June 20, 1947
[Washington, DC]
I am glad to participate in the ceremony this morning
because of the interest I have had for many years in the
organization of a course of instruction with full
representation on the faculty and in the student body of
officers of the Army and Navy, and particularly of the
State Department. Not as a boast but as a mere recital of
circumstances I doubt if there is any individual more
familiar than I am with the unfortunate consequences of the
lack of coordinated thinking and understanding prior to the
war among the leading officials and staffs of the three
Departments. And it does not require any argument, I am
sure, to justify the assertion that such an intimate
understanding and cooperation are of vast importance to the
people of this country.
There is really very little concerning the Army and
Navy outside of technique, training, organization and
logistics that does not directly concern the State
Department, and yet for many years there was little of
understanding and less of contact. I therefore regard with
personal satisfaction the present development of the
National War College.
But it is important to have in mind, however, that
this is but the beginning. The real test of the undertaking
lies in the future. The necessity for keeping carefully in
step with the changing framework in which the national
security must be pursued should be one of the important
concepts as a basis for this institution. There must be
continuity of course and what our experience has found
valuable in the past cannot be disregarded. But it will
require care and foresight to avoid a freezing of the forms
of instruction into stereotyped patterns. Every new
proposal or idea, however, should be subjected to a
critical examination to determine whether or not it is
clearly realistic.
And this brings me to another factor which should
always be given the most careful consideration, and that is
the matter of the expense of any peace-time project. I have
felt that the military departments of the Government did
not devote sufficient time, investigation and effort to the
evolution or development of a system which would provide
the necessary security with the minimum of financial
output. We were forced into stringent economies by drastic
cuts in appropriations, but there is a decided difference
between effecting economies by cuts, particularly under
pressure, and deliberately concentrating on the search for
a system that permits a more economical set up and
operation of an adequate military force.
I think we have erred at times on the side of a too
dogmatic statement of requirements without regard to
whether or not there was a reasonably practical possibility
of obtaining the necessary funds through the years. It is
useless to criticize political leaders for a failure to
provide the necessary funds unless it is evident that the
Departments have not only made the situation clear to the
public, but can affirmatively demonstrate that they have
carefully evolved the most economical method for
maintaining the necessary military strength.
The old War College courses prior to this last war did
not, in my opinion, sufficiently prepare the students for
the purely practical aspects of service in the War
Department. They had a thorough grounding regarding the
world situation, the possibilities for trouble, the basic
requirements which we thought necessary to meet possible
troubles, formal staff procedure, et cetera. But the
graduates on their first assignment to the War Department
General Staff, for instance, were not specifically prepared
for the practical business of how best to present the
military requirements to the Chief Executive and his
Cabinet assistants, and to the committees of Congress. The
papers were usually far too long and were too often couched
in technical terms, understandable to the General Staff,
but both irritating and confusing to the civilian mind.
(Strictly off the record) I recall that in dealing
with President Roosevelt I found it advantageous not only
to make my requests as brief as possible, but actually to
reduce them to a piece of paper about one-third the length
of an ordinary sheet, if I could concentrate the essence of
the problem in that restricted space. I had a letterhead
prepared that was close to the top of the paper so that
when the unused portion of the paper was cut off
immediately below my signature the entire paper was often
no more than five or six inches in length. Now, as a matter
of interest and as the proof of the pudding, I usually got
an “OK, FDR”, and what was also important I got an
immediate decision. My previous experience had been that
the technical General Staff document was seldom read beyond
the first few paragraphs and usually provoked an irritating
response. I found that the same proposal boiled down to the
fewest possible paragraphs generally got favorable and
immediate action. And this is only logical when you
consider the tremendous pressures on a Chief Executive,
particularly in time of war. My experiences with the
Committees of Congress were somewhat similar, exactly
similar so far as condensation of statements was concerned
and the use of a terminology and illustrations easily
understandable to the civilian.
In time of peace the requirements are much the same.
Each year as the collapse of Germany and Japan retreats
further into the background of our thinking, the minds of
the political leaders of our Government will be focused
more and more on political considerations related to the
size of the budget. It will therefore be increasingly
difficult to divert their interest to purely military
considerations and will be more and more difficult to
secure their approval for expenditures which swell the
budget, win no votes and threaten the continuation of the
dominant political party in power. All these matters are
but aspects of democracy and therefore demand our intimate
understanding and close attention. In the language of
Leavenworth we must not fight the problem. We must
concentrate on solving it. Democracy has its difficulties.
But democracy is what we fight for.
In conclusion, I congratulate the class on the
successful completion of this first year’s work. To Admiral
Hill, General Gruenther and to the staff of the College I
extend my best wishes for the future work of the
institution.1 I can assure them that the State Department
will take a lively interest in this institution and will
wish to make the most of its own possibilities for
GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers (Secretary of State, Speeches)
1. Formerly the Army and Navy Staff College, the
school was officially established on July 1, 1946, as the
National War College. Its commandant was Vice Admiral Harry
W. Hill; Major General Alfred M. Gruenther was deputy