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CHAPTER 3

OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE

A. EVOLUTION OF THE OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE

1. Introduction

The first proposal to establish a single executive department for the U.S. military establishment was published in March 1921. This proposal was among an extensive series of recommendations for Federal administrative reorganization written by Frank Willoughby of the Institute for Government Research (now the Brookings Institution). Willoughby wanted to place the two existing military departments-Department of War and Department of the Navy-and a supply department in a single executive agency, to be entitled the Department of National Defense.

Willoughby's proposal received wide attention and became the basis for unification proposals considered by the Congress from 1921 until 1926. Both the War and Navy Departments opposed these unification proposals and continued to argue against unification throughout the 20-year period leading up to World War II.

Between 1921 and 1945, Congress looked at some 50 bills to reor ganize the armed forces. In his book on the early history of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, entitled The Formative Years 1947–1950, Steven L. Rearden discusses these legislative proposals:

Proponents of these measures included advocates of "scientific management" and governmental reform, legislators who sympathized with the movement for increased autonomy of military aviation, and economy-minded congressmen in

search of cures for the Great Depression. (page 17) Given the opposition of the War and Navy Departments, only one of these bills reached the floor of the House of Representatives, where it was defeated in 1932 by a vote of 153 to 135. In general, prior to World War II, the idea of unification of U.S. armed forces rarely received serious consideration.

During World War II, however, it became increasingly evident that the nature of warfare was undergoing radical change. World War II demonstrated that modern warfare required combined operations by land, sea, and air forces. This, in turn, required not only a unity of operational command of these forces, but also a coordinated process for achieving the most effective force mixture and structure. As President Eisenhower was to express it in his Message to Congress on April 3, 1958, "separate ground, sea, and air warfare is gone forever”.

The single direction of U.S. military components during World War II became a prerequisite to the success of the U.S. effort and a necessity for the harmonious cooperation of U.S. and allied, especially British, military command structures. This experience virtually ruled out a return to the pre-war separation of the Services, but by no means did it suppress the divergent pressures that derived from traditional attitudes within the Services and from institutional balances between the Executive Branch and the Congress.

Following World War II, the Army became an advocate of close unification. The Army's position was greatly influenced by pre-war organizational arrangements in the War Department and by the experiences of attempting to provide unified direction for the war effort.

The Army's position was strongly supported by President Truman. Based upon his experiences in the Senate and his wartime responsibilities, President Truman concluded that the "antiquated defense setup" was in need of a drastic overhaul. He had suggested that the only effective solution was “a single authority over everything that pertains to American safety.(The Formative Years, page 20).

In working for this objective, the Army was assisted by proponents of air power, motivated by a strong desire for co-equal status for air forces with land and sea forces. The Navy -fearing for the future of its naval air power and the Marine Corps -wanted at the time no part of unification, particularly of unified command in Washington.

In his Message to the Congress on December 19, 1945 concerning the need for greater military unification, President Truman stated:

With the coming of peace, it is clear that we must not only continue, but strengthen, our present facilities for integrated planning. We cannot have the sea, land, and air members of our defense team working at what may turn out to be cross purposes, planning their programs on different assumptions as to the nature of the military establishment we need, and en

gaging in an open competition for funds. The experiences of World War II were the major impetus for changing the organizational structure of the U.S. military establishment. The history of the U.S. military establishment since World War II and of the Office of the Secretary of Defense within it is clearly told in a series of evolutionary organizational changes, commencing with the National Security Act of 1947.

2. The National Security Act of 1947

The National Security Act of 1947 reflected a compromise of diverse currents and pressures. The Congress acknowledged the need for military "unification"; this action was tempered, however, by the reluctance of the Congress to bestow on the President any additional powers that might weaken the congressional role in civilian control of the military.

The Act, in addition to creating a National Security Council for better coordination of foreign and military policy and a Central Intelligence Agency for coordination of intelligence, created the position of Secretary of Defense to provide the President a principal staff assistant "in all matters relating to the national security.

The characteristics of compromise were most significantly reflected in the powers granted to the Secretary of Defense. Rather than presiding over one single Department of the Executive Branch, as recommended by President Truman, he was to preside over the National Military Establishment, which consisted of three Executive Departments --Army, Navy, and Air Force each headed by a Cabinet-level Secretary.

The Secretaries of each of the Military Departments retained all their powers and duties, subject only to the authority of the Secretary of Defense to establish "general” policies and programs, to exercise "general" direction, authority and control, to eliminate unnecessary duplication in the logistics field, and to supervise and coordinate the budget.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) came into being as a result of the National Security Act of 1947. As the offices of Cabinet secretaries were not generally established by law, OSD did not have a statutory basis, but emerged “as an extension of the secretary and developed gradually as Forrestal [the first Secretary of Defense) and his successors enlarged their authority over the vast defense organization." (The Formative years, page 57)

In the National Security Act of 1947, the Secretary of Defense was given three Special Assistants. He could also hire as many professionals and clerical aides as he required and could request the Services to detail military officers as assistants and personal aides to him. The number of employees in OSD rose to 173 by the end of January 1948 and to 347 by the beginning of 1949.

The Act, in an effort to prevent a repetition of the haphazard economic mobilization of World War II, created a Munitions Board and a Research and Development Board, but made the representatives of the Military Departments on each board co-equal with the Chairman of the Board.

The resulting organization was aptly characterized some years later by President Eisenhower as "little more than a weak confederation of sovereign military units."

Each subsequent step in the evolution of the U.S. military establishment was to be characterized by debate centered upon the powers required by the Secretary of Defense to assure properly unified armed forces and their efficient management.

3. The 1949 Amendment to the National Security Act

In 1949, armed with the findings of the Hoover Commission's Task Force on National Security Organization, the public plea of Secretary of Defense Forrestal in his 1948 Annual Report, and the Eberstadt Task Force report, all of which documented the weaknesses of the 1947 Act and recommended greater powers for the Secretary of Defense, President Truman renewed his insistence for more effective unification of the military establishment.

The resulting changes in military organization once again reflected a compromise of the existing pressures and influences, but on balance, represented a major step in the direction of unification. The Department of Defense became an Executive Department, with the Secretary of Defense responsible for general direction. The

Read three Special Assistants to the Secretary of Defense were converted to Assistant Secretaries. The Executive Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force were reduced to Military Departments —with the proviso, however, that they should be separately administered. The President's request for a transfer to the Secretary of Defense of the statutory functions of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Munitions Board, and the Research and Development Board was denied. The Secretary of Defense was specifically prohibited from transferring assigned combatant functions among the Military Departments and was limited in the transfer of noncombatant functions by a requirement for pre-notification of Congress.

Subsequent to his submission of the request for the statutory changes in the National Security Act of 1947, but before the Congress enacted the 1949 amendments to the National Security Act, the President submitted to the Congress Reorganization Plan No. 4, by which the National Security Council and the National Security Resources Board were transferred to the Executive Office of the President. By selecting only these two boards for transfer to the Executive Office of the President, the Reorganization Plan and the language of the President's message of transmittal, by omission, supported the implication that the Munitions Board, the Research and Development Board, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff were parts of the Department of Defense, and as such, subject to the “general direction” of the Secretary of Defense. The statutes were uniformly silent as to the organizational location of all five entities.

4. The 1953 Reorganization Plan

President Eisenhower, shortly after his election, appointed the Rockefeller Committee to examine defense organization. Further changes in defense organization came in 1953, based upon the recommendations of this Committee, in the form of Reorganization Plan No. 6 submitted to the Congress by President Eisenhower. Under the provisions of that plan, which became effective on June 30, 1953, the Munitions Board, the Research and Development Board, the Defense Supply Management Agency and the Director of Installations were all abolished and their functions transferred to the Secretary of Defense. Six additional Assistant Secretary positions, supplementing the three in existence, and a General Counsel of equivalent rank, were established to provide more adequate assistance to the Secretary of Defense.

5. The 1958 Amendment to the National Security Act

Faced by continuing inter-Service rivalry and competition over the development and control of strategic weapons, and under the impetus of the successful launching of the Sputnik satellite by the Soviet Union in October 1957, President Eisenhower in 1958 requested, and the Congress enacted, substantial changes in the military organization. The basic authority of the Secretary of Defense was redefined as “direction, authority and control,” which was as strong as the Congress knew how to write it. In addition, the Secretary of Defense was given substantial power to reorganize the Department of Defense, specifically in the logistics area. The authority of the Secretary of Defense over research and development programs of the Department was also strengthened, and the Secretary

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was provided with a Director of Defense Research and Engineering. In addition, the 1949 requirement that the Military Departments be "separately administered” was relaxed to "separately organized.”

6. Developments Since 1958

No major statutory changes have occurred since 1958. The changes in defense organization since 1958 have flowed primarily from the reorganizational powers granted to the Secretary of Defense in the 1958 Amendments to the National Security Act. The most significant changes resulted from the creation of Defense Agencies and, more recently, DoD Field Activities. Significantly, each new Agency and Field Activity represented a consolidation of a functional diffusion among the Services. There were numerous changes in the establishment and disestablishment of certain assistant secretaries and other senior OSD positions. These changes reflected the management needs of various Secretaries of Defense, shifts over time in functional areas that required more or less attention, and efforts to provide for improved integration of the overall defense effort. B. KEY ORGANIZATIONAL TRENDS

1. Personnel End Strengths of OSD and Subordinate Components a. Office of the Secretary of Defense

During the period of 1947-1950, the Office of the Secretary of Defense experienced rapid growth in the number of assigned civilian and military personnel. By 1950, the authorized strength of OSD was 2,004 civilian and military personnel. While the personnel strength of OSD fluctuated considerably in the following 33 years, by the end of 1983 the OSD staff was slightly smaller than in 1950 with 1,896 civilian and military personnel assigned.

While changes in the staff size were influenced by the addition or elimination of certain functions and by personnel reduction efforts, the most important influence was staff increases during the Vietnam conflict. The peak of this Vietnam buildup occurred in 1968 when 3,213 personnel were assigned to OSD. The history of these fluctuations and the major causes are shown in Table 3-1.

TABLE 3-1.-HISTORY OF PERSONNEL FLUCTUATIONS IN

THE OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE

End of year

Author

ized strength (civilian

and military)

Notes

1947.
1948.

1173 National Military Establishment and OSD created.
856 Staffs of the Munitions Board and Research and Devel-

opment Board included in figures.

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