Research Paper: Effects of the Defense Authorization Act of 1916 and 1920 on the National Guard

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¶ … Defense Authorization Act of 1916 & 1920 on the National Guard

In 1790, President George Washington and Henry Knox, who was a military leader at that time tried to persuade the Continental Congress to establish a federally controlled militia, and despite their convincing argument about the benefits that the United States would derive from such military policy, the Continental Congress did not accept their proposal. For over 150 years after President Washington and Henry Knox failed to persuade the Continental Congress, numerous military and political leaders repeated similar efforts, however, the Congress repeatedly denied their initiations. During this period, attempt to rectify wars by the War Department met with ideological protests and several military and political leaders revealed the impact of the threats on the territorial integrity of the United States without an effective federally controlled militia. These concerns gradually became an avenue where some political leaders started seeking for the avenue to increase the roles of National Guard instead of creating federally controlled militia. Senator Charles Dick sponsored a bill to increase the role of National Guard instead of creating another military reserve and the effort of Charles Dick and other political and military leaders led the congress to pass National Defense Act 1916. (Groark, 2004). The thesis formulates research objective to enhance greater understanding of the National Defense Act of 1916.

Research Objective

The study attempts to explore the National Defense Act of 1916 and its impact on the National Guard.

To enhance greater understanding about the impact of the National Defense Act of 1916 on the National Guard, the study reflects back on the structure of the National Guard before 1916, and after 1916, and after the National Defense Act of 1920 came into effect. The study also develops hypothesis to provide greater understanding on the method National Defense Acts assist the National Guard to mature after 1916.

Research Questions

The study develops two research questions to understand the operational readiness of National Guard before 1916 and after 1920

1. What was the operational readiness of the National Guard before enacting the Defense Act of 1916?

2. What was the operational readiness of the National Guard after the enactment of Defense Act 1920?

Before the congress passed the Defense Act of 1916 into law, the National Guard was ill equipped and poorly trained. When the National Guard were called upon for the Federal Service, their conducts revealed that personnel in the National Guard still needed to undergo a lengthy training before they could be effective for the national assignment. Within the National Guard, there were a number of unqualified personnel, and the issue always caused the delay to launch the soldiers into fight. The result of the lengthy stay in the hot camps sometime led to the decline in the soldiers moral, sickness, and death.

However, after the congress passed the National Defense Act of 1916, National Guard was reorganized and well trained, and after the congress passed the National Defense Act 1920, National Guard was well equipped, and since 1920, there have been mobilization process for the National Guard because of the regular training that the National Guard undergo. To fully equip the Soldiers, National Guard receives updated equipment for the training making them to fully equipped and fully prepared for the war. With modern equipments, the Soldiers and Airman could enter war with better understanding of modern and sophisticated weapons.

Review of the literatures is critical to answer the research questions and develop the hypothesis. Reviewing of different literatures also assists in enhancing the greater understanding of the impact of the Defense Act 1916 and Defense Act 1920 on National Guard.

National Guard before the Defense Act of 1916

The evolution of the National Guard started from the colonial military force of 1636. At that period, Colonial militia forces were primarily reserved for the local defense. (Smith, 1990). Major threats of the U.S. national security have emerged from more than 235 years ago, and one of the highest priorities of the National government is to defend the territorial integrity of the United Stated States. With the formation of the National Guard, they served both states and federal government and they were subject to the authorities of both state and the national government. The history of National Guard has created hot debates among intellectuals and military experts. There are group who argued that National Guard were military forces crated to serve the U.S. national interests. On the other hand, there are group who believe that National Guard are the group of militia patriotic men desire to serve the national defense as well as looking for the means to survive.

However, National Guard was not official recognized until the U.S. government passed the Militia Act of 1792. The aim of this Act was organize, trained, equipped men for the national compulsory militia. The Militia Act of 1792 made it compulsory for all eligible males to engage in military system. (Bowman Kapp & Belasco). Under the Militia Act of 1792, all militiamen were required to arm themselves and the state adjutant generals were appointed to oversee the uniformity of the Militia. As being pointed by Groark (1990),

"The Militia Act required all able-bodied men ages 18-45 to serve in the state militia. Each man enrolling in the state militia had the responsibility maintain his own weapon and equipment. Congress authorized no federal dollars for this purpose." (P 18)

While the Militia Act served the purpose of certainty and reliability for the country to defend itself during the conflict, however, "the Militia Act lacked provisions of enforceability. Congress also failed to finance the costs of implementing the expensive requirements the states now shouldered." (Coasts, 2006 P. 347). In the half of 1800, Militia Act proved unreliable and lacked preparedness. Typically, states showed little interests on Militia and exercise little control over militia. However, the Militia gained forces in 1840s because of the financial support received from some state governments. Despite the financial support received from some states, the Militia lacked unpreparedness, and during the civil war, President Lincoln made it clear that the state Militia were unprepared for the battle.

"In 1898, during the Spanish-American War, supporters of a national reserve army viewed ineffective mobilization of many state militias as unacceptable and compromising of the national defense." (Coasts, 2006 P. 348).

In addition, "The Militia Act did not include how states were going to enforce the enrollment. Thus, many states failed to ensure these "able-bodied men" met their service obligation." (Groark 1990 P. 18).

However, during the Civil War, militiamen largely increased the role of national defense, and in 1879, National Guard Association (NGA) was formed to promote the military efficiency of National Guard as well promoting the interest of the National Guard before the federal government. Meanwhile, the NGA was very successful in convincing the federal government to channel the funds to the National Guard through the state governments. Lack of preparedness of the Militia led the national government to pass the Dick Act of 1903 to convert the Militia into organized Militia or National Guard. Before the Dick Act of 1903, the National Guard only consisted of ill-equipped and poorly training soldiers, and there was a lack of uniformly enforced militia policy in the United States. During 19th century, "National Guard was not standardized across the nation because they are poorly organized and poorly equipped." (Stentiford, P 8, 2002).

In 1900, the National Guard only consisted of 116,542 officers, and the number of regular army just composed of 60,000 soldiers. However, there were series of call from different quarters to increase the total number of the regular army. On the other hand, advocates from another quarter argued that large standing army was inconsistence with the traditional American political beliefs and there was a need to increase the number of National Guard. Advocates of National Guard argued that properly trained and manned National Guard could augment the number of regular army during national emergencies. With lack of well-trained personnel within the National Guard and lack of equipment for the combat, it was revealed that the National Guard was not ready for the operational readiness.

Since 1900, National Guard has undergone series of transformation and changes. In 1900, the component of National Guard was just over 100,000 poorly equipped and ill-trained forces. The unique role of National Guard before 1916 was to perform state duty during civil disturbances and natural disaster. In the 20th Century, National had responded up to eight national emergencies.

To improve the effectiveness of the National Guard, Dick Act of 1903 was passed to transform all military units into organized companies and regiment of National Guard. With passage of Dick Act in 1903, National Guard units received increased in equipment and funding to enable them to conform to federal standard. The Dick Act was aimed to promote the efficiency of the National Guard and the National Guard was officially reorganized and became a partner of the regular army.

"Under the Dick Act, the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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APA Format

Effects of the Defense Authorization Act of 1916 and 1920 on the National Guard.  (2012, February 6).  Retrieved November 22, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Effects of the Defense Authorization Act of 1916 and 1920 on the National Guard."  6 February 2012.  Web.  22 November 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Effects of the Defense Authorization Act of 1916 and 1920 on the National Guard."  February 6, 2012.  Accessed November 22, 2019.