The Ultimate Decision: The President as Commander in Chief

The Ultimate Decision: The President as Commander in Chief

The Ultimate Decision: The President as Commander in Chief

The Ultimate Decision: The President as Commander in Chief

Excerpt

On the bank of the Potomac River, just south of the District of Columbia, stands the squat, five-sided Pentagon Building. Its aboveground floors enclose a neat grass courtyard dotted with small trees and crossed by wide, concrete footpaths. Each floor has five corridors or "rings," with offices on each side, only the outmost and inmost having windows. In the central corridors of one floor on the northern side are the double-guarded quarters of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

There work officers from all the services, some civilians, and even a few enlisted men. Their business is preparing papers to inform, advise, or warn the chairman and the four service chiefs (including the Commandant of the Marine Corps) who collectively make up "the JCS." On Mondays and Wednesdays the chiefs themselves gather around a long mahogany table in a mustard-walled conference room and discuss, reject, amend, or accept the recommendations in these staff papers.

Once the chiefs have reached some kind of agreement, the resulting documents travel to the outmost bank of offices on the same floor, those occupied by the Secretary and the Assistant Secretaries of Defense. After scrutiny and possible revision by them, they go under the care of an armed messenger across Memorial Bridge, around the giant, brooding statue of Abraham Lincoln, and into a side door of the flamboyant Old State- War-Navy Building which stands on Pennsylvania Avenue just west of the White House.

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