War Powers Acts First War Powers Act 55 Stat. 838 (1941) Second War Powers Act 56 Stat. 176 (1942)

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WAR POWERS ACTS First War Powers Act 55 Stat. 838 (1941) Second War Powers Act 56 Stat. 176 (1942)

Enacted less than two weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor (see world war ii), the First War Powers Act was similar to the world war i Overman Act (1917). It delegated to the President virtually complete authority to reorganize the executive branch, the independent government agencies, and government corporations in any manner he deemed appropriate to expedite prosecution of the war. That power, and reorganizations accomplished under it, were to remain in force until six months after the end of the war. The act also authorized the President to censor mail and other forms of communication between the United States and foreign countries.

The Second War Powers Act, passed three months after the first, further strengthened the executive branch for conduct of the war. It authorized acquisition of land for military or naval purposes, by condemnation if necessary. It also suspended some provisions of the hatch act (1939), relaxed naturalization standards for aliens serving in the armed forces, established procedures for war production contracting, and authorized several other adjustments of governmental affairs.

The War Powers Acts, like their predecessors, represented an attempt to accommodate the concentration of power necessary for the prosecution of the war to the accustomed forms of constitutional government.

Dennis J. Mahoney
(1986)