A century after the Navy's Bureau System had been established, one Navy captain opined: "Bureaus are stronger than their chiefs. The chiefs change from time to time ... but the Bureaus go on forever." The author traces the slow, steady rise—and the stunningly swift demise—of the Navy's Material Bureau System.
On 1 May 1966, the U. S. Navy forsook its long-established material bureau system for providing the Fleet with ships, aircraft, weapons, provisions, supplies and maintenance, repair, and overhaul facilities and services. Except for two Navy bureaus that still remained (but that were not associated with naval material support)—the Bureaus of Naval Personnel and of Medicine and Surgery—the bureau system was ended after having survived for 124 years. In its stead, six "systems commands" were created and placed under the Chief of Naval Material. The Chief of Naval Material (CNM), together with his staff, certain Project Managers and their staffs, and the six systems commands were organized into the Naval Material Command (NMC), which was charged with providing Navy material support. Since about 12 billion dollars of the Navy's 19 billion or so total annual budget was spent yearly on naval material support at this time, involving the full-time services of about 370,000 persons (about 100,000 military and 270,000 civilian), the impact on the American economy was not small. Actually, 12 per cent of the total Federal Budget was funneled into naval material support, costing the taxpayer about $12 of every $100 paid for Federal income tax.
The Bureau system when established by Congress in 1842, was itself a product of reform. Dissatisfaction over the previous arrangement, whereby a Board of Navy Commissioners provided collective management over naval material affairs, resulted in the act of 31 August 1842 establishing five Navy bureaus divided along functional lines to replace the Commissioners. The five bureaus were the Bureau of Yards and Docks; Bureau of Construction, Equipment, and Repair; Bureau of Provisions and Clothing; Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography; and Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. They reported directly to the Secretary of the Navy.
Prior to 1900, two significant changes were effected. By an Act of Congress on 5 July 1862, the Bureaus of Equipment, of Navigation, and of Steam Engineering were added to the above bureaus, making eight in all. The latter bureau reflected in part the technological changes in the state of the art of ocean warfare as the Navy shifted from sail-propelled wooden vessels to steam-powered ironclads, chiefly of the monitor class. By the act of 19 July 1892, the Bureau of Provisions and Clothing was redesignated the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts.
In 1903, Secretary of the Navy William H. Moody complained about the Bureau system in his annual report to the President:
...The distribution of business among bureaus independent of and unrelated to each other, except through the action of the Secretary, unquestionably creates…a tendency to consider the interests of the bureaus rather than the interests of the Navy.
Another weak link in the chain of naval administration at this time, as admitted by Secretary Moody and advanced later by others, had to do with the Secretaries of the Navy themselves. Practically all of them were political appointees having little, if any, knowledge of naval affairs and the inner workings of the Navy Department prior to their appointment. Few remained in office more than two or three years—scarcely time to master the rudiments, let alone the refinements, of naval administration.
Yet, despite Secretary Moody's official request, Congress was not disposed to legislate reforms at that time. Internal measures were therefore resorted to for righting wrongs and for correcting abuses. Perhaps the worst of these had been the growing tendency on the part of the bureaus to extend, then expand, their individual activities at the various Navy Yards. In 1904, Secretary Moody assigned jurisdiction over all Navy Yard power houses to the Bureau of Yards and Docks. Five years later, control of Navy Yard shop activities was consolidated under a single manager.
That same year, Navy planners concentrated anew on the subject of Navy organization. In February 1909, at the behest of President Theodore Roosevelt, the Commission on Naval Organization, better known as the Moody Board, was formed, composed of former Secretaries of the Navy William H. Moody and Paul Morton, as well as several retired rear admirals, including Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan.
After observation and deliberation the Moody Board reported:
The duties in charge of the Secretary divide under the principal heads, closely related but generically distinct—civil and military.
The civil duties in charge of the Secretary embrace the provision or preparation of all the material of war. This is the function of the present bureaus.
…The co-ordinating power is in the Secretary's authority; but, owing to the shortness of tenure in office, and to the inevitable unfamiliarity with naval conditions with which an incumbent begins, authority, though adequate in principle, is not so in effect ....
The Moody Board recommended that the Navy be organized into five major divisions under the Secretary of the Navy. Besides one division to handle the business matters of the department (to include the Bureaus of Yards and Docks and of Supplies and Accounts), another division for personnel and yet another for inspection, there would hopefully be a division for Naval Operations to supervise war planning and naval policy, and a division for Materiel to supervise the four technical bureaus (Construction and Repair, Ordnance, Engineering, and Equipment.)
President Roosevelt endorsed the Moody Board's proposals but, the following month, William Howard Taft succeeded Roosevelt whereupon the Moody Board recommendations gradually lost ground for want of support, and finally foundered.
Later that year, Taft's Secretary of the Navy, George Von L. Meyer, appointed the Swift Board, headed by Rear Admiral William Swift, to review virtually this same problem of Navy organization. Aspiring to ease a situation worsened, in the words of the Swift Board, " ... by the growth of the Navy; the expenditure of large appropriations; the advent of new industrial and business methods; the increased importance of the strictly military features ... ; and the imperative necessity of methodical preparations for war," the Swift Board recommended that Navy activities be grouped under four divisions: "Naval Operations," "Personnel," "Material," and "Inspections," each to be headed by a flag officer serving as an aide to the Secretary. Presumably, Bureau chiefs would be responsible to these flag officers, whereupon the chiefs would be denied the direct access to the Secretary hitherto enjoyed. At any rate, Secretary Meyer broached the matter of the plan's legality and was unequivocally told by the Attorney General:
It is unquestionable that Congress has intended that the administration of affairs in the Navy should be through the bureaus ....
…[Although] the work of the Navy Department may be grouped under general di visions, each . . . [headed by] an 'aide' . . . to transmit orders of the Secretary to the various chiefs of bureaus .. . such aides cannot, individually or collectively, exercise any supervisory authority over the chiefs of bureaus. That is the exclusive province of the Secretary and cannot be delegated by him.
This scotched the objectives of the Swift Board proposals. But it did not bar Secretary Meyer from correcting certain bureau abuses by further consolidating activities at the Navy Yards, which he was inclined to pursue vigorously. Moreover, he implemented the aide system suggested by the Swift Board, although the flag officers so designated lacked supervisory power over the bureaus.
The other aspect of this twofold problem, that of endowing some responsible Navy Department agency with the primary duty of planning military operations, was partially solved in 1915. On 3 March of that year, the Office of Naval Operations, headed by a Chief of Naval Operations appointed by the President, was authorized by law. The CNO was "charged with the operations of the fleet, and with the preparation and readiness of plans for its use in war." When the aide system was abolished that same year, the duties belonging to the Aide for Material were reassigned to a CNO Assistant for Material. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels spelled out the relationship between the CNO and the material bureaus as follows:
... in preparing and maintaining in readiness plans for the use of the fleet in war, he [CNO] shall freely consult with and have the advice and assistance of the various bureaus, boards, and officers of the department ... in matters coming under their cognizance. After the approval of any given war plans by the Secretary, it shall be the duty of the Chief of Naval Operations to assign to the bureaus, boards, and offices such parts thereof as may be needed for the intelligent carrying out of their respective duties in regard to such plans.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, allayed any misunderstandings of Secretary Daniels' words by testifying before the House Naval Affairs Committee in 1916, that the Chief of Naval Operations shall formulate war plans and "after approval of the war plans by the Secretary he shall not 'order' the Bureaus, but 'assign to' the Bureaus the various parts of those plans that the Bureaus themselves are to carry out."
This distinction, which Franklin Roosevelt, was to reaffirm later as President, was an important one. For naval officers of the line generally, and officers assigned to the Office of CNO particularly, were apt to contend that CNO ought to order and control the activities of the material bureaus in order to insure that the Fleet would be properly produced, outfitted, equipped, supplied and otherwise kept conditioned for war. Seeing themselves reduced to figurehead status if this ever were to come about, the Secretaries of the Navy, generally speaking, were adamant. They were averse to forfeiting any more of their powers. By virtue of their Constitutional responsibility to maintain civilian control over military forces, the Secretaries argued that control over the material bureaus, deemed to be "civil" in nature by the Moody Board, ought not to be relinquished by the Office of the Secretary. Consequently, after 1915, there evolved the so-called "bilinear" organization of the Navy, whereby the CNO, representing the military part, reported directly to the Secretary, and the material bureaus, representing the civil part, likewise reported directly to the Secretary. Differences between them, therefore, were to be resolved by the Secretary.
The bureau chiefs, who stood to lose most by reorganization, sided with the Secretaries in opposition to realignment of the bureau structure. Ironically, the chiefs of the technical bureaus employed the same argument against CNO control that line officers had employed against Secretarial control: the absence of sufficient technical knowledge to coordinate bureau work effectively. Since officers of the line were not primarily trained in engineering (said the bureau staff officers), they should leave the bureaus alone to meet the requirements established by the CNO for the Fleet. As before, any differences among the bureaus should be adjudicated by the Secretary.
In explaining his views along these lines, Rear Admiral David W. Taylor, Chief of the Bureau of Construction and Repair from December 1914 to July 1922, candidly admitted that the bureau system was a far cry from being faultless. However, he did believe that it was conspicuously improving:
…Now Bureau Chiefs are mostly ambitious, aggressive and often grasping. If they were not they would not be Bureau Chiefs. Hence when the Secretary of the Navy had the power by a stroke of the pen to exalt or diminish a Bureau, friction, aggression, scheming, were inevitable. Team work was difficult. Open, frank dealing essential to the highest efficiency was obviously very difficult between two Bureau Chiefs who were each desirous of increasing their cognizance at the expense of the other...
Whether or not Bureau organization and effort were adequate was the subject of periodic debate between the two world wars. Both the Secretary's office and the CN 0' s office were vexed by some aspect of the bureau system. Each bureau possessed its own individual budget allocated by Congress, its own research, planning, and administrative sections, some employing procedures and systems distinct and apart from all other Navy organizations, and all this stymied efforts by the Secretary to economize. In vain, the Secretary's office appealed to Congress in 1919 to authorize Bureau funding so that the Secretary could exercise some control.
In 1920, Admiral Williams S. Sims, commander of U. S. Naval Forces in Europe during World War I, bitterly attacked the bureau system, with its sole responsibility to the Secretary, for its inability to respond expeditiously to emergency situations. A ten months' delay had elapsed, he alleged, between the time a request for four battleships was submitted and the time it was approved, owing chiefly to the lag in decision making ascribable to the bureau system, and its failure to co-ordinate the paperwork involved.
About a week after Admiral Sims had imputed inefficiency to the bureau system, Commander W. S. Pye of the Office of 0laval Operations forwarded a reorganization plan to the Senate Naval Affairs Committee that, among other things, would consolidate the technical bureaus by establishing a Bureau of Materiel under the CNO. The existing Bureaus of Construction and Repair, Steam Engineering, Ordnance, Yards and Docks, and Supplies and Accounts would be reduced to division status under the chief of the Bureau of Materiel. Although Commander Pye's plan was rejected at the time, it is interesting in light of the organizational arrangement adopted on 1 May 1966. The best that advocates for a general staff form of organization described above (with the CNO in charge of material production as well as of war planning) were able to get between the wars was an amendment to Article 433 of the Navy Regulations, effective 22 May 1924, stating that the CNO:
...shall so coordinate all repairs and alterations to vessels and the supply of personnel and material thereto as to insure at all times the maximum readiness of the Fleet for war.
All the while, naval material procurement had grown, and continued to grow, by leaps and bounds, worsening a situation already complicated by technological advances. Experience in World War I had demonstrated· that modern warfare, including naval aspects, entailed a total commitment of the nation's resources and manpower; that industrial mobilization, planning and programming for ships, submarines, airplanes, ordnance, and provisions taxed the bureaus to their utmost. Already, private industry between the wars was leading the way in adopting managerial reforms to centralize and strengthen control (though perhaps decentralizing operations), by consolidating at the topmost level the functions of policy formulation, financial control, planning and programming, reporting and appraising.
By 1921, the technology of aviation had grown so immense and complicated that it was no longer feasible to parcel out responsibility for the design, construction, procurement, testing, and repair of airplanes and aviation equipment among the four Bureaus of Construction and Repair, Engineering, Ordnance, and Navigation, as before. Rather than working harmoniously together, the four bureaus turned out a disjointed, uncoordinated effort. It became increasingly clear that the aircraft components, including fuselages, engines, instruments, and ordnance, had to be treated as a single, integrated weapons systems managed by a single manager. Accordingly, the Bureau of Aeronautics was established on 12July 1921 to accomplish this end.
While this corrected many faults, com plaints abounded concerning the failure of bureau chiefs to agree on policy changes needed to update and modernize certain Navy regulations, resulting in continuation of obsolete ones. There were complaints, too, about the excessive paperwork that the Bureaus had foisted on the Fleet and on the Secretary; complaints by officers of the line that they were denied the final say on engineering designs for new warships and other weapons systems that they were expected to fight with; complaints about bureau officials "playing politics" by cultivating personal contacts with members of the House and Senate Naval Affairs Committees; and complaints by the Secretary that he was being given entirely too many material procurement contracts to sign, some involving comparatively small amounts of money.
In 1921, in 1933, and again in 1939-1940, the Navy Department looked closely at its organization. On the first two occasions, the existing bureau establishment, in effect, received ungrudging endorsement. Neither the 1921 Board of Naval Officers (appointed on 20 June 1921), nor the board chaired by Assistant Secretary of the Navy Henry Latrobe Roosevelt (appointed on 8 May 1933), recommended that Congress abolish or drastically reform the Bureau system.
Reporting in February 1934, the H. L. Roosevelt Board brought further into the open the differences of opinion still smoldering between the CNO and the bureaus regarding their relationship:
The Bureaus believe that they are under existing law and regulation, responsible to the Secretary of the Navy for the performance of their duty, while the Chief of Naval Operations contends that ... he has authority to issue orders to Bureaus and Offices.
This confusion of understanding between subdivisions of the Navy Department is, in the opinion of the Board, destructive of efficiency, and easily capable of correction.
That the confusion of understanding was indeed easily capable of correction was quickly proved. Next month, President Franklin Roosevelt ended the matter by ruling:
…the Chief of Operations was given the previous authority and duty to coordinate which had formerly been possessed by the four aides. The Chief of Operations was not given the duty of issuing orders to the Bureaus and offices because the word 'coordinate' did not imply such authority. The authority itself remained in the Secretary of the Navy.
I believe that the same principles should continue.
Simultaneously with the activities of the H. L. Roosevelt Board, Representative Carl Vinson, Chairman of the House Committee on Naval Affairs, introduced legislation aimed at eliminating the bureau system from the Navy, by consolidating their activities under a single manager. Vinson urged that an Office of Naval Material be established that would be directly responsible to the Secretary. The material bureaus would be relegated to division status under the Office of Naval Material, from which they would receive directions and orders on how, when, and where to conduct their business, and with what funds. Meeting opposition from the General Board of the Navy on the grounds that this would elevate material to a status equal with operations, the 1933 Vinson bill died in committee. Nevertheless, Representative Vinson remained convinced that this organizational rearrangement would solve many, if not most, of the Navy's problems, for which reason he reintroduced the bill in June 1939. Despite Secretary Edison's avowed interest in the bill, the concerted opposition of Bureau Officials and of the CNO and officers of the line (who preferred the old way to this) was sufficient to discredit the bill, which again was never reported out of committee.
Meanwhile, two bills drafted with a view to establishing a general staff organization for the Navy, H. R. 8843 introduced in March 1938 and H. R. 76 introduced in February 1939, fared no better than the Vinson bills. The latter bill explicitly named a Navy Chief of Staff to replace the Chief of Naval Operations. Aided by a General Staff, the Chief of Staff would "have supervision of the entire Naval Establishment"—meaning, of course, control of the Bureaus along with everything else. Both bills were quickly brought to grief as Secretary of the Navy Claude A. Swanson on both occasions, without bothering to change his word order either time, informed the House Naval Affairs Committee that, "The General staff system developed to meet the special problems of the Army is not considered satisfactory for the Naval Establishment."
Taking a page from the Vinson method, Secretary of the Navy Charles Edison aspired in 1940 to reshape Navy organization, without abolishing the bureaus, by dividing everything between a military branch headed by CNO, and a nonmilitary branch headed by a Director of Shore Activities, under whom the material bureaus would work.
Edison was ready for a change—almost any change-as he lamented to Congress:
…I personally have to sign an order any time a civilian is transferred from one job to another, provided it involves travel. I have to personally approve those transfers, and there are l 00,000 civil employees, more or less, in the Navy.
I took the mail one day that came into me, and I stacked it up on the floor beside my desk and it came just four inches above my desk top. Now that is one day's mail for the Secretary. Now, I ask you is there any chance for me, working Sundays, nights, and every other time, to get through that mail and have it mean anything to me, and still have any time left to do any of the thinking I'm supposed to do in making the policies of the Navy? Most of that mass of work that came to me was shore work: It involved shipyards, or ship design, and the purchase of land ...
Edison's structure would, in a manner of speaking, tighten control over the bureaus by a considerable extent. Whether called an Office of Shore Activities, or an Officer of Naval Material, its chief would be vested with authority to correct such abuses as the following one, complained about in 1939 by Rear Admiral W. G. DuBose, Chief of the Bureau of Construction and Repair:
…Today there are no less than eight bureaus that are in whole, or in part, engaged in ship work. There has grown up an involved and illogical system of bureau cognizance, with complications and unsatisfactory administrative procedure not conducive to either efficiency or economy.
Furthermore, such a structure would act as a remedy for what Captain C. W. Fisher described in 1940 as bureau self-perpetuation at all costs:
I may liken the attitude of any bureau ... in the Navy Department ... to Machiavelli's state—the primary duty of which is to exist and whatever is necessary to permit the existence of the state is justified.
Hence, all bureaus resist encroachment on their authority. Their effort is always to expand. And the history of government shows that this effort is usually successful. Bureaus themselves are stronger than their chiefs. The chiefs change from time to time—every 4 years in the Navy .... But the bureaus go on forever. Perhaps the motto of any bureau might be the motto ... 'What I have I hold.'
Like Representative Vinson's bills, Secretary Edison's proposed reform never became law. Not only did Vinson, who meantime had reversed his previous position, oppose its passage, but President Roosevelt flatly declared, " ... in regard to the setting up of an office of shore establishments, it is my desire that this part of Navy work, i.e., material, shall be handled by the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, this duty being assigned to him by the Secretary…."
Whereupon Secretary Edison, dropping the matter of establishing an Office of Shore Activities, shifted emphasis to a lesser, yet significant reform, the merging of the Bureaus of Construction and Repair and of Engineering.
Faulty inter-bureau co-ordination had been flagrantly demonstrated in the spring of 1939, when a new destroyer of the Mahan class, the Anderson (DD-411), failed to pass its inclining test. The ship was discovered to be overweight by about 150 tons, which, though not deemed too serious, was not up to Navy standards. Worst of all, the newspapers quickly seized upon the story, carping at length on its ramifications, and so magnified it out of proportion as to create the impression that the destroyers were subject to flipping over at any time. Although the added weight came from machinery installed under the direction of the Bureau of Engineering, it was the Bureau of Construction and Repair that received the blame since it was the bureau responsible for the design and stability of the ship.
Without furnishing details, one expert on naval affairs, Hanson Baldwin, claimed in 1941:
…From a third to a half of the naval vessels commissioned in the past seven years have had mistakes of design, varying from the trivial (in the case of a few) to the serious. Several of these vessels had basic faults in the hull structure of the ship—faults so serious that it was feared that one or two of the ships that developed the defects while working in a seaway might actually break apart.
The two bureaus, then, had been overtaken by the quickening pace of technological advances. Like the airplane, the ship was fast becoming a single, integrated weapons system; no longer could the Navy afford to separate hull design, procurement, and production from power-plant development. In June 1940, having received Congressional authorization, the Bureaus of Construction and Repair and of Engineering were disestablished and their functions, duties, personnel, and assets combined into the Bureau of Ships.
Neither CNO nor the Secretary of the Navy, prior to World War II, could rally sufficient Congressional support for bureau reform. But the way to certain significant changes was paved in 1940 when the Secretary of the Navy, with President Roosevelt's backing, managed to persuade Congress to establish the office of the Under Secretary of the Navy. James Forrestal was appointed the first Under Secretary.
On 27 October 1941, the Office of Naval Operations (OPNAV), in a tardy effort to mend its fences, established the OP-24 Materials Division to act as the focal point for Navy liaison with other government agencies, civilian and military, regarding priorities and allocations of material from the national resources.
With the attack on Pearl Harbor, the entire situation took on a new dimension. Ship, aircraft, ammunition, food, and supply production, multiplying manyfold the previous levels of peacetime production, required a strong arm at the helm to guide Bureau efforts. OP-24 had scarcely had time to become manned, let alone commence functioning, when it was precipitously discarded in favor of a stronger, larger organization more responsive to emergency needs. On 30 January 1942, the Office of Procurement and Material (OP&M) was established in the Office of the Under Secretary, by simple Secretarial fiat based on the President's wartime emergency powers. Most of the elements composing the now defunct OP-24 organization were absorbed by the Office of Procurement and Material, which also assimilated other Navy industrial and procurement functions. The material bureaus continued contracting to procure material items for their own separate needs, much as before, except for one conspicuous change. OP &M was given the deciding voice in procurement matters as regards policy formulation, dissemination of information, and planning (including establishing priorities), inasmuch as OP&M was the Secretary's sole representative authorized to:
... coordinate all the material procurement activities of the Navy Department, supervise programs for the procurement of ships and materials of every character ... [with] orders of the Office of Procurement and Material ... [to] be considered as emanating from the Secretary of the Navy....
The chief of the OP&M was Vice Admiral Samuel M. Robinson. OPNAV's relationship to the bureaus during the war was limited to that of analyzing logistic needs to support the Navy's contribution to JCS strategic war plans, of distilling Navy operational requirements therefrom, and of distributing the material subsequently produced by the material bureaus. During the war, the important management tool of controlling the distribution of funds was transferred to the Office of the Secretary as the upshot of a ruling by the Navy's General Counsel, which in essence repudiated the erstwhile practice of treating each bureau appropriation as Congressional funds earmarked exclusively for use by and for each individual bureau.
Thus it was that the bureaus, with OP&M's aid, prosecuted their mission of furnishing Navy operating forces with material with which to fight World War II. Not that the CNO would not have had things differently, given half the chance. That the bureau effort, under OP&M's co-ordination, managed to match the Navy's wartime material needs did not deter Admiral Ernest King from trying to engineer a takeover of the bureaus by OPNA V on at least two different occasions. He even went so far as to issue a directive on 28 May 1942, ordering the Chief of OP&M to serve also as Assistant CNO (Material), reporting directly to CNO, in face of President Roosevelt's avowed wishes to the contrary. CNO's attempt was frustrated this time, and again a year later, when the President personally intervened. In the summer of 1943, President Roosevelt wrote to Secretary Knox, "Tell Ernie once more: No reorganizing of the Navy Dept. setup during the war. Let's win it first. F.D.R."
It was argued at the time, as it had been argued in the past and was destined to be argued again in the future, that the CNO ought to be kept free of the onerous task of overseeing material procurement and production, so that he might concentrate wholly on matters directly related to fighting and winning the war. To General Staff advocates, this argument was fallacious. Material procurement and production and other aspects of logistic support were, they insisted, part and parcel of the Navy's war planning—the absence or adulteration of the former would of necessity preclude or seriously compromise the latter.
In August 1945, the Office of the Assistant Secretary Material Division was established expressly to replace the OP&M, but continue its postwar activities within a legalized framework. Then in March 1948, Public Law 432, 80th Congress, was passed authorizing the creation of the Office of Naval Material under the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. For the next 15 years, until 1963, this office carried on the work of its predecessors, reporting at various times directly to the Assistant Secretaries of the Navy for Material and for Installations and Logistics, in that order. It performed an impressive list of functions, mostly inherited. Broadly speaking, the 1948-1963 mission of the Office of Naval Material (ONM) was defined thusly:
... to determine the procurement and production policies and methods to be followed by the Naval Establishment in meeting the material requirements of the operating forces, and to coordinate and direct the efforts of the bureaus and offices of the Navy Department in this respect. The Office of Naval Material also provides staff assistance to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Installations and Logistics) in the performance of his logistic function.
While this arrangement worked fairly well for a time, there gradually emerged two phenomena which, taken in combination, led to a General Staff organization adopted in 1966. The most significant was the remarkable advance made in weapons technology. The other event was unification of the armed forces beginning in 1947, in which each of the service secretaries was subordinated to a single Secretary of Defense, in whom was vested responsibilities for overseeing development of the military services, their weaponry, manpower, resources and forces.
Modern weapons technology, as applied to service strategies, caused many of the troubles afflicting the Navy that led to the organizational realignment of its bureau system. Nothing quite like the postwar technological advances in weaponry had ever happened before. It was universal, furthermore, in the respect that it not only affected the defense posture of the United States, but that of other world powers, too.
Ever since World War II, the pace at which weapons technology ordinarily progressed had quickened dramatically-particularly as applied to airplanes, submarines, nuclear power plants, radar, computers, ICBM and other types of missilry. Unfortunately, the U. S. World War II monopoly on nuclear warfare was short-lived. By 1949, the Soviet Union had developed atomic weapons; by 1953, hydrogen warheads. Jet-powered bombers capable of non-stop bombing raids to any part of Earth were fabricated by both sides. From mid-century on, the United States and the Soviet Union sought to obtain ever better missiles, bombers, ships, and fighting forces, with the stakes amounting to survival or the chance of instant annihilation. The advent of the Soviet Sputnik I satellite (October 1957) gave further impetus to the U. S. missile development effort. For the first time, the United States had become vulnerable to a sudden devastating attack from across the seas. Seldom, if ever before, could so few weapons inflict so much damage over so vast an area. Land-based, ship-based, aircraft-based, and submarine-based missiles, pocketing nuclear warheads, could pepper nations and obliterate up to three-fourths of their resources and manpower, with scarcely a half-hour's advance notice of the onslaught. Time, as a factor in warfare, loomed more important than ever before. Submarine-launched missiles could destroy targets with even greater rapidity. Automation had arrived in weaponry to eliminate the time lag heretofore stigmatizing manual operations, so that weapons used for offensive and defensive purposes could be triggered automatically in response to computerized instructions programmed months in advance.
Relying increasingly on nuclear physics, electronics, hydraulics, aerodynamics, thermodynamics, navigation, ballistics, chemistry, mechanics, pneumatics, automation and computer programming, the new weapons technology figuratively engulfed the Armed Forces with problems theretofore undreamed of. Not the least of them was the overriding managerial problem of analyzing the value of competing weapons systems, for assurance that, of all conceivable systems, the best in terms of cost and effectiveness would be placed into production. Nearly (if not equally) as important as regards the management of weapons development was the matter of coping with timetables seeking to integrate component elements on a sequential basis. It sometimes happened that an authorized weapons system, even before completing its proof testing stage, was declared obsolete, and therefore unfit to place into service, by virtue of having arrived so far behind schedule that a rival system had overtaken and outclassed it in performance. Those systems finally reaching an operational status despite handicaps prolonging their development often came fraught with maintenance problems. Overengineered, overly complicated component parts frequently harassed maintenance teams because of their unreliability.
On at least two occasions in the 1950s, the Navy scrutinized its organization makeup because of complications engendered by the new weapons technology. The entire fabric of Navy organization was examined between October 1953 and April 1954 by the Committee on Organization of the Department of the Navy, chaired by Thomas Gates. The Gates Report issued by the Committee on 16 April 1954, revealed no new plans to set things right. On the contrary, the Committee concluded that "The present organization of the Navy is basically sound." Apart from a recommendation that resulted in adding two more Assistant Secretaries to the Office of the Secretary of the Navy to distribute the functions of that office more evenly, the Committee was satisfied that the existing Navy organization was both compatible with, and responsive to, the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Four years later, in August 1958 (when Thomas Gates was Secretary of the Navy), another Committee on Organization of the Department of the Navy was convened, chaired this time by William Franke, the then Under Secretary. Early next year, the Franke Board, concluded:
...that the changes in technology and weapons characteristics, particularly in the field of missiles, have tended to merge the areas of development now under the cognizance of the Bureau of Ordnance and the Bureau of Aeronautics to such a degree that organizational changes with respect to these two bureaus appear to be desirable.
The upshot was that the Board recommended, and the Secretary subsequently approved, the merging of the Bureaus of Aeronautics and Ordnance into the single Bureau of Naval Weapons, to mitigate the problems of cognizance, co-ordination and funding that had been manifested and were expected to worsen. The merger took place in 1959. Aside from this change, the Franke Board unequivocally ruled out the substitution of a General Staff form of Navy organization for the existing bilinear system. As if trying to disparage and refute contemporary critics seeking just such a change, the committee reinforced its observations with the argument that the monolithic structure of the General Staff, though effective on the field of battle, failed when applied at the national level:
…primarily because of the complexity of the problems presented at the service or national headquarters command echelon. The most skilled military administrator, even when supported by the most brilliant staff, is scarcely capable of encompassing effectively and with equal expertise the fields of science, industry, economics, sociology, and production as well as those of strategy, tactics, and doctrine, all of which impinge so forcibly upon military considerations at the national level.
The Franke Board admitted, however, that, "The rapid advances in science and technology are completely changing the character of naval warfare." Nevertheless, Navy organization, according to the Board, stood to benefit from the
"…continuation of the present bilinear system, with its definite division of military and nonmilitary duties and responsibilities among uniformed and civilian officials…"
In stating this, the Franke Board could look to the Special Projects Office single manager development then nearing fruition. In this, a project manager, Vice Admiral W. F. Raborn, Jr., and his staff, with support furnished by the Bureau of Ships, had from December 1955 been accorded top priority status and authority to conduct the research, perfect the designs, handle the procurement and oversee production of the newest and most lethal Navy-weapons system then contemplated-the integration of the Polaris (Fleet Ballistic) Missile capable of underwater launching and the atomic submarine developed earlier under Vice Admiral Hyman Rickover. By 1960, the first of some 41 Polaris submarines had been commissioned. In a sense, the success of this project foreshadowed the upcoming demise of the bureau system, for while this project management program had relied on bureau aid, it had been organizationally caste independent of the bureau system, with ample authority to direct the co-operation of the bureaus. On the other hand, another system adopted in 1955 to foster interbureau cooperation for weapons system development, called the "lead-bureau system" (whereby the material bureau most heavily involved was designated the primary bureau with responsibility for co-ordinating interbureau efforts) had failed utterly for the simple reason that it lacked the authority and independent organization to direct the co-ordination.
Another important reason for changing the Navy's bureau system, in some measure independent of, but for the most part associated with, the new weapons technology, resulted from Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara's deliberate reformation of the management processes for planning, programming, budgeting, and appraising the force structure of the armed services. With no more than 10 per cent of the gross national product—equivalent to half of the Federal Budget—deemed prudent to be spent for defense purposes, it became important to squeeze the most mileage out of every dollar spent on armament.
Upon entering office in 1961, .McNamara started reforming the services by superimposing managerial techniques long put to use by private industry. Borrowing freely from the management doctrine promoted by his Comptroller, Charles J. Hitch, McNamara drew up ground rules and promulgated new regulations that put all the services in a dither. A reporting system was devised and scrupulously adapted to keep the Secretary posted on the status of programs and forces and reasons for their shortcomings. In McNamara's words, "I equate planning and budgeting and con sider the terms almost synonymous, the budget being simply a quantitative expression of the operating plan." Not only did cost-effectiveness studies calculate dollar amounts for developing and producing weapons systems, but also those expenditures for training personnel to operate and maintain them, together with anticipated recurring costs for each year scheduled to remain in service. The studies, moreover, took into account the total defense posture, including contributions from all the services at a given time during a projected multi-year period.
Culminating from Secretary McNamara's approach to financial control and management of military hardware was the Five-Year Force Structure and Financial Program (FYFS&FP). This singular document encompassed nearly every important ingredient and aspect of the defense structure envisioned for the following five years. Next to each annual budget (which mirrored successive stages of the FYFS&FP, as corrected), this was possibly the most important document in defense planning. But it was not an immutable projection of things to come, since a door was left wide open to admit future changes. Through use of the PCP (Program Change Proposal) system, the FYFS&FP might be formally altered, provided that approval was given up the chain-of-command.
Military programs became the subject of continuous re-appraisal and of systematized progress reporting and accounting. Service re-organizations, calculated to clarify command reporting lines, to sharply delimit functions, and to pinpoint officials upon whom responsibility for program execution was clearly fixed, were encouraged by McNamara and his colleagues. Reports were to be standardized; procedures and hardware simplified. Still other facets of the McNamara reforms included the closing of bases and shipyards considered superfluous to DOD needs, and the shifting of contract procurement more on a competitive basis. All told, Secretary McNamara hopefully foresaw the day when his reforms would save the defense establishment upwards of three billion dollars annually, without sacrificing, or to any extent lessening, U. S. combat effectiveness.
The McNamara reforms were directed at centralizing, at DOD level, managerial control over the Armed Forces, with tactical operations decentralized under control of military commanders in the field. The ensuing trend toward greater centralized control of planning, programming, budgeting, reporting and appraising at the DOD level required a ready responsiveness from the military services born of re-orientation of these activities, particularly as they applied to procurement and logistic supply. Here, according to McNamara, 70 per cent of every defense dollar was spent for purchasing, for construction projects, and for operating and maintaining depots, bases, transportation and communications services and facilities. Unless the services adjusted themselves functionally and organizationally, however, to facilitate a downward filtration of the McNamara program, the reforms risked being spilled on barren soil.
The Air Force and Army did not take long in rearranging material organizations to cope with the fast-changing technological environment, and to do so in the McNamara manner.
The Navy was less prompt about acquiescing, as evidenced by McNamara's complaint to Congress in 1962: "We do not yet have acceptable situation-by-situation analyses of naval requirements comparable to those now available for ground and tactical forces."
Then, in 1962, at the behest of Secretary of the Navy Fred Korth, the Advisory Committee on Review of Management of the Department of the Navy was established. It was more commonly known as the Dillon Board since it was chaired by the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy, John Dillon. During its nine or so months of investigation, the Dillon Board discovered that "Interbureau material management problems have sometimes led to incompatibility of companion equipments and late delivery of weapons and ships." There was a conspicuous absence of centralized financial management, planning and programming, policy formulation, reporting and evaluating of the Navy's material support effort. In its report published in December 1962, the Dillon Board issued a series of proposals that directly led to reorganizing the Navy's material support structure a year later, effective 2 December 1963. The Dillon Board recommended that the Office of Naval Material ( ONM) be disestablished (Recommendation 81), and that, in its stead (Recommendation 80), " ... the Secretary of the Navy establish under his immediate supervision a Chief of Naval Support to co-ordinate, control, direct, and command the Chiefs of the Bureaus of Naval Weapons, Ships, Supplies and Accounts, and Yards and Docks." This arrangement, according to the Dillon Board, would provide the centralization of management functions needed. The Dillon Board frowned on assigning the material bureaus to CNO, echoing the argument that the CNO had all he could do to accomplish his war planning mission and ought not to be bothered with the distracting problems of co-ordinating interbureau affairs. The Dillon Board favored establishing a greater number of project management programs similar to the Special Projects Office for developing other major Navy weapons systems. The project managers would be attached directly to the Chief of Naval Support, who would direct the material bureaus to provide the manpower, funding, resources, and technical support requisite to developing the major weapons systems as scheduled.
Agreeing that all this should be done, but not quite in the manner proposed, Secretary Korth, on 28 May 1963, declared that in lieu of creating a Chief of Naval Support, he intended to accomplish the objectives of Recommendation 80 by assigning the functions and responsibilities proposed for the Chief of Naval Support to the chief of the Office of Naval Material, called the Chief of Naval Material (CNM). To have established a Chief of Naval Support over the bureaus would have required Congressional legislation, which would drag out the process of reorganizing the Navy's material support establishment.
Consequently, Navy General Order 5 was rewritten, effective 1 July 1963, so that:
The Chief of Naval Material, under the Secretary of the Navy, shall supervise and command all functions and activities of the Naval Material Support Establishment ... [which] shall include the Office of Naval Material, the Bureau of Naval Weapons, the Bureau of Ships, the Bureau of Yards and Docks, the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts, and all shore activities of the Department of the Navy which are essential to performance of the responsibilities of the Naval Material Support Establishment and which are not designated as a part of the Operating Forces of the Navy, of the United States Marine Corps, or of Other Supporting Organizations.
Hence, the Navy's long accustomed bilinear system was centralized and perpetuated, with management of Navy's material programs still kept clearly separated from its operations under the CNO's control. Instead, CNM, under direction of the Secretary of the Navy, would centralize control over the material bureaus, thereafter to be deprived of direct access to the Secretary.
This arrangement lasted just two and one-half years until 1 May 1966. For various reasons, it was decided to reorganize the Navy at this time. One of these reasons was that the merger of the Bureaus of Aeronautics and Ordnance into the Bureau of Weapons in 1959, had left something to be desired.
Another reason for the change was the project management programs and their demands. By 1966, the list of designated project management offices reporting to the Chief of Naval Material had grown to 11. Supporting this increasing number of project management offices had taxed bureau resources to the utmost. In general, the enormous complexity and colossal costs involved in designing, fabricating, provisioning, maintaining, overhauling, supporting, improving and replacing the Navy's 900-vessel, 8,400-airplane Fleet called for tightening and strengthening managerial controls over its material support effort. The list of improvements expected from the 1 May 1966 reorganization which had received McNamara's support and Congress's tacit approval in advance, included more standardization of electronic circuitry and of other component parts of Navy weapons systems, more centralization of research, development, testing and evaluation (RDT &E) management, more systematized and integrated logistic support and maintenance of weapons systems, less overlappage of bureau activities, improved support of the project management programs, greater emphasis on ordnance and electronics, better control over distribution of funds, manpower, and other resources, further consolidation of common services, and a more harmonious working relationship among various elements contributing to the Navy's material support. Referring to the 1963 reorganization, Vice Admiral Ignatius J. Galantin, Chief of Naval Material, explained in 1966:
This was a step in the right direction—but it didn't go nearly far enough. Essentially, the four Bureaus constituted a loose confederation—something like the City States of ancient Greece which were often fighting—usually as allies, but sometimes as enemies.
Not only were the four material bureaus abolished on 1 May 1966, but the Chief of Staff/General Staff form of military organization was formally adopted. In place of the Bureaus of Weapons, Ships, Yards and Docks, and Supplies and Accounts, six commands—the Air Systems Command, Ship Systems Command, Ordnance Systems Command, Electronics Systems Command, Supply Sys terns Command, and Facilities Engineering Command—were established. These systems commands were organizationally placed under the Chief of Naval Material, who in turn reported directly not to the Secretary of the Navy, as before, but to the CNO. A single chain-of-command replaced the old bilinear system, running in a clear-cut, unbroken line from the Secretary to CNO to CNM to the systems commands, in that order, as regards material support matters. This exchange of six systems commands for four material bureaus at a single stroke was legitimized by the terms of the Defense Reorganization Act of 1958, stipulating that DOD-approved reorganizations would take effect if, after having been before Congress for 30 days, there was no Congressional opposition. The two nonmaterial Navy bureaus that still survived the 1 May 1966 reorganization-the Bureau—of Naval Personnel and the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery—were also placed organizationally under the CNO. The Chief of Naval Material and his immediate staff, together with the 11 project management offices and six systems commands reporting to him (in combination with their hundreds of laboratories, bases, depots, navy yards and other facilities located all around the world) now comprised the Naval Material Command. Whether or not this new arrangement would strengthen the naval material support effort to the degree desired and in the manner hoped, only time would tell.
A graduate of the University of Maryland in 1950, and presently working toward a Ph.D. degree in history at the University of Colorado, Mr. Ray was an Archivist at the National Archives from 1951 to 1957, when he became a U.S. Air Force Historian. He has since held positions as historian for: Joint Chiefs of Staff; 32d Air Division, U.S.A.F.; Headquarters Air Defense Command, U.S.A.F.; Office of the Chief of Naval Material, U. S. Navy; and since February 1967, with the Defense Communications Agency.