The Importance Of The 1916 National Defense Act

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The 1916 National Defense Act culminated with the United States forming a military policy that defined and solidified the roles of the regular Army, National Guard, and Federal Reserve forces. The law allowed the National Guard to continue within a modern military while balancing the needs of the Army to fight on an industrial battlefield with the unique needs of an American culture that desired a locally controlled military force. Other military laws had preceded the 1916 Act, and others would follow, but 1916 established the framework with vestiges that last through the present day. The military issues that produced the 1916 Act began twenty years earlier. In 1900, the US, lacking an existential threat, had a different view of the military …show more content…

Jerry Cooper disagreed and felt that the Act was important, but it just allowed the Guard to survive; the localism of the institution was forever altered. The Army now decided on unit type, officers needed federal recognition for commissions, and regular officers still dominated the National Guard representation within the Army command. Russel Weigley felt that the 1916 National Defense Act strengthened the Guard, but the 1916 Mexico deployment highlighted the National Guard's weakness and inability to perform as a large standing army. Allan Millett felt that the 1916 Naval Act and National Defense Act showed steady, if inconsistent, growth and modernization for the US military establishment. William Riker wrote that the Act settled the policy for the National Guard, and it was the most crucial piece of legislation regarding the history of the …show more content…

It solidified the National Guard as the primary reserve force while setting up a structure for the Federal Reserves to grow. It allowed the President to use Guard soldiers as needed once the Army federalized them, established officer training programs, and increased the regular Army's size. The Guard came under tighter federal control, but they also increased funding. The National Guard did sacrifice prominent features of its localism, the ability to choose its unit type and officers, but with the changes in industrial warfare taking place and a Federal rival to contend with these, local whims were not consistent with building a force that relied heavily on central planning and resources. National Guard culture did not die; it evolved. The fact that militia culture was strong enough to force a compromise between regular Army desires, practical military necessity, and American cultural traditions shows how strong the National Guard truly is in American military heritage. It is tempting to view the logical progression of the National Defense Acts of 1903, 1908, and 1916 as a linear path to the present, but they were a series of raucous fights that ruined the careers of politicians and soldiers alike and altered the entire system. The Army, the Secretary of War, and the National Guard changed size and shape in this period, and the relationship between the President, the government, and the

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