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A major issue in the government's organization for defense concerned the position of supreme commander of the armed forces. From 1941 until his death in 1980, Tito was supreme commander. He achieved legendary stature as a military leader because of his role in directing the wartime Partisans. After Tito's death, no political leader carried the same respect and authority with military commanders.
Since 1980, the powers of the supreme commander have been dispersed within the State Presidency. Article 283 of the Constitution gave the Federal Assembly (Skupstina) power to declare war and peace and to ratify military agreements and treaties. However, the State Presidency had direct command of the armed forces. The Presidency was authorized to make general plans and preparations for defense, to declare that an imminent danger of war exists, to order mobilization, and to declare war in the event that the Federal Assembly could not meet. The Presidency appointed, promoted, and relieved general officers. Despite these formal powers, however, in 1990 the State Presidency was not deemed likely to exercise immediate control over the armed forces. Because of its lack of military experience and expertise, the Presidency likely would approve responses to crises and decisions on strategic issues that were proposed at lower levels. Because of its collective nature and annual rotation, the State Presidency could not replicate Tito's role as an actual supreme commander. As provided in article 316 of the Constitution, it delegated most of its command responsibilities and administrative duties to the Council for Territorial Defense and the Federal Secretariat for National Defense.
Established before Tito's death, the Council for National Defense was the highest functional link between the State Presidency, LCY leadership, civilian government, and professional military. The council was headed by the president of the State Presidency according to article 326 of the Constitution. However, the Constitution did not elaborate on its composition or the exact scope of its work. During most of the 1980s, the elevenmember body included six army generals (among them the federal secretary for national defense and the chief of the YPA General Staff), and five officials of the government and LCY. The council reviewed national defense issues presented by the federal secretary and his subordinates. Its decisions were subject to final approval by the State Presidency.
The Federal Secretariat for National Defense organized and supervised the armed forces on a day-to-day basis. The federal secretary was always a colonel general or admiral who was also a member of the Council for National Defense. National defense was the most highly centralized federal secretariat.
The federal secretary for national defense exercised full operational control over the armed forces and was, for all practical purposes, supreme commander. He could issue military orders and instructions on behalf of the State Presidency. The importance of this position increased after the death of Tito. The office conferred far greater command authority and administrative autonomy than did its counterparts in other East European communist countries.
Following TND doctrine, the federal secretary planned operations on Yugoslav territory and was responsible for the structure, deployment, training, and equipping of the armed forces. All YPA and TDF commanders reported to the federal secretary. The three military services each had an assistant federal secretary to manage their administrative affairs. The assistant federal secretaries were responsible for budgets, military construction, and regulations. They were also ex officio deputy chiefs of the YPA General Staff.
As principal deputy to the federal secretary, the chief of the YPA General Staff used the directorates of the defense establishment to carry out a variety of assigned administrative duties. In the 1980s, service as chief of staff was apparently a prerequisite for promotion to federal secretary for national defense.
The Council for Territorial Defense was established in 1980 as part of the Federal Secretariat for National Defense. After the TDF was established in 1968, tensions arose between the regular YPA and the militia-style TDF. At that time, the TDF enjoyed high national prestige. Tito may have viewed the TDF as a hedge against the possible political ambitions of the professional military. During the Croatian nationalist disturbances of 1969-71, national leaders feared that Croatian TDF units would become the basis of an independent Croatian army. Formation of the Council for National Defense effectively brought the TDF under direct control of the federal secretary for national defense and the YPA. The council included representatives of the federal secretary for national defense and those of TDF commanders in the republics and autonomous provinces. It advised the federal secretary on the organization, training, and requirements of TDF units.
The executive committees of republics and autonomous provinces also had secretaries for national defense, who retained some formal responsibilities. Article 239 of the Constitution required republics, autonomous provinces, and communes to organize national defense, territorial defense, civil defense, and internal security measures in their respective jurisdictions. Commissions for total national defense and social self-protection existed for this purpose in the local government and LCY organs. They had little authority for this purpose however, beyond coordinating mobilization and providing logistical support for the armed forces.
Data as of December 1990
Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.
Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Yugoslavia was first published in 1990. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.
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