The nomination of Gen. James Mattis to be Secretary of Defense will require a legislative waiver of the prohibition against appointing persons who have been on active duty in the military within the past seven years to the position of Secretary.
A new report from the Congressional Research Service takes a look at the underlying issue of civilian control of the military, and related concerns.
“Historically, the restriction relating to the prior military service of the Secretary of Defense appears to be a product of congressional concern about preserving the principle of civilian control of the military, a fundamental tenet underpinning the design and operation of the American republic since its inception in 1776, if not before,” the report says.
The report reviews the origins and background of this principle and then ventures an analysis of its application today.
“The public discussion surrounding the proposed nomination of General Mattis seems to be less about preserving the principle of civilian control of the military (although that is certainly being debated), and more about civilian-military relations more generally.”
“Very few observers, if any, appear concerned that General Mattis, if appointed to the position of Secretary of Defense, will compromise the longstanding American tradition of ensuring that the military remains subordinate to the authority of civilian leaders. Instead, the possible appointment of General Mattis has served as a catalyst for a more wide-ranging discussion [of] the ways in which the U.S. military, civil society, and civilian leaders relate to each other,” CRS said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Greater concern should be caused by the fact that, if Mattis is confirmed, Marine Corps generals will concurrently hold three top national security positions: Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Homeland Security (Gen. John Kelly) and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Gen. Joseph Dunford).
Whatever the pros and cons of such an unprecedented arrangement, it is probable that it will unduly influence decisions regarding the Marine Corps and its future.)
Click here for the full report (34 PDF pages), hosted on the website of the Federation of American Scientists.