The National Security Act of 1947 created a national military establishment headed by a single Secretary of Defense. The legislation had been a year-and-a-half in the making—beginning when President Truman first recommended that the armed services be reorganized into a single department. During that period the President’s concept of a unified armed service was torn apart and put back together several times, the final measure to emerge from Congress being a compromise. Most of the opposition to the bill came from the Navy and its numerous civilian spokesmen, including Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal. In support of unification (and a separate air force that was part of the unification package) were the Army air forces, the Army, and, most importantly, the President of the United States.

Passage of the bill did not bring an end to the bitter interservice disputes. Rather than unify, the act served only to federate the military services. It neither halted the rapid demobilization of the armed forces that followed World War II nor brought to the new national military establishment the loyalties of officers steeped in the traditions of the separate services. At a time when the balance of power in Europe and Asia was rapidly shifting, the services lacked any precise statement of United States foreign policy from the National Security Council on which to base future programs. The services bickered unceasingly over their respective roles and missions, already complicated by the Soviet nuclear capability that for the first time made the United States subject to devastating attack. Not even the appointment of Forrestal as First Secretary of Defense allayed the suspicions of naval officers and their supporters that the role of the U.S. Navy was threatened with permanent eclipse. Before the war of words died down, Forrestal himself was driven to resignation and then suicide.

By 1948, the United States military establishment was forced to make do with a budget approximately 10 percent of what it had been at its wartime peak. Meanwhile, the cost of weapons procurement was rising geometrically as the nation came to put more and more reliance on the atomic bomb and its delivery systems. These two factors inevitably made adversaries of the Navy and the Air Force as the battle between advocates of the B-36 and the supercarrier so amply demonstrates. Given severe fiscal restraints on the one hand, and on the other the nation’s increasing reliance on strategic nuclear deterrence, the conflict between these two services over roles and missions was essentially a contest over slices of an ever-diminishing pie.

Yet if in the end neither service was the obvious victor, the principle of civilian dominance over the military clearly was. If there had ever been any danger that the United States military establishment might exploit, to the detriment of civilian control, the goodwill it enjoyed as a result of its victories in World War II, that danger disappeared in the interservice animosities engendered by the battle over unification.

1. The author makes all of the following points about the National Security Act of 1947 EXCEPT
(A) It provided for a single Secretary of Defense.
(B) The legislation that came out of Congress was a compromise measure.
(C) The legislation was initially proposed by President Truman.
(D) The Navy opposed the bill that eventually became law.
(E) The bill was passed to help the nation’s demobilization effort.

2. Which of the following best describes the tone of the selection?
(A) Analytical and confident
(B) Resentful and defensive
(C) Objective and speculative
(D) Tentative and skeptical
(E) Persuasive and cynical

3. According to the passage, the interservice strife that followed unification occurred primarily between the
(A) Army and Army air forces
(B) Army and Navy
(C) Army air forces and Navy
(D) Navy and Army
(E) Air Force and Navy

4. It can be inferred from the passage that Forrestal’s appointment as Secretary of Defense was expected to
(A) placate members of the Navy
(B) result in decreased levels of defense spending
(C) outrage advocates of the Army air forces
(D) win Congressional approval of the unification plan
(E) make Forrestal a Presidential candidate against Truman

5. According to the passage, President Truman supported which of the following?

I.    Elimination of the Navy
II.    A unified military service
III.    Establishment of a separate air force

(A) I only
(B) II only
(C) I and II only
(D) II and III only
(E) I, II, and III

6. With which of the following statements about defense unification would the author most likely agree?
(A) Unification ultimately undermined United States military capability by inciting interservice rivalry.
(B) The unification legislation was necessitated by the drastic decline in appropriations for the military services.
(C) Although the unification was not entirely successful, it had the unexpected result of ensuring civilian control of the military.
(D) In spite of the attempted unification, each service was still able to pursue its own objectives without interference from the other branches.
(E) Unification was in the first place unwarranted and in the second place ineffective.

7. According to the selection, the political situation following the passage of the National Security Act of 1947 was characterized by all of the following EXCEPT
(A) a shifting balance of power in Europe and in Asia
(B) fierce interservice rivalries
(C) lack of strong leadership by the National Security Council
(D) shrinking postwar military budgets
(E) a lame-duck President who was unable to unify the legislature

8. The author cites the resignation and suicide of Forrestal in order to
(A) underscore the bitterness of the interservice rivalry surrounding the passage of the National Security Act of 1947
(B) demonstrate that the Navy eventually emerged as the dominant branch of service after the passage of the National Security Act of 1947
(C) suggest that the nation would be better served by a unified armed service under a single command
(D) provide an example of a military leader who preferred to serve his country in war rather than in peace
(E) persuade the reader that Forrestal was a victim of political opportunists and an unscrupulous press

9. The author is primarily concerned with
(A) discussing the influence of personalities on political events
(B) describing the administration of a powerful leader
(C) criticizing a piece of legislation
(D) analyzing a political development
(E) suggesting methods for controlling the military

Highlight to see answers: 1. E 2. A 3. E 4. A 5. B 6. C 7. E 8. A 9. D

Please post your explanations in the comments below!

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