The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article II, Section 2, Clause 1: "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the
United States, and of
the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the …." This provision in the Constitution gives the
President the authority to control the nation's military forces during war or
peace. United States
"The constitutional authority of the President to serve as commander in chief of the army and navy cannot be diminished by the Congress. In the Constitutional Convention it was proposed that a restriction be placed upon the President so that he could not lead an armed force in the field; however, this was rejected. In practice no President has led an army or commanded a navy as such, but the Secretary of Defense carries out the wishes of the commander in chief….
"In war time much of the `war power' of the Congress is delegated temporarily to the President as an emergency measure…. Today, the federal government is engaged in a vast array of activities which are not covered in the Constitution but were initiated during a war or other emergency." (See W. Cleon Skousen in The Making of
- The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, pp. 539-540.) America
"Few constitutional issues have been so consistently and heatedly debated by legal scholars and politicians in recent years as the distribution of war powers between Congress and the President. As a matter of history and policy, it is generally accepted that the executive takes the lead in the actual conduct of war. After all, a single, energetic actor is better able to prosecute war successfully than a committee; the enemy will not wait for deliberation and consensus. At the same time, the Founders plainly intended to establish congressional checks on the executive's war power. Between these guideposts is a question of considerable importance: Does the Constitution require the President to obtain specific authorization from Congress before initiating hostilities?
"Article II, Section 1, Clause 1, vests the entirety of the `executive Power" in a single person, the President of the
. By contrast, under Article I Congress enjoys
only those legislative powers `herein granted.'
Scholars generally agree that this vesting of executive power confers
upon the President broad authority to engage in foreign relations, including war, except in those areas in which the
Constitution places authority in Congress.
The debate, then, is over the extent of Congress's constitutional
authority to check the President in matters of war." (See John Yoo and James C. Ho in The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, p.
195.) United States