Talk:U.S. Department of Defense

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 Definition The military forces of the United States and their supporting civil servants. [d] [e]


These edits introduce some new information. But they remove some references that seem valid to me. And it removes some referenced material, without explanation.

I wonder whether a discussion of these changes is in order?

Cheers! George Swan 22:55, 10 May 2008 (CDT)

Discussion is always relevant!

First, as to the references, the two that were given appeared to be "explain the U.S. military to non-Americans", presumably issued by the London embassy. Now, as a recent Wikipedia refugee, I have the impression that there is slightly less emphasis on references here, at least in areas that would be well known in the field.

Let me assume references are appropriate on these descriptions of the Department of Defense. If they are, I'd prefer to some that are from more definitive sources, such as the Defense Department itself, or the U.S. laws authorizing the changes in government. Sometimes, the Wikipedia argument about secondary sources being preferred over primary sources baffle me, when the primary source -- such as a law or administrative directive -- is quite precise. In this case, I certainly can point to authoritative sources, such as the actual laws that established the Department of Defense. There are some nuances there; the National Security Act of 1947, usually said to establish the Department, actually did not.

That act created the Department of the Air Force, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Council, and Joint Chiefs of Staff, but created a "National Military Establishment" where the three service secretaries were co-equal. It was 1949 amendments that formally created the Department of Defense and established the primacy of the Secretary of Defense. If we have references, I'd prefer them to be the actual authorizing text, perhaps with some analytical references, but not a general guide.

My changes did deemphasize the history of the War Department, which was deliberate. This is an article about the Defense Department, not its predecessors. I'm perfectly willing to write historical articles about the War and Navy Departments, perhaps with more detail about the changing role of the uniformed military and the Congress in their operation, but I dislike seeing too much historical background in the lead of an article or section about another subject. I'd like the first sentence or so to be about the Defense Department, not the War Department. There probably should be a hyperlink to articles about War and Navy.

It's not quite accurate that the Secretary of Defense is responsible for four armed services. First, there are three main armed services; there is no Department of the Marine Corps or Secretary of the Marine Corps in the Department of Defense organization. While the Commandant of the Marine Corps sits on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Marines are, organizationally, a part of the Navy. I felt that there was insufficient emphasis on the additional authority of the Secretary over the large civilian staff of the Department. Indeed, there might well be at least introductions to some of the significant organizations, under the Department of Defense but not part of a military service, such as the National Security Agency, Defense Information Systems Agency, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, etc.

As far as I can tell, the only material I deleted had to do with the history of the War Department. I also deleted what I considered non-authoritative references, partially substituting the National Security Act, and I'm perfectly willing to add both the Reorganization Act of 1949 and some of the Presidential orders and consultation with the Congress that it required.

Please let me know if I deleted any other significant material. Again, I'm new enough not to understand fully the editor-vs-author-vs-editor authoring, but I believe it would help if there was more agreement on the scope of this article. In particular, I believe there needs to be a discussion of the current structure of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and of the major Defense organizations that are separate (loosely) from the military. When I say "loosely", the challenge is there are both administrative and operational lines of authority. Simplifying a bit, the Defense Information Systems Agency (formerly the Defense Communications Agency) is headed by a three-star military officer, who reports to (unless the name has changed recently) the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence (ASD/C3I). Simultaneously, the DISA director has the lead responsibility for global information warfare (among other functions), reporting to the Commander of the United States Strategic Command. The Director still reports to his own military service for his administration, assignmens, promotions (although this is usually the last job of a career as an information systems specialist).

Howard C. Berkowitz 07:57, 11 May 2008 (CDT)

I also contributed at the wikipedia. Thanks for your long reply. In retrospect you are absolutely correct that the main focus of the article should be about the Department, today. I knew the USMC Commandant sat on the JCS. I didn't know he or she answered to the Secretary of the Navy. The 1947 Act -- prior to it the Secretary of the Navy was a co-equal Cabinet member to the Secretary of War?
Cheers! George Swan 16:11, 12 May 2008 (CDT)
Correct; the Secretaries of War and Navy were co-equal feudal barons responsible government officials of Cabinet rank. Technically, the Commandant of the Marine Corps is only supposed to contribute to JCS discussions on "matters of concern to the Marine Corps", but, in practice, everything is of concern to the Marine Corps.
It wasn't until the 1949 Act when the Secretary of Defense gained clear authority over the co-equal Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force.
Things get even more confused with the Coast Guard, which can be under the operational authority of the Navy. In some cases when Coast Guard and Navy ships are operating together, and the senior officer afloat is Coast Guard, the Coast Guard officer has tactical control. While the Commandant of the Coast Guard doesn't sit on the JCS, it might become an interesting issue; the tradition is that the Vice Commandant steps up to four-star rank, and the current Vice Commandant is a woman, which would presumably make her the first four-star officer more or less in the U.S. military--but not a member of the JCS.
To utterly confuse things, there are two more uniformed services that wear a slightly modified Navy uniform but are not under the Defense Department (except when seconded there): the Public Health Service and the Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.Howard C. Berkowitz 16:25, 12 May 2008 (CDT)
To elaborate, whether the Chief of Naval Operations and Commandant of the Marine Corps answer to the Secretary of the Navy depends on the question:
  • If it is a budgetary or other administrative matter appropriate for the SecNav, yes.
  • If professional military advice is being sought by the President or the Secretary of Defense, prior to the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1968, when the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was the first among equals, the CNO/CMC would report to the President/SecDef. After Goldwater-Nichols, the CJCS is the principal military adviser to the President/SecDef, so the CNO/CMC would report to the CJCS.
  • Of course, if you are President/SecDef, you tend to get whoever you want reporting directly to you. It's hard to imagine the President picking up the phone, calling the CMC, and getting a response of "you'll have to ask the CJCS."
  • In other circumstances, the uniformed service chief may answer to (his) spouse, until there is a female member of the JCS or there really is a great deal more tolerance for same-sex marriages in the military. :-) Howard C. Berkowitz 23:16, 30 May 2008 (CDT)


The department is named "Department of Defense" not the "United States Department of Defense." see Truman's statement on change of name in 1949. The long name will confuse readers, so I suggest we just use "U.S. Department of Defense." Likewise there is no "United States Secretary of Defense." It's just Secretary of Defense and I think there is no other such office with that title.Richard Jensen 01:31, 29 May 2008 (CDT)

Assume "Secretary of Defense" is the correct U.S. term. A problem of disambiguation then remains. Should it be, for example, "Secretary of Defense (United States)" and "Secretary of Defense (Philippines)"? My purely subjective sense is that I would rather be sure to respect the accomplishments of Ramon Magsaysay with a correct title, than, say, Robert McNamara or Louis Johnson.
If the rule is disambiguation, then how do the entries and redirects work? "Secretary of Defense" (unqualified) really would have to go to a disambiguation page. Redirect "U.S. Secretary of Defense" to "Secretary of Defense (United States)"? The latter could also be "Secretary of Defense (U.S.)", but that is somehow more jarring to my eye than "U.S. Secretary of Defense".
I don't have a simple answer. Indeed, as you mentioned in a forum, there are official and scholarly bodies such as (unless its name has changed) the Office of the Geographer at the (U.S.) "State Department". Under Anglo-American Cataloging Rules II, the original and authoritative cataloger of a book, as at the Library of Congress (where I worked for many years), there are "Naming Authority" rules. In principle, the authoritative name on a catalog card is the name that the author used in his or her first publication, which can get messy when a first publication is pseudonymous; there are practical ways to handle this with crossreferences in a catalog record, which is more flexible than a title.
Nevertheless, there is a difference between accepting something as authoritative, as recognized semi-official names (see, for example, the usually 4 names for a country in the CIA World Factbook), and popular usage ("u no, d00d"?). You make a good point that "us" is a word that confuses search engines. There are also cases with no good answer, such as the term to use, from 1900 to 2000, for the country whose capital was variously St. Petersburg and Moscow. Howard C. Berkowitz 06:55, 29 May 2008 (CDT)
So, should I move this to U.S. Department of Defense, or Department of Defense (United States), or what? J. Noel Chiappa 21:54, 30 May 2008 (CDT)
As long as there are appropriate redirects, I suppose [[Department of Defense (United States) makes the most sense. What strikes me as a more difficult problem, which may or may not have a CZ solution, of finding the function in a given country. A USAian, for example, may not know that Canada's equivalent is the Department of National Defence, while the U.K.'s is the Ministry of Defence, et cetera ad infinitum. I'd suggest a page, perhaps, for "National Military Establishments", except the "National Military Establishment" was the term for the initial unified U.S. organization. What about non-English speaking countries?Howard C. Berkowitz 22:00, 30 May 2008 (CDT)
I'd suggest that the Related Articles subpages would take care of this problem. Chris Day 22:22, 30 May 2008 (CDT)
How would you see this working? Would "Department of Defense" (not US) be an article with related articles, or more likely a disambiguation page (or possibly several disambiguation pages, such as Department of Defence, Self-Defense Agency, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Defence, etc., with links to the national agencies?Howard C. Berkowitz 23:05, 30 May 2008 (CDT)
I guess I was thinking that in related articles there would be links to all the equivalent ministries that have articles in citizendium. Wouldn't that qualify as related topics? A similar example might be the related articles for the planets. See Mars (planet)/Related Articles. There is a section where all the other planets are listed. Likewise that section exists on all the other planet related articles pages (although i think they would be more appropriate in the Other related topics section rather than the parent topic section). So the related articles page is easily used as a navigation tool to find similar pages in citizendium. I don't see why the same principle for the planets can't work for all the different departments of defense too. Chris Day 23:18, 30 May 2008 (CDT)
Remaining sentimental and not demoting Pluto, there's the issue that it's not all that hard to put down eight related planet. OTOH, the only country of any significance without a military is Costa Rica, although the militaries of some smaller nations might easily be missed. For that matter, NATO's E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft are painted with Luxembourg's colors, but I'm not sure the country is large enough to land them all. Putting 100-plus (closer to 200) related departments seems a bit much to keep repeating. Howard C. Berkowitz 23:47, 30 May 2008 (CDT)
How about a catalog that can be referred to from all Related Articles of a war topics? I have no idea how dog breeds will be sorted out in the long run but here's a start, Dog/Catalogs. There are always ways to do this sort of thing our only problem is to find the best way. Chris Day 00:27, 31 May 2008 (CDT)
OK, so I should move this to Department of Defense (United States), then? Not U.S. Department of Defense and not Department of Defense (U.S.), or anything else? Speak now, etc... J. Noel Chiappa 12:46, 31 May 2008 (CDT)
I think it will eventually go there, but don't we need to make the contextual decisions first on "Examples and next steps"? You could move this as suggested, with a redirect, but it's a broader problem than the U.S. alone. ...said Howard C. Berkowitz (talk) 12:49, 31 May 2008 (Please sign your talk page posts by simply adding four tildes, ~~~~.)
Separate questions. Yes, we need an overall scheme, but the name of this particular article doesn't depend on it, I don't think. J. Noel Chiappa 14:04, 31 May 2008 (CDT)

Examples and next steps

Chris, is a "catalog" just another tab, or does it have special CZ semantics? Assume that I don't know how any templates or other MediaWiki/WP specific constructs, which might help, work.

There are at least two parts here:

  • How to find a country's military establishment if you don't know its proper name
    • Probable redirects: national language, sort order "French vs. France"
  • How to figure out the major organizations of a country once you know the top-level name.

For the first, see the "Other countries" tab. For the second, see "Related topics", which I am assuming would be country-specific.

I have no ego at stake in doing this any way that it works, but it sounded like we all needed to see some drafts. Howard C. Berkowitz 10:01, 31 May 2008 (CDT)

See also Department of Defense, which now is disambiguation rather than redirect. It has, in different format, the same content as the "Other countries" tab here. Howard C. Berkowitz 10:19, 31 May 2008 (CDT)
We can have U.S. Department of Defense (which emphasizes the US government part) or Department of Defense (U.S.) which is less useful (and emphasizs international comparison). "United States" is not part of the agency's name and should not be included. The Dept itself prefers "U.S. Department of Defense" which seems to work best, with no possible ambiguity. Richard Jensen 14:24, 31 May 2008 (CDT)
The international comparison is definitely useful for worldwide users, given that there is a fairly wide range of names for the cabinet-level organization that controls a country's military. U.S. Department of Defense certainly is a common U.S. and even NATO title, and it can both be in bold in the article as well as a redirect. "Department of Defense" or "Ministry of Defence" without a country seems the only practical method for a disambiguation page title, which can deal with individual variants such as Self-Defense Agency or Department of National Defense.
Again, the page that displays on entering Department of Defense (United States) certainly can display U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), but it also needs to have Department of Defense (United States) somewhere on that page, simply for indexing consistency. Howard C. Berkowitz 15:39, 31 May 2008 (CDT)
agreed. Richard Jensen 16:18, 31 May 2008 (CDT)
the advantage of "U.S. Department of Defense" is that a) it makes for consistency among CZ articles; b) that is the title preferred by the DoD itself.Richard Jensen 15:46, 1 June 2008 (CDT)