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The U. S. Constitution and the Army Officer

There are several instances where the United States Constitution directly affects an officer in the United States Army. The first situation has to do with the very existence of the army itself. It was actually the constitution of the land that gave the army its reason for being. The U. S. Congress created the army by virtue of the powers granted by Section 8, Article I of the United States Constitution.

Among others, Congress was empowered to: “declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water; raise and support armies; provide and maintain a navy; make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces; provide for calling forth the militia; [and] provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United State” (Powers). Simply put, it was the constitution, through Congress, which made it possible for an American to become a soldier and guarantee his/her salaries and compensations.

However, the power to declare war and send him/her to his death rests on the constitution and Congress as well. Another instance where the Constitution becomes relevant to an army officer concerns the matter of military justice. The laws governing the U. S. military justice system were primarily derived from the United States Constitution. The other sources are the international law and treaties, executive orders, and other laws relevant to the military establishment.

The “Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)” which was passed by the U. S. Congress pursuant to its authority under the constitution, and the decisions of the military courts also form part of the laws governing the military justice system (Powers). The justice system for the United States military was specifically provided for under the constitution. The Fifth Amendment expressly stated that “no person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger.

” This provision effectively enabled the creation of a separate system of judicial process for members of the U. S. military forces. Hence the decision of a citizen of the country to voluntarily enlist in the United States Armed Forces carries with it his/her personal choice to be subjected to this distinctive justice system which was created specifically for the United States Military. While this military justice system is analogous to the American justice system in some respects, it could be drastically different in other areas.

For instance, an act which does not constitute a crime under the civilian judicial system of the country (like arriving late for one’s work) may be considered criminal under the military justice system depending upon the circumstances involved. Secondly, while the underlying purpose of the country’s justice system is to see to it that justice is properly dispensed, the military justice system primarily aims to serve as a tool that would enable the military commander “to enforce good order and discipline” (Powers).

Finally, the U. S. Constitution vested upon the President of the United States the authority to act as the Commander-in-Chief of all the armed services of the country – this includes the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force, including the militias when activated to serve the country. This presidential authority includes the power of appointing the officers of the different services of the United States Armed Forces subject to the concurrence of the Senate of the United States.

(Powers) In other words, this is the strongest link yet of the army officer with the constitution of the land because it has empowered the President to be his/her Commander-in-Chief, occupying the highest position in the chain of command who commissions all the officers of the armed forces. The President, as Commander-in-Chief, is also authorized “to promulgate Executive orders and service regulations to govern the Armed Forces as long as they do not conflict with any basic constitutional or statutory provisions.

” This presidential authority resulted to the promulgation of the “Manual for Courts-Martial” on May 31, 1951 implementing the “Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)” which, in turn, formed part of the laws which now govern the United States military justice system (Powers). Although the constitutional authority to declare war rests on Congress, history is replete with cases where the President was able to send men to battle after obtaining congressional authority to “use force” and “commit troops. ” The more notable situations were the Vietnam War, the invasion of Iraq, and the 9/11 terrorist attack.

The President was authorized by Congress to commit American troops to the war in Vietnam by virtue of “The Tonkin Gulf Resolution. ” Another congressional authority was granted the President of the country in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons…” (Dorf).

The authority to invade Iraq, on the other hand, was obtained via a 296-133 and a 77-23-vote majority decisions in the House of Representatives and the U. S. Senate, respectively. The only requirement imposed by Congress was to be notified by President Bush before the attack or within 48 hours of the invasion that diplomacy not only failed but no longer stood any chance of succeeding, and then assure Congress that the action would in no way adversely affect the U. S. war on terror (Abrams).

The relationship between an army officer and the constitution is best embodied in the commissioned officer’s oath which says, in part:”…I…solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States…” (Center of Military History). Clearly, therefore, a United States Army officer exists because of, and for, the United States Constitution.

Works Cited

Abrams, Jim. “Congress gives Pres. Bush authority to invade Iraq. https://www.thebalance.com/miliary-justice-101-3354202

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