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The Chain of Command is discussed in a Department of Defense document entitled "Overview of National Security Structure" It can be read in full at http://www.dtic.mil/jcs/core/overview.html
Below are excerpts relevant to our current investigation:
1) Regarding the President and Secretary of Defense - they are the top people in the military chain of command
"Constitutionally, the ultimate authority and responsibility for the national defense rests with the President. Since the passage of the National Security Act of 1947, the President has used the Secretary of Defense as his principal assistant in all matters relating to the National Military Establishment (NME) -- later the Department of Defense. The Secretary has statutory authority, direction, and control over the Military Departments and is responsible for the effective, efficient, and economical operation of the department.
"The National Command Authorities (NCA) are the President and Secretary of Defense together with their duly deputized alternates or successors. The term NCA is used to signify constitutional authority to direct the Armed Forces in their execution of military action. Both inter-theater movement of troops and execution of military action must be directed by the NCA. By law, no one else in the chain of command has the authority to take such action."
2) Regarding the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he can be co-opted into the top leadership of the military chain of command:
"By the Goldwater-Nichols DOD Reorganization Act of 1986, Congress clarified the command line to the combatant commanders and preserve civilian control of the military. The Act states that the operational chain of command runs from the President to the Se cretary of Defense to the combatant commanders. The Act permits the President to direct that communications pass through CJCS. This authority places CJCS in the communications chain. Further, the Act gives the Secretary of Defense wide latitude to assign the Chairman oversight responsibilities over the activities of the combatant commanders. "
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