The Complex: Foundations

Glazener, Shirley
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
Today ultimate authority in United States foreign policy as well as in United States military policy rests in the President, even though in important respects this authority may properly be exercised only with Congressional advice and consent. A pivotal point in the present-day controversy relating to the Complex is the role of the President of the United States in formulating, implementing and directing national and international United States policy. Franklin Delano Roosevelt set important executive precedents in his handling of pre-World War II United States military aid policy toward Great Britain (as, his release of the over-age destroyers), and in his role in the inception and implementation of the Manhattan Project. Certain key Congressmen and top government officials and military leaders were consulted by President Roosevelt; but the exigencies of war (and of tense, competitive world conditions after the war) dictated that only those with a "need to know" be informed. In succeeding years this "need to know" principle has continued to be applied in such a way that many members of Congress as well as high-ranking members of the military hierarchy (as in the case of atomic weapons development during World War II) have sometimes been kept in the dark as to specific United States methods and objectives in determining policy. The effect of this has been to increasingly erode relationships not only between the executive and legislative branches of government, but between government departments (as, State and Defense) as well. The secret gestation and cataclysmic birth of the Atomic Age thus presaged the Complex, not only in a union of science and technology with weaponry, but in setting a precedent of restricted access to the facts of government activity.
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