National Security Act

National Security Act

What is the National Security Act?

The National Security Act of 1947 (Pub.L. 80-235, 61 Stat. 495, codified at 50 U.S.C. ch.15) was an Act of Congress signed by President Harry S. Truman on 26 July 1947, and realigned and reorganized the U.S. Armed Forces, foreign policy, and Intelligence Community apparatus in the aftermath of World War II. The majority of the provisions of the Act took effect on September 18, 1947, the day after the Senate confirmed James Forrestal as the first Secretary of Defense. His power was extremely limited and it was difficult for him to exercise the authority to make his office effective. This was later changed in the amendment to the act in 1949, creating what was to be the Department of Defense.

What did the National Security Act do?

The Act merged the Department of War and the Department of the Navy into the National Military Establishment, headed by the Secretary of Defense. It was also responsible for the creation of a Department of the Air Force separate from the existing Army Air Forces. Initially, each of the three service secretaries maintained quasi-cabinet status, but the act was amended on August 10, 1949, to assure their subordination to the Secretary of Defense. At the same time, the NME was renamed as the Department of Defense. The purpose was to unify the Army, Navy, and what was soon to become the Air Force into a federated structure.

How was the National Security Act used during the cold war?

The Joint Chiefs of Staff was officially established under Title II, Section 211 of the original National Security Act of 1947 before Sections 209–214 of Title II were repealed by the law enacting Title 10 and Title 32, United States Code (Act of August 10, 1956, 70A Stat. 676) to replace them.

The act and its changes, along with the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan, were major components of the Truman administration’s Cold War strategy. The bill signing took place aboard Truman’s VC-54C presidential aircraft Sacred Cow, the first aircraft used for the role of Air Force One.

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