Courtesy Reuters

The President and the Military

All Presidents are dependent on the permanent bureaucracies of government inherited from their predecessors. A President must have the information and analysis of options which the bureaucracies provide in order to anticipate problems and make educated choices. He must, in most cases, also have the coöperation of the bureaucracies to turn his decisions into governmental action. A bureaucracy can effectively defuse a presidential decision by refusing to support it with influential members of Congress or to implement it faithfully.

The President's dependence on the bureaucracy and his limited freedom to man?uvre are acute in all areas. The military, however, poses a unique set of problems for him. These arise in part from the limitations upon the President when he is seeking military advice. When the National Security Council or other presidential sessions are convened to discuss high-level foreign and national security matters, the President has a great deal of influence on the selection of all those who will attend, except the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who must be chosen from a small group of senior career military officers. Compare also the President's ability to appoint noncareer people to subcabinet and ambassadorial posts with the limitations on his range of selection for appointments to senior military positions or overseas military commands.

One dilemma for the President is finding alternative sources of military advice. The military, for example, has a virtual monopoly on providing information to the President about the readiness and capabilities of U.S. or even allied forces. Other groups and individuals can provide advice on many "military" questions, but their access to information is limited. The President may call for judgments from his Secretary of Defense, but the Secretary's analysis must rely on the basic factual material and field evaluations provided by the military.

Judgments about the likely effectiveness of American combat operations are also the exclusive province of the military. In assessing the potential effects of a diplomatic move, the President can turn not

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