Legislative Branch

Guide to Senate Records: Chapter 4

Table of Contents

Chapter 4. Records of the Committee on Armed Services and Its Predecessors, 1816-1986

Records of Committees Relating to Defense, 1816-1988 from Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States

Committee records discussed in this chapter:
Records of the Committee on Armed Services, 1947-1968

4.47 One of the major consequences of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 was the merging of the Committee on Military Affairs and the Committee on Naval Affairs into a single committee responsible for defense matters. This new committee was the Committee on Armed Services.

4.48 Under Senate Rule XXV, the committee`s jurisdiction in 1947 included common defense generally, the War and Navy Departments and military and naval establishments (shortly to be reorganized into the Department of Defense), soldiers and sailors homes; pay, promotion, retirement, and other benefits and privileges of members of the armed services; selective service; size and composition of the military services; forts, arsenals, ammunition depots, military reservations, and navy yards; maintenance and operation of the Panama Canal and administration, sanitation, and government of the Canal Zone; conservation, development, and use of naval petroleum and oil shale reserves; and strategic and critical materials necessary for the common defense.

4.49 Most records of the Committee on Armed Services are described at the file-folder or box level in an unpublished finding aid available to researchers at the National Archives. There are 439 feet of records for the Armed Services Committee, 1947-68.

Records of the Full Committee, 1946-1968

4.50 Sometimes referred to as bill files or dockets, the legislative case files, 1947-68 (128 ft.), document committee action on bills and resolutions referred to it. Arranged by Congress and thereunder by type and number, the case files include drafts of proposed bills, staff memorandums, transcripts of hearings (printed and unprinted), committee reports, conference committee reports, correspondence, and, if enacted, a copy of the act as approved by the President. The correspondence is principally that of the chairman and committee staff with other Members of Congress, the Defense Department and other Federal agencies, State and local officials, private organizations, and the general public. Also included are bills in draft form and requests for bills originating in the executive branch and referred to the committee (known as executive referrals), bills proposed but not introduced, and bills referred to other committees.

4.51 The major subjects of the records include military manpower matters (e.g., universal military training, the draft, National Guard and Reserves); military construction; administration of military justice; organization of the military and defense establishments; civil defense; and military spending authorizations.

4.52 Presidential messages and executive communications ("messages, communications, and reports"), 1947-68 (16 ft.), include reports submitted to the Senate either because they were mandated by law or in response to a Senate request made to an executive agency. (Legislative proposals typically found in this series in the records of other committees are instead contained in the series legislative case files, under the heading "executive referrals.") The records are arranged by Congress, thereunder by record type, and thereunder chronologically by date of referral. No records of these types for the 82d and 89th Congresses have been transferred to the National Archives.

4.53 Nominations for promotions in the military service and high-ranking civilian and military positions in defense executive agencies require the advice and consent of the Senate. Such nominations are first referred to the committee, where they are reviewed and reported on for full Senate consideration. The majority of nominations are for comparatively routine promotions, and documentation of these cases is limited to nomination reference and report forms and resumes of each nominee's military service. Armed Services Committee nomination records, 1947-68 (27 ft.), are arranged by session of Congress, thereunder by branch of service, and thereunder chronologically by date of referral. Nominees for higher level military and civilian positions with the defense establishment are in a "special" category. Correspondence and staff memorandums may be included as documentation supporting or opposing such nominees. Testimony held in executive session, endorsements from organizations, committee votes, and other information not made public are closed until 50 years old, but records made public previously are open.

4.54 The committee's executive session and unprinted public transcripts, 1947-64 (61 vols., 14 ft.), contain unprinted transcripts of closed hearings, committee meetings, and public hearings of the full committee and several of its subcommittees, including Real Estate and Military Construction, National Stockpile, and the Malmedy Massacre Investigation (S. Res. 42, 81st Cong.). Each volume is indexed by bill or nomination reference number or miscellaneous topic

Letter from James Forrestal to Chan Gurney
Letter from James Forrestal to Chan Gurney, March 4, 1947
"S. 758" folder, box 46, Committee on Armed Services, Records of the U.S. Senate.
4.55 The correspondence of the committee is arranged by Congress and may consist of as many as four major categories: (1) General correspondence, 1949-68 (166 ft.), arranged alphabetically by person or subject; (2) outgoing letters, 1955-68 (15 ft.), arranged alphabetically by name of addressee or by name of person or organization to whom the letter relates (cross-referenced to the general correspondence); (3) outgoing letters, 1955-68 (8 ft.), arranged alphabetically by name of Senator to whom the letter is addressed or to whom it refers; and (4) outgoing letters, 1957-68 (12 ft.), arranged chronologically by date sent. The correspondence of the committee for the 80th Congress and the alphabetical M through T segment of the general correspondence for the 82d Congress are not included among the records transferred to the National Archives. The correspondence file for the 83d Congress, when Leverett Saltonstall of Massachusetts was chairman, is far less voluminous than that for other Congresses. For the 84th Congress, there is an additional file of letters sent to Defense Department officials. These records, with the exceptions noted above for the 82d-83d Congresses, are comprehensive in their subject coverage. In addition to incoming and outgoing letters, the general correspondence includes staff memorandums and reports, associated reference material, and other records of the full committee and several of its subcommittees.

4.56 Distinct from the general correspondence files is a series of correspondence relating to war crimes investigations, 1949-50 (5 in.). The records consist of correspondence of Chairman Millard Tydings and committee staff regarding the investigation of World War II war crimes, particularly the Malmedy Massacre at the Battle of the Bulge. Closely related material is contained in the records of the Subcommittee on the Investigation of the Malmedy Massacre Trials.

4.57 The Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force reported to the committee from time to time on various construction and real estate transactions for the armed services. An act of September 28, 1951, authorizing the Departments and the Civil Defense Administration to acquire real property and construct facilities, required the secretary of a military Department and the Civil Defense Administrator to reach agreement with the Armed Services Committees of both Houses on each acquisition (by purchase or lease) and disposal of real property valued at more than $25,000 per year (raised in 1960 to $50,000). The Departments regularly reported such transactions to the committee for approval; they reported smaller transactions for information purposes only. The resultant records relating to military construction, 1951-60 (12 ft.), are filed in two segments (82d-86th Congresses and 86th-89th Congresses), and into two types (reports, 1951-65, and correspondence, 1951-60). The reports are arranged by service branch, agency or type of facility, type of report (acquisition or disposal), and project number or date; they include tabulations, lists, and related correspondence. The 1951-58 correspondence is arranged by subject or name of military base; the 1959-60 correspondence by service branch or type of facility.

4.58 Resolutions of State legislatures predominate in the series petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures referred to the Committee, 1953-64 (10 in.). No such records for the 80th-82d and 89th-90th Congresses have been transferred to the National Archives.

4.59 Published at the end of each session are the committee's final legislative calendars, 1947-68 (5 in.). These publications summarize legislative action on each bill and resolution referred to it. The calendars for the 87th Congress are missing. Also included are calendars for the Committee on Military Affairs, 1937-46; the Committee on Naval Affairs, 1943-46; and calendars after the 90th Congress.

4.60 Also among the records of the committee are personnel records, 1947-68 (2 ft.). The records include confidential reports of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Atomic Energy Commission relating to staff security clearances, copies of committee personnel reports to the Secretary of the Senate, resumes, and related correspondence. Individual personnel files on staff members through 1981 are also included, but they are closed for 50 years from date of creation.

Records of Subcommittees, 1946-1968

4.61. Records of only three subcommittees of the Armed Services Committee have been transferred to the National Archives as distinct bodies of material. The records are described below.

Subcommittee on the Investigation of the Malmedy Massacre Trials

4.62 In March 1949, pursuant to S. Res. 42, 81st Cong., the committee appointed a subcommittee, chaired by Raymond E. Baldwin and including Lester C. Hunt and Estes Kefauver, to examine the investigative and trial procedures used by the U.S. Army in prosecuting German soldiers charged with the massacre of U.S. soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944, near the town of Malmedy, Belgium. The subcommittee was established in response to charges that the Army had used unfair procedures in finding the defendants guilty of war crimes. The records, March-December 1949 (5 ft.), include original and printed copies of the hearings transcripts, the committee report, correspondence of Chairman Baldwin with witnesses and lawyers appearing before the subcommittee, petitions of the defendants for reconsideration of their sentences, defendants' physical examination reports, and reference material including newsclippings, photographs, and instructional materials on trial procedures.

Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee

4.63 Also during the 81st Congress, the Senate established on June 22, 1949, pursuant to S. Res. 93, a "watchdog" or oversight subcommittee for matters within the jurisdiction of the Armed Services Committee, known as the Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee. The only records of this subcommittee that have been transferred to the National Archives as distinct series are records of an investigation of Alaskan defenses, 1950-51 (1 ft.), and administrative records, 1950-55 (2 ft.). The records relating to Alaskan defense document an investigation by the subcommittee's Alaska Task Force, made up of Lester C. Hunt, Wayne Morse, and Leverett Saltonstall. Included are correspondence of the chairman and staff with public officials, including the Governor of Alaska, and informational material and photographs on military construction, highways, water, housing, labor, and natural resources. The Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee's administrative records include a report on the functions and organization of the subcommittee. Other information on the activities of the subcommittee may be found in the general correspondence and transcripts of executive sessions and unpublished public hearings of the full committee, and in the numerous reports it issued as committee prints.

Subcommittee on the National Stockpile and Naval Petroleum Reserves

4.64 Following a request from President John F. Kennedy and pursuant to S. Res. 295, 87th Cong., this standing subcommittee was asked to study and make recommendations on the national stockpile of strategic and critical materials. Chaired by Stuart Symington, the subcommittee examined Kennedy's contention that the stockpile program, administered by the Office of Emergency Planning and its predecessors and the General Services Administration, was a questionable burden on public funds and a possible source of excess profits. The printed record, issued as a committee print, documents 52 public hearings and is 3,900 pages long. The final report, also a committee print, was issued as a "draft" and contains both the subcommittee's recommendations and opposing views of certain members. The records, February 1962-October 1963 (29 ft.), include minutes of subcommittee meetings, transcripts of executive sessions and public hearings, summaries of testimony, drafts and printer`s proofs of the draft report, press releases, public statements and transcripts of press interviews given by Chairman Symington, and press clippings. There is also a subject file maintained by the chief counsel and a general information file. Correspondence of Symington, the chief counsel, and other staff members is scattered through the administrative and legislative proposal files.

Records of the Full Committee, 1969-1978

4.65 Records usually follow the same arrangement as pre-1968 material, including general correspondence, legislative case files, nomination files, Presidential messages, and executive communications. Subcommittee records are integrated into the overal committee file system and detailed box lists are available as finding aids.

4.66 Recently opened records of the Senate Committee on Armed Services from the 91st through the 95th Congresses document the increasingly active role in defense matters that Congress took during the 1970s. Committee records reveal the forceful role of the chairmanship, John C. Stennis (1969-81), and the committee's expansion of the annual Defense Authorization bill, imposition of new reporting requirements on the Department of Defense, creation of new subcommittees, assumption of new manpower responsibilities, emergence as a force in Senate debates over arms control and treaty obligations, and enlargement of its professional staff. The 140 linear feet of committee records for these Congresses consist primarily of correspondence, memoranda, Department of Defense and military service reports, press releases, speeches, administrative records, agendas, schedules, notes, speeches, and printed material.

4.67 From its creation in 1947, the Senate Committee on Armed Services Committee's records have been arranged by Congress and organized around a stable core of three series -- Legislative Bill Files, Correspondence/Subject File, Nomination Files. These three series remain the most significant ones for the 91st through the 95th Congresses. Other series include Messages, Communications & Reports (91st Congress), Petitions and Memorials (91st Congress), Executive Communications (93d and 94th Congresses), and Military Case Files (95th Congress).

4.68 The Legislative Bill Files series (1969-78) consists of a folder(s) for each bill and resolution referred to the committee and include correspondence between the Department of Defense and the committee; correspondence to and from those testifying at committee hearings; correspondence between committee members and the chairman; correspondence to the chairman from Senators sponsoring floor amendments; correspondence from defense contractors, associations, and organizations with an interest in defense policy; floor remarks of the chairman and ranking minority member; notices to members concerning panel meetings; Department of Defense or General Accounting Office studies of weapons systems or policies that the committee requested; and staff memoranda. Each file folder contains published material relating to a bill or resolution, including a copy of the item as referred to the committee, Senate Armed Services Committee reports, reports of the committee of jurisdiction in the House, conference committee reports, and a copy of the Public Law as passed by Congress and signed by the President.

4.69 The Legislative Bill Files between 1969 and 1978 document the expansion of the annual Defense Authorization bills to include new procurement authority, the setting of average annual active duty personnel strength, determination of military training student loads, the establishment of civilian employment levels of the Department of Defense, and decisions concerning ammunition facilities. The annual Defense Authorization bills and other authorization legislation were the most significant legislative undertaking of the Senate Armed Services Committee because they established funding ceiling for defense categories that under Senate rules the Senate Committee on Appropriations was bound to observe and because they became the point of departure for Senate floor debates on highly controversial weapons systems and defense policies. The Legislative Bill Files document important Armed Services Committee decisions concerning the annual Defense Authorization bills: establishing limits on deployment of the anti-ballistic missile system (SAFEGUARD) for fiscal year 1970 (S. 2546); adopting strict guidelines for the C-5A aircraft for fiscal year 1971 (H.R. 17123); reducing the Armed Forces by 56,000 for fiscal year 1972 (H.R. 8687), cutting funding for destroyers, the Trident submarine-missile system, and the Cheyenne helicopter for fiscal year 1973 (H.R. 15495); reducing active duty forces by 156,000 for fiscal year 1974 (H.R. 9286); increasing funding for research to improve the accuracy of the Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) for fiscal year 1975 (S. 3000); approving $5.4 billion for ship construction for fiscal year 1976 (S. 920); authorizing funds for the B-1 bomber for fiscal year 1977 (H.R. 12438); adding an additional $81.6 million in funding for a nuclear carrier for fiscal year 1978 (H.R. 5970); and increasing funds by $77.5 million for 8 C-130 aircraft for fiscal year 1979 (S. 2571).

4.70 The Legislative Bill Files document other authorization bills that the committee passed from the 91st through the 95th Congresses. The committee passed 10 annual Military Construction Authorization bills that authorized appropriations for construction projects at hundreds of domestic and foreign military installations and defense agencies and for funding of military family housing and reserve facilities. In 1977, the committee passed its first biennial authorization for funding of national security programs in the Energy Research and Development Administration (S. 1339), and in 1978 first authorized appropriations for intelligence after the bill was referred sequentially to the Armed Services Committee following the report of the newly-created Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (H.R. 12240).

4.71 In addition these authorization bills, the Legislative Bill Files document other significant defense bills that the Senate Armed Services Committee reported and that became law. The Legislative Bill Files are particularly rich sources for examining the emergence of the Selective Service System as a central issue in United States politics in the late 1960s and 1970s and the congressional struggle to replace the Draft with an All-Volunteer Force. The Legislative Bill Files document the committee's 1969 decision to report an amendment to the Selective Service Act of 1967 providing authority for the President to institute a Draft Lottery System (H.R. 14001). In 1971, the committee took a major step in the evolution from the Selective Service System to the All-Volunteer Force when it reported a bill (S. 427) extending the Draft for only two years and providing increases in pay and compensation for military personnel. In 1972, the committee reported a bill (S.1916) that provided housing allowances for armed services junior enlisted men and their families and other dependents. When the committee in 1975 reported a bill (S. 2115) granting the President increased flexibility to activate the reserves, the nation moved toward the Total Force concept embodied in the Reserve Act of 1976.

4.72 In addition to bills referred to the Armed Services Committee, the Legislative Bill Files consist of material associated with Senate resolutions concerning defense or the committee's jurisdiction. For example, the committee's records for the 94th Congress include four containers of material relating to Senate Resolution 400 that led to the creation of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the loss of some of the Senate Armed Services Committee's jurisdiction over intelligence. These valuable records detail the committee's efforts to defend its jurisdiction and its success in retaining authorization responsibility for intelligence with military applications.

4.73 For each session of Congress, the Legislative Bill Files also include resolutions that the Armed Services Committee submitted to the Committee on Rules for approval of its budget. Material in these folders document the goals, resources requirements, staffing needs, work plans, priorities, procedures, and organization of the committee and are some of the most valuable records for tracing the committee's history.

4.74 The Correspondence/Subject Files consist of 64 linear feet of records and, for the 91st through the 95th Congresses, are the most voluminous series of Senate Committee on Armed Services records. The Correspondence/Subject Files consist of a wide variety of material dealing with all committee activities, powers, and responsibilities other than legislative and nominations. This series is of extraordinary value in documenting the relation of Congress with the Department of Defense and the military services; the role of public opinion and constituents in the making of defense policy; the role of the committee chairman, members, and staff; and the organization, operation, and administration of the committee as an institution.

4.75 Researchers will find a large volume of letters, memoranda, reports, published materials, press releases, speeches, schedules, agenda, and administrative material (vouchers, contracts, receipts, etc.) in this series.

4.76 Although this series is divided into separate Correspondence Files and Subject Files for the 92d Congress, incoming, outgoing, and internal correspondence are merged with alphabetically arranged subjects in a coherent series for the 91st, 93d, and 94th Congresses. For the 95th Congress, significant material relating to the military services are removed from the Correspondence/Subject Files and set aside in newly-created Military Case Files. For the 95th Congress, subject categories are merged in Correspondence Files.

4.77 Correspondence/Subject Files are organized by Congress and arranged alphabetically by subject. The Correspondence/Subject Files's alphabetically arranged folder titles include documents that reflect the perennial concerns of the committee: Academies, Base Closure, Central Intelligence Agency, Medals and Decorations, NATO, Panama Canal Zone, Procurement, Retirement, ROTC, and Travel. Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Navy are significant subjects that include a wealth of documentation relating to each military service. These subjects are further subdivided into folder titles--Contracts, Court Martials, Discharges, Promotions, Reports, and Transfers--for each military service.

4.78 In addition to these reoccurring subjects of this series are folder titles that indicate materials documenting the Armed Services Committee's concern with or action on particular subject for a limited number of Congresses: Cambodia (91st and 92d Congresses); Cambodian Bombing (93d Congress); MIA (94th Congress); My Lai Incident (91st and 92d Congresses); Pentagon Papers (92d Congress); Pueblo (91st Congress); Prisoners of War (91st through 94th Congresses); Viet Nam Weekly Casualty Report (91st Congress).

4.79 The Correspondence/Subject Files are rich sources for documenting significant hearings and investigations that were not related to the committee's exercise of its legislative powers. For example, Chairman Stennis declared weapons procurement a committee priority and held the panel's first in-depth investigation of the procurement process in a series of hearings in the 91st and 92d Congresses. The Procurement and Contracts folders of the Correspondence/Subject Files for those Congresses contain material on topics investigated in the Procurement Hearings. Similarly, the Correspondence/Subject Files of the 92d Congress contain records that supported the committee's investigation of alleged violations of the rules of engagement in the air war over North Vietnam (Lavelle Investigations folder) and the 93d Congress investigation of unauthorized bombing of Cambodia (Cambodian Bombing folder).

4.80 The Correspondence/Subject Files detail the growing importance of the professional staff of the committee during the 1970s. Of particular interest are the staff files of the first two staff directors of the committee, T. Edward Braswell, Jr. (1969-76) and Francis J. Sullivan (1977-78), who were responsible for implementing the chairman's priorities and directing the day-to-day operations of the committee. The Braswell and Sullivan staff files are particularly rich sources for significant institutional developments affecting the powers of the Armed Services Committee. For example, these files feature memos that monitor in detail the origin of the Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 requirements as they related to defense functions and the committee's initial response to the new congressional budget process.

4.81 All promotions in the military service and the highest ranking, Presidentially-appointed civilian and military positions in the defense executive agencies (primarily the Department of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the military services) require the advice and consent of the Senate. The records relating to the Senate Armed Services Committee's promotions and nominations are in the Nomination Files. For the 92d Congress, for example, the Armed Services Committee's Nomination Files contain documents relating to 16 top-level Presidential nominations that the committee acted upon in the first session and 12 in the second session. In addition, the Nomination Files document the committee's routine action on 47,000 nominations for military promotion in the first session and 63,000 considered in the second session. Correspondence, staff memorandums, testimony received in executive sessions, endorsements from organizations, committee votes and other information are found in the Nomination Files. Unless the committee specifically makes such material public, documents in the Nomination Files are closed to the public for 50 years after their creation.

4.82 In addition to records discussed in these files, the Senate Committee on Armed Services has archived all committee publications--hearings, reports, and prints--beginning with the 80th Congress (1947-48). The published materials of highest research value include Summary of Activities that are published as committee prints for selected sessions of the 91st through 94th Congresses and as committee reports by Congress beginning with the 95th Congress. Equally valuable for exploring the committee's records are bound, final editions of the committee's Legislative Calendar beginning with the 80th Congress.

Table of Contents

Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to the Records of the United States Senate at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-42). By Robert W. Coren, Mary Rephlo, David Kepley, and Charles South. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989.