Do We Need Service Secretaries?

In today’s Washington-Post former Secretary of the Air Force and later Defense Harold Brown proffers a provocative argument that there is no longer a need for the service secretaries e.g Secretary’s of the Army, Navy, and Air Force.  That they are redundant and that the service Chiefs would remain under Civilian Control as they would continue to report to the Secretary of Defense.

Several questions immediately come to mind:

  • Who will be the independent political voice (vice military) who will challenge the programming and budgeting decisions of Department of Defense?
  • Would this result in the diminishing of service parochialism?
  • Would this be the first step toward consolidation of the services?
  • Who would be responsible for providing and ensuring the proper functioning of the services—the Secretary of the Services are charged currently with, “, the Secretary of the Army [sic Navy and Air Force] is responsible for, and has the authority necessary to conduct, all affairs of the Department of the Army, including the following functions:”?  Will this result in the growth of the Department of Defense as organizations are created to handle the myriad of administrative matters currently handled by the Service Secretaries?  Would there truly be a net saving in personnel and cost if this proposal was implemented or would this be another rearranging of the deck chairs?

I am sure there are other questions that others will think of.



  1. Scott Dillard says:

    Having once worked for a Secretary of the Army (an experience I gladly escaped and fled to Fort Riley) the most important (and unstated) function is to defend his department from other political overlords beginning with his fellow service secretaries and ending with Congress and the President. Not all do this well. In my case, the Army needed to be defended from Secretary Cliff Alexander. Bo Calloway, John Marsh, and most of the others were good secretaries as were John Warner and Jim Webb for the Navy, all prepared to resign publicly if necessary. I think Jim Webb was the only one who actually thought necessary in the end.