This Essay examines the consequences of the growing decline in the number of military veterans in positions of leadership in the federal government, most particularly in the United States Congress. In its visible form, this issue has given rise to popular debate in the last three presidential elections. Did Dan Quayle pull strings to get a safe post in the Indiana National Guard to avoid Vietnam service? Did Bill Clinton improperly evade the draft during Vietnam? Were veterans George Bush or Bob Dole better qualified to be President because of their combat service in World War II? In its less visible, but more important, form the issue raises significant questions about civilian control of the military, one of our most fundamental, but often ignored, precepts of constitutional law. What has changed markedly over the last decade is the separation of American leadership from the military. For much of the Cold War period, the leaders of American government were military veterans. Whether their service was at the highest levels (Dwight Eisenhower, George Marshall, Al Haig), small unit command or staff service (Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, John Kennedy), or enlisted service (any number of influential Congressmen), these Americans provided a bridge between civilian and military leadership. Today, that bridge is disappearing. In another decade the senior public official with military experience will be a rarity. We will first examine the present status and evident trends in military service by high government officials. We raise the question of whether veteran status makes a difference in the decisions of government. We will suggest some of the causes of the decline in veterans' presence. The final part of the Essay will examine the implications of the change for American civil-military relations and the constitutional governance of the armed forces.

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