The Army and Economic Mobilization

By R. Elberton Smith | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
Army Requirement Programs: World War I to Pearl Harbor

Nature and Implications of Army Requirements

The starting point for all military procurement is the determination of military requirements--the kinds and quantities of end items required to carry out the military mission. Until some decision is reached as to what and how much is to be procured in a definite time period, no procurement operations can take place. Likewise, in the absence of knowledge of the types and quantities of end items needed, requirements for productive facilities, materials, manpower, and other contributory resources cannot be estimated, requests for appropriations cannot effectively be made, and even procurement planning cannot be projected much beyond the level of broad generalities.

Paradoxically, although it is the starting point for procurement activity, the formulation of military requirements is, of all aspects of industrial mobilization and procurement, the most difficult of satisfactory achievement. For World War II in particular, two decades of disarmament, grave divisions in political opinion prior to Pearl Harbor, the eventual magnitude and scope of Army operations, their dispersion to all parts of the world, their technological complexity, the rapidity of change in the kinds and uses of needed equipment, and the heavy Allied claims upon the United States as the "arsenal of democracy," all made the task of accurately estimating requirements well- nigh impossible. The domestic political difficulties which hindered the formulation of national objectives previous to 7 December 1941 gave way thereafter to broad problems of determining Allied strategy and its supporting logistical arrangements on a global basis.

To the many political and methodological problems involved in computing requirements for World War II were added numerous practical barriers of an administrative nature. These included shortages of ,experienced personnel, the necessity for developing new organizations and procedures, the pressure of cruel deadlines in an atmosphere of urgency, and many other elements--all contributing to the difficulty of the underlying task. It is not surprising, therefore, that the armed services were sometimes slow in computing firm, long-range estimates of requirements and that these were subject to a substantial margin of error and the necessity for constant revision.

The importance of timely and accurate determination of its requirements for World War II extended far beyond the procurement operations of the Army itself. Since

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