2-129 Editorial Note on Congressional Appropriations, February 1940

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: February 1, 1940

Editorial Note on Congressional Appropriations

February 1940

Maarshall asserted, “If Europe blazes in the late spring or summer, we must put our house in order before the sparks reach the Western Hemisphere.” These words highlighted the first formal testimony by the chief of staff before the subcommittee on the War Department of the House Appropriations Committee on February 23, 1940. (Military Establishment Appropriation Bill for 1941, Hearings [Washington: GPO, 1940], p. 3.) Congress at this time vigorously debated the appropriations for fiscal year 1941 and the use of funds for large-scale maneuvers. Subcommittee chairman J. Buell Snyder stated the issue succinctly: “The Congress is in a position where it has got to reduce these annual appropriation bills, the defense measures not excepted.” (Ibid., p. 587. See also Mark S. Watson, Chief of Staff: Prewar Plans and Preparations, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1950], pp. 164-65.) Marshall cautioned his staff that “the impact of economy will probably be terrific. It will react to our advantage if our bill is acted on at the latest possible date. It is probable that events in Europe will develop in such a way as to affect Congressional action.” (Walter B. Smith Report of Conference held in the Chief of Staff’s office, February 16, 1940, NA/RG 165 [OCS, Chief of Staff Conferences File].)

Marshall clearly stated the War Department’s priorities: “Our great objective is the procurement of the critical items of equipment—ammunition, rifles, artillery, tanks, and so forth, for the Protective Mobilization Plan Force (the P.M.P.) of 750,000 men in units, and about 250,000 individuals as replacements. These munitions will be needed immediately in an emergency. They require from 1 to 2 years to procure. They would be like gold in the vault against a financial crisis.” The immediate objective, he contended, was to outfit the Regular Army’s 227,000 authorized men and the National Guard’s 235,000. An additional $19,000,000 should be appropriated for the creation of a sixth division, special corps troops for a second army corps, and the expansion of the mechanized brigade. This expansion would carry the army to a total of 242,000 Regular enlisted men, a force that should be maintained “until world conditions have stabilized.” Marshall reminded the subcommittee members, however, that “this increase should come after the materiel requirements for the Protective Mobilization Plan Force have been provided.” (Military Establishment Appropriation Bill for 1941, p. 3.)

Embattled by the congressional opposition to increased expenditures on maneuvers, the chief of staff resolutely defended, on February 23 and 26, the on-going corps concentrations and explained the necessity for summer field army maneuvers in fiscal year 1941. Divisions from each field army in the current southern maneuvers, he explained, would return to their bases and form the nucleus for the coming summer exercises. Marshall asked for funds to extend National Guard field training from fifteen to twenty-seven days—twenty-one days of field maneuvers and six days for small-unit training. (Ibid., pp. 12-13, 18-19.) In pressing for an expanded role for the National Guard, Marshall had to maneuver carefully as he was pitting himself against many state adjutants general, who did not want control of training to get outside state borders, and against Major General Milton A. Reckord, a key figure in the National Guard Association, who opposed lengthening the Guard’s field training. Marshall was determined to settle the issue without stirring up animosity in powerful Guard elements—unless he had to. (Smith, Report of Conference, February 16, 1940.)

Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland, Sharon Ritenour Stevens, and Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr. (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 2, “We Cannot Delay,” July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 163-164.

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