Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Special Message to the Congress on Reorganization of the Defense Establishment.

April 03, 1958

To the Congress of the United States:

Last January I advised the Congress of two overriding tasks in present world conditions--the ensuring of our safety through strength, and the building of a genuine peace. To these ends I outlined eight major items requiring urgent action.

One was defense reorganization.

In this message I discuss the administrative and legislative changes that I consider essential to the effective direction of our entire defense establishment. They are not numerous. They are, however, very important. They flow from these principles:

First, separate ground, sea and air warfare is gone forever. If ever again we should be involved in war, we will fight it in all elements, with all services, as one single concentrated effort. Peacetime preparatory and organizational activity must conform to this fact. Strategic and tactical planning must be completely unified, combat forces organized into unified commands, each equipped with the most efficient weapons systems that science can develop, singly led and prepared to fight as one, regardless of service. The accomplishment of this result is the basic function of the Secretary of Defense, advised and assisted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and operating under the supervision of the Commander-in-Chief.

Additionally, Secretary of Defense authority, especially in respect to the development of new weapons, must be clear and direct, and flexible in the management of funds. Prompt decisions and elimination of wasteful activity must be primary goals.

These principles I commend to the Congress. In conformity to them I have formulated and urgently recommend certain changes in our defense establishment. Clearly we should preserve the traditional form and pattern of the services but should regroup and redefine certain service responsibilities. from this will flow the following significant results: Strategic planning will be unified.

Our fighting forces will be formed into unified commands effectively organized for the attainment of national objectives. Military command channels will be streamlined.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff will be provided professional military assistance required for efficient strategic planning and operational control.

The control and supervision of the Secretary of Defense over military research and development will be strengthened.

The Secretary of Defense will be granted needed flexibility in the management of defense funds.

The Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff will be given a direct voice in the appointment, assignment and removal of officers in the top two military ranks.

The authority of the Secretary of Defense will be clarified to enable him to function as a fully effective agent of the President as Commander-in-Chief.

The overall efficiency of the Defense Department will be increased.

The tendency toward service rivalry and controversy, which has so deeply troubled the American people, will be sharply reduced.

In the following remarks I set forth the background and details of these legislative and administrative proposals.

In recent years a revolution has been taking place in the techniques of war. Entirely new weapons have emerged. They transcend all we have before known in destructive power, in range, in swiftness of delivery. Thermo-nuclear weapons, missiles, new aircraft of great speed and range, atomic ground weapons, nuclear submarines have changed the whole scale and tempo of military destructiveness. Warning times are vanishing. There can be little confidence that we would surely know of an attack before it is launched. Speeds of flight are already such as to make timely reaction difficult and interception uncertain.

The need to maintain an effective deterrent to war becomes ever more critical. In this situation, we must find more efficient and economical means of developing new devices and fitting them into our defense establishment. We must so revise this establishment as not only to improve our own use of such devices; additionally we must be able to counter their use against us.

The products of modern technology are not, in many cases, readily adaptable to traditional service patterns or existing provisions of law. Thus there has tended to be confusion and controversy over the introduction of new weapons into our armed forces and over the current applicability of long-established service roles and missions.

Moreover, the new weapons and other defense undertakings are so costly as to heavily burden our entire economy. We must achieve the utmost military efficiency in order to generate maximum power from the resources we have available.

Confronted by such urgent needs, we cannot allow differing service viewpoints to determine the character of our defenses--either as to operational planning and control, or as to the development, production and use of newer weapons. To sanction administrative confusion and interservice debate is, in these times, to court disaster. I cannot overemphasize my conviction that our country's security requirements must not be subordinated to outmoded or single-service concepts of war.


An understanding of the course over which we have come to the present will help determine the path we should follow now and in the future.

When our Republic was founded, we had a simple solution to the problem of military organization--at first, only a War Department, then soon thereafter, a Department of the Navy. The Navy's mission was war at sea. The War Department's mission was war on land.

For a century and a half this two-department organization was well suited to our needs. Recently, however, the airplane has added a third dimension to the arts of war. At first the airplane was integrated into the traditional two-department organization, and there it remained until World War II.

Right after Pearl Harbor we adjusted our organization to accord a fuller role to rapidly growing air power. Within the War Department, the Army Air forces were placed on equal footing with Ground and Service forces. In the Navy, task forces built around naval aviation became the heart of the fleet. The Commanding General of the Army Air forces became a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with the Army Chief of Staff and the Chief of Naval Operations.

Immediately after the war, efforts began to build a defense organization based upon the lessons of World War II. A basic theme was to provide an adequate organizational framework for air power armed with the awesome destructive force of atomic weapons. There emerged three co-equal executive departments--Army, Navy, and Air force. But World War II experience had proved that no longer could warfare be effectively waged under separate Army, Navy, and Air force doctrines. So, over all our forces the Congress established a Secretary of Defense.

This reorganization in 1947 was marked by lengthy debate and eventual compromise. In that battle the lessons were lost, tradition won. The three service departments were but loosely joined. The entire structure, called the National Military Establishment, was little more than a weak confederation of sovereign military units. few powers were vested in the new Secretary of Defense. All others were reserved to three separated executive departments.

Events soon showed that this loose aggregation was unmanageable. In 1949, the National Military Establishment was replaced by an executive Department of Defense. The authority of the Secretary of Defense over his Department was made specific. He was vested with the power of decision in the operation of several interservice boards in his Office. A Chairman was provided to preside over the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Departments of Army, Navy and Air force were converted from independent executive departments to subordinate military departments. They became represented in the President's Cabinet and the National Security Council by the Secretary of Defense alone. Other changes with similar effect were made.

The unifying process moved forward again in 1953. The Secretary of Defense was given staff facilities better adapted to his heavy responsibilities. Certain boards and agencies were abolished and their duties transferred to him. Additional Assistant Secretaries of Defense were provided. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was authorized to manage the Joint Staff for the Joint Chiefs.

These various steps toward more effective coordination of our armed forces under one civilian head have been necessary, sound, and in the direction pointed by the lessons of modern warfare. Each such step, however, has prompted opponents to predict dire results. There have been allegations that our free institutions would be threatened by the influence of a military leader serving as the principal military adviser to the Defense Secretary and the Commander-in-Chief. There have been forecasts that one or more of the services would be abolished. As a result, the Secretary of Defense has never been freed of excessive statutory restraints. As a result of well meaning attempts to protect traditional concepts and prerogatives, we have impaired civilian authority and denied ourselves a fully effective defense. We must cling no longer to statutory barriers that weaken executive action and civilian authority. We must free ourselves of emotional attachments to service systems of an era that is no more.

I therefore propose, for America's safety, that we now modernize our defense establishment and make it efficient enough and flexible enough to enable it to meet the fateful challenge of continuing revolutionary change.


I know well, from years of military life, the constant concern of service leaders for the adequacy of their respective programs, each of which is intended to strengthen the nation's defense. I understand quite as well the necessity for these leaders to present honestly and forcefully to their superiors their views regarding the place of their programs in the overall national effort. But service responsibilities and activities must always be only the branches, not the central trunk of the national security tree. The present organization fails to apply this truth.

While at times human failure and misdirected zeal have been responsible for duplications, inefficiencies, and publicized disputes, the truth is that most of the service rivalries that have troubled us in recent years have been made inevitable by the laws that govern our defense organization.

Parenthetically, I may observe that these rivalries, so common in the National Capital, are almost unknown in the field. Here in Washington they usually find expression in the services' Congressional and press activities which become particularly conspicuous in struggles over new weapons, funds and publicity. It is just such rivalries, I am convinced, that America wants stopped.

Coming now to specific organizational changes, I want first to emphasize the vital necessity of complete unity in our strategic planning and basic operational direction. It is therefore mandatory that the initiative for this planning and direction rest not with the separate services but directly with the Secretary of Defense and his operational advisers, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, assisted by such staff organization as they deem necessary.

No military task is of greater importance than the development of strategic plans which relate our revolutionary new weapons and force deployments to national security objectives. Genuine unity is indispensable at this starting point. No amount of subsequent coordination can eliminate duplication or doctrinal conflicts which are intruded into the first shaping of military programs.

This unified effort is essential not only for long-range planning and decision which fix the pattern of our future forces and form the foundation of our major military programs, but also for effective command over military operations. The need for greater unity today is most acute at two points--in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and in the major operational commands responsible for actual combat in the event of war. Now as to the specifics of the revisions that I deem essential:

1. We must organize our fighting forces into operational commands that are truly unified, each assigned a mission in full accord with our over-all military objectives.

This lesson, taught by World War II, I learned from firsthand experience. With rare exceptions, as I stated before, there can no longer be separate ground, sea, or air battles.

Our unified commands (by which term I also include the joint and specified commands which exist today) are the cutting edge of our military machine--the units which would do the fighting. Our entire defense organization exists to make them effective.

I intend that, subject only to exceptions personally approved by the Commander-in-Chief, all of our operational forces be organized into truly unified commands. Such commands will be established at my direction. They will be in the Department of Defense but separate from the military departments. Their missions and force levels will conform to national objectives.

I expect these truly unified commands to go far toward realigning our operational plans, weapons systems and force levels in such fashion as to provide maximum security at minimum cost.

Because I have often seen the evils of diluted command, I emphasize that each unified commander must have unquestioned authority over all units of his command. forces must be assigned to the command and be removed only by central direction--by the Secretary of Defense or the Commander-in-Chief--and not by orders of individual military departments.

Commands of this kind we do not have today. To the extent that we are unable so to organize them under present law, to that extent we cannot fully marshal our armed strength.

We must recognize that by law our military organization still reflects the traditional concepts of separate forces for land, sea, and air operations, despite a Congressional assertion in the same law favoring "their integration into an efficient team of land, naval and air forces . . ." This separation is clearly incompatible with unified commands whose missions and weapons systems go far beyond concepts and traditions of individual services.

Today a unified command is made up of component commands from each military department, each under a commander of that department. The commander's authority over these component commands is short of the full command required for maximum efficiency. In fact, it is prescribed that some of his command powers shall take effect only in time of emergency.

I recommend, therefore, that present law, including certain restrictions relating to combatant functions, be so amended as to remove any possible obstacles to the full unity of our commands and the full command over them by unified commanders.

This recommendation most emphatically does not contemplate repeal of laws prescribing the composition of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, or Air force. I have neither the intent nor the desire to merge or abolish the traditional services. This recommendation would have no such effect. But I cannot too strongly urge that our operational commands be made truly unified, efficient military instruments. Congressional cooperation is necessary to achieve that goal.

2. We must clear command channels so that orders will proceed directly to unified commands from the Commander-in-Chief and Secretary of Defense.

The number of headquarters between the Commander-in-Chief and the commander of each unified command must be kept at the very minimum. Every additional level courts delay, confusion of authority, and diffusion of responsibility. When military responsibility is unclear, civilian control is uncertain.

Under existing practice the chain of command is diverted through the Secretaries and service chiefs of the military departments. The department with major responsibility for a unified command is designated by the Secretary of Defense as "executive agent" for that command. The department's Secretary functions through his chief of military service.

So today the channel of military command and direction runs from the Commander-in-Chief to the Secretary of Defense, then to the Secretary of an executive agent department, then to a chief of service, and then, finally, to the unified commander. In time of emergency, the Secretary of the executive agent department delegates to his service chief his authority over the strategic direction and conduct of combat operations. Thus, ultimately the chief of an individual service issues, in the name of the Secretary of Defense, orders to a unified commander.

The role of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in this process is to furnish professional advice and staff assistance to the Secretary of Defense.

I consider this chain of command cumbersome and unreliable in time of peace and not usable in time of war. Clearly, Secretaries of military departments and chiefs of individual services should not direct unified operations and therefore should be removed from the command channel. Accordingly, I have directed the Secretary of Defense to discontinue the use of military departments as executive agents for unified commands.

To facilitate this effort I ask Congressional cooperation. I request repeal of any statutory authority which vests responsibilities for military operations in any official other than the Secretary of Defense. Examples are statutory provisions which prescribe that the Air force Chief of Staff shall command major units of the Air force and that the Chief of Naval Operations shall command naval operating forces.

3. We must strengthen the military staff in the Office of the Secretary of Defense in order to provide the Commander-in-Chief and the Secretary of Defense with the professional assistance they need for strategic planning and for operational direction of the unified commands.

For these purposes, several improvements are needed in the duties and organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

I consider the Joint Chiefs of Staff concept essentially sound, and I therefore believe that the Joint Chiefs of Staff should continue to be constituted as currently provided in law. However, in keeping with the shift I have directed in operational channels, the Joint Chiefs of Staff will in the future serve as staff assisting the Secretary of Defense in his exercise of direction over unified commands. Orders issued to the commands by the Joint Chiefs of Staff will be under the authority and in the name of the Secretary of Defense.

I think it important to have it clearly understood that the Joint Chiefs of Staff act only under the authority and in the name of the Secretary of Defense. I am, therefore, issuing instructions that their function is to advise and assist the Secretary of Defense in respect to their duties and not to perform any of their duties independently of the Secretary's direction.

Under present law, the Joint Chiefs of Staff are provided a Joint Staff of not to exceed 210 officers. It functions under a Director selected by the Joint Chiefs of Staff with the approval of the Secretary of Defense. The Joint Chiefs of Staff assign duties to the Joint Staff which is managed for them by their Chairman. This Staff is subdivided into a number of groups, each with equal representation of officers from the three military departments. In addition, there is a committee system whereby officers, representing each of the military departments, act on documents prepared by the staff groups before they are forwarded to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

These laborious processes exist because each military department feels obliged to judge independently each work product of the Joint Staff. Had I allowed my interservice and interallied staff to be similarly organized in the theaters I commanded during World War II, the delays and resulting indecisiveness would have been unacceptable to my superiors.

With the operational channel now running from the Commander-in-Chief and Secretary of Defense directly to unified commanders rather than through the military departments, the Joint Staff must be further unified and strengthened in order to provide the operational and planning assistance heretofore largely furnished by staffs of the military departments.

Accordingly, I have directed the Secretary of Defense to discontinue the Joint Staff committee system and to strengthen the Joint Staff by adding an integrated operations division.

I ask the Congress to assist in this effort by raising or removing the statutory limit on the size of the Joint Staff. By authorizing the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to assign duties to the Joint Staff and, with the approval of the Secretary of Defense, to appoint its Director, the Congress will also be helpful in increasing the efficiency of this important staff group.

I have long been aware that the Joint Chiefs' burdens are so heavy that they find it very difficult to spend adequate time on their duties as members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This situation is produced by their having the dual responsibilities of chiefs of the military services and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The problem is not new but has not yielded to past efforts to solve it. We need to solve it now, especially in view of the new strategic planning and operational burdens I have previously mentioned.

I therefore propose that present law be changed to make it clear that each chief of a military service may delegate major portions of his service responsibilities to his vice chief. Once this change is made, the Secretary of Defense will require the chiefs to use their power of delegation to enable them to make their Joint Chiefs of Staff duties their principal duties.

I have one additional proposal respecting the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It is needed to correct misunderstanding of their procedures. Present law provides that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shall have no vote. The fact is, neither do the other members, because they do not act by voting. I think it is wrong so to single out the Chairman. This provision should be repealed.

4. We must continue the three military departments as agencies within the Department of Defense to administer a wide range of functions.

Under the new command procedures I have described, the Secretaries of the military departments will be relieved of direct responsibility for military operations. Thus, under the supervision of the Secretary of Defense, they will be better able to perform their primary functions of managing the vast administrative, training and logistics functions of the Defense Department. The military departments will remain permanent agencies within the Department of Defense, and their Secretaries will continue to report to and be directly responsible to the Secretary of Defense. These Secretaries should concern themselves with such vital tasks as bringing greater economy and efficiency to activities which support operational commands rather than with military operations themselves.

The responsibilities of these Secretaries--each heading a department much larger than any executive department except the Department of Defense itself--are heavy indeed. In my judgment each of these Secretaries will continue to need the assistance of an Under Secretary and not less than two Assistant Secretaries. It should be possible, however, to eliminate at least one and perhaps two of the four Assistant Secretaries now authorized for each military department. The duties of these Assistant Secretaries should be left to the determination of each service Secretary rather than fixed by law.

5. We must reorganize the research and development functions of the Department in order to make the best use of our scientific and technological resources.

Our weapons systems five to ten years hence will be the outgrowth of research and development which we conduct today. Until world tensions can be reduced by trustworthy agreements, we are unavoidably engaged in a race with potential enemies for new, more powerful military devices being developed by science and technology. In so critical a contest we must carefully balance our scientific resources between military and civilian needs. I consider it particularly important, therefore, that we improve the Defense Department's organization for military research.

Later in this message I will recommend measures to strengthen the authority of the Secretary of Defense to administer other functions of his department. Referring at this point only to research and development, I consider it essential that the Secretary's control over organization and funds be made complete and unchallengeable. Only if this is done can he assure the most effective and economical use of the research and development resources of his department. These processes are costly in money and skilled personnel; duplications are therefore doubly damaging.

The Secretary must have full authority to prevent unwise service competition in this critical area. He needs authority to centralize, to the extent he deems necessary, selected research and development projects under his direct control in organizations that may be outside the military departments and to continue other activities within the military departments. I anticipate that most research activities already under way would continue within the military departments. Such new undertakings as require central direction can be centralized with far less difficulty than projects already assigned to military departments.

To give the Secretary of Defense the caliber of assistance he requires in the research area, I recommend that the new position of Director of Defense Research and Engineering be established in place of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. I believe his salary should be equal to that of the Secretaries of the military departments. He should rank immediately after the service Secretaries and above the Defense Assistant Secretaries. As the principal assistant to the Secretary of Defense for research and development, he should be known nationally as a leader in science and technology. I expect his staff, civilian and military, also to be highly qualified in science and technology.

This official will have three principal functions: first, to be the principal adviser to the Secretary of Defense on scientific and technical matters; second, to supervise all research and engineering activities in the Department of Defense, including those of the Advanced Research Projects Agency and of the Office of the Director of Guided Missiles; and, third, to direct research and engineering activities that require centralized management.

Further, it will be his responsibility to plan research and development to meet the requirements of our national military objectives instead of the more limited requirements of each of the military services. It is of transcendent importance that each of our principal military objectives has strong and clearly focussed scientific and technical support.

With the approval of the Secretary of Defense, this official will eliminate unpromising or unnecessary duplicative programs, and release promising ones for development or production. An especially important duty will be to analyze the technical programs of the military departments to make sure that an integrated research and development program exists to cover the needs of each of the operational commands. It will be his responsibility to initiate projects to see that such gaps as may exist are filled. In addition, the Director will review assignments by the military departments to technical branches, bureaus and laboratories to assure that the research and engineering activities of the Defense Department are efficiently managed and properly coordinated.

I would charge the Director, under the direction of the Secretary of Defense, with seeing that unnecessary delays in the decision-making process are eliminated, that lead times are shortened, and that a steady flow of funds to approved programs is assured. Only under this kind of expert, single direction can the entire research and engineering effort be substantially improved. In these various ways, he should help stop the service rivalries and self-serving publicity in this area.

6. We must remove all doubts as to the full authority of the Secretary of Defense.

The Secretary of Defense is accountable to the President and the Congress for efficient direction of the largest single activity in our nation. We look to him for sound management of programs amounting to well over $40 billion a year--programs that gravely concern the survival of our country. Yet, his authority has been circumscribed and hedged about in a number of ways which not only make the burdens of his office far heavier than they need to be, but also work against the efficient and effective direction of national security activities which all Americans-and especially the Congress--rightly expect.

The following areas in the defense establishment are especially in need of attention:

(1) Appropriated funds;

(2) The organization and distribution of functions;

(3) Legislative liaison and public affairs activities; and

(4) Military personnel.

I regard it as fundamental that the Secretary, as civilian head of the Department, should have greater flexibility in money matters, both among and within the military departments. I have already commented on the desirability of this authority in respect to research and development. It is desirable in other areas as well. firmly exercised, it will go far toward stopping the services from vying with each other for Congressional and public favor.

Today most of our defense funds are appropriated not to the Secretary of Defense but rather to the military departments. The Secretary of Defense and the Comptroller of the Department of Defense may place certain limitations on the use of funds by the military departments. Yet they do not have sufficient directive authority over such expenditures.

This method of providing defense funds has worked against the unity of the Department of Defense as an executive department of the Government. I strongly urge that in the future the Congress make appropriations for this Department in such fashion as to provide the Secretary of Defense adequate authority and flexibility to discharge his heavy responsibilities. This need is particularly acute in respect to his powers of strategic planning and operational direction.

I have accordingly directed, in consonance with existing statutory provisions, that the Department's budget estimates for the 1960 fiscal year and thereafter be prepared and presented in a form to accomplish these ends.

In addition to greater authority and flexibility in the administration of defense funds, the Secretary of Defense needs greater control over the distribution of functions in his Department. His authority must be freed of legal restrictions derived from pre-missile, pre-nuclear concepts of warfare. Various provisions of this kind becloud his authority. Let us no longer give legal support to efforts to weaken the authority of the Secretary.

On this point the law itself invites controversy. On the one hand, the National Security Act gives the Secretary of Defense "direction, authority, and control" over his entire Department. Yet the same law provides that the military departments are to be "separately administered" by their respective secretaries. This is not merely inconsistent and confusing. It is a hindrance to efficient administration. I do not question the necessity for continuing the military departments. There is clear necessity for the Secretary of Defense to decentralize the administration of the huge defense organization by relying on the military departments to carry on a host of essential functions.

The contradictory concept, however, that three military departments can be at once administered separately, yet directed by one administrator who is supposed to establish "integrated policies and procedures," has encouraged endless, fruitless argument. Such provisions unavoidably abrade the unity of the Defense Department.

An example in just one area--procurement and supply--is evidence of the kind of damage caused. In this area the "separately administered" concept, as well as the needless confusion over roles and missions, impede such techniques for increased efficiency and economy as the Single Manager Plan, which would provide many of the benefits of a separate service of supply without its possible disrupting effects.

I suggest that we be done with prescribing controversy by law. I recommend eliminating from the National Security Act such provisions as those prescribing separate administration of the military departments and the other needless and injurious restraints on the authority of the Secretary of Defense. I specifically call attention to the need for removing doubts concerning the Secretary's authority to transfer, reassign, abolish, or consolidate functions of the Department.

I anticipate that the Secretary of Defense and his Deputy will require, in addition to a Director of Defense Research and Engineering and various special assistants, seven Assistant Secretaries of Defense plus a General Counsel of equivalent rank. I conceive of these Assistant Secretaries as having full staff functions; that is, they are empowered to give instructions appropriate to carrying out policies approved by the Secretary of Defense, subject at all times to the right of service Secretaries to raise contested issues with the Secretary of Defense. This is the usual concept of the powers of principal staff assistants. It is essential to the work of the Assistant Secretaries of Defense.

I should add here that, with a view to reducing personnel and avoiding unnecessary interference with service activities, the Secretary of Defense will critically review the operating methods of the various staffs in the Office of Secretary of Defense. He will also review the interdepartmental committee structure within the Department in an effort to accelerate the entire decision-making process.

Earlier I mentioned that a principal outlet for service rivalries is the public affairs and legislative liaison activity within each of the military departments. for many years I have attached the greatest importance to providing prompt and accurate information to Members of the Congress. I have the same viewpoint in respect to furnishing information to the press and the public. But surely everyone will agree that personnel charged with such duties should not seek to advance the interest of a particular service at the expense of another, nor should they advance a service cause at the expense of over-all national and defense requirements. Of this I am sure • We do not want defense dollars spent in publicity and influence campaigns in which each service claims superiority over the others and strives for increased appropriations or other Congressional favors.

I have directed the Secretary of Defense to review the numbers as well as the activities of personnel of the various military departments who engage in legislative liaison and public affairs activities in the Washington area. I have requested that he act, without impeding the flow of information to the Congress and the public, to strengthen Defense Department supervision over these activities and to move such of these personnel and activities as necessary into the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

I have, in this connection, advised the Secretary of my desire that his principal assistant for legislative liaison be a civilian official. On the recommendation of the Secretary, I shall nominate a person as Assistant Secretary of Defense to perform those duties. An Assistant Secretary of Defense already holds the responsibility for public affairs activities.

Finally, I believe we can strengthen unification by two actions involving military personnel.

First, I am instituting a new personnel procedure for top-ranking officers. It is my belief that before officers are advanced beyond the two-star level, they must have demonstrated, among other qualities, the capacity for dealing objectively--without extreme service partisanship--with matters of the broadest significance to our national security. I am, therefore, instituting this new procedure: I will consider officers for nomination to these top ranks only on recommendations of the Secretary of Defense submitted to me after he has received suggestions of the Secretaries of the military departments and the advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I also will base my assignments of these officers to high command, staff and departmental positions on recommendations of the Secretary of Defense. I will, in reassigning or removing them, follow the same procedure.

I further believe that the Secretary of Defense should be authorized to establish procedures for the transfer of officers between services, with the consent of the individual in each case. This authority is needed primarily in technical fields so that an officer especially qualified to contribute to the success of an activity of a sister service may be afforded an opportunity to do so without interrupting his service career. I would not limit this authority, however, to technical fields.

At my direction the Secretary of Defense will shortly transmit to Congress draft legislation to carry out those items I have discussed which require legislative action. I urge the Congress to consider them promptly and to cooperate fully in making these essential improvements in our defense establishment.

Now in conclusion let us clearly understand that through these various actions we will have moved forward in many important ways.

We will have better prepared our country to meet an emergency which could come with little warning.

We will have improved our military planning.

We will have accelerated decision-making processes.

We will have effectively organized our defense programs in the crucial fields of science and technology.

We will have remedied organizational defects which have encouraged harmful service rivalries.

We will have improved the over-all efficiency and unity of our great defense establishment.

In our country, under the Constitution, effective military defense requires a partnership of the Congress and the Executive. Thus, acting in accord with our respective duties and our highest tradition, we shall achieve an efficient defense organization capable of safeguarding our freedom and serving us in our quest for an enduring peace.


Dwight D. Eisenhower, Special Message to the Congress on Reorganization of the Defense Establishment. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/234642

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