one reappointment possible. He was to serve as presiding officer of the JCS, but was to have no formal vote in its deliberations. The 1949 Amendments also enlarged the Joint Staff to a maximum of 210 officers.
4. The 1953 Reorganization Plan
In 1953, President Eisenhower submitted a reorganization plan to Congress that set forth certain proposed changes in the organization of the Department of Defense. In a message to Congress accompanying this reorganization plan, the President also described a number of changes he intended to make by executive action. Reorganization Plan No. 6 of 1953, as it was called, required no positive legislative action, but was subject only to possible Congressional disapproval. As neither the House nor the Senate took unfavorable action within 60 days, the plan became effective on June 30, 1953.
This reorganization plan, together with the executive actions undertaken by the President, affected the organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a number of ways. It made the selection of the Director of the Joint Staff by the JCS, and his tenure, subject to the approval of the Secretary of Defense. The selection and tenure of members of the Joint Staff was made subject to the approval of the Chairman of the JCS. Finally, the responsibility of the JCS for managing the Joint Staff and its Director was transferred to the Chairman. The net effect of these changes was to strengthen the authority of the Chairman. However, while the Chairman was to manage the Joint Staff, the JCS as a corporate body continued to possess control and authority over it and to assign tasks to it, in accordance with the administrative regulations worked out for implementing the reorganization plan.
The President's 1953 message to Congress also called for a major change in the chain of command. To implement this change, the Secretary of Defense issued a revision of the 1948 memorandum known as the Key West Agreement. (Attachment to Department of Defense Directive 5100.1, "Functions of the Armed Forces and the Joint Chiefs of Staff"'; January 13, 1954). That memorandum had given the Joint Chiefs of Staff authority to designate one of its members as its executive agent for a unified command. However, it had created a widespread perception that the JCS was in the chain of command, and in practice, it had functioned as though that were the case. The revision of 1953 sought to restore the original intent of the National Security Act of 1947 that the JCS would serve as advisors and planners, but not directly as commanders. The new directive specified that the Secretary of Defense, rather than the JCS, would designate in each case a Military Department to serve as the executive agent for a unified command. This change to the chain of command clarified the status of the JCS and ensured that they did not exercise operational command, but played only an advisory and planning role. In practice, however, it led to the cumbersome arrangement of a chain of command that ran from the President to the Secretary of Defense to the Secretary of whichever Military Department was the executive agent for a unified command to the Service Chief of that particular Service to the unified commander. By 1958, President Eisenhower had determined that this arrangement was too unwieldy and again sought to change it by executive action.
5. The 1958 Defense Department Reorganization Act
In his State of the Union address to Congress in January 1958, President Eisenhower listed the reorganization of the national de fense as the first of eight priority tasks. In April he submitted to Congress his recommendations for changes in the organization of the Department of Defense. Congress made a few amendments to the President's proposal before passing the Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1958 (Public Law 85-599), the last major reorganization of the Department.
This Act amended the National Security Act of 1947 in several important ways. With regard to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Act made the Chairman a voting member of that body and made the Commandant of the Marine Corps a member of the JCS whenever matters directly concerning the Marine Corps were under consideration. The Act also added several provisions dealing with the Joint Staff. The Act raised the statutory limit on the size of the Joint Staff to 400 officers, but it restricted the terms of Joint Staff members (including the Director) to three years in peacetime, with further restrictions on reassignment. The Act expressly prohibited the Joint Staff from functioning as an overall General Staff and from exercising any executive authority. The Act also made a number of changes in the wording of the National Security Act of 1947 with respect to the responsibilities of the JCS and the Chairman. The Chairman of the JCS, in consultation with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was now to select the Director of the Joint Staff, with the approval of the Secretary of Defense. The Chairman was to manage the Joint Staff "on behalf of the Joint Chiefs of Staff"', and the Joint Staff could be given assignments by the JCS or the Chairman.
In his message to Congress in connection with the 1958 legislation, President Eisenhower indicated his dissatisfaction with the chain of command. On December 31, 1958, Secretary of Defense Neil H. McElroy issued a directive establishing two command lines: one for the operational direction of the armed forces and the second for the direction of support activities through the Secretaries of the Military Departments. (Revision to Department of Defense Directive 5100.1, "Functions of the Department of Defense and its Major Components”; December 31, 1958). The operational chain of command was to run “from the President to the Secretary of Defense and through the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the commanders of unified and specified commands.” It was generally understood that the word “through” implied that the Joint Chiefs of Staff would be transmitters, and not originators, of command orders.
6. Developments Since 1958
In 1967, Congress initiated and passed legislation establishing four-year terms for the Chiefs of Staff of the Army and Air Force and for the Chief of Naval Operations, paralleling already existing law setting the term of the Marine Corps Commandant. (Public Law 90-22) The Defense Authorization Act of 1979 (Public Law 95485) included a provision making the Commandant of the Marine Corps a full participating member of the JCS, no longer formally restricted to voting only on matters directly concerning the Marine Corps.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff has proven to be one of the most stable and enduring institutions within the Department of Defense. The basic concept underlying the institution has remained intact since 1947, and its organization and structure have changed but little since the Reorganization Act of 1958. The JCS has evolved, of course, but only modestly, and principally as the result of changes undertaken internally over the years, rather than as the result of legislation. B. KEY ORGANIZATIONAL TRENDS
The preceding section briefly reviewed the history of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This section describes several important organizational trends that have emerged during the evolution of the JCS.
1. Size of the OJCS Staff
The number of personnel working under the Joint Chiefs of Staff has grown considerably since its creation. In fact, this growth has outstripped the increases in the statutory limitation on the number of military officers who may serve on the Joint Staff. This has been made possible by distinguishing between military officers who are members of the Joint Staff, on the one hand, and several other categories of personnel, on the other hand: enlisted military personnel on the Joint Staff, civilian personnel on the Joint Staff, and military and civilian personnel who are not on the Joint Staff but who work for the larger, umbrella Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (OJCS).
Table 4-1 sets forth the military and civilian personnel strengths of the OJCS for each year since 1948. The OJCS staff grew at a fairly steady rate for the first 20 years of its existence, reaching a peak of about 2,000 personnel in 1968–1969 at the height of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. During the subsequent decade (1969-1978), the OJCS gradually contracted to about 1,250 personnel -a reduction of roughly 37 percent. Since 1978, the staff of the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has experienced modest growth.