Jul 26

The National Security Act and Inter-Service Rivalry

Thursday, July 26, 2018 3:09 PM

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On this day in 1947 President Harry Truman signed into law the National Security Act of 1947. The bill reorganized the military, by placing the Army and Navy into the Department of Defense, and creating the position of Secretary of Defense at its head. It also created the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council. However, it seems the most impactful act from the bill, was establishment of a new branch of the military; the United States Air Force.

President Harry Truman signing the National Act into law on July 26, 1946. The act would not go into effect until September 18 of that year. (Photo: Department of State)

President Harry Truman signing the National Act into law on July 26, 1946. The act would not go into effect until September 18 of that year. (Photo: Department of State)

Upon its inception, the Air Force began a campaign designed to downplay the significance of the Navy, especially aircraft carriers, and the Marine Corps. Air Force officials believed that long-range bombers, jet-fighters, and atomic weapons would be all that was needed in order to effectively defend the U. S. and launch an attack on future enemies. What followed was known as the “Revolt of the Admirals,” in which multiple high-ranking officers in the Navy publicly disagreed with the claim that the B-36 bomber program would render the Navy and Marine Corps essentially obsolete.

In 1948, Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Cushman defended the necessity of a Marine Corps in a Proceedings article titled “Amphibious Warfare: Naval Weapon of the Future.” He argued the Pacific Theater during World War II was largely won due to the Marine Corps ability to conduct amphibious warfare and then hold the islands that they gained. An Air Force can be grounded by unfavorable conditions and “can employ only the hit and run tactics of the raid.” Throughout the article he conveyed why the expeditionary force of the Marine Corps and the forward deployment abilities of carriers were and would continue to be essential to national security. Cushman later became Commandant of the Marine Corps, and continued to write for Proceedings.

Gen Robert E. Cushman while serving as the 25th Commandant of the Marine Corps. (Photo: USMC)

Gen Robert E. Cushman while serving as the 25th Commandant of the Marine Corps. (Photo: USMC)

The importance of a quick-deploying expeditionary force and aircraft carriers was validated throughout the early 21st century. Naval aviators launched the first strikes during Operation Iraqi Freedom, without the need of large bases and airfields close to the area. They conducted early strikes that “softened” enemy resistance in preparation for large-scale ground attacks. The Marines were “the first to fight” which allowed for establishment of long-term Air Force bases. In addition to the modern restructuring of the military, the National Security Act of 1947 unintentionally created a rivalry between the services that in some respects continues today. Nonetheless our armed forces will work together to solve the nation’s problems for years to come.

 

Works Cited

Cushman, LtCol Robert E. “Amphibious Warfare: Naval Weapon of the Future.” Proceedings Magazine, Mar. 1948, www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/1948-03/amphibious-warfare-naval-weapon-future.