Forced conversion: civil-military relations and national security policy in the Carter administration, 1977-1981 Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Mini, John D.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • President Jimmy Carter took the helm as commander-in-chief at an important juncture in American civil-military relations. Civil-military conflict prevailed throughout most of Carter's term primarily because of the president's attempt to exclude Congress from any role in defense policy and budget formulation. Although differing with Carter on many issues, the Joint Chiefs of Staff still proved willing to compromise with their commander-in-chief as well as most of their civilian superiors in the Pentagon. Unanimous support from the Joint Chiefs for the SALT II treaty provided one of the best examples of this willingness to support their civilian superiors. Despite such instances of cooperation between Carter and his military advisors, a military-congressional alliance formed over his four-year term in which key members of the legislature sought to overturn the president on many issues relevant to national defense. Encouraged by frank testimony from the Joint Chiefs expressing their views of weaknesses in Carter's policies and budgets, this military-congressional alliance largely blocked the administration's plans to limit global commitments and economize in national defense. In defeating Carter's plans through a series of end-runs, this military-congressional alliance set the stage for one of the largest peacetime military buildups in the nation's history. Jimmy Carter's bold plans to change national defense policy were defeated and only the most modest of reforms took place. This dissertation details the course of this relationship between the Pentagon, White House, and Congress in a topical chronology that examines three interrelated themes: the civil-military dialogue surrounding the annual defense budget process, how civil-military relations affected and were influenced by the making of national security policy, and finally how specific events requiring close civil-military contact influenced the relationship.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctorate in History in the Department of History."
  • Kohn, Richard H.
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  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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