Department of the Army Historical Summary: FY 1976
Born in war, the Army entered its third century in peace. Today’s Army is far removed from the original homespun collection of citizen-soldiers with their motley assortment of weapons and equipment. Yet, despite’ the changes of the past two centuries, much of the spirit and many of the conditions that led to the formation of the first army live on. The faith, courage, and endurance to meet potential threats and challenges persist, even though the menace of physical invasion has long since diminished. While the face of the enemy may vary, and yesterday’s ally may become tomorrow’s foe, the truth remains that there is no guarantee of lasting peace.
In looking back at the record of the past two centuries, it is apparent that although the costs of maintaining military strength may be high, the costs of overcoming military weakness may be even greater. The era of the instant army may have disappeared with the passing of the minutemen, and strong forces in being have become essential if the nation is to have any hope for survival in a major confrontation. As Americans discovered during the wars in Korea and Vietnam, even limited wars make heavy and immediate demands upon the country’s resources in men and materials. From past experience, one maxim should be clear—there is no substitute for readiness.
Because the United States may have to react to aggression more rapidly than ever before, the Army must be able to make a swift transition from peace to war. Its forces must be capable of carrying out commitments in Europe, of engaging in any possible small contingency elsewhere, and of still retaining a strategic reserve.
Since the end of the war in Vietnam, the Army has been reshaping and reorienting its forces and organization to carry out its mission in a changing battlefield environment. (The recent battles in the Middle East have vividly demonstrated these changes.) It has placed new emphasis upon mechanized and armored divisions with increased mobility and firepower.
With the support of the president and Congress, the Army has also sought to reach its goal of twenty-four combat-ready divisions that will dissuade any enemy from the use of force. Although much has been achieved, much remains to be done. Since the initial and probably most intense phase of a conflict will be fought with the troops and equipment on hand, both the active and reserve components of the Army must
be designed to provide early combat power and the necessary support forces to sustain that power. The lengthy periods of mobilization that the nation once enjoyed will no longer be possible, since the standby Selective Service will not be able to deliver its first recruits for training for at least three months. Thus, balanced forces, both combat and support, must be ready from the outset of hostilities.
Despite technological advances and the mechanization of wars, the soldier remains the key factor in the military equation. The inception of the all-volunteer force in early 1973 met with initial success, but reductions in recruiting funds and an increasing reluctance on the part of eligible males to enlist portends mounting difficulties in sustaining the quantity and quality of the Army. To attract and retain capable people requires consistent support of programs that make a career in the Army an attractive alternative to its civilian counterpart in challenges, opportunities for education and advancement, job security, and a decent environment to live in. Under the volunteer system, the Army must compete directly with the civilian segment for recruits. Considering the additional risks involved in a military career, the Army continues to operate at a disadvantage in this area.
Soldiers must be well equipped, armed, and trained to be effective. Since they may have to face adversaries who outnumber them and are just as well prepared, the Army cannot hope for success unless it is able to procure adequate equipment, eliminate existing shortages, modernize present systems, and maintain a dynamic research and development program. To combat aggression, the Army must have both arms and equipment on hand and a capability to provide replacements until industrial mobilization can take up the slack.
With the nation at peace and in a period of military retrenchment, the Army has planted, programmed, and budgeted its requirements on an austere basis. It has tried to keep its requests at the minimum essential level and to improve its management techniques so that it can get the most from available resources. Innovations and changes in doctrine are also in progress to further these goals.
The account of the Army’s stewardship that follow elaborates on the successes and failures encountered during fiscal year 1976 and the transition quarter, from 1 July to 30 September 1976. While the story, on the whole, is encouraging in many respects, there are some disturbing trends. After two hundred years many of the original problems remain and demand constant attention. Neither the nation nor the Army can afford to ignore them without unacceptable risk.
Last updated 7 September 2004