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The Position of Secretary of Defense: Statutory Restrictions and Civilian-Military Relations

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[Technical Report, Congressional Report]

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The position of Secretary of Defense is unique within the U.S. government it is one of two civilian positions within the military chain of command, although unlike the President, the Secretary of Defense is not elected. Section 113 of the United States Code states that the Secretary of Defense is to be appointed from civilian life by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. The section goes on to elaborate a key mechanism by which civilian control of the Armed Forces is maintained A person may not be appointed as Secretary of Defense within seven years after relief from active duty as a commissioned officer of a regular component of an armed force. The proposed nomination of General Ret. Lloyd Austin, United States Army, who retired from the military in 2016, to be Secretary of Defense may lead both houses of Congress to consider whether and how to suspend, change, or remove that provision. This provision was originally contained in the 1947 National Security Act P.L. 80-253, which mandated that 10 years pass between the time an officer is relieved from active duty and when he or she could be appointed to the office of the Secretary of Defense. In 2007, Section 903 of the FY2008 National Defense Authorization Act P.L. 110-181, Congress changed the period of time that must elapse between relief from active duty and appointment to the position of Secretary of Defense to seven years.

Subject Categories:

  • Personnel Management and Labor Relations
  • Military Forces and Organizations

Distribution Statement:

[A, Approved For Public Release]