Statement by Under Secretary Robert P. Patterson on Responsibility for Military Procurement Before the Senate Special Committee Investigating the National Defense Program, 77th Congress, 2d Session, 16 December 1942
What I have said raises a second point the control of production of weapons by the armed forces. There has been confusion in the minds of many people on this subject. It is incorrectly assumed that the armed forces are not now engaged in the procurement of weapons and that they want to take this function away from other agencies. There is also the absurd belief on the part of some that the armed forces desire to control and regiment the American economy. How that story started I do not know.
Since the American Revolution, the Army and the Navy have been in charge of production of their weapons. The War Production Board is mobilizing the resources, facilities and materials (raw and semi-finished) necessary to such production and necessary also to civilian activities. It likewise allocates and controls the flow of materials so as to resolve conflicting demands of the Army, Navy, Maritime Commission, and other agencies and to adjust the program to available resources. A similar arrangement worked well in the last war. The Army and Navy have now experienced two years of successful operation under the arrangement. I believe in its continuance. We are not seeking new fields of endeavor.
The functions of the War Department and Navy Department on production of weapons cover the entire range of production and distribution. They include strategic and tactical planning, experiment, design, selection of types to be produced, obtaining funds from Congress, procurement (partly by orders to Government plants and partly by contracts to private industry), scheduling follow-up of production inspection, delivery, provision of spare parts, distribution, and field maintenance. I could add to that, and finally, salvage. These are phases in a continuous operation from drafting board to scrap pile. Changes dictated by demands from the fighting forces are constantly made. Programs are readjusted while manufacture is in process. Research and preparation of specifications overlap production and change the course of production. Military testing and inspection occur simultaneously with manufacture. Battle experience must reach the production line with minimum delay.
Tactical developments in the Aleutians created an urgent necessity for a change in bomb fuses. The fuses, while satisfactory for high altitude or dive bombing, were not adapted to the new type of bombing required. An ordnance officer was flown to the Aleutians and participated in bombing attacks. He flew back to Picatinny Arsenal and designed a new fuse for this particular requirement. He supervised production-line changes, flew back with the first units produced, and there supervised the trials and the
instruction of others in the use' of fuses in battle. This is one instance out of a great many, which indicates that production of weapons is not a process that can be broken up into separate compartments for separate control by separate agencies.
For maximum effectiveness the stages of production must be under direction of the same agency as to each type of weapon. Experience has shown that where successive stages or production are under control of separate agencies the results are not the best. It does not work well to place procurement (making of contracts) in another agency. The operation is a single continuous one. Duality of control will not work.
The officers of the armed forces are the persons best fitted by experience to direct the production of weapons. They have spent years in turning out rifles, artillery, cruisers, and so forth. They know by direct contact with troops on the fighting fronts what weapons are needed by the troops. They have the background to decide where manufacture can best be carried on, whether in Army arsenals, Navy shipyards, or private industrial plants. They have been engaged for years in surveying industrial plants and in instructing them in military production needed in the event of war. They know what steps must be taken to make sure that the weapons when manufactured will function as intended. They know from experience that the lives of American soldiers depend upon the accuracy of a rifle and the correct timing of a shell.
Many civilians with technical skills and industrial backgrounds have been taken into the armed services to assist the Regular officers in solving the many problems presented. But it would have been impossible to create and continue in efficient action our Army without the framework of Regular Army officers especially trained in the production of weapons. No civilian agency of the Government has had experience in meeting the infinite variety of problems involved in production of weapons. No man who was not trained through years for the work could go to Libya, as did an ordnance officer, and participate in battle with our tanks being used by the British against Rommel. As a result of his experience, he not only changed the system for supply and maintenance of armored forces, but also went to work designing and supervising production of our newer tanks.
On the other hand, control of materials is properly placed in a civilian agency, the War Production Board. In the first place, the officers of the armed services are not as well qualified to handle production and distribution of steel, copper, and other materials as men from these industries. Their experience in time of peace, while ample in directing production of weapons, does not extend to directing production of materials. In peace the Army and Navy requirements for steel and copper are so modest that the supply of such requirements raises no difficulty. In the second place, the Army and Navy demands for materials such as copper, steel, and aluminum, while of great importance, are not the sole demands for these materials. The railroads, the mining industry, the machine-tool industry, and other industrial activities essential to the war effort also need these materials. Control of the supply of these materials is properly placed under a civilian agency.
The function of the civilian agencies who are called in to aid the Army and Navy in time of war, as I see it, is to provide an increased supply of critical materials, the facilities for the production of semi-finished products required for military end-items, the administrative control of the flow of materials
and the elimination of these materials for nonessential purposes. They can be of assistance to the services in other ways as well. They are also charged with the duty of continuing civilian supply necessary to support the war effort. Among the duties of such agencies are priority and price control, allocation of facilities, control of raw materials and other commodities, control of labor
supply, power and fuel, transportation, finance, and foreign trade.