The Dept. of Defense was created by the National Security Act of 1947 by combining the Depts. of War and Navy and was called the National Military Establishment; it became the Dept. of Defense when the act was amended (1949). James V. Forrestal pioneered in this reorganization. Under the act, the Secretary of Defense—appointed by the President with the consent of the Senate—supervises the entire military. Under the Secretary of Defense is the Joint Chiefs of Staff made up of its chairperson, a senior military officer, the heads of the three main services, and the Commandant of the Marine Corps. The Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of the Navy, and the Secretary of the Air Force—made cabinet members by the act of 1947—were subordinated (1949) to give the Secretary of Defense full cabinet authority over the department.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.