Managing the Military: The Joint Chiefs of Staff and Civil-Military Relations, Sharon K. Weiner

Reviewed by Jessica Blankshain

In academic studies of U.S. civil-military relations, the military is often portrayed as a monolith. Is “the military” responsive to civilian political control? Is “the military” a threat to society? But the military’s internal organization has important implications for civilian control of the military, as Sharon K. Weiner addresses in her new book, Managing the Military: The Joint Chiefs of Staff and Civil-Military Relations. Weiner provides a detailed look at the creation and evolution of the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) in the post–World War II era, with emphasis on the more prominent role of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs after the Goldwater–Nichols reforms of the 1980s.

Weiner situates the evolution of the JCS as part of a long-running battle between the executive and legislative branches over influence in military policy. She argues that members of Congress have generally sought to empower the individual military services (i.e., the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and now Space Force), allowing members to further their parochial interests in weapons systems and military basing and “to pick holes in the president’s defense plans” (5). Meanwhile, the president prefers a more centralized military establishment led by a strong chairman who can keep the services in lin

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