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Defense Reorganization Acts

Defense Reorganization Acts (1950, 1953, 1958).Following quasi‐unification of the armed forces in the Department of Defense, created by the National Security Act of 1947, Congress passed the Army Reorganization Act of 1950 to achieve simplicity and flexibility in the army's statutory organization. The law revised provisions, some of which dated back to the War of 1812, and confirmed many of the changes made by executive action during World War II. It made the secretary of the army, now aided by an expanded staff, directly responsible for conducting all the affairs of the army. Congress abandoned appropriating funds directly to each technical service, and instead authorized the secretary of the army to make the allocations and to determine the number and relative strengths of the arms and services. In 1950, those included three combat arms: Infantry, Armor, and Artillery (including the old Field Artillery, Coast Defense, and Air Defense), and fourteen services, from the Chemical Corps to the Women's Army Corps.

Following the coordinating and centralizing efforts in the National Security Act of 1947, and its 1949 amendments, Congress, on the recommendations of the Rockefeller Committee and President Eisenhower, adopted the Defense Reorganization Acts in 1953 and 1958 designed to reduce service obstacles to coordinated defense planning and management. These acts strengthened the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) by more than tripling its size and by giving it additional authority; they also somewhat enhanced the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). However, Congress continued to allow individual service chiefs to take their opinions directly to Capitol Hill.

The 1953 and 1958 reforms did not prevent open disagreement among the services nor the JCS from making split recommendations. Nor did they curtail budget requests or weapons procurement. They did, however, provide some additional centralized direction.

Individual secretaries of defense, chairmen of the JCS, and service chiefs continued to struggle over interservice rivalry and coordination within this framework up to and even after the Goldwater‐Nichols Defense Reorganization Act of 1986, the most thorough revision of statutes governing DoD organization since the National Security Act of 1947.

John Whiteclay Chambers II

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