April 19, 2017

Keeping Up Civ-Mil Relations

By Loren DeJonge Schulman and Mara Karlin

James Mattis was sworn in as secretary of defense in what is arguably one of the more fraught periods in civil-military relations in decades.

While civilian control in the United States is based on a solid foundation of history, doctrine, and tradition, civil-military relationships are above all human. And that means they are vulnerable to unrealistic or unmet expectations and perceptions. Simply put, tension invariably infuses these relationships — it’s merely a question of how much and in which way. As such, this relationship should expect strains, some demanding mitigation.

Nearly two decades of (inconclusive) war, serious lapses in the quality of support to our veterans, and a destabilizing budget roller coaster have been some of the major stressors. These are bracketed by a growing disconnect between those who serve, the civilian population, and emerging political factors. A particularly tumultuous election with unprecedented veteran and general officer partisan participation did not stop or mitigate threats of purges of general officers by the Trump campaign. Despite such anti-military rhetoric, Trump eventually faced suspicion that his cabinet was overly militarized and went to bat in support of a waiver for Mattis’s own confirmation. These events, along with an expected, but nonetheless toxic, increase in friction between military and civilian staffs at the Pentagon set the stage for Mattis’ arrival at the River Entrance a few short months ago.

Read the full article at War on the Rocks.

  • Podcast
    • February 19, 2020
    The Overseas Basing Debate, Part 2

    Host Kathleen Hicks continues a discussion with Susanna Blume, Zack Cooper, and Dave Ochmanek on the major debates surrounding U.S. overseas military forces. Listen to the fu...

    By Susanna V. Blume

  • Podcast
    • February 18, 2020
    A Front Row Seat to China's Rise

    How have China's global ambitions sharpened under President Xi Jinping, and how should the United States respond? Dr. Kurt M. Campbell served in the Obama administration as th...

    By Ilan Goldenberg & Kurt Campbell

  • Commentary
    • The New York Times
    • February 12, 2020
    The Iranian Missile Strike Did Far More Damage Than Trump Admits

    Over 100 American soldiers have been treated for traumatic brain injuries following Iran’s missile strike on Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq. The strike came in retaliation f...

    By Loren DeJonge Schulman & Paul Scharre

  • Commentary
    • February 11, 2020
    Navigating the Billions

    Introduction If you have never interacted with the defense budget it can be daunting. The process is made up of dozens of acronyms and the data is spread over thousands of pag...

    By Molly Parrish

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia