Congress and the Army

Military Review, March/April 1999 | Go to article overview

Congress and the Army


When the framers drafted the United States Constitution, they delineated Congress's immense powers in Article I - the power to levy and collect taxes, regulate commerce and banking, coin money and establish post offices, among other things. Congress also has critically important constitutional powers in defense policy: "To make Rules for the Gpvernment and Regulation of the land and naval Forces; To provide for calling forth the Militia. . . . To provide for organizing, arming and disciplining the Militia.... To raise and support Armies...." Members of Congress take these responsibilities very seriously. Implied in these and other congressional powers is the responsibility to excercise oversight of the executive branch as it carries out the mandates of legislation. Most important though, only Congress can declare war.

This section's articles and panel discussion explain the differing duties and responsibilities Congress and the Army each have. Several authors suggest that civilian officials -- including members of Congress -- should concern themselves with and make decisions about national strategy, nationa political objectives and the dedication of national resources to those aims.

Likewise, the Army's leaders should understand they have a "spere of influence" too. Their responsibilities include fighting and winning the nation's wars, determining military objectives, drafting and executing plans to achieve them, providing professional education for officers, creating operational and tactical doctrine and overseeing individual and collective training. Unfortunately, there is still a great deal of misunderstanding among Army officers concerning Congress's legitimate role in national security and defense policy. …

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