National Defense Act of 1916
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (April 2009)|
The National Defense Act of 1916, Pub.L. 64–85, 39 Stat. 166, enacted June 3, 1916, provided for an expanded army during peace and wartime, fourfold expansion of the National Guard, the creation of an Officers' and an Enlisted Reserve Corps, plus the creation of a Reserve Officers' Training Corps in colleges and universities. The President was also given authority, in case of war or national emergency, to mobilize the National Guard for the duration of the emergency.
The act was passed amidst the "preparedness controversy", a brief frenzy of great public concern over the state of preparation of the United States armed forces, and shortly after Pancho Villa's cross-border raid on Columbus, New Mexico. Its chief proponent was James Hay of Virginia, the chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs.
Sponsored by Rep. Julius Kahn (R) of California and drafted by the House Chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs Rep. James Hay (D) of Virginia, it authorized an army of 175,000 men, a National Guard of 450,000 men. It empowered the President to place obligatory orders with manufacturers capable of producing war materials.
The provision to establish the Reserve Officer Training Corps was supported by a delegation from Ohio including William Oxley Thompson, President of the Ohio State University. On February 7, 1916, Ralph D. Mershon, a graduate of Ohio State, testified before the Committee as a professional engineer for the Reserve Engineers Corps. He asked liberty to extend his remarks toward establishment of the ROTC. He noted
- ...the transformation that will take place in one term of drill in a man just off the farm and very clumsy when he enters college, and who at the end of a term is 'set up', carries himself well, looks neat in his uniform, and has acquired a measure of self-respect, and the respect of his colleagues, to an extent he would not have had without the military training.
Langley Field in Virginia was built as part of the act. Now U.S. Air Force Command HQ as Langley Air Force Base, this "aerodrome" was named after air pioneer Samuel Pierpont Langley (died 1904). The President also requested the National Academy of Sciences to establish the National Research Council to conduct research into the potential of mathematical, biological, and physical science applications for defense. It allocated over $17 million to the Army to build 375 new aeroplanes.
Perhaps most important, it granted the President the power to “Federalize” the National Guard [note this is considered by some to be unconstitutional. Article II of the US Constitution does not authorize the President to call up even the Federal army, let alone the State militias. That power to declare war rests solely with the US Congress authorized in Article I Section 8 of the US Constitution.] times of emergency, with individual States’ militias reverting to their control upon the end of the declared emergency. With the Defense Act, Congress was also concerned with ensuring the supply of nitrates (used to make munitions), and it authorized the construction of two nitrate-manufacturing plants and a dam for hydropower as a national defense measure. President Wilson chose Muscle Shoals, Alabama as the site of the dam. The dam was later named for him, and the two Nitrate plants built in Muscle Shoals were later rolled into the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1933.
The National Defense Act Amendments of 1920, Pub.L. 66–242, 41 Stat. 759, enacted June 4, 1920, a.k.a. the National Defense Act of 1920, amended the National Defense Act to among other things make the United States Army Air Service a combat arm of the line, put the National Guard on the general staff, and reorganize the divisions.
The National Defense Act Amendments of 1933, Pub.L. 73–64, 48 Stat. 153, enacted June 15, 1933, a.k.a. the National Defense Act of 1933 and the National Guard Mobilization Act, amended the National Defense Act to among other things make the National Guard a permanent component of the Army.
See also 
- Edith D. Cockins (1956) Ralph Davenport Mershon, v 1, p 30, Ohio State University Press
- National Defense Act (Text) from Emergency Legislation Passed Prior to December, 1917. United States Dept. of Justice, Joshua Reuben Clark. Published by Govt. Print. Off., 1918
- Herring, Jr., George C. (1964). "James Hay and the Preparedness Controversy, 1915-1916". The Journal of Southern History 30 (4): 383–404. doi:10.2307/2204278. JSTOR 2204278.
- World War I: The First Three Years American Military History. 1988, United States Army Center of Military History.
|This United States federal legislation article is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.|