Doctrinal Development of the Powers of the
Executive in Time of War
The Constitution of the United States makes the president "Commander-in-Chief" of the armed forces, but does not give to this chief executive unlimited authority to declare war (Fisher 1990, 244). It is the purpose of this study to trace the doctrinal development of war powers held by the executive. Consequently, legislative war powers enactments, executive war powers initiatives, and judiciary war powers-related decisions and particularly those decisions of the United States Supreme Court will be examined. Given that the United States Supreme Court is the court of last resort, it is the decisions of this court that will be the central focus of this analysis.
The two central themes emerging from the study revolve around two questions. First, what is the proper allocation of war powers between the Congress and the president? Secondly, does Congress, in its role in appropriating funds for the maintenance of the armed forces have authority to place restrictions on the use of such forces or is the action an infringement of the war powers of the president as commander-in-chief? These issues are seen by any number of analysts as of significance in that they speak to the important question of whether the Founding Fathers intended for Congress or the president to have the authority to commence war (Adler 1988, 1).
This study is of significance in that "the strongest of all governmental powers is the power to engage in war; and the strongest challenge for constitutionalism is to bring the war powers of the state under meaningful control" (Damrosch 2000, 125). To this day, the distribution of authority between the branches of government remains contested and uncertain with President George W. Bush's use of war powers to protect the national security of the United States and to enact a War on Terror, adding to the recurring debate ...