Civilian Control of the Military, and More from CRS

By January 6, 2017

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. See Statutory Restrictions on the Position of Secretary of Defense: Issues for Congress, January 5, 2017.

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Alien Registration Requirements: Obama Administration Removes Certain Regulations, but Underlying Statutory Authority Remains, CRS Legal Sidebar, January 5, 2017

Latin America and the Caribbean: Key Issues for the 114th Congress, updated January 4, 2017

The Budget Reconciliation Process: Stages of Consideration, updated January 4, 2017

Budget Reconciliation Measures Enacted Into Law: 1980-2010, updated January 4, 2017

Systemically Important or “Too Big to Fail” Financial Institutions, updated January 4, 2017

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): Size of the Population Eligible for and Receiving Cash Assistance, January 3, 2017

Congressional Careers: Service Tenure and Patterns of Member Service, 1789-2017, updated January 3, 2017

Inspectors General in and Beyond the Presidential Transition Period, CRS Insight, January 3, 2017

Categories: Congress, Military Doctrine, Oversight