IN the World War man power was one year ahead of matériel. Men can be trained for war much faster than they can be equipped for war. Dwight F. Davis, Assistant-Secretary of War, recently said, in an address to the General Service Schools at Fort Leavenworth: ‘You can draft an additional million men in a well organized and disciplined nation within ten days, but to supply these men with rifles is a task that takes many months of careful preparation, because every step in the manufacture must be planned in advance. . . . We went into the World War without any definite plan of mobilization.’
This was true even though, for months prior to April 1917, the American government had recognized the certainty of conflict, and the American people, in the main, had accepted eventual participation as inevitable. We were prepared for war psychologically but not materially. In Great Britain, where hostilities broke more suddenly, the gap between man power and supplies was even greater.
In his World Crisis Winston Churchill says of this: ‘There were no rifles, there were no guns, and the modest supplies of shells and ammunitions began immediately to flash away with what seemed appalling rapidity. . . . We had nothing but staves to put in the eager hands of the men who thronged the recruiting stations.’
Time is the essence of preparedness. It is little short of murder for a nation to put into the field ill-supplied troops. Thousands of lives and billions of money were tossed into the abyss that stretched between ready men and tardy munitions. If the industrialpreparedness plan of the Army and Navy functions as well as it appears on paper, never again will the United States be guilty of this appalling waste.
The National Defense Act, as amended June 4, 1924, changed fundamentally the business organization of the War Department, making the Assistant-Secretary of War responsible for the procurement of all military supplies and for the mobilization of matériel and industrial organizations. The incumbent of this office, interpreting this amendment broadly, accepts under it responsibility for preventing profiteering in war supplies. Both Mr. Davis and his predecessor, J. Mayhew Wainwright, now a member of Congress from New York, have taken the view that special training is required for a task so vast and complex. As a result of this belief there came into existence the Army Industrial College, established by General Orders No. 7 (February 25, 1924), ‘for the purpose of training Army officers in the useful knowledge pertaining to the supervision of procurement of all military supplies in time of war and to the assurance of the adequate provision for the mobilization of matériel and industrial organization essential to war-time needs.’
In the Munitions Building at the national capital, the student officers of this unique college con production charts with the same zeal that their brother officers at the War College study campaign maps. Their instruction is based mainly on the work of the former War Industries Board; their training is to fit them to direct the marshaling of the nation’s economic resources in accordance with the general plan of mobilization in which both Army and Navy departments coöperate.
The foundation of this plan consists of approximately ten thousand allocations to manufacturers for the production of essential supplies. Over six thousand plants have been allocated so far. It is hoped and expected that a contract form will be distributed to these manufacturers so that at the outbreak of a major emergency it would merely be necessary to sign ‘on the dotted line’ and after this, unless there is a breakdown, the United States will be well prepared industrially, except, as will be shown later, in airplanes.
The new preparedness programme is an attempt to organize production so that sufficient troops for a major military movement can be supplied promptly and continuously with all the materials for effective action. That is primary. But, secondarily, the plan provides for doing this with a minimum of interference with the steady, normal production of socially necessary goods. The recognition that production is a social process, that ‘the home front’ must be mobilized efficiently and yet without disturbance, is a novel element in the Army’s present point of view.
The basis of action is, of course, the modern paraphrase of the Napoleonic maxim: Heaven fights on the side of the most complete supply train. But a second maxim is hardly less important: Heaven fights on the side of the less distressed populace. Not again, if the Army can help it, will war needs send prices soaring in open markets or force manufacturers to drastic changes in plant-equipment. Another conflict will find the production facilities of the United States neatly card-indexed. Available reserve stocks are tabulated. From the very outset of war, supplies will be kept moving in orderly progression from shelves, factories, and loading-docks, from forest, field, and mine, to military depots.
Disturbing though this solution of the economic problems of war may seem to many minds, let it be balanced against its alternative. The alternative is a situation approaching chaos, in which profiteers thrive, numbers die to no purpose, public funds vanish in a sea of waste, and a public partly overworked and overpaid and partly underworked and underpaid thrills to the lurid promises of social revolutionaries. In such emergencies the choice is not often between war and peace; but between a long war and a short war, between much distress and little; possibly between defeat and victory. At any rate, it is as clearly the duty of soldiers to make war as it is of statesmen to keep peace; the military begins to function fully only when statesmen have failed. The Army, therefore, enters upon this preparedness programme, not with any delusion of grandeur, but rather as a stern and difficult duty, a duty forced upon it by the lessons of experience.
The duty is rendered the more difficult by reason of the very size and intricacy of the problem. Both manufacturing and raw-material resources have been surveyed, roughly to be sure, but none the less comprehensively. Industrial mobilization will be administered, as far as the War Department is concerned, by a staff of from sixty to one hundred officers who will be commissioned from the leaders of America’s industry. A class of fourteen regular officers is taking a special training course in the Army Industrial College to train them in similar work. Busy men of affairs have been drafted from their plants and offices to teach the Army how to mobilize the basic industries of the country. Many competent industrialists are also being enrolled as reserve officers ready to act in specially important niches upon call.
By no means all of the industrial leaders who are coöperating in the industrial mobilization plan are optimistic. All accept the general idea as sound, but some doubt that such a broad plan can be administered by men trained in army methods and out of touch with civilians. More than one has addressed his class after this fashion: —
‘ It is ridiculous for you army officers to attempt to run industry in an emergency. Even when everything is moving serenely, business is a roughand-tumble game, in which experience is the only safe guide. You lack incentive. The government guarantees you homes, salaries, pensions. You are promoted by seniority, not by reason of anything you may have accomplished. You have n’t the faintest conception of the realities of competition. This should be a civilian enterprise.’
These student officers take these criticisms smilingly and keep on trying. After all, they say, the Army does not contemplate chasing the industrialists out of their plants. That would be futile, and at any rate is unnecessary. All that the Army seeks to do is to substitute coördination for competition in the production of supplies. The industrialists will go right along hiring and firing and producing, as long as they give the fighting forces what they need in sufficient quantity and proper quality at just prices. This is no attempt to supplant civilian specialists; but rather an effort to create a national synthesis of their diverse, and on the whole competent, activities. The Army thinks it can do just that. It has sent several officers to the Harvard School of Business Administration, not with any idea that they will actually produce and distribute goods in time of war, but in order that, with a background as broad as the country itself, they may keep the industrialists pulling together for the general welfare.
In return for the measure of control which industry yields, the Army expects to give value received, not in money, because economy is a ruling factor, but in security. It is now obvious that the war boom had to be paid for. Profits mounted rapidly at the outset, but did not last. Living costs and wages advanced; labor troubles multiplied; and delays in securing raw materials caused heavy losses. Then came the post-war depression. Inflation spells eventual deflation. Rather than ride through such stormy waters again, experienced industrial leaders would gladly take the Army aboard as pilot. Consequently, as the Army’s industrial tutors come to understand the new preparedness, the majority of them accept it heartily.
For its effective administration, the plan depends upon prior distribution of contracts among manufacturers for enough supplies to equip an army for a major operation, and upon the tracing of the various components of the finished product to their bases of supply, to make certain that in time of war there will be an unlimited flow of raw material from source to factory.
A moment’s consideration of but the first half of this dual programme will be sufficient to convince the reader of its difficulty and magnitude. Take, for example, shoes. It is simple enough to say that if a military unit is composed of ten thousand men a like number of Munson-last shoes must be ready for it. But in that calculation, only the original equipment is considered. The average war-service record of a pair of shoes is one quarter as long as that of the same shoes in civil life. Private Citizen John W. Doughboy wears out a single pair in a given space of time, but when he drops the ‘Citizen’ to become Private John W. Doughboy, he goes through four pairs in exactly the same period. This knowledge, born of World War experience, is part of the data which will enable the Quartermaster’s Corps, when Private Doughboy discards his first pair of shoes, to furnish him promptly with a new pair from its reserve supply.
The second step has required a complete survey of the plants now engaged in the shoe-manufacturing industry, scattered, for the most part, over eastern Massachusetts, southern New York, and the Middle West. In the first stampede of the World War, rush contracts were awarded either competitively or noncompetitively on a ‘cost-plus’ basis, depending on the urgency of need. No study had been made of the facilities available. No figures had been compiled to show what part of the total output each factory could be depended upon to produce. But there is to be no more guesswork. The Army knows how much of each plant can be devoted to manufacturing army shoes without disturbing too much the normal output, and orders have been allocated among factories in every production-centre, which become operative only when war is declared. Munson lasts are available in the factory storerooms; a stipulated production programme, experimentally proved, is ready in the safe. No manufacturer is required or even requested to devote his entire plant to making military shoes. A part of each factory will continue commercial production. Noncombatants also wear shoes and prefer to buy them at reasonable prices.
But with production taken care of, only half of the dual programme has been satisfied. It still remains for the government to guard against delays resulting from an insufficient supply of raw materials flowing from their original sources to the manufacturer of the finished product. During the World War, when buyers went into the open market to procure hides for the shoes required by the Army, prices rose rapidly. Consequently the hide market has now been surveyed with an eye to war-time control. The Army knows how many hides are in hand, how many can be secured from domestic sources in an emergency, how many Canada and Mexico might furnish at reasonable rates, and how many would be required from overseas sources. The military importance of a productive and friendly Mexico is not to be overlooked in this matter of hides, and the calculation is affected by the possibility that the trade route to the Argentine might be closed against us or interrupted. Here as elsewhere the Army plan encounters a Naval problem. But all the factors possible to foresee have been weighed, in order that every soldier engaged in this major military movement — the exact number is a militarysecret — shall have proper shoes in plenty.
Hides are but the beginning. Thread, eyelets, canvas, and other findings have been considered in equal detail. Anxious eyes have even been cast upon our dwindling domestic output of tanning extract. A blight, accidentally introduced into the country from China, has ruined our chestnut forests, as a result of which our tanners must import Argentine quebracho. Experiments are now under way to discover a substitute not subject to ocean risks, and the Department of Agriculture is growing on its Maryland farm seedlings of the blight-free chestnut discovered in the far interior of China by one of its scouts. This illustrates the thoroughness with which the economic survey is proceeding.
Essentially the new preparedness plan calls for the synchronizing of the three essentials of victory: man power, munitions, time. In the World War time was the deadly unknown — x. Now x, according to the Army’s industrial survey, varies with each manufacturing process: x maybe one month for shoes and two months for clothing and three months for machine-gun ammunition. Reserve stocks are to be maintained accordingly, with time as their measure rather than mere quantity as heretofore, because the reserve supply must maintain the units until deliveries can be begun on the immediately operative contracts. The success of the whole programme depends upon production overtaking dwindling supplies before wants develop. When you consider that a modern army uses everything from siege guns to pins, from precision instruments to picks, the magnitude of this survey and the intricacy of the calculations made thereunder are alike impressive.
Thus far we have been considering the problem of management. There are other factors — capital, labor, and transportation. It is planned to finance war contracts through an organization similar to the War Finance Corporation in order to prevent congestion in the banking system. Proved production-costs, which occupy prominent places in the card index, together with governmental control of markets, will be a safeguard against profiteering.
Mr. Davis has strong opinions on this question. He says: ‘The War Department is giving most careful attention to the ways and means whereby profiteering may be controlled in time of war. The principle that men at home shall not make inordinate profits from war while their fellows are staking their lives and health for their country is a fundamental proposition of common justice. It is a fixed national policy for the future.’
Both the Democratic and Republican parties have committed themselves without reserve to the draft of capital. The Democratic platform reads: ‘In the event of war in which the man power of the nation is drafted, all other resources should likewise be drafted. This would tend to discourage war by depriving it of its profits.’
The Republican plank is even more explicit: ‘We believe that in time of war the nation should draft for its defense not only its citizens but also every resource which may contribute to success. The country demands that, should the United States ever again be called upon to defend itself by arms, the President shall be empowered to draft such material resources and such service as may be required, and to stabilize the prices of services and essential commodities, whether used in actual warfare or private activities.’
Theoretically, the control of capital is easy; actually it bristles with difficulties. Nevertheless we appear to be committed to the experiment if occasion arises; indeed, the American Legion has already asked Congress to pass the necessary legislation and will renew its effort in the next Congress.
Labor is usually considered the bad boy of the Martian family. Labor disputes are bound to arise under any sort of regulation, and coercion of labor is foreign alike to our sentiments, traditions, and laws. Obviously the machinery for the adjudication of labor disputes will have to be immensely improved. But the minds behind the new preparedness plan accept as basic the patriotism of American labor. Furthermore they are convinced that with the cost of living kept under reasonable control by orderly production and distribution of commodities, wage disputes will be less frequent. They believe that labor, if not distressed by shortages or inflamed by profiteering, will do its part with right good will. In this prognosis it is of course taken for granted that the call to arms will never be sounded except for due and solemn cause appealing to the public conscience — only after all possible pacific overtures have failed.
Transportation problems will be met through government supervision of railroads, rolling stock, waterways, and highways. One of the greatest difficulties of the World War arose in connection with the blockades that occurred at every great terminal.
It remains for the government to apportion the fruits of industrial mobilization among the seven supply branches of the army. These function as follows: —
The Quartermaster Corps clothes, feeds, houses, and transports all mobile troops and their animals.
The Ordnance Department supplies rifles, pistols, cannon, bombs, tanks, tractors, and all ammunition.
The Signal Corps is responsible for all lines of communication and must supply telephone, telegraph, radio, photographic, and meteorological instruments.
The Engineering Corps assumes responsibility for all construction projects. It provides for water supply, builds camps, constructs highways, and bridges transportation lines.
The Air Service must provide airplanes and balloons with their attendant equipment.
The Medical Corps provides hospital supplies, surgical, dental, and veterinary instruments, drugs, chemicals, and hospital furnishings.
The Chemical Warfare Service supplies war gases and gas-defense equipment, including masks for the civilian populations of cities.
In these seven services, requirements often overlap. Hitherto they competed one against another for supplies. While the new plan was being worked out, confusion arose when representatives of several departments asked for too large shares of highly specialized products, notably precision instruments and camera supplies. These conflicts have now been adjusted, and each department knows what it may expect.
The actual production of war munitions is the greatest difficulty which faces the Army at this time. Government factories, idle until the emergency, are clearly out of the question. Government arsenals cannot produce in sufficient quantity. They meet the Army’s limited peace-time requirements, but lack the capacity to supply a major military effort. In effect, they are little more than experimental laboratories, developing and perfecting types of weapons. Under the exigencies of the World War, thousands of factories were called upon to change their industrial activities to meet war-time needs. If the plan of the Industrial Board is ever required to become operative the dies, jigs, and gauges of the bromidic ‘ploughshare’ will be laid aside, and those of the ‘sword,’ carefully and experimentally found to be the nearest approach to the commercial output of the particular factory, will be substituted. The heavy-machine shops of the Middle West, for example, will begin turning out shell-casings for which New England will be coincidentally making fuses.
An example of the method used in the survey is that of a manufacturer of bird-cages whose facilities can be used for the production of artillery fuses. The Army furnishes him with a copy of specifications. In spare time, at his own expense, he has dies and jigs made. He produces a few fuses experimentally as a basis of calculating his shop’s capacity and the unit cost, variable only with wages and the price of raw materials. The result of his test, together with a sample of the fuses, is delivered to the War Department, where the sample is rigidly tested by specifications. The result being satisfactory, another ‘complete’ card may be dropped in the index file, and the bird-cage manufacturer is listed for war production.
Changes in design of weapons present special problems to the Ordnance Department. It is impossible to alter specifications with each change. A general policy has been accepted upon the assumption that war weapons will not vary materially during the next ten years. Necessities of war make mass production imperative — a process which is based upon the use of patterns constant in their design. Months of labor and tons of material were wasted during the World War when even minor changes were ordered. The present plan will admit of few if any substituted processes during war-time mass production unless the variation seems vital, the improvement epochal. Of course, standardization has its dangers as well as its advantages — both clearly recognized at Washington.
Slowly, indeed, but with sureness, the Army Industrial staff, supplemented by government experts in many departments, is solving the problem of industrial preparedness. In six of the seven departments approximate perfection is but a matter of time; a critical condition exists only with relation to the Air Service. Unlike necessities of the Ordnance and other military supply-departments, an airplane, as yet, cannot be built in different factories and later assembled from interchangeable parts. Too much specialized workmanship is required. Official reports for the past two years have repeatedly warned that our supply of aircraft is almost exhausted and that the aircraft industry faces extinction. A military board has supplemented these statements with the declaration that the air force must be recognized as of equal importance in our scheme of national defense with either the Army or Navy. To which officers of the Industrial Staff have replied that we must have more facilities for airplane construction, pointing out that in an emergency it would be at least eight months before any airplanes could be supplied. Still, no constructive measures have been adopted to meet the situation, which might prove critical.
The quiet precision and efficiency with which the economic survey has been carried on by our generals in the trenches of industry—the important contributions they have made toward the nation’s security in the unhappy event of war — make even more imperative the solution of this one problem. With a single weak link, the chain of preparedness is worthless, and the World War experience, as well as recent experiment, has demonstrated the importance which the airplane would assume should war be declared.
In conviction and tradition opposed to maintaining large standing armies, the United States is now drawing upon industry for reserve strength. It is a natural evolution, but one which nations less fortunately situated and organized may ponder with dismay and perhaps with foreboding.