There are currently a small group of members of Congress who also serve in National Guard or reserve units. Should that be allowed? Two recent op-eds from the Modern War Institute take opposing views on that question.
In the first, published by the Washington Post, MWI Non-Resident Fellow Maj. ML Cavanaugh writes:
Allowing representatives of the legislative branch to act as officers in the coequal executive branch impedes their ability to make independent judgments about war, violates the spirit of Defense Department guidelines, and flouts the nonpartisan traditions of the military profession.
In a response, at War on the Rocks, MWI Editorial Director John Amble disagrees:
Whether the problem to be solved is ensuring the separation of powers between branches of government or guaranteeing that partisan politics and military service are not mixed, disallowing members of Congress from also serving in the reserve component is a solution. But the better solution is also simpler and more appropriate: Expect and require these individuals to know when they are in each role and to act accordingly. In other words, expect and require our military professionals to be professionals.
What do MWI readers think? Is it possible for citizen-soldiers in Congress to faithfully serve both institutions—our military and our democracy? Is it advisable?
Image credit: Tim Evanson
Matt Cavanaugh's rationale could rapidly find itself extended to any political activity — should an elected county sheriff be allowed to hold a position in his state's National Guard? Should a member of a state legislature with a military base in his district be allowed to hold a position in the Reserve? And this sort of thought could extend to other potential conflicts of interest: should defense civil service or contract employees be allowed to serve in the Guard or Reserve?
It's a fact of life that Reservists and Guardsmen maintain two professional lives. The service Reserve Components actively work to identify and resolve potential conflicts of interest between them, but mostly, it relies on the professionalism of the individuals to make that combination work. Political office is no different from any other potential conflict…if the individual can't resolve it, then they're probably not suited for either role.
Warlock's argument duly highlights that there is a strong ethos within the Profession of Arms regardless of branch or component. However, he fails to recognize that the civilian entities mentioned have no oversight function of the Department of Defense; are central to authorizing and appropriating for our national defense. This is where there is friction in the construct.
If I'm reading this right, the objection is that members of Congress serving as reservists have a conflict of interest when it comes to voting on military matters, like service appropriations or results of promotion boards. Fair enough. That's not exactly the Constitutional disconnect Matt implied in his article, and just like there are solutions for other conflicts of interest, this one could be solved, too.
This involves 3 questions:1. Did the reservist or member of Congress swear an oath of office to the constitution? If they violate such oath they may be guilty of purgery and more. 2. Is a reserve post an office in the US government? If so, they cannot hold office in Congress constitutionally. 3. Does a serving congress member vote on increasing reservist pay between elections? If so, any increase that affects their own reservist pay is unconstitutional.
The Schlesinger ruling clearly states that an officer in the inactive reserve has zero duties to execute, zero authority to exert, and no subordinates to give orders to, no budget to spend, so there is no conflict with congressional service, or service in any other elected office. If they are called to active duty, they should be expected to either resign from elected office, or their commission.
What commander would not write a stellar performance report on a congress person / reservist.
That reservist could on non reservist weekends outrank their reservist commander
Conflict of interest???