The Army and Economic Mobilization

By R. Elberton Smith | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXV The Controlled Materials Plan

The Adoption of the Controlled Materials Plan

The Controlled Materials Plan, officially announced to the public on 2 November 1942, has been generally acclaimed as the instrument which finally resolved the complex problem of material and production controls for the American economy in World War II. In both its original form and in its subsequent numerous modifications and refinements, CMP was the product of the combined thinking and experience of many individuals and many agencies. Yet despite its varied background, the plan owed perhaps as much to the Army as to any other single agency for its conception, its development, and its ultimately successful operation.

As already indicated in earlier sections, by mid-1942 the success of America's war production program, and with it the prospects of ultimate victory for the United Nations, appeared to rest upon the discovery of a satisfactory system for the distribution of basic industrial materials. The summer and early fall of 1942 were unquestionably the lowest point of the war in terms of morale on the war production front. Production was rising but fell far short of the goals established by the President and the armed forces. The War Production Board, the military services, and the other wartime agencies were still in the throes of expansion and successive reorganization. American industry was undergoing the last of a series of major efforts to convert to war production, with all the confusion attending its adaptation to a regime of complex and uncertain governmental control measures. The American public--harried by the simultaneous pressures and uncertainties of the heavy draft of its manpower for military service, large-scale migration of defense workers and their families to centers of war production, and acute short- ages of housing and other consumer goods and services--looked to Washington for guidance out of the confusion.

In such an atmosphere, both military and civilian leaders responsible for war production chafed under the inadequacy of existing instruments for discharging their heavy responsibilities. Jurisdictional disputes and interagency friction were inevitable as rival solutions to common problems were urged. Basic requirements of essential national policy and procedure were often obscured by interagency suspicion and the labeling of proposals and programs as "military" or "civilian." At the very time when the problem of selecting a definitive material control system reached its crisis, the major wartime agencies were engaged in a number of heated and widely publicized controversies. These included the aforementioned Feasibility Dispute over the capacity of the economy to support military programs; the relative priority of basic production and facility expansion programs; the final authority to

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