Conference Program

85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History

 Landscapes of War and Peace

April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky

Title: Military Officers and Defense Policy: Leadership and Professionalism
Abstract: This panel will seek to understand the relationship between military officers, particularly Army officers, and civilian authority during the Cold War. American civil-military relations during the 1950s through 1980s was a formative period that re-shaped traditions and norms regarding the role of the military in American government and foreign policy. This panel will bring together historians from academic and military institutions in order to examine these issues in a holistic and comprehensive approach. All three papers examine various ways dynamic tensions between military professionals, official policy and national security.
Eric Setzekorn examines President Carter's plan to withdraw ground troops from the Korean peninsula, and the opposition to the plan by military officers. In particular, Maj. Gen John Singlaub, Chief of Staff for United States Forces Korea, pushed the boundaries of military professionalism by openly criticizing Carter's policy. William Donnelly examines the difficult relationship that arose between Army officers and Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) requirements for data. Unfortunately, new statistical systems became yet another area of competition, which was compounded by fears of dishonesty among military officers who sought to use the system to further their careers. Ryan Carpenter focuses on the Defense Resources Board, chaired in the 1980s by Deputy Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci. Carpenter finds that military members strenuously attempted to influence decisions within the DRB and exert influence over spending priorities outside of the Pentagon.
Through this panel, we hope to reveal how military officers worked to shape defense policy during the Cold War through financial, administrative, and bureaucratic processes. The contentious debates and animosities during the period influenced several decades of American military history and left legacies that continued into the post-Cold War era.
Eric Setzekorn, George Washington University
Participant's Paper Title: Military Opposition to National Policy: Army Leaders and President Carter's Korea Withdrawal Plan
Participant's Paper Abstract: Since 1953, the U.S. Army has maintained a large deterrent force in South Korea. In the mid-1970s, Jimmy Carter, first as a candidate, and later as President, announced his intention to remove U.S. forces from the Korean peninsula. Senior military leaders were staunchly opposed to the plan, which they perceived as destabilizing, and because they believed it was based on flawed assessments of the military balance of power on the Korean peninsula. After President Carter removed Maj. Gen John Singlaub, Chief of Staff for United States Forces Korea, for his public opposition to the withdrawal plan, military officers adopted bureaucratic approaches to block Carter's policy. These measures included sharply revising upward intelligence threat assessments of North Korea, and engagement with Congressional members opposed to Carter's plan.
Opposition efforts were successful, and President Carter's decision in 1979 to suspend the troop withdrawal highlights a successful case of military, particularly Army, opposition to official policy. Although Carter demonstrated his official power by relieving Singlaub, he was less successful in managing the defense bureaucracy, which was able to refine, select and distribute data that supported their argument. This episode illustrates a fundamental tension between the desire of the military profession to define their identity as the primary "experts" in defense policy, while at the same time being members of a hierarchical organization. Army leaders believed they had definitive expertise in defining the North Korean threat and a unique skill set that allowed them to evaluate Korean security policy, and which they were not willing share with other government agencies, or even elected officials.
Lisa Mundey, University of St. Thomas
Leonard Wong, U.S. Army War College
William Donnelly, U.S. Army Center of Military History
Participant's Paper Title: Integrity and U.S. Army Readiness Reporting, 1946-2000
Participant's Paper Abstract: At the end of World War II the United States was a global superpower with troops stationed around the world, and the General Staff quickly found it needed a system for monitoring the status of these far-flung units. In 1946, it instituted for the first time a readiness reporting system. The service repeatedly revised its methods for assessing readiness over the decades and one reason for these revisions was to maintain the integrity of reporting. By the end of the Korean War, readiness reports (and other methods for assessing units) had created an unintended effect: the widespread perception within the officer corps that these reports were used as a de facto report card on commanders. At the same time, concern arose that many commanders were indeed shading the truth in order to receive a good grade.
This paper will discuss the perception of readiness assessments as a report card on commanders, measures taken to counter that perception, and why these measure never eliminated either that perception or concern that many commanders were not making honest assessments of their unit's readiness. Sources used will include Army records, oral histories, memoirs, personal papers collections, and contemporary publications.
Ryan Carpenter, Historical Office of the Secretary of Defense
Participant's Paper Title: Budgeting for the Buildup: Caspar Weinberger, the Pentagon, and the Establishment of the Defense Resources Board
Participant's Paper Abstract: The election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 signaled the continuation of increased defense spending that had begun under the Carter administration. What was less clear, however, was how the increased Pentagon budgets would be spent. Frustrated by limited civilian controls in the budgeting and acquisition process, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger elevated the Defense Resources Board. Created in 1979, the DRB was initially only responsible for oversight of the Programming and Budgeting side of the DoD's Planning, Programming, and Budgeting System. Under Weinberger, the purpose of the DRB grew to include more civilian input at the planning phase and to better match spending priorities to the larger national security strategy. To achieve this goal, Weinberger increased the size of the DRB to include service secretaries, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the commander-in-chief of each geographic command. Finally, the DRB was chaired by Deputy Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci, a seasoned bureaucrat brought into the Pentagon to manage internal processes and handle any disputes between the services over spending priorities. In principal, this was supposed to allow military leaders in the field greater access to civilian leadership and to ensure defense spending was built on policies laid out by the Reagan administration, not parochial interests of the services.
This paper will study the impact of Weinberger and Carlucci's attempts to centralize decision-making within the DRB and the reaction of military leaders to increased civilian oversight. In particular, this study will examine the attempts by members to influence decisions within the DRB and exert influence over spending priorities outside of the Pentagon.