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US Constitution and Military Leadership

In this paper I would like to describe the relations between US Constitution and military leader of the country. The aim of my work is to answer the question how the Constitution effects to being a military leader and how it may influence military leaders decision making process and why.

The US Constitution is the oldest and shortest of all the written constitution of governments. It has been operating effectively for over 200 years. Commentators state that its secret – is in the flexibility and capability to treat various positions in different ways. (Smith, 1987). But at the same time, it is the most stable law, because technically to do modifications there very difficult. The Constitution is also required for the government authority control.

I should say that in the beginning of 1789, the United States weren’t involved in prolonged military actions many times. Therefore, the internal affairs attracted more attention at American society, and attention to foreign policy and national defense was sporadic. In general, public opinion polls show that most Americans are relatively indifferent to foreign policy issues, and that their interest is increasing to this problem during the time of international crisis. At the same time, the main motives of the United States formation was, as stated in the Constitution, “provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity” (in the U.S. Constitution (Preamble). One-third of the 18 responsibilities listed in Article I section 8 of the US Constitution belongs to the sphere of military and foreign policy.

It’s common knowledge that a military leader of US is the President. Among the many rights and duties of the President of the United States are his military credentials which occupy a special place. For the head of White House the world’s largest armed forces leadership is not only an honorable mission, but this leadership also imposes on him a huge responsibility to ensure national security and protect country’s interests in various regions of the world.

However, responsibility for building and maintaining the Army – that is, for its financing – the Constitution, in order to avoid the risk of the president too much power, reports to Congress. Furthermore, only Congress, not the executive branch has the right to declare war, to avoid hasty decisions that can no longer be changed. At the same time, the Constitution states (in the U.S. Constitution (art. 2, sec. 2, cl.1.) that “the president is commander in chief (now it is called Supreme Commander) of Army and Navy of the United States and the militias of the several States”, that gives him enough power to repel attacks of foreign countries and the protection of the nascent nation.

It should be noted that the president expansion of military powers constantly met opposition from the US Congress. Thus, during the war in Southeast Asia there was a discussion according the definition of § 2 (article 1, section 8) of the US Constitution. According that definition (in the U.S. Constitution (art. 1, sec. 8, cl.2.) there is the right “to declare war” belongs to Congress and the president as commander in chief has the right to wage war. However, in the history of the United States armed forces have been used in nearly 200 conflicts, but only in five cases, Congress formally declared war, and only in one of four cases, Congress confirmed the actual state of war, in which the country has come under the leadership of the president.

Expressing the will of their constituents, lawmakers have repeatedly tried to limit presidential power in the military sphere by adopting amendments to existing regulations. In 1970, the Congress discussed not an amendment but the military credentials bill. Discussion has been hold on them in a difficult and tense struggle for more than three years. In November 1973, both houses of Congress approved the law of Congress and the President of the United States war power.

According to this law, the president must consult with Congress about using of the armed forces prior to their use in hostilities. In all cases, when the head of the White House inputs the troops on the territory of other States without declaring war, or significantly increases their strength abroad, he shall submit to Congress a report within 48 hours. If after 60 days after this Congress doesn’t declare war or doesn’t adopt legislation, the using of armed forces is stopped.

As a result, despite the fact that the law of 1973 was conceived and introduced as restrictive law, it does not limit the president to use armed force in any part of the world on his own discretion. Moreover, if prior to 1973 it was justified by the right of commander in chief, after the adoption of this law, it was a specific legal form. (Simmons, 1989). Now the president is not obliged to inform Congress about how to deploy the armed forces, which is due solely to their supply, replacement or training. This allows the head of the American administration to use US military personnel in crisis situations in the guise of advisers or experts to repair, training and procurement. As to the right of Congress to make a decision by the approval of both Houses a joint resolution to terminate the participation of US armed forces in a war or conflict, the president can bypass and, relying on a statutory provision to “protect the lives of soldiers.”

Military powers of the US president also disseminate to the use of military force in the country. Taking into attention his responsibilities as commander in chief, American lawyers are entitled this right from section 3 of the Constitution, which obliges the head of the White House to worry about the exact implementation of laws.

This general constitutional mandate of US military force in the country is specified in the current US law. Thus, § 331 of chapter 15 of title 10 of United States Code specifies that the president in case of riot in any state, if they are directed against his government, may use the National Guard or regular army “of such size and within such limits as it deems necessary to crush the rebellion” at the request of the legislature or the governor.

US law also entitles the president himself (without proper treatment from the authorities of the State) to use military force to eliminate the “unlawful obstructions,” the functioning of public authorities and law enforcement. And in this case the president can bring the National Guard and regular troops, “which he considers necessary” to restore law and order.

It is important to note that the Constitution and US law not only give the president enormous military power, but also provide a mechanism for their continuity in peace times and in wartime and in emergency situations.

According to the constitution, in the case of the president’s death, removal him from office or incapacity to make his duties, his successors are the following persons (in this order): Vice President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, the interim chairman of the Senate, Secretary of State, Ministers of Finance, Defense, Justice, Interior Affairs, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Welfare, housing and urban development, transport, energy, education. (in the U.S. Constitution (art. 2, sec. 1)

The military powers of the president are implemented by using a branched executive staff, including various ministries, federal departments, agencies, and management. Among them are the institutions that are engaged only in military matters (Ministry of Defense, Ministry of the armed forces, KNSH), and the authorities in charge, in addition to economy, foreign policy, environment, etc. These include the National Security Council (NSC), Federal Office for action in emergencies (FEMA), etc.

National Security Council is, in essence, the principal advisory body to the President on military and foreign policy. It also coordinates the activities of all government and government agencies, departments and agencies in the field of military construction.

Summing it up I should say that, US political system that has developed on the basis of the old constitution has unprecedented stability and permanence. Despite the “rigidity”, the Constitution can not be considered the same document, it continues to evolve. The Constitution of the United States now looks like a moderately democratic document.


Works cited:

Simmons, R. The US constitution the first 200 years. 1989.
Smith, Joseph. The American Constitution: The First Two Hundred Years, 1787-1987. University of Exeter Press, 1987.
U.S. Constitution (art. 1, sec. 8, cl.2.).
U.S. Constitution (art. 2, sec. 1).
U.S. Constitution (art. 2, sec. 2, cl.1.).
U.S. Constitution, Preamble.