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CIVILIAN CONTROL OF THE MILITARY
An examination of the soundness of civil-military relations is essential to any study of the organization and decision-making procedures of the Department of Defense. More than any other institutional issue, the relationships between civilian and military authorities in the U.S. military establishment are key to sustaining American democracy.
Since the founding of the Nation, civilian control of the military has been an absolute and unquestioned principle. The Virginia Declaration of Rights of June 12, 1776 stated this principle as follows:
In all cases the military should be under strict subordination
to and governed by civil power. The Constitution incorporates this principle. Both the President and the Congress were given power and responsibilities to ensure civilian supremacy.
Despite the importance of the concept of civilian control, it re mains ill-defined and poorly understood. As Samuel P. Huntington stated in 1957 in The Soldier and the State:
The role of the military in society has been frequently discussed in terms of "civilian control”. Yet this concept has
never been satisfactorily defined. (page 80) Although troubling to some scholars and theorists, the lack of a consensus on a definition of civilian control has not proved a serious drawback to the success of the general principle, because the principle itself is so deeply ingrained. Thus this vague, but strongly-held, belief has seen American civilian government and its military through two centuries of evolution and events. Like other broadly defined, but fundamental, tenets set out in the Constitution, civilian control has benefited from the flexibility inherent in the Constitution. It has allowed civilian authorities to meet crises and to adapt to changes in the world and America's role in it. Civilian control by its very nature is subjective, dependent in large measure on personalities and circumstances.
The issues which have arisen in civilian-military relations fall into two general categories. First are those issues which relate to operational control of military forces. Second are those issues which relate to such non-operational matters as allocation of resources, the influence of the “military-industrial complex” and the expanding role of active and retired military officers in government.
This chapter focuses on the operational side of civilian control which, by virtue of the Constitutional separation of powers, is concentrated in the Executive Branch. This focus was selected for four reasons. First, operational military forces pose the greatest theoretical threat to civilian control. Second, although the military's ability to influence the allocation of defense resources may have some impact on the exercise of civilian control, it has never presented a threat to the constitutional structure or the functioning of the government. Third, the administrative dimension of civilian control is extensively discussed in other chapters of this study, especially Chapter 7 (Planning, Programming and Budgeting System) and Chapter 9 (Congressional Review and Oversight). Fourth, one of the central and most emotional issues in debates on the organization of the U.S. military establishment has been whether civilian control of the military would be strengthened or weakened by various changes. This debate has almost always been cast in terms of civilian control over military operations, not allocation of resources or other administrative matters. But this is not to downplay the significance of the balance between civil and military authorities regarding non-operational matters. As noted, certain aspects of these issues are discussed in Chapters 7 and 9. In addition, four major trends affecting the administrative dimension of civilian control are presented in Appendix A of this chapter. B. CURRENT FRAMEWORK FOR CIVILIAN CONTROL
1. The Constitution
Civilian control of the military is reflected in several provisions of current law. The Constitution establishes the President as the Commander-in-Chief, but gives the Congress the power to declare war and to "raise and support Armies....provide and maintain a Navy [and] to make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and Naval forces.” In addition, the President can appoint military officers only with the advice and consent of the Senate.
2. Legislative Prescriptions
The National Security Act of 1947 established the National Security Council to “provide for the establishment of integrated policies and procedures for the departments,...relating to the national security to provide for unified direction under civilian control of the Secretary of Defense." (50 U.S.C. section 401) The members of the National Security Council are also specified, all of whom are civilian.
In addition, section 133 of title 10, United States Code, provides “there is a Secretary of Defense, who is the head of the Department of Defense, appointed from civilian life.” (emphasis added). Section 133 also provides that a person may not be appointed as Secretary of Defense within 10 years after relief from active duty as a commissioned officer of the armed forces.
Under title 10 of the United States Code, the Secretary, Deputy Secretary, two Under Secretaries, eleven Assistant Secretaries of Defense, and the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation are appointed by the President from civilian life with the advice and consent of the Senate (sections 133, 134, 135, 136, and 136a). The top four officials may not be appointed within ten years of having served as a commissioned officer on active duty in the armed forces. The Secretary of the Air Force, by statute (section 8012), and the Secretaries of the Army and Navy, by tradition, are appointed by the President from civilian life with the advice and consent of the Senate. However, the under secretaries and assistant secretaries of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force must, by statute, be appointed from civilian life (sections 3013, 5033, 5034, and 8013 of title 10). No provision governs the length of separation from the armed forces for the Service Secretaries.
3. View of the Current DoD Leadership
The elements of civilian control are described thus by the current Deputy Secretary of Defense, William Howard Taft IV:
Below the President and the Congress, central responsibility for civilian control within the Department of Defense is assigned to the Secretary of Defense by the National Security Act of 1947, as amended. The Secretary is the principal advisor to the President on all matters relating to the Department. He is a statutory member of the National Security Council (NSC) and the President's executive agent in the authority, direction, and control of the Department. He exercises operational authority through the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the commanders of the unified and specified commands; he exercises direction of support activities through appointed officials in the Military Departments.
The Secretary has at his disposal a number of means by which he exercises authority, direction, and control over the Department of Defense. These include: authority to realign the organizational structure of the Department; various management staffs throughout the Department; major management systems such as the Planning, Programming, and Budgeting System (PPBS), and the Defense Systems Acquisition Review Council (DSARC); and the DoD Directives System through which he communicates Departmental policies.
Civilian control elements are distributed throughout the DoD by way of a system of appointive civilian officials, many with statutory charters, who are interspersed at levels below the Secretary of Defense. These positions include the Under Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, General Counsel, Inspector General, and Assistants to the Secretary within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the Service Secretaries and their
appointed civilian subordinates. C. HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF U.S. CIVIL-MILITARY RELA
TIONS 1. Traditional Threats to Civilian Control
Throughout history, including the contemporary period, military power and authority have diminished civil authority in a variety of ways. In some countries, the military has simply gained control of the national government through a coup or other takeover. In other cases, military officers have taken actions on their own initiative beyond the scope of their authority but which do not challenge the government. These traditional threats to civilian control are presented in order to examine their applicability to the course of civil-military relations in the United States.
One of the most basic theories of civil-military relations is the threat posed to democratic societies and civilian governments by "the Man on the White Horse." The Man-on-Horseback symbolizes the potential for a single military commander who possesses great personal authority and charisma to wrest control from civilian authorities, often, according to the theory, doing so to great popular acclaim. A Washington, McClellan, or MacArthur comes to mind as the closest example in the American experience of a military commander with such authority and popular support.
b. Benign, Objective Takeover
Another major theory of civil-military relations is the benign, objective military takeover when the civilian government's inability to govern has thrown the country into crisis. According to this theory, the military establishes stability and sound policies by which it governs until it determines that the country is secure enough to allow the civilians another chance at governing. At this point, it turns the reins of government over to the civilians and retreats watchfully into the background until it determines that it must again intervene. This has occurred repeatedly in Latin America.
c. Commander Taking Actions on His Own Initiative
A final theory is the threat posed by a military officer who acts -often for deeply patriotic reasons —beyond his authority and treads on areas reserved for civilian leaders. This was popularized in the classic 1960's film, Dr. Strangelove, the tale of a strategic bomber wing commander who takes it upon himself to start a nuclear war.
2. History of U.S. Civil-Military Relations
The instances in U.S. history when issues of civil-military relations rose to the fore are explored in the remainder of this section.
a. Revolutionary War Period
Americans' belief that standing armies pose a threat to liberty was clearly born of their colonial experience rather than philosophical or legal antecedents:
On the military side the war of the American Revolution was in part a revolt against the British standing army....It was a protest against the re-enforcement of British government by military regulars and the quartering of regulars on the people of the colonies. In its inception at Lexington and Concord the Revolution was literally an attack by militiamen on British regulars-an uprising of embattled farmers who had homes to fight for against disciplined regulars who had no homes and fought for pay under fear. (Alfred Vagts, A History of Milita
rism: Romance and Realities of a Profession, page 96) Important though the Minutemen were, from the beginning it was clear that only by raising and supporting an army to fight the British could the American revolution succeed.