Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Dubious Joys of Civilian Oversight

Today in 1861, Congress passed the legislation creating the Committee on the Conduct of the War. Set up as a reaction to the defeat at Ball's Bluff, the body remained in existence for the rest of the war. This was an early example of Congress asserting its oversight power over the Executive and the military. On its face, it must have seemed like a good idea. In reality, the Committee played little constructive role in the war. Congress, in general, was largely a nonplayer in the Civil War.

Civilian oversight can play a constructive role in wartime. This was especially true for the Truman Committee during World War II. General George C. Marshall told then-Senator Truman, "Your committee was worth two divisions to me."

So civilian oversight can help a war effort. It just depends on who does the overseeing.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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