• Thanks for stopping by. Logging in to a registered account will remove all generic ads. Please reach out with any questions or concerns.

Clean House at the Pentagon

Blackadder1916

Army.ca Veteran
Reaction score
985
Points
1,060
FJAG said:
I stand corrected as I just looked at the oath on enlistment.

The lawyer in me makes me wonder why there is a difference. I presume that the enlistment oath still holds after commissioning.

:cheers:

According to a Marine, not necessarily.

https://www.quantico.marines.mil/news/news-article-display/article/611510/the-difference-between-oath-of-office-oath-of-enlistment/
The difference between Oath of Office, Oath of Enlistment

Marine Corps Base Quantico --Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson willingly disobeyed a commander%u2019s orders and even threatened to open fire on American troops when he saved the lives of at least 10 Vietnamese civilians during the My Lai Massacre.

Not only was Thompson never punished for disobeying orders, but he was later awarded the Soldier%u2019s Medal for his courageous actions.

If the orders given that day had been lawful he could have faced court martial or even charges of treason under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The My Lai Massacre was not the first or the last time a military force would be misused or corrupted. This type of power abuse is what the UCMJ and Oath of Office were designed to prevent and also what allowed Thompson to do the right thing without punishment.

There is an important difference to understand when reading the Officers' Oath of Enlistment compared to the Oath of Office.

Both officers and enlisted service members swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, but in the Oath of Enlistment, service members swear they will %u201Cobey the orders of the president of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over [them], according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.%u201D

Officers do not include this in their Oath of Office.

Instead, they swear to support and defend the constitution and %u201Cwell and faithfully discharge the duties of [their] office.%u201D

Why are the two oaths different and what does it mean that officers do not swear obedience to the president or higher ranking officers? This concept traces back to the intentions of the Founding Fathers who created our governing system with a separation of powers and series of checks and balances between the three branches. This ensures no single branch or person gains too much power and becomes corrupted. By swearing allegiance to a set of ideals and laws, our military is not bound by the orders of a single person, but are dedicated to the defense of the people and their way of life.

Despite disobeying orders and even threatening to open fire on American troops, Thompson%u2019s actions prevented further war crimes and defended the lives of noncombatants in Vietnam. This is the purpose behind the Oath of Office allowing for the disobedience to unlawful orders.

The obligation and responsibility to act against unlawful orders is not exclusive to officers. Article 90 of the UCMJ states that service members are only obligated to obey lawful orders. This gives authority to small unit leaders and even riflemen to use their judgment to serve honorably and disobey orders when they do not uphold the moral standards of our service. Not only does this act as a safeguard to corruption and abuse of power, but it also develops a sense of responsibility and leadership at all levels of command.

If this is the case, however, then why is the distinction made between the two oaths when both enlisted and officers are not obligated to follow unlawful orders according to the UCMJ?

Officers, especially at higher ranks, have a unique position of authority and influence within the organization that could be taken advantage of for political gain. Swearing loyalty to the Constitution instead of the president or any other person means that officials cannot manipulate officers in order to gain control over the military and become dictators.

The intent is to ensure our military fights in defense of the people and their way of life instead of being misused for political gain. Article 90 of the UCMJ allows for legal disobedience of unlawful orders for both enlisted and officers.

The officer%u2019s oath acts as another safeguard against power corruption by not swearing obedience to the president or other officials, but rather to the Constitution. As a result of these two, our military is capable of having people like Thompson, who can correct situations where the military is being misused without fear of punishment for their actions.

Giving the individual Marine responsibility for judging orders as right or wrong keeps our service members accountable and helps keeps our honor clean as a professional warfighting organization.

From brief and cursory research, it seems that, depending on the service, the source of the appointment as an officer (academy, ROTC, OCS, etc), and whether one had prior service as enlisted, an American officer may not have have taken the "enlistment oath" (which is for enlisted, i.e. other ranks) but only the "oath of office".

In this paper, from an assistant law professor at West Point, there is some discussion about the difference in oaths.
The Commissioned Army Officer %u2013 Committed By and To The Law
 

tomahawk6

Army.ca Legend
Reaction score
62
Points
530
The US military is supposed to be a-political. There have been times when an officer publicly dissented with the end result of forced retirement. After a career of following orders to not go along with policy surprises me. If a subordinate opposed a policy directive by a senior officer would result in punishment.
 

quadrapiper

Sr. Member
Reaction score
72
Points
330
tomahawk6 said:
The US military is supposed to be a-political. There have been times when an officer publicly dissented with the end result of forced retirement. After a career of following orders to not go along with policy surprises me. If a subordinate opposed a policy directive by a senior officer would result in punishment.
My earlier question re: the National Security Advisor still stands - is he in the chain of command? Otherwise, it appears the general has no new specific direction; just some very senior advisor making noise, and a vague tweet - the latter a means Pentagon has already made clear won't be used for orders.
 

Blackadder1916

Army.ca Veteran
Reaction score
985
Points
1,060
quadrapiper said:
My earlier question re: the National Security Advisor still stands - is he in the chain of command? Otherwise, it appears the general has no new specific direction; just some very senior advisor making noise, and a vague tweet - the latter a means Pentagon has already made clear won't be used for orders.

To be pedantic, neither the National Security Advisor nor the CJCS are in the "chain of command".  They are both advisors to the President.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/163
10 U.S. Code § 163 - Role of Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff

(a)  Communications Through Chairman of JCS; Assignment of Duties.—Subject to the limitations in section 152(c) of this title, the President may—

(1)  direct that communications between the President or the Secretary of Defense and the commanders of the unified and specified combatant commands be transmitted through the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff;
and

(2)  assign duties to the Chairman to assist the President and the Secretary of Defense in performing their command function.

(b)  Oversight by Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff.—

(1)  The Secretary of Defense may assign to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff responsibility for overseeing the activities of the combatant commands. Such assignment by the Secretary to the Chairman does not confer any command authority on the Chairman and does not alter the responsibility of the commanders of the combatant commands prescribed in section 164(b)(2) of this title.

(2)  Subject to the authority, direction, and control of the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff serves as the spokesman for the commanders of the combatant commands, especially on the operational requirements of their commands. In performing such function, the Chairman shall—

(A)  confer with and obtain information from the commanders of the combatant commands with respect to the requirements of their commands;

(B)  evaluate and integrate such information;

(C)  advise and make recommendations to the Secretary of Defense with respect to the requirements of the combatant commands, individually and collectively; and

(D)  communicate, as appropriate, the requirements of the combatant commands to other elements of the Department of Defense.
 

Retired AF Guy

Army.ca Veteran
Reaction score
150
Points
710
tomahawk6 said:
The US military is supposed to be a-political. There have been times when an officer publicly dissented with the end result of forced retirement. After a career of following orders to not go along with policy surprises me. If a subordinate opposed a policy directive by a senior officer would result in punishment.

Isn't that what got MacArthur fired?
 

quadrapiper

Sr. Member
Reaction score
72
Points
330
Blackadder1916 said:
To be pedantic, neither the National Security Advisor nor the CJCS are in the "chain of command".  They are both advisors to the President.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/163
Thanks for the precision!

Was thinking about the chain that, specifically, the CJCS answered to: was pretty sure it boiled down to President and Secretary.
 

PPCLI Guy

Army.ca Fixture
Donor
Reaction score
966
Points
1,040
It is actually an interesting feature of their system that with one notable exception. all the Service Chiefs and Combatant Commanders report directly to either their Service Secretary in the case f the Service Chefs, or to SECDEF for the COCOMs.  None report to the Chairman.  I once heard Dempsey say that "I have the authority to call a meeting - and that is about it..."

The exception is Comd NORAD (who is also a COCOM as Commander NORTHCOM).  He or she has two bosses:  SECDEEF and the Canadian CDS.

Another element of their system that differs from ours is the Service, Joint Staff, and select agencies such as DIA and DLA etc that have Congressional Liaison Offices who interact daily with the Hill, both with elected representatives, and congressional staff.
 

PPCLI Guy

Army.ca Fixture
Donor
Reaction score
966
Points
1,040
tomahawk6 said:
The US military is supposed to be a-political.

And there are times when that is not easy.

Here is a pertinent article this morning from Missy Ryan, who has in depth knowledge of how it is all supposed to work, and great access inside the Pentagon:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/as-election-nears-pentagon-leaders-goal-of-staying-out-of-elections-is-tested/2020/10/14/cbf20c6a-0e2a-11eb-bfcf-b1893e2c51b4_story.html

As election nears, Pentagon leaders’ goal of staying out of elections is tested
Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark Milley have been criticized for appearing alongside President Trump for a photo outside the
By
Missy Ryan
Oct. 14, 2020 at 11:15 p.m. EDT

Pentagon leaders faced renewed challenges in their attempt to steer clear of divisive election politics this week, as events during the final sprint toward the Nov. 3 polls underscore the potential for the military to be thrust once more into the partisan fray.

The issues included a new online campaign ad featuring President Trump in the White House Situation Room flanked by Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — in defiance of norms excluding uniformed leaders from campaign material — and criticism from Democratic lawmakers highlighting Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper’s handling of concerns about possible military involvement in a disputed election.

In the run-up to the vote, Trump has appealed to would-be military voters and cited his record as commander in chief as a reelection credential, as supporters of his opponent, former vice president Joe Biden, seek to brand the president as a callous leader who has blamed his top brass for problems on his watch.

At the same time, Trump has declined to commit to conceding power if he loses, fueling speculation about a disputed outcome and the potential for him to reach for the military as part of an attempt to clinch another term.

Esper, an Army veteran, and Milley, a lifelong soldier, appear intent on shielding the military from the nation’s charged political moment, but the goal has proved challenging given Trump’s penchant for flouting civil-military norms.

From his first days in office, the president treated troop events like campaign rallies, diverted military funds for his border wall project and used the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes to launch his ban on travel from Muslim-majority nations. In rare cases, defense leaders have publicly dissented. More often, they have stayed silent and sometimes sought to push back behind the scenes.

Remaining isolated from politics becomes even more difficult during a charged reelection campaign, said Jim Golby, a former Army officer and Pentagon official who is a senior fellow at the Clements Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

“It’s virtually impossible for the military to come off as not taking a side,” he said. “If they’re silent, they’re seen as complicit. If they speak out, they’re seen as anti-Trump.”

Esper has tried to distance himself from political issues in recent months by keeping a low profile, focusing on executing a military shift toward China and mostly avoiding interactions with the news media. Milley, meanwhile, has spoken repeatedly about the military’s duty to defend the Constitution rather than any particular party or leader.

In an interview with NPR over the weekend, Milley sought to minimize the possibility that the military could be pulled into an election dispute, as experts have warned. While most academics suggest the most likely such scenario would involve the president employing the military to address post-election unrest, Milley appeared to address an assertion that the military could be asked to help arbitrate the result.

“I would tell you that in my mind, if there’s a disputed election — it’s not in my mind, it’s in the law — if there’s a disputed election, that’ll be handled by Congress and the courts,” he said. “There’s no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of a U.S. election. Zero, there is no role there.”

Peter Feaver, a scholar on civil-military relations at Duke University, said the Trump campaign’s decision to run its recent advertisement showing Milley — along with Esper, Vice President Pence and national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien — next to Trump as they oversaw the 2019 military operation that resulted in the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi illustrated the “tone deafness” of Trump’s campaign team to norms governing military involvement in partisan activities.

While presidents seeking reelection, including Barack Obama in 2012, have frequently made reference to their decisions as commander in chief, and shown military personnel in campaign material, Feaver said the inclusion of a senior uniformed officer was especially problematic.

“I’m sure that Esper and Milley are uncomfortable with this and don’t like the appearance, even though they’re not allowed to say it,” Feaver said of the ad. “And I hope they don’t say it, because that will just extend the damage by getting them crosswise with the president.”

Officials said neither Milley nor Esper knew about the ad, which one official said was later taken down, ahead of time.

The ad recalls an incident in August in which several uniformed troops in American Samoa were featured in a Democratic convention video, which resulted in an Army investigation.

Relations between Trump and Esper, Trump’s second confirmed defense secretary, have been visibly strained since June, when Esper spoke out against Trump’s desire to use active-duty military troops to address widespread protests against racism and police brutality. Officials have said Trump has considered firing Esper since then.

Esper has also come in for criticism for appearing to back Trump’s response to those events and later apologized for referring to U.S. cities as a “battle space.”

On Tuesday, Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) and Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), a retired Navy officer, spoke to reporters about what they called Esper’s “vague, unsatisfactory” answers to their questions about the potential for the military to be employed in a disputed election scenario.

In response to extensive questions from the two lawmakers, Esper provided a terse response: “The U.S. military has acted, and will continue to act, in accordance with the Constitution and the law,” he wrote.

Esper’s reply, submitted more than a month after a congressional deadline, differed from the more explicit responses provided by Milley in August.

Slotkin, a former Pentagon official, called on Esper to make a firmer commitment to a peaceful transition of power.

The Pentagon’s chief spokesman, Jonathan Rath Hoffman, said that Esper is “determined for the U.S. military to remain apolitical — as the American people expect.”

“The Secretary will continue to focus on leading the Department in implementing the President’s national security policy by prioritizing the readiness of the force, pivoting to confront emerging powers, and taking care of our men and women in uniform,” Hoffman said in a statement.

Milley has faced his own difficulties in navigating the Trump era. He issued an unusual public apology in June after coming under criticism when he appeared at a photo op alongside Trump outside the White House, in an area that shortly beforehand had been forcibly cleared of protesters by uniformed personnel.
 

Infanteer

Moderator
Staff member
Directing Staff
Donor
Reaction score
3,118
Points
1,160
PPCLI Guy said:
It is actually an interesting feature of their system that with one notable exception. all the Service Chiefs and Combatant Commanders report directly to either their Service Secretary in the case f the Service Chefs, or to SECDEF for the COCOMs.  None report to the Chairman.  I once heard Dempsey say that "I have the authority to call a meeting - and that is about it..."

The exception is Comd NORAD (who is also a COCOM as Commander NORTHCOM).  He or she has two bosses:  SECDEEF and the Canadian CDS.

Another element of their system that differs from ours is the Service, Joint Staff, and select agencies such as DIA and DLA etc that have Congressional Liaison Offices who interact daily with the Hill, both with elected representatives, and congressional staff.

It was an interesting voyage learning how US C2 works.  Of the three primary requirements of a military force - (1) man, train and equip forces for operations, (2) command operations, and (3) provide military advice to political authorities - Canada has consolidated all three into the office of the CDS, and that officer is THE service chief, THE joint force commander, and THE source of military advice to government.  The U.S. system has broken these authorities up three ways between 6 Service Chiefs, 11 COCOMs, and 1 Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
 

dimsum

Army.ca Legend
Mentor
Reaction score
3,349
Points
1,260
Infanteer said:
It was an interesting voyage learning how US C2 works.  Of the three primary requirements of a military force - (1) man, train and equip forces for operations, (2) command operations, and (3) provide military advice to political authorities - Canada has consolidated all three into the office of the CDS, and that officer is THE service chief, THE joint force commander, and THE source of military advice to government.  The U.S. system has broken these authorities up three ways between 6 Service Chiefs, 11 COCOMs, and 1 Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Is it because of the size of the US vs Canadian militaries, or is it a part of their "checks and balances" political system?
 

Infanteer

Moderator
Staff member
Directing Staff
Donor
Reaction score
3,118
Points
1,160
A bit of both.  It's all nested in two events - the Unification struggles in the late 1940s and the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986.  US Services are big and powerful entities and have fought turf wars that make Canadian service silo fights look like child's play.  They have resisted centralization since the end of the Second World War, and these two periods represent the compromises that came out of these bureaucratic battles.  The result is the diffuse and decentralized system of military command you see today.
 

PPCLI Guy

Army.ca Fixture
Donor
Reaction score
966
Points
1,040
And yet they still have offices in Congress.....so they are doing all they can to protect their turf....even if it is sometimes an own-goal (see A-10s and Sen McSally, or M1 Abrams and Rep Mike Turner of Ohio)
 

Navy_Pete

Army.ca Veteran
Subscriber
Reaction score
1,228
Points
1,040
So after almost two pages of comments is that he refused to endorse something that came from a person not in his chain, and then made some general statements that did not actually contradict the tweet from POTUS, but mentioned the actual agreement that is in place and was endorsed by POTUS.

What part of this is refusing to go along with anything? I think the OP is twisting themselves into a pretzel on that one.
 
Top