Not long after V-J Day, General Tooey Spaatz surveyed the
shambles of the once-great World War II Air Forces. At peak strength they had
numbered the equivalent of 243 wings. A few months later, this great fighting
force which had contributed so much to our victories both in Europe and the
Pacific had been demobilized into near impotence and General Spaatz was
warning that he could no longer muster a single fully effective squadron.
Many concerned Americans—of whom a considerable number are
in this audience today—recognized that the helter-skelter dismantling of our
newly forged airpower was becoming a tragic repetition of the events which
followed the first World War.
They decided to wake up the American people. They were
determined to alert the nation to the danger of abandoning the great new weapon
of war which we had built and which had won such great victories in the skies
over Europe, Africa, and the Pacific. They banded together and became the Air
Force Association. And they did the job! I'm proud of every one of you who took
part in the good fight, and I'm proud that I had an opportunity to participate
In high station or in low, in uniform or civvies, whatever
our rank or position, we entered the battle with fervor and with facts. We
explained, again and again, to the Congress and to all who would listen, the
compelling lessons of World War II. Our basic "text book" was the U.
S. Strategic Bombing Survey. You will recall that this impartial group of
experts appointed by President Roosevelt had concluded that: "Even a
first-class military power ... cannot live under full-scale and free
exploitation of air weapons over the heart of its territory."
Our collective efforts met with a good measure of success.
The National Security Act which created a separate Air Force became law in
1947, significantly, the same year that the Air Force Association held its first
Today, as we start our eighteenth year, the march of
technology has changed a lot of things. But, in some important respects, it's
still the same world. And most significantly, we are still confronted with the
threat of Communist aggression.
Since 1947, we have successfully met repeated Communist
challenges all along the periphery of the Sino-Soviet borders and elsewhere
throughout the world. Our success is the result of the tangible and intangible
values of a free society; the support of our allies, our great scientific,
economic, and industrial strength; and American determination to oppose any dogma
which robs men of their freedom. Behind all of these has been the great,
responsive military strength of the United States.
Military power is more than just men and machines, as you
all know. Military men and the machines of war represent potential power.
Actual military power is determined by the efficiency with which this potential
is organized and controlled. The effectiveness of military organization in turn
depends on many things. Important among these is a carefully calculated balance
between centralization and decentralization of authority and functions.
Now, in what areas and to what extent should our defense
structure be centralized in order to get the best defense at the lowest cost?
These are always issues as we strive for the most efficient use of our resources.
I want to examine these questions and draw some conclusions as to whether
separate Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force are necessary today and
in the future.
The question of better defense at lower cost also has been
raised among some of our closest friends and allies who have moved in the
direction of more centralization in their defense structures. Only last spring,
the British reorganized their armed forces along lines very similar to those we
The Canadians have recently established a single Commander
in Chief for Army, Navy, and Air Force. We shall watch closely and profit by
their experience, keeping in mind the substantial differences in size and
global responsibilities between their armed forces and ours.
All of you are familiar with organization problems. You all
know that there is no perfect organization. The only perfect one is the one you
don't have. And what looks good in theory doesn't always work out in real life,
The purists in organization sometimes want to carry their work to extremes
which appear logical on paper but which in practice may lose more than is
A good crew chief will tell you that you can tune an engine
too fine. We have to beware of that. But we do have to keep the organizational
engine in tune with military technology, national strategy, tactics, force
levels, and doctrine. Since these things change, organization is always a new
problem, and always one which is worth thinking about.
In any analysis of the defense organization best suited to
our requirement, three facts seem to me fundamental.
First, there is no indication that the weapons we now have
or those which can be foreseen will destroy the identity of any of the three
general categories of warfare—land, sea, and aerospace.
Second, it is almost impossible to conceive of substantial
military action carried out by one service alone. Any war of the future will be
a joint action. Hence, we must deter or fight war jointly, as a thoroughly
coordinated action, with all the forces—aerospace, land, and sea—acting under
Third, many of the weapons of war will continue to increase
in complexity, sophistication, and cost. The proper allocation of defense
resources will remain a central problem.
These facts have been recognized by the National Security
Act of 1947 as amended in 1949, 1953, and 1958. Today, we have a single
Department of Defense presided over by Secretary McNamara who has made major
contributions to our defense effort. He has increased efficiency through
organizational, administrative, and procedural changes. All of us who work for
him—at every level—have been forced to examine a great many premises which had
come to be taken for granted. This kind of analysis frequently is uncomfortable,
but it has had a salutary effect. Above all, the Secretary has made decisions.
We don't always like them, but without decisions there can be no improvement—no
progress. Decisions which please all of the people all of the time are not
likely to solve very many substantive problems.
Under the Secretary are his principal advisers—the Joint
Chiefs of Staff and Service Secretaries. Planning of strategy and force levels
has been centralized within the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the
Joint Chiefs of Staff. Many of the aspects of defense budgeting are centralized
in the Secretary's office. Our combat commands are organized on a joint or
unified basis reporting to the Secretary of Defense through the JCS and with a
single commander in the field controlling aerospace, land, and sea elements.
The authority of the three military departments has been
diminished during the last seventeen years. There is no doubt about that. Their
functions have changed. To take the Air Force as an example, General LeMay—when
he wears his Chief of Staff hat—does not command any combat forces. I am not
responsible for the combat operations of Air Force units. As we function today,
a principal job of the Air Force and of the other services as well—is to create
combat-ready forces for use by the unified commanders in the field. That's an
important job. Without it, nothing goes. And it's still a big job. For the Air
Force, it's a $20-billion-a-year job. There's plenty of room in it for
creativeness, independent thinking, and autonomous functions—not only in the
operational field but also in logistics and research and development.
The pattern of organization which I have described in very
broad outline is working well. I doubt that any future Congress or Secretary of
Defense or Service Secretary or Chief of Staff would want to go back to the
pre-1947 methods of doing business. A loose confederation of forces such as we
had seventeen years ago simply is not adapted to the defense needs of this
Since centralization has been successful in the areas of
planning, budgeting, and operational command, should we go all the way to a
single service? The answer is clear to me an emphatic "No." We have
achieved the objectives of centralized planning and operational control—we have
achieved a balance of forces appropriate to the threat—without destroying the
identities of the three services.
There are many valid reasons for continuing to maintain
separate Departments of Army, Navy, and Air Force. Of these reasons, four stand
out as paramount:
• First, the constantly increasing need for military
• Second, the values of competition and a system of checks
and balances in a free society;
• Third, efficiency of management; and
• Fourth, the intangible but real value of esprit de corps.
Let's look first at the question of professionalism. There
was a time and not too long ago at that—when a soldier could move from infantry
to artillery to cavalry or even to aviation with a minimum of training. In our
own day, an airman could transfer from pursuit to observation to bombardment
quite readily. The machines of war were relatively simple, peacetime forces
were small, and wide oceans provided time for mobilization in the event of an
Now, all that has changed. We have to maintain large and
instantly ready combat forces which can be moved swiftly to any trouble spot on
the globe and which can meet an attack against this country with no more than a
few minutes' warning. This requirement applies not only to our Regular units,
but increasingly to those of the Reserve and National Guard. In the aerospace
operations for which the Guard and Reserves are responsible, we expect—and
get—a level of professionalism comparable to that of our Regulars.
Professionalism also has been affected by our weapon systems
which are fantastically complicated—the stuff of which science fiction was made
twenty-five years ago. You have seen some of these systems or components to
them on display here at AFA's Convention.
These weapons are the result of a great many years of
specialized thinking and experience. They have been designed and developed
under Air Force guidance to meet the needs of a particular type of warfare—warfare
in the aerospace medium. The requirements for these weapons were established
by professional airmen. The doctrine under which they may be used is a product
of long study and experience in conducting independent air action and in
providing to the other services the aerospace support which is indispensable
to their operations. It has been tested on peaceful proving grounds and in
battle, restudied, refined, and perfected.
The Army, the Navy, and the Marines also apply their
professional knowledge and experience to producing weapons, doctrine, and
combat-ready troops trained to operate in their respective media and to support
the other services. All of us, together, funnel our specialized products—our
ready elements of a joint fighting team—to the unified commander in the field
as essential parts of his coordinated effort.
The professionals produced by the services are just as
essential at the level of the Joint Staff and Department of Defense Staff as
they are in the field. Their expert advice is indispensable in planning strategy,
forces, and weapons requirements.
To sum it up, military professionals, military equipment,
military doctrine, and their ultimate expression —effective military
forces—must be developed for each of these media of warfare—aerospace, land,
and sea. This is the job of the military departments. If we did not have them,
we would have to invent a substitute for this purpose.
Military professionalism in aerospace, land, and sea warfare
must be pulled together into integrated combat teams by the unified commanders.
Professional military experience in each of the three media must be brought
into focus at the top level of plan-fling by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the
Secretary of Defense. Today, we are organized to meet these requirements.
Now, it's obvious that the Air Force people who serve at the
Department of Defense level, on the Joint Staff, the staffs of the unified
commanders and in the Joint Agencies—such as the Defense Supply, Defense
Intelligence, and Defense Communications Agencies—need more than a professional
knowledge of the Air Force. They also must have a broad understanding of how
the other services function. This understanding is created in our professional
schools, through exchange assignments and in day-to-day working relations with
officers of our sister services.
Providing Air Force personnel for joint positions creates
some tough personnel problems. First, we must send to the joint staffs and
agencies only top-flight Air Force professionals. This sometimes is hard to do
because we need their talents in our own organization, but it's essential if
joint planning and operations are to be effective. Next, we have to maintain in
the Air Force enough of the functions of the Joint Agencies—Intelligence, for
example—to assure that we send qualified Air Force people to these agencies.
Finally, we have to remember that our people are Air Force professionals with
Air Force careers to which they will return with the advantage of joint
experience when their tours of duty in joint activities are completed.
The military departments have lost some measure of authority
since 1947 but, as I suggested earlier, their critical task of producing ready
forces for the unified commanders has in fact gained in importance. Creating
the professionals, the weapons components of the team, and the doctrine which
governs the use of these weapons is the key to military effectiveness in this
age of advanced technology. It is a fixed point in the defense constellation.
While the degree of direction exercised by the Department of
Defense may ebb or flow, depending on who heads the Department, the need for
specialized military professionalism remains constant from the bottom to the
top of the defense structure. The professionalism of the three services is the
balance wheel which provides a steady drive forward to a constantly higher
level of combat effectiveness.
Competition—the second reason for the existence of three
services—has been the lifeblood of America. Wherever competition has been
stifled, it generally has followed that the rate of progress declined. In the
military profession, competition engenders new ideas and forces us all to
examine critically the old and accepted ways of doing things. We would not
suggest that Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors be merged into a noncompetitive
giant in order to produce a better and cheaper automobile. It is just as
unlikely that the merger of three military services into a single service would
produce better military thought and performance.
There is only one qualification here. Competition must be
controlled so that it creates positive contributions to the nation's defense.
I believe there are adequate controls on interservice competition which can be
exercised by the Department of Defense if necessary. Another highly effective
control lies in the belief shared by all our military professionals that
service to the nation transcends personal considerations or the individual
interests of any one military service.
Our competitive triservice organizational pattern also
provides an effective system of checks and balances which is in keeping with
the American concept of limiting the power of government, of any agency of
government, or of any individual in government. The specialized professionalism
which is created in each of the services assures that a full range of alternatives
and new ideas will be examined before major decisions are taken. This is
particularly important in those areas where deliberation is essential—in the
conception of strategy, planning for contingencies, and constructing force and
Sometimes—less frequently than in the past—our triservice
organization has been criticized for generating "interservice
bickering." We should remind ourselves that what is called
"bickering" among the services is referred to as "discussion"
on university campuses, "debate" in Congress, and
"deliberation" in the Supreme Court. The great issues of defense must
be discussed, debated, and deliberated in the broad context of land, sea, and
aerospace warfare if sound decisions are to be reached.
The third reason for retaining three services is efficiency
The business community has found that sophisticated
communications and data processing have made possible a broadening of the span
of control in many types of large-scale activity. In the military field, however,
this potential for controlling an ever-larger array of activities is offset to
some extent by the growing complexity of military equipment and operations.
There certainly is a point of diminishing returns which we have to keep an eye
The personnel strength of our armed forces is 2,600,000
people in uniform and somewhat more than one million civilians. It is by far
the largest organization in the country, exceeding General Motors by a factor
of five. Yet General Motors, like most very large corporations, has found it
desirable to organize semiautonomous—even competitive—divisions for effective
management and greater profit. Military administration, training, logistic
support, and research and development can be managed most effectively on the
basis of three military departments, each of which is relatively homogeneous
in terms of the type of warfare on which it focuses. We should not disturb this
Finally, there is the intangible element of esprit de corps.
All of you here today recognize its value. You know that throughout history the
majority of men have functioned most effectively as members of an identifiable
group. This is particularly true of the military profession in which certain
values are held superior to life itself. The spirit of unity—of brotherhood—is
enhanced by tradition, pride in one's organization, and by a distinctive
uniform which is a mark of membership.
The value of esprit
cannot be measured with precision. No price tag can be placed on it, yet we
all recognize its intrinsic contribution in the quality of our armed forces. It
is the heart of the true fighting force.
Let's take an example which this group will remember well.
A little over twenty years ago, the men of the Eighth Air Force in England were
ordered to destroy two targets—Schweinfurt and Regensburg—deep in the enemy's
industrial complex and vital to his war effort. If a robot had calculated the
odds, it might very well have predicted that this mission was impossible to
accomplish. But a robot does not comprehend esprit.
So we turned the problem over to a highly motivated group
of airmen who knew the great dangers to be faced, but also were aware of the
key importance of the mission. That job, and many other tough ones like it, was
tackled. The cost was very high, but the job was done.
Now, let me give you an example of the day-to-day value of
esprit. Our Strategic Air Command is the most complex, sophisticated military
organization known to history. You all know how SAC operates—on constant alert
and with its forces widely dispersed. Its weapon systems are the most
complicated in our Air Force inventory.
The SAC operation depends on a guaranteed and rapid supply
of fuel, spares, parts, and all the items which keep it combat ready. It gets
guaranteed and rapid logistic support. The people who operate and maintain
SAC's weapons and the people of the Logistics Command who supply them are all
in the same uniform. They speak the same language, they have a common understanding
of the problems of aerospace operations, and they share a determination to keep
SAC's combat edge razor-sharp. They are part of a team and their working
relations are quite different from the impersonal relations that might exist between
loosely related organizations which worked for different bosses.
We should not tamper with that precious esprit de corps, that sense of identification, by immersing it in
the vast agglomeration of a single service.
Our present organizational structure centralizes over-all
planning, budgeting, and operational control within the Office of the Secretary
of Defense. It decentralizes the development and support of combat forces and
doctrine along environmental lines. This careful weaving of functional
unification and environmental division permits both to be effectively exploited.
That which is wise, natural, and efficient is not likely to
disappear in the continuing process of evolving the best possible defense
organization. The three separate military departments of Army, Navy (with its
Marine Corps), and Air Force make an indispensable contribution to the defense
of this nation and will continue to do so. I predict that they are here to
stay. I'm confident that, when you meet in 1974, a Secretary of the Air Force
will be with you as an enthusiastic supporter of the Air Force
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Memorial Day is a time to remember all those who died fighting for their country, just like A1C William Pitsenbarger, an Air Force pararescueman who took part in more than 250 rescue missions before he was killed at the age of 21. His selflessness and valor in the Vietnam War earned him an Air Force Cross and, eventually, a Medal of Honor.
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