Department of the Army Historical Summary: FY 1979



The Army’s principal task in 1979, as in other peacetime years, was to man, equip, train, and support combat forces capable of deterring or, if need be, defeating any aggressor. Because resources were limited, this task required the full cooperation and dedication of all components—active, reserve, and civilian. During the past year, this total Army effort stressed improvements in human resources, readiness, deployment, materiel procurement and development, and management.

Regarding the Army’s human resources, the capability of the all-volunteer Army came under increased attack, especially as it related to the reserve components, where declining Individual Ready Reserve strength remained a particularly vexing problem. The shortage of medical professionals in the active Army was critical. The accession of high school graduates was the lowest experienced since the all-volunteer Army began and the attrition rate of first-term enlistees was high. While incidents of serious crime declined, drug and alcohol abuse continued to drain the Army’s strength. The number of reductions in the Army’s civilian employees damaged morale and hindered unit readiness. Hoping to alleviate some of these concerns, the Quality of Life Program, established in March 1979, centralized and gave impetus to the Army’s efforts to create an environment for the military community wherein the health, general welfare, and morale of soldiers and their families would receive adequate attention.

Readiness and deployment activities during the past year have centered on preparing combat and support forces for the rapid transition to a war status in defense of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries and to meet other contingencies. NIFTY NUGGET 78, the largest mobilization and deployment exercise accomplished by the United States since World War II, took place in October 1978. It uncovered a number of serious deficiencies in both the active Army and the reserve components for which corrective measures have been taken or are planned. Improved training methodologies and techniques aided readiness. These included a successful test of the one-station unit training concept, the full-time manning program for early deployment of Army Reserve and Army National Guard units, and the use of computer-assisted training programs.


During this past year, the Army increased the equipment and weapons systems in its inventory and improved existing weapons. The Army also moved forward on major research and development efforts designed to bring new weapons systems into its inventory that would be equal to the weapons already in use by Warsaw Pact forces. Significant new purchases included the M60A3 tank, the armored personnel carrier equipped with the improved TOW (tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided) missile system, the M901 improved TOW vehicle, the fully modernized AH1S Cobra/TOW helicopter, and the M109A2 self-propelled and M198 towed 155-mm. howitzers. Production of the XM1 tank began. Rationalization—the objective of achieving economic savings and more efficiency through increased standardization and interoperability of weapons used by members of NATO—was a guiding principle in the development of new weapons systems.

In seeking to improve the management of its human and physical resources, the Army moved ahead in a number of areas. A division restructuring study assessed the organization of the Army’s heavy combat divisions, and experiments using alternative structures containing smaller but more numerous maneuver elements began. Based upon ideas contained in a study completed in fiscal year 1978, the Army brought about a number of changes to improve the training and education of individual officers. In the management of installations, facilities, and equipment, energy conservation increased, industrial pollution decreased, property accountability improved, and escalating base operating costs were checked. Continued reliance on automation and the proliferation of individual automated data systems has focused attention on the integration, interoperability, survivability, and security of the various systems. In October 1978, the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Automation and Communications was established to manage the integration of technologies in these rapidly expanding fields.

Details concerning these and other Army activities accomplished during fiscal year 1979 are described in the following pages.


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Last updated 17 September 2004