U. S. Army Combined Arms Center Information Paper on American Civil-Military Relations

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U.S. Army Combined Arms Center Information Paper on American Civil-Military Relations

This information paper serves to provide leaders with a reference source to conduct professional development sessions and training and education in their units on civil-military relations. Leaders should also consult chapter 1 of Field Manual 1 (The Army).

The theorists of war have for centuries, at least since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, written about the critical set of triangular relationships that have the greatest influence on the outcome of wars of the defense of sovereigns, particularly those fought among nation states. For any nation, there are three actors in these relationships, (1) the state or the government, (2) the people who established that government and live under its authority, and (3) the armed force the government raised from among the people to defend the nation. This triangular set of relationships is known within political science as the “civil-military relations” of a nation.

As these relationships are played out in the political and social processes of governance within a nation, several decisions come forth, such as:

  • How the army is to be authorized to fight and otherwise controlled by the political structures of the state

  • What kind and size of an army the nation will have, whether it will be professional (all-volunteer) or conscript (drafted)

  • Which citizens may/or must serve in that army

  • What type of operations that army is to prepare for, and what allies they are to prepare with, if any

  • How many resources of what type that army will be given at any point in time

  • How much and by what manner is the military allowed to influence the society it serves

  • How different and how separate that army may be from the society it represents

When the US Army was founded in 1775, many of these relationships had already been established in each of the thirteen colonies, as they had raised and employed their own colonial militias in operations prior to the Revolution. Subsequently with the ratification of the US Constitution in 1778, many of these relationships were codified in law, e.g., the President is the Commander-in-Chief (article 2 section 2), while the Congress is solely responsible to declare war and to raise up and provide for an Army and a Navy (article 1 section 8). Thus the US Army serves under a dual chain of command, being led by both the Executive and Legislative branches of our government, responsible to both their elected and appointed members.

The Foundations and Principles of Action for the Army Profession; Moral Basis for Civil-Military Relations

Thus from the nation’s founding, the US Army’s subordination to civil authority has always been an essential principle of our constitutional system. This principle was exemplified by General George Washington in his resignation to Congress at the close of the Revolutionary War; an act that ensured that his popularity as a national military symbol would not overshadow the power of the new fledgling Congress. Thus, the military profession has long recognized and embraced a tradition of service to country before self. The Constitution, and the laws and regulations emanating from it, recognize the military’s place in protecting freedom and vital national interests, while acknowledging the critical importance of balancing that role by placing it within the context of a constitutional democracy where the people, through their elected representatives, maintain ultimate authority over the government and the military. The Founder’s recognized, and history has proven, that through this system the “blessings of liberty” are best secured. Therefore, civil-military relations are first set on moral principles, ideals, and a trust relationship with the citizenry of America. From this moral basis flows a set of foundations and principles of action for the Army Profession.

Foundations of the Army Profession

The US Army began in a unique way in the world among nations: its officers took an oath of service sworn to defense of a founding Constitution rather than defense of the sovereign or a territory. As outlined above the Army is part of the unbreakable triad of the people, the elected government and its force for defense of the nation. Our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, expressed the Founders’ guidance for the relationships amongst that triad and thereby established the basis for the foundations and principles of action that we hold as a professional Army. These historical origins and the moral underpinnings of our military profession lead the Army service member to affirm by oath and reflect by actions the following realities amongst others:

As a first foundation: the role and the purpose of the US Army.

The United States is a unique and independent sovereign power that exists under social contract with the American People. The existence of the nation and the Army in particular is for the purpose of providing for the common defense and to contribute to the general welfare of its citizens. We support the Republic. The Army has been charged with using force to defend the state’s ability to protect human rights against those who would infringe them. And so, immediately related to the first foundation, is:

The second foundation: the subordination of the Army to civilian authority.

Civilian leaders, duly elected by the people, Congress and the Executive branch, have ultimate authority over the Army. Every volunteer in military service becomes a servant of the nation to do its will, subordinating their own will and some of their rights as citizens to the true faith and allegiance they willingly bear to the Constitution. Members of the armed services yield some portions of their rights to include freedom of speech as servants of the state; at the same time, owing to their moral obligation to speak truth and bear true witness to all their fellow citizens, Army professionals and particularly its leaders must always exercise disciplined candor and avoid political alignments when advising the leaders that they serve under, both political and military. This bedrock of the moral and historic aspects of subordinate military service point to the next foundation:

The third foundation: the trust that the nation reposes in the Army.

By its actions, while engaged in battle and while preparing for battle, the Army earns and must strengthen its bonds of trust with the American people and the nation’s civilian leadership. In all points of its existence through its two centuries, the Army has been granted a trust relationship with the American people that must not be broken: the Army will defend the Constitution and the people of the nation; the people and their leaders will provide every needed support for the Army to fulfill its calling. The relationship is one of trust: people and leaders demand by necessity that the Army must be a profession of reverent national service and servanthood; we are entrusted with the nation’s citizens and the nation’s survival. We are not just another bureaucracy of the government; we are a profession of stewardship of the Constitutional ideals that set our nation apart.

Principles of Action Flowing from the Foundations:

Built upon these foundations, the Army and its members:

--Rigorously and continuously train its members to fight and win America’s wars in support and defense of the Constitution. This is our greatest priority: the development of expert knowledge and the ability to use it with right moral character that sustains excellence in every endeavor, at home and abroad.

--Maintain themselves as a profession of arms. Members of the military obtain and expand specialized technical knowledge, maintain ethics and virtues that are specific to its realm of jurisdiction, self-police their own ranks to maintain standards and certify the performance of each professional, all the while maintaining the unique culture internal to the Army that is needed to develop and sustain our professional and moral standing.

--Strengthen and maintain its trust relationship with the American people by exercising well-defined subordination and candor toward those it serves. Well-defined subordination is the thorough-going submission to elected and appointed civilians of political authority. Candor is the manner in which necessary advisement is respectfully rendered to civilian leadership regarding matters fulfilling of the Army mission in support of national objectives.

For instance, advisement with disciplined candor will mean that interaction toward the elected government officials will be always respectful and focused upon specific details of accomplishing the Army mission. Commentary on matters of political debate as affecting military operations will be absent from advice by military leaders. Never, in any location, should a spirit of rancor, political partisanship, personal commentary or attack upon civilian leaders be present among military leaders or members. Such behavior evidences a lack of professional demeanor.

Both the foundations and principles of action of the Army professional and its ethic are reflected more fully in FM 1 (The Army), chapter 1, “The Army and the Profession of Arms”. The beginning of FM 1 highlights its overarching importance to the sustaining and strengthening of performance of the Army’s mission. Operations are to be waged in a manner agreeing with the wide-ranging legal sanctions that we have historically embraced as a nation; domestically and in the form of international treaties.

The Legal Basis for Civil-Military Relations

Extending from the moral basis for civil-military relationships, a number of laws, codes and regulations have been enacted to make concrete parts of the principles and ideals outlined above. These laws, codes, and regulations exist to provide structure and boundaries for behavior that leads to an effective Army; one that also abides by the foundational principle of subordination to civilian authority. As professionals exercising discretionary judgment, Army Soldiers and leaders should adhere both to these codified rules and to the prior moral foundations from which these rules stem. This is because ultimately, these codifications represent only a small part of the factors that create the trust relationship between the Army, the government and the people. A primary, yet not exhaustive, selection of these laws, regulations, and directives are:

Title 10 US Code, § 3583. Requirement of exemplary conduct

All commanding officers and others in authority in the Army are required to “show in themselves a good example of virtue, honor, patriotism, and subordination”.

Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), 10 U.S.C. § 888, Contempt Toward Officials: prohibits commissioned officers from using “contemptuous” words against the President, Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military departments, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or the Governor or legislature of any State in which the officer is on duty or is present.

Article 133, UCMJ, 10 U.S.C. §933, Conduct Unbecoming an Officer. This article prohibits conduct by a commissioned officer which, taking all the circumstances of the conduct into consideration, seriously compromises the person’s standing as an officer. This could arguably include statements of disloyalty or insubordination directed at the officer’s military and civilian chain of command.

Article 134, UCMJ, 10 U.S.C. §934, Conduct Prejudicial to Good Order and Discipline and Service Discrediting Conduct. This article prohibits conduct that tends to lower the military in the public esteem and applies to both officers and enlisted Soldiers and could be applied to inappropriate conduct targeted toward civilian leadership of the military or their policies.

Chapter 6, DoD Directive 5500-7.R, Joint Ethics Regulation; DoD Directive 1344.10, Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces (19 Feb 2008); and paragraph 5-3, AR 600-20, Army Command Policy (18 Mar 2008); are DoD and Army provisions that prescribe certain political activity by soldiers. These policies and regulations enforce the traditional concept that soldiers do not engage in partisan political activity while on active duty because, in part, doing so undermines the concept of military subordination to civilian authority. Among the types of political activities that the regulations permit are registering and voting, making contributions to candidates and, also, attendance at political meetings and rallies as a spectator when not in uniform. The regulations prohibit soldiers from participating in partisan political activities, rallies, or conventions (participation is more than mere attendance as a spectator); distributing partisan political literature; fundraising for any political candidate or cause in Federal offices, facilities, or on military reservations; and, publishing partisan political articles that solicit votes for or against a political party, candidate, or cause.

18 U.S.Code § 1385, The Posse Comitatus Act, prohibits the use of the military, except in extraordinary circumstances, to enforce civilian law. The law is a fundamental and powerful affirmation of military subordination to civil authority. Other parts of the United States Code criminalize using the military for political purposes, these include (§ 592) No assembling of troops at polls, (§ 593) No election interference by armed forces, (§ 596) No polling of armed forces, and (§ 609) No use of military authority to influence votes of other military members.

5 U.S. Code §§ 7324-27, the Hatch Act, prohibits engaging in political activity on duty, in office space, while wearing a uniform or indicia of government position, etc.

DoD Directive 1344.10, para., prohibits partisan political signs, posters, banners, or similar devises visible to the public at on-post residences, even if part of a privatized housing initiative.

For CG CAC: COL Hannah, Director ACPME/(845)938-5945/sean.hannah@usma.edu

Additional reference materials are available through CAC’s Army Center of Excellence for the Professional Military Ethic (ACPME) website at HTTPS://WWW.US.ARMY.MIL/SUITE/PAGE/611545.

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