The Chieftain's Hatch: Equipping the Force Part 7

The long series of articles on the process used by Army Ground Forces to develop, approve, acquire and field new equipment continues. They are transcribed from the official Army Ground Force history as found in the National Archives. If you missed the previous article, look here.

Anyway, back to the story, we now move to....

Adoption of Equipment

The process of adopting equipment after service tests or extended field tests was a relatively simple matter, as far as Army Ground Forces was concerned. The project officer initiated a letter, or indorsed the reports of tests, to Army Service Forces with a recommendation that the equipment be adopted as either a standard, substitute standard, or limited standard type, and also included recommendations for the reclassification of any equipment which the new item would replace in whole or in part.

In order not to delay standardization proceedings the basis of issue for the new item was made subject of a separate action, since it required additional processing in Army Ground Forces. A proposed basis of issue for the various arms was recommended by the Developments Division to the Organization Division of the Requirements Section, on the basis of information from those branches which might have use for the equipment. Consolidated and forwarded to Organization Division, it was then processed through the special staff sections, G-3 and G-4. A final approved basis of issue was submitted to the Developments Division, which prepared the action letter to Army Service Forces. Although Army Ground Forces adhered to this procedure for several years, Army Service Forces did not adopt it for all of its agencies until 1945. ASF directive of 1945 required a “basis of issue” to be submitted at the time of standardization for procurement planning purpses. This was not a breakdown by separate Tables of Equipment, but a statement of the general manner in which the equipment was to be distributed, such as “Two per motor vehicle operator”. The exact “basis of distribution” to be included in tables was made the subject of a later action by Army Ground Forces, as before.

This directive ended a dispute of many months’ standing between Army Ground Forces and the Quartermaster General. The latter had taken the position that an item could not be standardized unless a basis of issue was concurrently proposed. His reason was that unless there was a basis of issue there was no requirement, and unless there was a requirement, an item could not be adopted as standard. Developments Division constantly held that standardization was merely the formal action approving the item as suitable for general procurement for the Army, and that a basis of issue was simply the means to determine the amount of procurement and method of distribution. Army Ground Forces and Army Service Forces arrived at no satisfactory agreement on this point, and consequently a number of quartermaster items were delayed in standardization until the elaborate process of establishing a precise basis of distribution could be completed. Possibly the delay caused by the Quartermaster Corps was the spur which led Army Service Forces to permit standardization on submission of a general basis of issue. The latter system worked very well during the last few months of the war.

Classification of all equipment was still handled by technical committees, constituted in much the same manner as before the war. Developments Division was represented on these committees by a member from each of the combat arms branches and, in some cases, by the Chief of the Division in addition. This procedure survived from the old Chiefs Offices and on its face constituted an unnecessary duplcation of effort. In the early days of Army Ground Forces the individual branch chiefs would have been satisfied with no other system and such membership was continued as a matter of custom. These individual members theoretically spoke only for their individual branches and not for Developments Division or for Army Ground Forces as a whole. Actually one member of the committee was designated by the Chief of the Development Division to be the principal representative of Army Ground Forces. He attended all meetings and spoke for the Commanding General. Before the meeting he consulted with other interested branches of Developments to determine their position on items of the agenda of interest to them. The committee learned to treat any AGF representative as speaking for the headquarters, and that member would sign for all AGF committee members. On occasion the duplication of committee members had one advantage. If it seemed likely that an item desired by Army Ground Forces might not be considered favorably in the committee, all Developments Division representatives would attend and present a united front of six members speaking for Army Ground Forces; or if a nonconcurrence in a committee action was indicated, six members would join this non-concurrence.

An exception to this general procedure was found in the Ordnance Committee. In this committee every branch was likely to have items of special interest coming up every week, and it was general practice for a member from each branch to attend, in addition to the Chief or Executive of the Division. No reason is apparent for this custom. Items on the agenda were submitted to each member prior to the meeting and signed by him if he concurred in the action. If he did not concur, a formal nonconcurrence was filed. Except for added items which were brought up at the meeting, the entire procedure was largely cut and dried, merely formal approval of actions already accomplished in substance by the prior approval of individual committee members.

As in the case of the development priorities and the speed of development, Army Ground Forces had no control over the speed of which an item was processed through a technical committee. The committee was responsible only to its technical service and through the technical service to Army Ground Froces. Although this divided system of control was considered unsound from the standpoint of Army Ground Forces, good results could be and were achieved when the technical services and committee concerned were ready to cooperate promptly in aggressive action to complete committee action on important items.

Here again close personal contacts between officers in Army Ground Forces and the committee secretaries was the key to expedited action. Lack of control over the processing of items was the greatest difficulty experience by Army Ground Forces in its relationship with the technical committees.

Of committee action generally, special mention should be made of the Ordnance Technical Committee. In its attention to detail, the completeness of its papers, its extensive use of classification of items from the initiation of development, and its careful and wide distribution of committee minutes, it was generally considered superior to the other committees and considered a model for all of the technical committees.

Follow-up of Standardization actions.

Under the separation of powers in Circular 59, the responsibility of the Developments Division nominally ended upon its recommendation for appropriate classification of equipment. On the other hand, G-4 of Army Ground Forces did not come into the equipment picture until the item was ready for distribution to units of the Army Ground Forces. In securing new items of equipment, priority of issue was normally given to overseas units, and in these cases G-4 of Army Ground Forces was not concerned at all. Thus no agency in Army Ground Forces was directly empowered to take any steps to hasten the initial procurement of newly standardized items. Here, a serious administrative gap existed.

As a matter of interest in the early culmination of its efforts to provide the US soldiers with new and improved equipment, Developments Division attempted to follow up the course of procurement of such new items. At first the methods adopted rested with the individual project officers in Army Ground Forces. Letters requesting information on the status of new equipment would be sent to Army Service Forces, which in turn forwarded them to the technical service. There they would be routed to the proper procurement agency of the service, which would obtain the desired information and send it back. By the time it returned to Army Ground Forces, perhaps a matter of weeks, the information was stale. This was not at all satisfactory to officers who perhaps had a theater request on their desks awaiting an answer within 24 hours. Having nothing to do with production, they did not usually know what person in the procurement agencies had the desired information. During 1943, as more and more new items passed from the development stage to the initial production stage, some system of following up standardized items was found essential.

Developments Division then instituted a method whereby each officer who had started standardization proceedings would receive a follow-up sheet showing the date of standardization of the action with appropriate blanks for the date the item was authorized for production, the date of production of the first lot, and date of receipt of the item in Army Service Forces stock control. Below these entires space was left for remarks or information obtained by the project officer on successive inquiries on the status of the equipment. One copy of this was maintained in the branch files and the other copy held in Developments Division. This system was used for only a few months. There were three reasons for its hasty demise:

  1. It was found that the time required interfered too seriously in the performance of normal duties. A simple telephone call was not enough. The complexity of ASF organization, particularly in regard to procurement, was such that one unacquainted with the particular officers concerned could spend a day of telephoning without even making contact with the right man, let alone securing the information. Developments Division was never well enough provided with personnel that it could afford the time for this kind of research, no matter how desirable.
  2. Early in 1944, Army Service Forces instituted its supply control system which gave in a general way some, but not all, of the information normally desired. Neither the date of release or the production of the first lot could be determined from these supply control sheets, but the general procurement schedule and the potential and actual dates of production could be determined, as well as the quantities going into stock control. One disadvantage of the sheets was the lag of from one to two months from the time the data was prepared until it was received by Army Ground Forces.
  3. At about the same time (Summer of 1944) Army Ground Forces G-4 became interested in development of new equipment and conceived his job to include this kind of follow-up on items in which the headquarters was vitally interested. A new AGF follow-up system was consequently devised. As items were standardized a list of the most important were submitted on memo slup to G-4 who then made formal inquiries of Army Service Forces. This system, like the earlier one, was almost worthless. Use of formal channels of communications, delay until all replies had been received, and consolidation of the information before forwarding it to Developments Division, made much of the information stale by the time it was received, and often the information furnished was already contained in supply control sheets.

The plain truth is that to the end of the war no satisfactory way had been found for Developments Division to maintain pressure on the technical services to hasten the production of equipment during the initial 30 to 60 days after standardization, the period when short cuts could be made in preparing specifications, issuing contracts and getting the industry ready to go.