In subsection (a) the words “from officers on the active list of the Navy in the Medical Corps” are substituted for the words “from the list of Surgeons of the Navy” to conform to present statutory terminology, and the words “or from officers having the rank of captain in the staff corps of the Navy” are omitted as obsolete in view of the subsequent changes in staff corps grades and the establishment of grades and ranks higher than captain in the staff corps. R.S. 421 and 426 were derived from the Act of July 5, 1862, ch. 134, 12 Stat. 510
, and the Act of Mar. 3, 1871, ch. 117, § 10,16 Stat. 537
. The Act of July 5, 1862, provided that the Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery should be appointed from the list of surgeons in the Navy. At that time the senior medical officers were “surgeons” who “ranked with” commanders. Next junior to them were “surgeons” who “ranked with” lieutenants. The rank of lieutenant commander did not exist. The Act of Mar. 3, 1871, established five grades in the Medical Corps of which two, medical director and medical inspector, were higher than the grade of surgeon. Medical directors were given the relative rank of captain, medical inspectors the relative rank of commander, and surgeons the relative rank of lieutenant commander or lieutenant. The 1871 Act further provided that chiefs of bureaus might be appointed from officers having the relative rank of captain in the staff corps. This provision was probably intended to insure that the assignment of new grades and titles to senior staff corps officers should not be construed as a bar to their appointment as bureau chiefs. However, it was interpreted by the Commissioners who drafted the Revised Statutes as setting up a new category of officers from which bureau chiefs could be appointed, and it was therefore stated, in R.S. 421, as an alternative to each of the other categories specified for the various Bureaus in the 1862 Act and reenacted in R.S. 422–426. Thus the Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery could be appointed from surgeons, who had the relative rank of lieutenant commander or lieutenant in the Medical Corps, or from officers having the relative rank of captain in the Medical Corps, Pay Corps, or Engineer Corps. Section 405 of the Officer Personnel Act of 1947 (34
U.S.C. 10a) abolished the grade of surgeon and other staff corps grades and replaced them with grades having the same titles as the grades and ranks in the line. Officers who were “surgeons” are now “lieutenant commanders and lieutenants in the Medical Corps.” If this literal translation is made in R.S. 426 and the eligibility of all staff corps captains, as stated in R.S. 421, is retained, an absurd result is reached; i.e., lieutenants, lieutenant commanders, and captains in the Medical Corps are eligible for appointment as Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery; but commanders and rear admirals in that corps are ineligible; captains, but not rear admirals, in other staff corps are eligible by virtue of their rank alone, regardless of their lack of training in medicine. It appears, therefore, that the only reasonable meaning that can be given to R.S. 421 and 426 at the present time is that the Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery must be an officer of the Medical Corps.
In subsection (b) the words “Deputy Chief of the Bureau” are substituted for the words “assistant to the Bureau” for uniformity. The words “An officer on the active list of the Navy in the Medical Corps” are substituted for the words “A surgeon, assistant surgeon, or passed assistant surgeon” to conform to present statutory terminology and to describe clearly the class of officers eligible for detail under this subsection. When the source statute was enacted there was no class of officers exactly corresponding to officers of the present Naval Reserve, and retired officers could be called to active duty only in time of war, so that the detailing of an officer not on the active list as assistant to the bureau chief was probably not contemplated. Further, since the assistant or deputy must at times perform the duties of the chief, it is reasonable to assume that he was intended to be in the same category of officers. Later statutes relating to the Assistant Chiefs of the Bureau of Aeronautics and the Bureau of Ships, enacted at a time when there were Reserve officers and when retired officers could be called to duty at any time with their consent, specify that the assistant chiefs shall be officers on the active list.
1996—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 104–106
, § 506(b)(1), substituted “in any corps of the Navy Medical Department” for “in the Medical Corps”.
Subsec. (b). Pub. L. 104–106
, § 506(b)(2), substituted “who is qualified to be the Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery” for “in the Medical Corps”.
1980—Pub. L. 96–513
substituted “active-duty list” for “active list” wherever appearing.
1965—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 89–288
provided the Surgeon General, while so serving, with the grade of vice admiral.
Amendment by Pub. L. 96–513
effective Sept. 15, 1981, see section 701 ofPub. L. 96–513
, set out as a note under section
of this title.