47.06.20B (1135w) SPEECH TO THE GRADUATES OF THE NATIONAL WAR COLLEGE 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 2 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. 3 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 4 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 participation. 5 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 commandant.