Sea Story

Someone wrote to suggest that we rename the Defense Department the Department of War, just like it was in the good old days.

I don’t mean to be mean, but that’s the million and sixth time I’ve heard the idea. And it’s not going to happen. Not ever.


Here’s why.

Before 1947, we had two cabinet-level military departments. The same law that divorced the Air Force from the Army gave us the new, united Department of Defense.

Before then, the Secretary of War (even in times of peace) was the cabinet officer in charge of the Army. The Secretary of the Navy was the cabinet officer in charge of — you guessed it — the Navy.

Department of War was the Army. The Department of the Navy was the Navy. And never the twain shall meet. Well, not until a forced introduction by Truman and Congress after WWII. Rather than create a third cabinet bureaucracy for the new Air Force, all three got mushed together in the Defense Department.

Now then, pretend you’re a Navy Admiral, serving today on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. You represent, to the President, to Congress, to your nation, a service with over 200 years of proud, independent tradition. Your service is so independent, you even get your own, private mini army — the Marine Corps.


You, and all your predecessors, have spent your careers defending your traditions, your fleets, your acquisitions, and your budget from Army encroachments. And now some joker wants to come along and re-name the department you serve under with an Army name?

The word that should pop into your head right now isn’t mutiny, it’s barratry. We’d have our entire Naval Officer Corps in full revolt within minutes.


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