Stimson Letter to Senator Reynolds on Organization of an Office of War Mobilization and Civilian Versus Military Responsibility for Procurement
March 13, 1943
Honorable Robert R. Reynolds,
Chairman, Committee on Military Affairs,
United States Senate.
Dear Senator Reynolds:
You have asked the views of the War Department concerning 5.607, a bill "To Establish an Office of War Mobilization and for other purposes." The War Department is opposed to the enactment of this bill.
The bill would establish an Office of War Mobilization under a Director of War Mobilization. Section 3 of the Bill creates a Committee on Requirements and Program of nine members, four of whom represent the Armed Services. This Committee is authorized to develop, subject to the approval of the President, a comprehensive national program for maximum use of resources for military and essential civilian needs. The Section provides: "This program shall be based on schedules of military requirements furnished by the War and Navy Departments and determinations as to minimum essential civilian needs and available resources by the Office of War Mobilization."
One of the constituent offices of the proposed Office of War Mobilization is the Office of Production and Supply (Section 6). This office, in addition to other duties, is to translate the production program into a detailed time schedule of end and intermediate military and civilian production by plants. It is given the function to "procure, through contracts or otherwise, the requirements of the Departments of War and Navy and of the Maritime Commission, and all foreign requirements, including Lend-Lease." Likewise, it reviews progress on all outstanding contracts and renegotiates such contracts where necessary so as to conform to the schedule. In addition, it is to check on the use of facilities, materials and other production factors through plant inspection.
By section 7 (a) of the bill, there would be transferred to the Office of Production and Supply, the functions and personnel of, among others, those subdivisions of the War and Navy Departments as shall be determined by the Director, subject to the approval of the President, "as being related to, engaged in, or concerned with the procurement, manufacture or other provision of war material."
Section 7 (e) provides: "All persons attached to the military services who are transferred to the Office of War Mobilization by this act, or who are subsequently so transferred, shall be relieved from service for such lengths of time as shall -be requested by the Director."
By Section 9 (a) of the bill, all appropriations for any agency available for use in
connection with any function transferred to the Office of War Mobilization are transferred and made available to the Office of War Mobilization.
The bill is based on the assumption that it will be advantageous to the prosecution of the war for the armed forces to state what they need for victory, while another agency, separate and independent of the Army and Navy, reviews the stated needs and attends to their fulfillment to the extent that it approves. However, it is impossible thus to separate the military program into parts, introducing dualism and divided responsibility, without disruption of the Army in its military operations,
The task of providing the Army with weapons and other equipment is a continuous process, from strategic and tactical planning through production and distribution to use on the field of battle, including maintenance, salvage and rehabilitation. Research is required to develop new and improved weapons and their design, specifications and drawings. Pilot models must be produced. Requirements must be established. Spare parts and tools for maintenance in the field must be determined. Facilities must be examined for capacity to produce, and the needed capacity assured. Part of the production must be placed in Army arsenals. Contracts must be placed with industrial concerns and performance expedited. Inspection, testing and proof-firing are required. Shipping orders must be given. Transportation, here and abroad, must be provided. Finally, we have the phases of field maintenance, repair and salvage.
In actual practice there is no chronological sequence whereby some of these functions may be culled out and given to a separate agency. Strategic and tactical planning continue throughout the process and are, in turn, affected by the progress of munitions manufacture. Research and preparation of specifications change the course of production, as to military testing and inspection which occur simultaneously with production. Battle experience must be translated into production changes forthwith. Weapons already completed must be modified or changed in light of such experience or the requirements of the particular area in which combat operations are taking place. Production schedules and whole programs must be immediately changed by direct contact with manufacturers to meet the varying needs of task forces overseas.
None of these things can be accomplished through the complexities of a dual organization as proposed in the bill. The submission by the armed services of schedules for thousands of weapons and tens of thousands of components for approval and placement by another agency would present insurmountable difficulties, particularly when revisions in quantities and specifications are constantly required as the result of strategic and tactical changes. Duplication of labor, red tape and jurisdictional disputes would cause disastrous delay.
A dual arrangement and the interruption of the flow of production of weapons can be avoided only by continuing the entire process in the armed forces. Modern warfare is largely a war of logistics. Our strategy depends upon the control of military procurement and supply. It is the basic mission of the War Department, under the direction of our Commander-in-Chief, to organize, equip, dispose and direct our Army so as to defeat the enemy completely and without delay. This mission can be accomplished only by placing complete responsibility and authority in a single chain of command for the design, procurement, storage, distribution, use, maintenance and salvage of weapons. Strategy and production of weapons are inseparable.
Divided responsibility could cause the loss of the war.
The impossibility of dividing planning, supply and use into separate compartments is demonstrated by an attempt to determine what subdivisions and personnel of the War Department may be transferred to the Office of War Mobilization under the provisions of the bill. The Chief of Staff, the General Staff and the Staffs of the Ground Forces, Air Forces and Services of Supply are all "concerned" with the provision of war materiel. They are engaged at some point in the continuous flow of munitions to the troops. Which ones should be transferred to the civilian agency? The Chief of Ordnance, for example, as the best qualified officer in ordnance matters, now is charged with responsibility for planning and procuring weapons and also for supplying and maintaining them in the field. If he is transferred to a civilian agency, hiss training and skill will be lost to the field service. If, on the other hand, he is retained in the Army because of his field responsibilities, his experience will be lost in the procurement of munitions.
The Army and Navy would no longer control government-owned arsenals and shipyards. Modification Centers also are maintained by the Army, where planes, tanks and other weapons, after their original manufacture, are changed to meet the particular needs of battle in the desert, the Arctic, the mountains or the jungle. This is "related to" the "provision of war materiel," and hence would no doubt be transferred to the civilian agency and, if so, how can military requirements just developed from battle experience be immediately translated into modified weapons required at once for delivery to troops?
Even if it were theoretically advisable to split into parts the organization of the Army as a machine both for combat and supply, such disruption would be disastrous in the midst of war. Contracts have been placed and are being administered by the Army. Contractors and subcontractors have learned to meet military requirements, specifications and procedures. A procurement organization has been established throughout the country and overseas. Relieving Army officers from active duty in time of war would ruin the morale of the experienced personnel upon which we must depend. It would mean the destructions of a going organization in favor of one untried and inexperienced. If it were physically possible to make the transfer without delay of six months or a year, there is no assurance that the new agency could do the job. The civilian agencies have been changed repeatedly both in organization and personnel. A transfer of procurement to another such agency might result in further reorganizations and new transfers.
The War Department has a remarkable record of accomplishment in military production during this war. No case is made for a change from a method which made successful the most difficult logistic operation of all times, the recent invasion of North Africa. Our troops are being supplied in quantity with weapons of high quality, superior to those of our enemies. Our allies have likewise been supplied. In spite of the lack of a munitions industry in the United States and a constantly changing control of the flow of materials by other agencies, the War Department has directed the production of $20,000,000,000 of military supplies during 1942, increasing such production from less than $1,000,000,000 in 1940. The performance of our aircraft, tanks and other weapons is praised by all who have used them in action.
The production achieved by the War Department and the greater production on the way for the present year have not been
accomplished without dislocation of the peacetime economy. But it is a forlorn hope that some other agency could accomplish the task without the same dislocations. We had no munitions industry. Our facilities for aircraft production were inadequate. Only a portion of our industrial establishments was equipped with the facilities and skills that could be converted to the manufacture of weapons. A number of plants had to be erected. Others had to be enlarged and converted. Employees had to be trained and placed. Congestion and housing difficulties were unavoidable. The demands of total war reduced the supply of critical materials for use in commercial manufacture. Plants unable to manufacture military items were, therefore, often in distress. These pains are inherent in a transfer from a civilian to a war economy. The Armed Services have done everything reasonably possible to minimize the necessary dislocations. They have endeavored to use all industrial plants which can be used. Thousands of small businesses have been brought into the program. Subcontracting has been insisted upon. Every attempt is made to place contracts and facilities where possible in areas of sufficient labor supply. The War Department has also used the large mass production industries which existed in America and were usable for our task. Any civilian agency, desirous of winning the war, would of necessity do the same thing.
I desire to comment on some other phases of the bill. Section 6 (c) creates an Office of Scientific and Technical Mobilization. By Section 8 (c) the Director of War Mobilization is authorized and directed, through this office, to review all proposals for development of improved processes, products and materials or for other scientific research and development, including developments of models and pilot plants, and to promote proposals deemed in aid of war mobilization through the establishment of research facilities and pilot plants. He is given access to all production facilities and all information bearing on processes, products, materials or other factors of production.
Research with respect to weapons and their development has always been the function of the armed services. They are practically alone in such activities in time of peace. During the war the services of civilians have been mobilized to aid the Army and Navy under organizations heretofore created. The Army and Navy must continue to be responsible for military research and development as part of the flow of munitions to the troops. Much of this development is of a highly secret nature. All of it has a direct bearing upon military strategy and tactics and is an inseparable part thereof. Control of such development and research by an independent civilian agency reviewing all proposals and promoting only those which the agency approves (Army and Navy Appropriations having been transferred to the Office of War Mobilization) would disrupt the military organization as much as the transfer of other phases of procurement. Personnel would be shifted and forced into new activities. Men who for reasons of competent administration and control should be on the active list of the armed services would be forced into inactive status.
Section 6 (b) of the bill gives to the Office of Manpower Supply, among other things, the power to allocate manpower as between combat and other essential needs. This apparently would give to the civilian agency the power to determine the size of the armed
forces and the qualifications of the men to be inducted into service. The War Department could not be held responsible for its task of defeating the enemy if it is intended that-such control be given to a separate and independent agency.
In summary, under this bill, if enacted, nonmilitary control will be substituted for military control over the procurement of the basic weapons with which the war must be waged. The modification and adaptation of these weapons in accordance with the lessons of field experience, and their replacement, will be put into nonmilitary hands. Nonmilitary judgment will supersede military judgment as to the most profitable aims and ends of research and development in regard to current armament. Vital technological and military secrets will become subject to exposure to civilian personnel not under military control. A civil agency, instead of the Staffs, will determine the optimum size of the armed forces, the times and rates of their mobilization and availability for use, and the nature and qualifications of their personnel. Taken together, the result of these several provisions of the bill would be that strategy and the control of strategic decisions would in effect be transferred from the military establishments.
In conclusion, I state that the nation's task at this time is to make every aspect of our effort contribute to winning the war. Success in arms is the first condition of the completion of that task. Every step and every device that is proposed must, for the duration of the war, be evaluated in terms of its value as a weapon for winning success in arms. The primary responsibility for defeating the enemy rests upon the military establishments. They should not be deprived of the necessary tools therefore. These tools are men and material. Assurance of the necessary tools for the military establishments must be the first consideration in judging any proposal,-not in the interest of the armed forces, but in the paramount national interest.
5.607 will not, in my opinion, further the paramount national interest, but will do irreparable injury to it.
Inasmuch as the Committee has requested that this report be expedited, the Bureau of the Budget has authorized its submission without a determination by the Bureau as to whether it conforms to the program of the President.
(S) HENRY L.
Secretary of War