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Need Any Office Equipment? drawing by Herbert Block, August 2, 1947

Cartoonist Herbert Block (Herblock) captured the changing fortunes of postwar government agencies. While Congress authorized major legislation establishing a new, unified military structure and confirming the first secretary of defense (James Forrestal), it also approved cuts as deep as 40 percent in some programs at the Department of Labor, headed by former Senator Lewis B. Schwellenbach of Washington.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Need Any Office Equipment?

The National Security Act

In the aftermath of World War II, Congress passed legislation to modernize the U.S. military and intelligence communities. Known as the National Security Act of 1947, the act merged the Army, Navy, and newly created Air Force into a unified National Military Establishment headed by a secretary of defense. It also created the National Security Council, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. By approving the act, Congress established an institution to coordinate U.S. defense policy throughout the Cold War era.

The experiences of the war just concluded have proven conclusively that we must maintain in time of peace an adequate organization of the national defense readily available to the needs of war on short notice.

National Security Act of 1947, House Report 80-961, 1947