History offers another alternative to all-volunteer force
Is the all-volunteer force (AVF) sustainable? The survey has already been asked. With ever-increasing personnel costs and a widening divide between those who serve and those who do not serve, the long-term viability of the AVF is in question. Military observers such as Thomas Ricks have even argued that the AVF’s success in the battles of the past decades is reason enough to get rid of establishment force: it’s too easy for the nation to go to war. with such an efficient army. Recent opinion pieces have shed light on the continuing problem of military entitlement and the cultural love for military service.
Others support the continuation of the AVF, even in a form different from its current state. Many argue that the military has been changed for the better by a volunteer-based force in categories of intellect, ability, and enhanced citizenship. In a previous commentary, Brandon J. Archuleta argued in favor of continuing the AVF, primarily saying that not only is the military more effective within building AVF, but the alternative – a draft – doesn’t is “not politically feasible, publicly or militarily acceptable”. propitious.” Major Archuleta’s conclusion, however, assumes that conscription is the only possible alternative to the AVF.
This article provides a basic history of what was known as the Continental Army plan during the preparation debates of 1915-1916. Although not adopted, this plan was revolutionary in that it sought to establish a method of Reserve priority to military training rather than maintaining a large standing army. In doing so, its proponents have highlighted a failed but interesting alternative to the AVF’s tangled debate against a project.
With the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, a group of prominent American political, civilian, and military leaders provoked a debate about the unpreparedness of the armed forces. Led by Republican Congressman Augustus P. Gardner, his father-in-law, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Army Chief of Staff Major General Leonard Wood, and former President Theodore Roosevelt, the group called for a “public spotlight” on the state of military unpreparedness. as the European powers threw millions of men into the cauldron of battle. Despite growing concern over the nation’s capabilities, Woodrow Wilson, who as president came into office with an aversion to military affairs and professional soldiers, called talk of heightened readiness of “good mental exercise” and denied the necessity of such preparations as throwing America “out of our balance” by a distant European war.
The May 1915 sinking of the British luxury liner Lusitania by a German U-boat, taking with it 128 Americans among the approximately 1,200 lives lost, changed Wilson’s calculation. Following the news of the horrific event, the President slowly prepared. In July, Wilson instructed his secretaries of the navy and of war to draft programs for “reasonable and adequate” naval expansion and army legislation that were “in every particular consistent with American traditions.” What did that mean? For decades, the United States had followed the general defense policy laid down in the nation’s early years. This Jeffersonian Federalist system relied on a strong navy for commercial security and coastal defense as the primary means of protection. As for the army, a small permanent force helped protect the frontier and served as a basic cadre during periods of expansion. The main labor pool during the army’s expansion came from state militias, which still held a level of autonomy from the federal government, and from volunteer levies. Just as quickly, these troops were demobilized and sent home after the end of hostilities. This approach was part of the so-called anti-militarist tradition of the founders and theoretically avoided the too influential role of the military in society and politics. Yet the navy’s aging fleet of battleships and the army’s 92,482 active-duty troops in 1914 paled in comparison to the million-strong armies in Europe. Fearing a state of neglect and unpreparedness in case the United States became involved in the European war, military professionals and key political leaders understood that change was due.
As his administration drafted proposals, Wilson sought to bridge the gaps between the different desires of citizens. While many Americans wanted the government to take appropriate action to improve the nation’s defenses following the Lusitania sinking, the majority of Americans did not want war, nor did they want drastic changes in the traditional defense posture of the United States. At the same time, the upcoming election of 1916 weighed heavily on members of Congress, their constituents, the various preparedness and anti-preparation groups, the president and his administration.
Despite the interests of so many different groups, Congress passed several groundbreaking bills in the late summer of 1916 that set America on the path to serious military preparations, and much of the legislation passed. without deep disagreement among lawmakers or significant attempts to prevent passage. The culmination was the Naval Appropriations Bill, which authorized a three-year construction program of ten battleships, six battlecruisers, fifty destroyers, over sixty submarines, and appropriated over 300 million dollars for the effort, while creating a Federal Navy and Marine Corps Reserve. . Proponents of the small navy joined a cavalryman calling for a naval demobilization conference after the war, but that didn’t matter. In addition to the Navy Bill, Congress also established a National Defense Council to advise on military-industrial mobilization and passed a Shipping Bill reforming the Merchant Navy, a bill on army appropriations and a tax revenue bill to help pay for the increase in the army. expenses. Yet it was with the Army reorganization plan that the Wilson administration was most visionary and ran into the most trouble.
The Continental Army Plan
Wilson’s Secretary of War, New Jersey attorney Lindley M. Garrison, began developing his plan prior to Wilson’s term in July 1915. In late August, he submitted “An Outline of Military Policy” to the President . Trouble became apparent, as Wilson and Garrison were already at odds—Wilson privately called his Secretary of War a “solemn, vain ass”—and the Secretary’s submission lacked a detailed financial analysis. Additionally, Garrison suggested getting a message out to the press, which the president quickly denied, not wanting to expose the plan to early criticism and concerned about a tougher time to pass military legislation.
Based on War College plans which recommended 500,000 men available immediately upon the outbreak of hostilities, followed by another 500,000 mustered within ninety days, Garrison’s plan attempted to find a way to meet these needs. The Secretary was reluctant to rely fully on the National Guard, which at the time did not consist of uniform standards of training and equipment. In many cases, soldiers were only members of the National Guard on paper. The militia force had a strong lobby, however, which would come to hinder the movement of Garrison’s plan.
In trying to balance the ends and the means of army reorganization, Garrison’s plan called for a modest increase in the regular army to 141,843 troops. The National Guard would continue its role, but with additional federal support. But it was Garrison’s Continental Army that was the linchpin of the whole effort. This force would be a third defense entity of the army, made up of 400,000 volunteers raised in annual cohorts of 133,000 for three years. Army Chief of Staff General Hugh Scott called the plan “the dream of military planners” for forty years. Essentially, the new Continental Army Reserve soldiers would enlist for six years during which they would participate in annual military drills, be outfitted and equipped like the regular army, and be ready to be the first wave, along with the regulars, of half a million troops in an emergency.
There were problems immediately after Garrison submitted the plan, which Wilson approved and made public in early November 1915. First, congressional leaders and the press wondered how the annual contingent of 133,000 troops would be raised if not enough volunteers showed up. The National Guard protested strongly, pointing out that it was already a reserve force of 125,000 and could be merged to meet the additional reserve requirement. State rights advocates feared that a more federalized Continental Reserve Army would remove power and control from state governments and that black volunteers would be drafted. Garrison attempted to counter the concern of those who feared the country was heading towards a militaristic society, preaching that the nation must be assured “that it can cultivate the arts of peace behind a barrier of strength”, but the force of agitation was against him.
By early January 1916, when hearings began in the House Military Affairs Committee, the Continental Army was in trouble. Secretary and Chief of Staff Scott were unprepared for the volley of questions posed by the committee chairman, Rep. James Hay, and the other members. When asked how the ranks of the Continental Army would be filled if there were not enough enrolled volunteers, Garrison admitted that conscription might have to be used to hit the numbers. Whatever support there was for Garrison’s plan within the committee began to fade. Wilson, who saw the writing on the wall, acknowledged that he was not a supporter of Garrison’s proposal and would settle for something more politically viable. Unrelenting in his efforts, the Secretary of War tendered his resignation in early February, which Wilson quickly accepted. The Continental Army plan was dead.