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Letter to Secretary Patterson and Secretary Forrestal Concerning Unification of the Armed Services.

January 16, 1947


I am exceedingly pleased to receive your joint letter of January 16 in which you advise that you have reached full and complete agreement on a plan for the unification of the armed services.

I recognize that each of the services has made concessions in the effort to reach this agreement, and I feel that it constitutes an admirable compromise between the various views that were originally held.

The agreement provides a thoroughly practical and workable plan of unification and I heartily approve it.

You have both worked ably and effectively, with your respective staffs, in bringing about this result. I appreciate your fine efforts and I congratulate you upon an accomplishment which, I am sure, will contribute greatly to the efficiency of our national defense.

Very sincerely yours,


[The Honorable Robert P. Patterson, The Secretary of War; The Honorable James Forrestal, The Secretary of the Navy]

Note: The Secretaries' joint letter of January 16 and an attached draft of a proposed Executive order prescribing the functions of the Armed Forces were released with the President's reply.

In their letter the Secretaries referred to the President's letter of June 15, 1946, in which he had stated his position on the essential points of disagreement between the military services. They were now pleased to report, the Secretaries said, that the views of the two departments had been resolved "within the scope and the spirit" of the President's stated position. They also said that they agreed to support legislation with the following points incorporated:

"a. There shall be a Council of National Defense, a National Security Resources Board and a Central Intelligence Agency (which already exists) as agreed by the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy in their letter to the President of 31 May 1946.

"b. The armed forces shall be organized under a Secretary of National Defense so as to place the Army, the Navy (to include the Marine Corps and Naval Aviation), and the Air Force, each with a military chief, under the Departments of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force respectively. Each shall be under a Secretary and, under the overall direction of the Secretary of National Defense, shall be administered as an individual unit. The Secretary of any of the three departments may, at any time, present to the President, after first informing the Secretary of National Defense, any report or recommendation relating to his department which he may deem necessary or desirable.

"c. A War Council shall be created consisting of the Secretary of National Defense as Chairman and with power of decision, the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of the Air Force, and the military heads of the three Services. The War Council will concern itself with matters of broad policy relating to the armed forces.

"d. There shall be a Joint Chiefs of Staff consisting of the military heads of the three Services, and also the Chief of Staff to the President if that office exists. Subject to the authority and direction of the Secretary of National Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff will provide for the strategic direction of the military forces of the United States, will formulate strategic plans, assign logistic responsibilities to the Services in support thereof, integrate the military requirements and, as directed, advise in the integration of the military budget.

"e. There shall be a full-time joint staff to consist initially of not over 100 officers to be provided in approximately equal numbers by the three Services. The Joint Staff, operating under a Director thereof, shall carry out policies and directives of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"f. The Secretary of National Defense shall head the armed forces establishment, shall be vested with authority, under the President, to establish common policies and common programs for the integrated operation of the three departments and shall exercise control over and direct their common efforts to discharge their responsibility for national security."

The Secretaries also stated that they had agreed on the terms of an Executive order which they were attaching for the President's consideration. They recommended issuance of the order concurrently with approval of the recommended legislation. On July 26 the President approved the National Security Act of 1947 (61 Stat. 495) and issued Executive Order 9877 "Functions of the Armed Forces" (Item 159, below).

The full text of the Secretaries' letter of January 16 is printed in the Congressional Record (vol. 93, p. A204). For the President's letter of June 15, 1946, see 1946 volume, this series, Item 138.

Harry S Truman, Letter to Secretary Patterson and Secretary Forrestal Concerning Unification of the Armed Services. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231818

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