At last the much discussed “merger” of the armed forces has become the National Security Act of 1947. A bewildered nation, realizing that its future security was at stake, followed the arguments with an interest seldom accorded to the proceedings of Congress. To what extent will the new law fulfill the hopes and expectations of its sponsors? Now that the expressions of approval or disapproval that greeted the various proposals have become somewhat less vociferous, a dispassionate analysis of the Security Act can be attempted, although a final appraisal will obviously have to await the lessons of experience.
Let us begin by admitting that if Congress has succeeded in turning out any workable plan, that accomplishment should be set down to its everlasting credit, in view of the food of biased, although well-intentioned, opinions that has deluged our legislators. In this dictator-ridden age it will have given a much needed demonstration that parliamentary government can be far-seeing and intelligent, even though its processes must necessarily be slow and involved.
The National Security Act should therefore be studied for what it provides and for what it does not provide. All legislation reflects its historic background, but in reading this act the reader cannot fail to detect unavowed—perhaps subconscious—influences at work, purposes going far beyond the title and Declaration of Policy with which the new law begins.
No Act of Congress ever packed more meaning into its title. By stressing the word “security” and relegating the unfortunate word “defense” to second place—and it is a pity it could not have been discarded entirely—emphasis is laid on the idea that to assume a defensive position and maintain it in a modern war until attacked is simply to commit suicide. No more Pearl Harbors, please, especially as the next one would be infinitely “bigger and better.” If that lesson has been learned—and the wording of the title would so indicate—that fact alone marks an entirely new departure in our concept of war.
Another significant development is apparent in the title. Although the act was presumably intended to effect some sort of a merger of the services, we find mention of a new department, that of the Air Force. No wonder Rear Admiral Ralph A. Ofstie, in testifying before the House Committee while the bill was pending, protested: “I particularly feel it is a grave error to present to the people of this country the idea that this bill provides for a merger. It is primarily and basically (a bill providing for) the establishment of a separate air force.” Gradually, and after much debate, a “merger” in the generally accepted meaning of the word was forgotten. In its place, the title of the act calls for “the coordination of the activities of the National Military Establishment with other departments and agencies of the Government concerned with National Security.”
And here we might as well face one situation that may become the subject of considerable discussion on Capitol Hill—to say nothing of recriminations. Seldom has legislation resulted in an enactment so divergent from its original object. You can drive a coach and four between the two in the case of the National Security Act. A story went the rounds during the late war that was so humorous that we cannot help wishing it were true. It concerns a Japanese agent who reported to his home office that there was no use blowing up any government agency in Washington as another one was doing the identical work right around the corner. What became of the economy drive which was undoubtedly uppermost in the mind of the average citizen? It ended in the creation of a third department, plus two more secretaries and an outright direction in the Declaration of Policy “not to merge” the three services.
Now it is quite possible that the creation of an independent air force and an over-all Secretary of Defense was necessary, even though on its face the innovation would seem to increase the expense and difficulties involved “in the ratio of 2 to 3,” to quote one witness. In that case would it not have been wiser to say so frankly instead of making “promises as airy as a department store Santa Claus to children,” as Representative W. Cole Sterling scathingly remarked?
All that, however, is now water over the dam. Whether the new act can bring about “the establishment of integrated policies” and “the effective strategic direction of the Armed Forces and their operation under unified civilian control” is what must now be considered.
It did not require World War II to demonstrate that there was something radically wrong with our entire foreign policy, but it did require that tragedy to spur Congress into “doing something about it.” The proposed “merger” of the Army and Navy was a convenient vehicle on which to hitch a comprehensive program of “coordination for national security” which would include other branches of the government. In so doing Congress was responding to a somewhat inarticulate but growing conviction throughout the nation that our survival in a modern world depended on more than an army, a navy, and an air force, important as those three factors are. It is no wonder, therefore, that Title I of the Security Act should deal but indirectly with the Armed Services.
In his statement to the House Committee Dr. Vannevar Bush, Chairman of the Joint Research and Development Board, sums up the need of the hour in a few words that go to the core of the entire problem: “sound, effective and enforceable foreign policies,” which can only be secured by constant exchange of views between “those men who are charged with responsibility for the phases of government most directly affecting our security, namely, our military affairs, our foreign policies, and our civilian war potential.” Obviously, Dr. Bush’s statement does not herald any new discovery. Inter-departmental conferences and joint board meetings were everyday occurrences during the late war and produced some good results. The innovation lies in the measures adopted to improve these results in future.
With the economy motive in mind, the House of Representatives referred the National Security Act to the Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments, but by the time Title I was reached that committee found itself at grips with problems which soon sent economy flying off at a tangent.
An entirely new body, the National Security Council, is created by Title I. This is to be the main policy-making body dealing with national security. It is to be presided over by the President or, in his absence, by any of its members he may designate. It is to consist of the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the three Service Secretaries (who, it should be noted, are not members of the Cabinet), and the Chairman of the National Security Resources Board. With the advice of the Senate, other Cabinet officers may be added, also the Chairman of the Munitions Board and the Chairman of the Research and Development Board.
As to the functions of the Council, they are expressed in terms which would seem but elaborations of the Title and the Declaration of Policy set forth in the preamble of the act were it not for one short sentence which, if carefully considered, will stand out as a startling example of realism. It shall be the duty of the Council “to assess and appraise the objectives, commitments, and risks of the United States in relation to our actual and potential military power.” There is simply no overestimating the effect this directive may have on our future course of action, if systematically applied. It may mean an end of a policy which relies on the purity of our intentions and the loftiness of our purposes—a smug attitude which enhances neither our prestige nor our popularity—to obtain the results we desire.
One objection that has been made to the Council, as constituted by the Security Act, is that it is uncertain as to composition and vague as to powers. Will it provide a forum in which all points of view will have their day in court? To illustrate by a concrete case that caused considerable trouble during the late war, the Board of Economic Warfare steadfastly opposed the supplying of the French colonies in North Africa after the fall of France, although the armed forces urged that maintaining the good will of the people of that region was of the utmost importance in view of our proposed landings. As usual in such cases a modus vivendi rather than a solution was reached—which satisfied neither party. Does the new Security Council possess power “to hear and determine”? If so, that power is implied rather than expressed. If the Council, in case of disagreement, can only pass the matter on to the President it will not be much of an improvement over a Cabinet meeting, the present method of settling departmental differences.
The Council is closely bound up with another new body, the Central Intelligence Agency. This agency is undoubtedly the result of the deep dissatisfaction, both in and out of the services, with conditions as they had existed since time immemorial. Secretary Patterson voiced the popular as well as the official point of view when he said before the House Committee: “We had an illustration in what happened at Pearl Harbor where you have separate systems of intelligence, not integrated except as they may talk to one another at lunch or something like that.”
The Agency is to be headed either by a service man or a civilian as Director. In the former case the officer is to be liberated from military control so as to be, for all intents and purposes, a civil servant for the time being. He is to be appointed by the President, with the approval of the Senate. The duties of the Agency are purely advisory. It is simply a clearing house for information collected by the intelligence branches of the different departments. Let us note, parenthetically, that all hope of “consolidating” these various units proved illusory for the simple reason that the type of information sought by each varies to such a degree as to make the continuance of this apparent duplication unavoidable. The Agency is to have “no police, subpena [sic], law-enforcement powers, or international-security functions.” In spite of this drastic limitation the Agency was the occasion for a display of fireworks in the House hearings during which the timeworn cliches “NKVD,” “Gestapo,” “snoopers... butting into everybody else’s business” were bandied about freely.
Now, that some such body was urgently needed is self-evident. The point may well be raised, however, that the Agency may find itself so hedged in by regulations, both civil and military, as not to be able effectively “to correlate and evaluate intelligence relating to national security” or to “provide for the appropriate dissemination of such intelligence within the Government,” especially as it is required to use, “where appropriate, existing agencies and facilities.”
These and other minor objections vanish into thin air, however, when we consider the free exchange of ideas and information the Council and the Agency make possible. “Du choc des opinions jaillit la verite.”
A third body, organized on a quasi-cabinet basis, is provided for by Title I—the National Security Resources Board. It differs from the two we have been considering in that it reports directly to the President. Its composition is even more indeterminate as it is “to be composed of the Chairman of the Board and such heads or representatives of the various executive departments and independent agencies as may from time to time be designated by the President,” the latter without the concurrence of the Senate. Its function is “to advise the President concerning the coordination of military, industrial, and civilian mobilization.” Leaving aside for the time being the question whether or not we have here an illustration of what our Japanese agent reported, we should note one function not implicit in its title that has been assigned to the board: “the strategic relocation of industries, services, government, and economic activities, the continuous operation of which is essential to the nation’s security,” “—from which we might almost conclude that America has at last learned another lesson, namely, that mere distance is no longer sufficient protection.
And now we come to Title II, the piece de resistance of the act. At once we meet another new name, though hardly a new institution, the National Military Establishment. Its head is the Secretary of Defense who, it should be noted, may not be “a person who has within ten years been on active duty as a commissioned officer in a regular component of the Armed Services.” It has been a long-standing custom in our country to select civilians as Secretary of War and as Secretary of the Navy. The sudden enactment of this custom into law as regards this newcomer will be considered presently.
The duties of the new Secretary are set forth in very general terms which include directions to “eliminate unnecessary duplication” and “to coordinate the preparation of the budget estimates of the departments and agencies comprising the National Military Establishment.” Having done this much “merging” the Security Act immediately proceeds to “unmerge” so as to conform with the Declaration of Policy. The three departments are to be “administered as individual executive departments by their respective Secretaries” who retain the right of “presenting to the President or to the Director of the Budget, after so informing the Secretary of Defense, any report or recommendation relating to his department which he may deem necessary.” The Secretary of Defense is allowed three “special assistants” and “such other civilian personnel as may be necessary” but he “shall not establish a military staff.”
With this set-up it is difficult to see how the Secretary of Defense can aspire to any role other than that of moderator between the three services. And yet the fear that the act created a “super-secretary” who might become powerful enough to seize the reins of government was frequently expressed in the hearings. We shall revert to this phenomenon later.
Up to this point we have been analyzing what the Security Act provides. In considering the three departments included in the Military Establishment we had better reverse that method. What the act did not provide is what is interesting—and important. The act is at best a compromise between three radically different points of view, each of which can present a good enough case to be entitled to careful study. Mutatis mutandis, the issues which have been temporarily settled may be raised again should new developments in the art of war present a favorable opportunity. It is therefore of the utmost importance that they be thoroughly understood both in and outside of the services.
In his testimony before the House Committee, Secretary Forrestal stated the different points of view as follows:
(1) That of the Army, that there should be a single department of the three services where air, navy, and ground forces should be divisions or branches; (2) that of the Air Forces, that they should have departmental autonomy on a parity with the two older services; and (3) that of the Navy, that a merger would dangerously injure the morale of the naval service, reduce its influence in strategic decisions, put naval aviation and the Marine Corps in serious jeopardy, and in general dangerously follow the patterns of the Japanese and German organizations, both of which proved by their failure that they were unsoundly conceived.
This is a skillfully condensed statement which I shall now attempt to expand.
In view of the fact that, of the three contestants involved, the Army was the least successful in stamping its impress on the Security Act, its spokesmen are entitled to one consolation: the goal they set is one toward which all branches of the service should tend. The Army contention can be summed up by saying that to them the coordination of all forms of warfare seemed so important as to warrant any means, however drastic and radical, of achieving a complete administrative merger.
Strange as it may seem, the ideal the Army was attempting to achieve is really not a new one. For many centuries the merger of the two services was complete or, to be more accurate, no merger was necessary as no separation had occurred. Primitive warfare was simple, regardless of the element on which it was waged. Consequently it was not beyond the capacity of the average man to acquire a good working knowledge of both forms. An examination of Greek and Roman history will reveal an astonishing number of commanders who were both admirals and generals. This situation, in spite of the introduction of gunpowder, obtained until after the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, a long period during which the general pattern of warfare did not essentially change. When the change did come it proved to be the work of the blue water sailor. The voyages of discovery soon produced the broadside, sail-propelled ship. The line of battle began to supplant the melees of galley actions. This required experts in navigation and seamanship. The age of specialization followed inevitably and has continued uninterruptedly to our time.
Armies and navies have become separate entities with distinctive uniforms, customs, traditions and, above all, different training. To bridge this gap will require something more than legislative enactment, yet that is precisely what the Army leaders attempted to do, the first objective chosen being a “marginal” service, the Marine Corps.
General A. A. Vandegrift, Commandant of the Marine Corps, undoubtedly voiced the apprehensions of his service when he stated to the Senate Committee on Naval Affairs on May 6, 1946:
For some time, I have been aware that the very existence of the Marine Corps stood as a continuing affront to the War Department General Staff, but had hoped that this attitude would end with the recent war, as a result of its dramatic demonstration of the complementary and unconflicting roles of land power, naval power, and air power. But, following a careful study of the circumstances as they have developed in the past six months, I am convinced that my hopes were groundless, that the War Department’s intentions regarding the Marine Corps are quite unchanged, and that even in advance of this proposed legislation it is seeking to reduce the sphere of the Marine Corps to ceremonial functions and to the provision of small, ineffective combat formations and labor troops for service on landing beaches.
An examination of the record will show that General Vandegrift’s statement was not an overstatement. In a letter to the President, dated May 21, 1946, Secretary of War Patterson summed up the views of his department as follows:
There shall be maintained as a constituent part of the naval service a balanced fleet marine force, for (1) service with the fleet in seizure of enemy positions, not involving sustained land fighting, (2) to continue development of tactics, techniques, and equipment relating to those phases of amphibious warfare which pertain to waterborne aspects of landing operations.
In other words, the War Department proposed to curtail, by definition, the functions of the Marine Corps to a point that “would have completely eliminated Marines from acting as a landing force in amphibious operations,” to quote a Marine Corps statement.
Spokesmen for the Marine Corps—and there were plenty of them—countered by proposing that the Marine Corps be declared by statute “to be the principal agency for developing tactics, techniques, and equipment relating to those phases of amphibious warfare pertaining to the landing force and the defense of naval bases.”
A long argument ensued before the House Committee, the high spot of which was probably the following question from Mr. Chenoweth to General Vandegrift and the General’s answer.
Q. General, what is this all about? What are they trying to do to the Marine Corps? Tell us in your own language and use the Marine’s language.
A. Well, I thought I had tried that, Mr. Chenoweth. We feel that with this new legislation we were very apt to be accused in our most important field with the Navy—the most important of modern days—that of the Fleet Marine Force (an integral part of the fleet), of duplicating somebody. It might be charged that we, or that part of the Marine Corps, are no longer necessary, and we would find ourselves guarding a pile of coal in some navy yard—using the Marine language, sir.
This unique statement pretty well disposed of the “duplication” danger, so far as the Marine Corps was concerned. The Executive Order issued simultaneously with the Security Act contains the provision desired by the Marine Corps, with the elimination of the word “principal.” The Security Act provides that the Marine Corps “shall be organized, trained, and equipped...for the conduct of such land operations as may be essential to the prosecuting of a naval campaign.” The reason for the triumph of one “marginal” service when threatened with extinction may have been partly sentimental. You cannot wipe out everything “from the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli” with a stroke of the pen—fortunately. The philosophy involved will be considered presently.
And so let us see what happened to another “marginal” service, aviation.
Here we enter on the most controversial ground of our entire subject. The atmosphere is one that breeds extremists. General Douhet, the father of modern military aviation, was serving a sentence for insubordination when Mussolini rescued him and appointed him head of the Italian air force. General “Billy” Mitchell is still regarded by many as a martyr, not only in this country but in Europe as well. The problem we have to consider, fortunately, is not whether a push-button war is just around the corner or many years off, or whether a war can be won by long range strategic bombing—subjects on which there is considerable difference of opinion among experts. The attitude of the two senior services toward an autonomous air force is what we have to consider.
Strangely enough, it is the Army now that favors autonomy and the Navy that opposes it. It would be a mistake, however, to jump to the conclusion that the Army has taken a paradoxical stand. To begin with, since military aviation is an offshoot of the ground forces and, at least until the creation of an Air Academy, its officers will be largely chosen from the Army, the bill of divorcement the Air Force is sponsoring will not prove quite as absolute as would seem. Moreover, an autonomous Air Force might conceivably annex Naval Aviation, a feat an Army Air Force could hardly hope to accomplish. Hence the Navy’s opposition to the new department.
It was in the hard school of experience that the Army learned the lesson that to be effective an air force must be concentrated. General Eisenhower summed up the matter before the House Committee as follows:
We have given up everything...even to include the reconnaissance squadrons...the reason being that when the supreme commander in war...needs the air, he needs it all. He does not want to have to go down and fight with the Third Army for the detachments that are with the Third Army or the Twelfth Army or the Sixth Army. He wants every single one....In France...on days of crises, we flew as many as 15,000 sorties a day in support of ground forces. That means you must get this tremendous organization working with you and willing to forget about bombing Berlin that day...and do what you want.
That General Eisenhower has made a strong plea for an independent Army Air Force subject only to the High Command, one that can be rapidly shifted from strategic bombing to ground support, cannot be denied.
As a matter of fact, the Army Air Force during the late war was operated that way without having the benefit of “departmental autonomy on a parity with the older services.” If such autonomy has now been granted it can be justified only on the theory that in future wars the part aviation is to play will have so increased in scope, so developed in distinctive characteristics, as to duplicate the situation that brought about the separation of land and sea forces—a possibility few conservative strategists are prepared to admit. The main function of air forces still is the support of operations on land and on sea.
All that, however, is more water over the dam. Autonomy has been granted the Army Air Force. Unfortunately, some “air-minded” extremists were bent on celebrating their autonomy by depriving another service of its independence. Not only the Marine Corps but also Naval Aviation were now in “serious jeopardy.”
As must be apparent from the foregoing, in the conflict which centered around the Security Act the Navy was compelled to wage a long defensive action. In spite of the three parties involved, the conflict was a dual one—not a three-cornered fight. That the Air Force, in any predictable future, would adopt an independent, line of action was hardly to be expected, judging from the following statement issued by General Spaatz, Commanding General, Army Air Forces:
I recommend therefore that size of the Marine Corps be limited to small, readily available and lightly armed units, no larger than a regiment, to protect United States interests ashore in foreign countries and to provide interior guard of naval ships and naval shore establishments.
It cannot be too strongly emphasized that at no time did the Navy oppose unification, as distinct from merger. As far back as May 31, 1946, the Secretary of the Navy set forth the views of his department as follows:
The Navy favors unification but in a less drastic form. It believes that serious disadvantages will result from combining the military services into one department. It would involve sacrifices of sound administrative and essential service morale.
The Navy recognizes the need for a greater measure of integration than now exists, not only between the military departments, but among all agencies of Government responsible for our national security. A single military department falls short of meeting these objectives.
Secretary Forrestal was therefore perfectly right when, in enumerating the dangers that threatened the Navy, he gave first place to morale. A “merger” as planned by the Army would place the Navy in a position where it could be persistently outvoted by a more numerous branch of the service and would find its “influence in strategic decisions” greatly “reduced” and its control of amphibious operations—a legitimate sphere of Naval activity—undermined by the impairment of the Marine Corps. In fact, Army officers were not lacking who were claiming that the command of landing craft should devolve to the Army as soon as the boats put off from the transports. And now the Air Force was attempting to reduce Naval Aviation to a few spotting planes similar to the “grasshoppers” who seem to be the only survivors of the Army Air Force.
A recent Air Force manual says:
They (the air forces) feel that all air power, including the Navy’s, ought to be under one command, and they are still deeply concerned— though at the moment chiefly in theory—-with the antisubmarine problem.
This would seem, at first blush, to contain some highly original thinking, which is more than can be said for the Air Forces’ views on the Marine Corps. As a matter of fact the proposal was merely an attempt to copy the unsound set-up existing in the British Navy, the Royal Naval Air Service being a part of the Royal Air Force. Here let me quote from the testimony of Vice Admiral Gerald F. Bogan, U.S. Navy, Commander of the Air Force of the Atlantic Fleet, a Naval Aviation officer of long experience who had exceptional opportunities of observing the workings of the British system during the late war:
Training in a naval sense was neglected and forward development of carriers ceased to be a major project....The British Navy did not have any control over its own air force....The Navy had no chance.
The effect of turning over naval aviation to a land-minded control seriously impaired the efficiency of the Royal Navy and resulted in the needless loss of several ships. In view of the important part Naval Aviation plays in our strategy, our adoption of a similar policy might have catastrophic results. Fortunately, the Security Act has fully confirmed the right of the Navy to its own air force, including land based aviation, and, incidentally, makes the Navy responsible for anti-submarine warfare. The only limitation made is one in the Executive Order to the effect that “use shall be made of Air Force personnel, equipment, and facilities in all cases where economy and efficiency will thereby be increased. Subject to the above provisions, the Navy will not be restricted as to types of aircraft maintained and operated. ”
While considering Title I we had occasion to examine three agencies organized on a quasi-cabinet basis. We now have to consider five other agencies organized “within the National Military Establishment.”
The first one we meet is the War Council, which consists of the Secretary of Defense, Chairman; his three Service Secretaries; the Chief of Staff, U. S. Army; the Chief of Naval Operations; and the Chief of Staff, U. S. Air Force. Its functions are to “advise the Secretary of Defense on matters of broad strategy” and to “consider and report on such other matters as the Secretary of Defense may direct.” In view of the fact that the War Council are all members of the official family of the Secretary of Defense, it is difficult to see why such intramural activities should be accorded such an imposing title, unless it be to offset the provision prohibiting that official from “establishing a military staff.” The language used is certainly broad and vague enough to permit almost anything.
Two other agencies are set up, both of which existed for some time prior to the Security Act as Joint Army and Navy Boards—the Research and Development Board, and the Munitions Board.
The first-named is what its title indicates. Its principal duty is “to prepare a complete and integrated program of research and development for military purposes.” It consists of a civilian chairman and two representatives from each of the three services. Its purpose is perhaps best explained in II R. 4214. The Research and Development Board is to “take full advantage for the benefit of all services of the latest developments resulting from modern scientific research.”
The duties of the Munitions Board can be summed up by one quotation from the Security Act. It shall “under the direction of the Secretary of Defense and in support of strategic and logistic plans prepared by the Joint Chiefs of Staff...plan for the military aspects of industrial mobilization.” The interesting feature of the Munitions Board, however, is that it should have been deemed advisable to perpetuate it in view of the fact that Title I of the Security Act had already created a National Security Resources Board. Although the wording of the functions attributed to each is different, there is no real, clear-cut line separating them.
Vice Admiral Forrest Sherman, however, in testifying before the House Committee, gave an explanation that is worth pondering:
There must be both a (National Security) Resources Board and a Munitions Board because two separate functions must be carried out in the field of national mobilization and logistics which, although interrelated, are on different levels; one on the national and political level, and the other on a strictly military level....Experience has shown that national mobilization plans, which, of necessity, must affect the life of the Nation, are distasteful to the people of the country if prepared by the military departments. Politically, any plan of national scope prepared by the Army and Navy Munitions Board is bound to be still-born. Such was the fate of the mobilization plans prepared by the Army and Navy Munitions Board in 1938-39.
Nevertheless, unless care is exercised in segregating the duties of the two boards our Japanese agent may once more prove to have been right!
One urgently needed reform, however, has been effected by means of the new Munitions Board—the determination of relative priorities in military procurement, thereby eliminating competitive bidding between the Services. The Board is also directed to secure standardization of specifications. The previous Board could only operate on the basis of mutual agreement. The present Board is given wide powers, including the duty “to regroup, combine, or dissolve existing interservice agencies...in such manner as to promote efficiency and economy.” These are probably the only provisions of the Security Act that hold forth any real hope of effecting economies in the immediate future.
And now we come to the provisions which give permanent, legal status to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (the fourth body provided for by Title II) and its satellite, the Joint Staff (the fifth body). This is a subject concerning which Congress for many years has had the gravest misgivings.
The origin of the present Joint Chiefs of Staff is not recent. It dates back to the reorganization of the War Department by Secretary of War Root in 1903. As Secretary Patterson pointed out in his testimony “predictions were freely made that the Chief of Staff would be the man on horseback that would trample on the liberties of everyone in the country and would ride to power. Well, that was forty-five years ago and we have had all kinds of men in the office of Chief of Staff. I have seen no trend along that line.” Is there anything to warrant the fear that dictatorship is lurking in the present set-up although no such danger apparently existed in the old?
As now constituted the Joint Chiefs of Staff consists of the Chief of Staff, U. S. Army; the Chief of Naval Operations; the Chief of Staff, U. S. Air Force, and the Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, if there be one. Subject to the authority and direction of the President and the Secretary of Defense, they are “to prepare strategic plans and to provide for the strategic direction of the military forces” and “to prepare joint logistic plans.” Joint training and the coordination of education in the military forces is another matter referred to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, an important subject which we will consider presently. So far, there is nothing new or startling.
Two new duties, however, have been assigned to them. They are “to establish unified commands in strategic areas when such unified commands are in the interests of national security.” In view of the evils of divided command in the presence of the enemy, this provision is nothing more than plain common sense. Whether it will accomplish all that is expected of it I reserve for later discussion. They are also “to provide United States representation on the Military Staff of the United Nations in accordance with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.” This last provision reflects an epoch-making change in American public opinion. Security, as we now know, depends on something more than “unified commands.” It rests on our willingness and ability to unify our military, political, and economic strategy with that of other peace-loving nations to the extent, if necessary, of promptly taking affirmative action when faced by any situation threatening the peace of the world. We have indeed traveled a long way since we rejected the League of Nations!
Alarmists obviously cannot find much material in the Joint Chiefs of Staff, so it was against the satellite, the Joint Staff, that they directed their fire. This body, which is to consist of not more than one hundred officers, chosen approximately evenly among the three services, is “to perform such duties as may be directed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.” Its Director is appointed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and must be an officer junior in grade to all members of that body. In spite of these drastic limitations, we find in H. R. 4214 the following curious statement: “The Joint Staff must in future be carefully observed to prevent its possible development into a national general staff.” Distrust of this body was not limited to civilians. In his testimony before the House Committee Brigadier General Merritt A. Edson, U. S. Marine Corps, exclaimed: “Regardless of what it is called, this joint staff is in fact a National General Staff, the ‘Oberkommando’ of the Prussian Military System!”
Why should a body which is obviously a subcommittee intended to do the spade work for the main committee seem so formidable? It is because of the openly admitted intention of the framers of the Security Act to create a body of specialists who, by long tenure of office, would become experts in their particular spheres. Visions of von Moltke, who for thirty years headed the Prussian General Staff until “it took control of the country,” haunted many of our legislators. Whether a von Moltke would be content to spend thirty years in a subordinate position such as Director of the Joint Staff does not seem to have occurred to anyone.
Although the Joint Staff was reluctantly approved by Congress, the fear that it might eventually dominate all our policies, domestic and foreign, still subsists as a symptom of a frame of mind we shall consider in the summary that follows.
What can we say of the Security Act as a whole?
To begin with, we can say that it is a long step in the right direction. Congress skillfully avoided the many pitfalls that hampered its deliberations. Our lawmakers quickly realized that a “merger” as originally planned would merely mean turning over our military policy to one branch of the service, the Army, to the undoubted detriment of Navy morale and in defiance of the lessons to be derived from Japanese and German experience. Without hesitation it rejected any plan which would have lessened the authority and influence of a service whose long record of usefulness entitled it to a free expression of its views in all strategical decisions. By safeguarding the Marine Corps it demonstrated an awareness of the importance amphibious warfare had assumed in our strategy, and it wisely concluded that the Marines were a force without which a systematic development of this new form of warfare could not be successfully undertaken. Such economies as could be made Congress approved. If more were not effected it was because they were not in the cards. Economy can be purchased at too high a price.
The only questionable measure was the creation of an autonomous air force—and time may show even this decision to have been a wise one. The Arctic wastes, with the weird great circle operations they suggest, may in future require a special air force and a novel approach to strategy. Moreover, in view of the attitude of the Army itself there was not much else Congress could do, except protect naval aviation, which it certainly did.
And most important of all, Congress created the machinery which may at last bring about a reconciliation of our foreign policy with our military potential and vice versa. That is a pretty impressive list of achievements.
And now for the debit side.
If there is one leitmotif that seems to run through the entire Security Act it is an insistence on civilian control of key positions. Wherever possible, mandatory provisions to that effect are inserted. Among these “required” civilians we note the following: The Executive Secretary of the National Security Council, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Air Force, the Chairman of the National Security Resources Board, the Chairman of the Research and Development Board, the Chairman of the Munitions Board, the Director of Central Intelligence—all these in addition to the officials who by long standing custom have been chosen among civilians. Now if these provisions had been inserted in order to secure continuity of policies—one of the advantages of civilian control with its freedom from rotation—no comment would be necessary. Unfortunately it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that they were inspired by an unreasoning fear of “regimentation.”
One of the unavowed objectives of the Security Act was to secure the country from what in Europe is frequently referred to as “the praetorian danger.” And yet, if our history proves anything, it is that to our Army and Navy the words “make the world safe for Democracy” have not been a mere slogan. Lest I appear to be exaggerating, I quote the views of Mr. Clare E. Hoffman, Chairman of the Committee on Expenditures of the Executive Departments, which are made part of H. R. 4214.
A careful reading of the bill, of the hearings, and a realization of the implications justify the conclusion that the possibilities of dictatorship by the military are in this legislation....The argument that it will promote efficiency is met by the historic fact that in our blundering, so-called inefficient wasteful way, our fighting men have on all occasions overcome the forces of centralized militarism of those they have met in battle....Forced to take a bitter dose of medicine of doubtful value, the patient seeks to make it less distasteful, less harmful by every conceivable device and provision.
I wonder what the thousands upon thousands of young Americans who have been sacrificed on the altar of unpreparedness would say in answer to this hymn in praise of blundering, inefficiency, and wastefulness could they be brought back to life again!
The seeds of distrust have been sown in the Security Act. First distrust between the services, now distrust between Congress and the armed forces. They must not be allowed to blossom forth with a crop of ill-conceived legislation. Therein lies the congenital weakness of the act, of which Mr. Hoffman, at least, has given us fair warning.
And so we come to the end of the Security Act, except for the enabling clauses which range as far afield as the succession to the presidency. Have we come to the end of the subject of security? Far from it. Possibly the subjects on which the act is silent are better left to the judgment and good will of the services themselves. Legislation can pave the way, but cooperation must do the rest. “Security by enactment” may not be possible. It is to be regretted, however, that these subjects were not more fully discussed while the bill was pending. Congressional approval, in principle, would at least have served to prepare the ground for a better union of the services, which is both possible and highly desirable even though a “merger” would be difficult and most undesirable.
Union is a spiritual thing. It is built on common understanding and mutual consideration. It is more a state of mind than a condition of being. It cannot be achieved by compulsion but it can be attained by indoctrination.
And here let us see what General Eisenhower has to say:
If I had my way I would trade classes between Annapolis and West Point, and I would make every class going through Annapolis do a year in West Point and the same for West Point through Annapolis. While they were there, I would make them play on their football teams.
This last remark is not to be taken as a “wisecrack.” It furnishes an excellent means of impressing on young minds that they belong to an organization which is larger than the Academy where they received their first training.
The subject of interservice relations has become of late an acute practical problem owing to the importance amphibious warfare has assumed. Time was when the role of a navy in joint operations (the prototype of present-day amphibious operations) was to escort or transport land forces to some coast—usually to an undefended sector—and stand guard while the debarkation was made. After that the naval part of the operation was limited to keeping communications open. The occasions on which naval vessels played a part in the actual land fighting, except by bombarding fixed positions, were exceptional. The range of early ordnance necessarily limited the support naval vessels could give troops on shore. Today in amphibious operations all three services share the common dangers for extended periods of time and are frequently in action together. Ironically enough, the conditions which tended to throw the services together, both strategically and tactically, threw the apple of discord among them by raising a delicate problem of command. This problem cannot be solved by having the Joint Chiefs of Staff designate one officer as the nominal commander. It extends down through the lower echelons. If unity of command is achieved throughout it can only be because indoctrination has prepared all involved to adopt a give and take attitude. It will not be solved by the Army trying to supplant the Marines, or the Air Force belittling the aircraft carrier, or the Navy adopting an inflexible code of combat loading.
A return to pre-Lepanto days being impossible, the only solution of the problem of command in modern war would seem to be the development of an amphibious doctrine by all three services, now thoroughly aware of the indivisibility of warfare. That “the man in the street” subconsciously sensed this problem is more than likely. Returning service men certainly had plenty to say on the subject. Whatever strength the “merger” movement had in Congress was not wholly based on motives of economy. The astonishing appeal of the Marine Corps may have been due in no small measure to the fact that in the popular mind they summed up amphibious warfare.
As a matter of fact, one logical step along the path of unity of command in amphibious operations would seem to be the very thing to which the Army most strongly objected—the development of the Marine Corps into an “amphibious army.” They, at least, do not have to be indocrinated about landing operations! But in large scale operations—and unfortunately all wars today are certain to become World Wars requiring frequent amphibious operations—the Marine Corps, even when expanded to the twenty percent of the total Naval personnel as authorized by law, will not be enough. All three services should therefore ponder the directive given by the President in his Executive Order: “to develop weapons, tactics, techniques, organization, and equipment in cooperation with” the other two services. Officers must no longer wait until they reach the upper echelons—and fifty years of age— before they learn to see a situation through the eyes of another Service. Unity of doctrine is a prerequisite to unity of command.
Security! At no time since the dawn of history has mankind so ardently longed for security: security for the young who are growing up around us, security for those who are bearing the brunt of the world’s work, security for those who are soon to leave us. Has the Security Act contributed to that larger security? Perhaps it has. If applied in the spirit in which it was adopted, it can enable the United States manfully to play the part history has assigned to it. We are the only nation on earth strong enough to be supreme at the same time in all three branches of the Service. We have the men, the money, the metals, the machinery. If faced by an enemy with numerical superiority, we can meet that situation by a superiority in training and equipment. We do not have to face any heartbreaking alternative. We do not have to abandon oversea interests in order to protect a menaced land frontier. If we fail to make ourselves invincible, it will be because we failed to think straight.
A graduate of Columbia University and New York Law School, Mr. Moran joined the Navy at the beginning of World War I, and subsequently served in Puerto Rico and as U. S. Naval Attach at Lima, Peru. During World War II he served over three years in the Combat Narrative branch of Naval Operations in Washington, D. C. He is the author of fifteen published articles in the Proceedings, as well as a book, Sea of Memories.
The opinions or assertions in this article are the private ones of the author, and are not to be construed as official or reflecting the views of the Navy Department or the naval service at large.
The original Senate bill provided for a “Secretary of National Security” instead of a Secretary of Defense as provided for in the House bill.
Unless otherwise stated all testimony quoted is from the hearings on H. R. 2319, Eightieth Congress, First Session.
“Marginal” is, of course, used to denote a service or weapon which can be used on or over more than one element.
The House report on the original bill, prior to conference.
 Malvern Hill, for instance.