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Command and control

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Command and control traditionally means "the exercise of authority and direction by a properly designated commander over assigned and attached forces in the accomplishment of the mission. Command and control functions are performed through an arrangement of personnel, equipment, communications, facilities, and procedures employed by a commander in planning, directing, coordinating, and controlling forces and operations in the accomplishment of the mission."- Federal Standard 1037C and from a 1994 draft revision of the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms.

The term has been used to describe the party discipline of the 2003 U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, both of which have a narrow Republican majority that would seem not to constitute a mandate to overturn long standing constitutional requirements for extensive consultation with the legislature.

The Washington Post reports that Rep. John D. Dingell (Mich.), who survived a serious primary challenge last summer to secure his 24th term, said it outrages him that "all decisions now are handed down from the speaker's office." Rep. W. J. Tauzin (R-La.), who holds the gavel on the Energy and Commerce Committee that Dingell headed for years, "could be a really good chairman," Dingell "but they keep him snubbed up on a very short chain. It's a command-and-control operation now, from the top down, just like the military."

While some dismiss such claims as propaganda, it remains that a perpetual war such as the War on Terrorism does require an extreme unity among all U.S. federal government entities, including those with traditional rivalries. It is thus quite credible that a militarized state would employ military techniques for control of information and decision.

In the commercial world, MBA programs also emphasize the need for command and control of capital assets, smaller and smaller just in time inventories, and awareness of mission critical infrastructure and its vulnerabilities, e.g. for disaster recovery. Both George W. Bush and Colin L. Powell have MBAs. It is thus also credible that they would impose measures familiar to them from military and private sector activities, on the civilian legislature - especially if they felt themselves threatened.

Nor is this imposition of military and corporate command structure restricted to squelching Democratic objections to Bush's programs: Rep. David R. Obey (Wis.), senior Democrat on Appropriations, said that even his committee, long considered the heart of the House, has surrendered much of its claim to legislative expertise. William Young of Florida, who chairs the committee, "fought all last year to get his leadership to face reality," Obey said, "but this year, he's given up. Now, young staffers in DeLay's office cut the deals necessary to pass the spending bills in their own caucus, and we don't write the bills in committee anymore."

Also, at a White House meeting last winter on homeland security, Obey said, Bush threatened to veto any spending that topped his budget "without even hearing the evidence Bill Young and I brought him about the needs of the FBI, the Coast Guard and the first responders. I was so enraged by what happened, I could hardly see. It motivated me to stay around here another 10 years."

According to historian Barbara Tuchman, as extensively documented in her book The Proud Tower, there were similar impositions of abusive rules on the legislature when John Reed retired at the turn of the 20th century, at the exact moment when his party, the GOP or Republicans, began to pursue imperialism under McKinley and (after his assassination) Theodore Roosevelt. Reed retained the respect of Democrats for resisting the control of civilian legislative procedure by an increasingly military-minded White House, and was in large part the author of the post-Reconstruction rules by which the United States was governed all through the 20th century.

Throughout that century, however, the United States was governed with increasing reliance on command and control from the White House, which increased substantially during the New Deal, World War II and Vietnam War eras. And now, again, with the Bush League's doctrines.

The USSR and Red China (under Mao Zedong) were strict command and control states where all aspects of agriculture, education, media and industry were under strict top-down control. It seems unlikely, if the US follows too far down this road, that it can avoid the economic stagnation and consensus breakdown that was the fate of those 20th century states.

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