Excerpts of the President's News Conference
I noticed that the American Legion passed a modified resolution in favor of a unified department of national defense. I have forgotten just what language they put it in—whether it was as soon as expedient or as soon as it could be done or something of that kind, or a modified suggestion. That question was taken up and discussed to a considerable extent at the time President Harding had a commission working on the reorganization of the different departments. I think the commission rather favored it, and a bill was prepared with that in view. When I came to canvass the situation after I became President I was quite convinced that a provision of that kind in the bill would probably jeopardize its passage, so I think I recommended to the Congress the passage or the adoption of the recommendations of the commission with that exception. Of course, national defense is unified in the President, who is Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy. I do not know of any other way to unify it except by having a secretary of national defense, and then I think under him it would be necessary to have a secretary for the Army and a secretary for the Navy. I do not mean necessarily a member of the Cabinet but an assistant secretary. That would be necessary to work it out that way. The result in the Army and Navy I think would not be very much different than what it is now. There would be an assistant secretary to run the Army and an assistant secretary to run the Navy. My own opinion is that the suggestion for a unified department is going to prove more or less academic. It is probably theoretically correct. It is the system we have in this country under the President and the system that goes into operation right away when we go into a state of war, because then the President takes immediate control and gives his attention to national defense. I think it is more or less academic to discuss it because I am quite certain that Congress would not look with favor on the adoption of a policy of that kind. As far as I can see there is very little difference one way or the other. One method works out in practice about the same as any other, but I think there would be a good deal of opposition to a change of that kind both in the Army and in the Navy.
No definite program has been decided on relative to the Navy. I suppose it is generally understood that it will be felt desirable to build some more cruisers. I do not know just what may be necessary in the way of submarines. There has been something of an authorization of submarines since I have been President, and that program I think is being carried out as it was intended. We have recognized all along that more cruisers were to be built. Eight have been provided for since I was President, and undoubtedly the coming Congress will provide for some more. That has been expected all the while. If our recommendations had been adopted at Geneva that is what we should have done— we should have built more cruisers—but as they were not adopted we shall naturally go on proceeding in the usual course of business of keeping our Navy thoroughly equipped. It is my own feeling that the results at Geneva will probably make little difference one way or the other with the number of cruisers that are likely to be authorized at the coming session of Congress.
Source: "The Talkative President: The Off-the-Record Press Conferences of Calvin Coolidge". eds. Howard H. Quint & Robert H. Ferrell. The University Massachusetts Press. 1964.
Calvin Coolidge, Excerpts of the President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/349210