Reserve Forces Act (1955)
The 1955 act failed to produce the highly capable reserve forces its proponents envisioned. While the numbers of drill pay reservists and Guardsmen climbed dramatically, use of conscription (or the threat of it) often filled the ranks with less than enthusiastic soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen. Funding, equipment, and training remained below par for most of the reserve components until the 1980s. To deal with that problem Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara attempted to shrink the size of the nation's large reserve establishment and merge the federal reserve components of the army and air force into their National Guard counterparts in the early 1960s. When those efforts were blocked on Capitol Hill, he used his administrative authority to create a selected reserve force in each of the military services that was given priority access to training beyond what was normally authorized for Guard and reserve units. McNamara's program provided most of the nation's strategic military reserve in the continental United States while a growing portion of the active duty force was engaged in the Vietnam War. Although successful, the program was shelved in the early 1970s for budgetary reasons.
With the elimination of the draft and the Cold War's end, the Reserve Forces Act of 1955 lost much of its relevance. Although the basic legal structure of the reserve components remains unchanged, economics has replaced the draft as the principal incentive for providing reserve components manpower under the all‐volunteer force. The president was granted additional authority by the Congress during the 1970s to involuntarily recall limited numbers of Guardsmen and reservists to active duty for specified periods without either a declaration of war or a national emergency. The size of the ready reserve had shrunk to barely over 1.45 million personnel by 30 September 1997 due to the end of the Cold War and cuts in defense expenditures.
[See also All‐Volunteer Force.]
Eileen Galloway , History of U.S. Military Policy on Reserve Forces, 1775–1957, 1957.
Robert L. Goldich , Historical Continuity in the U.S. Military Reserve System, Armed Forces and Society, Fall 1980, pp. 9–16.
Charles J. Gross , Prelude to the Total Force: The Air National Guard, 1943–1969, 1985.
Gerald T. Cantwell , Citizen Airmen: A History of the Air Force Reserve, 1946–1994, 1997.
Reserve Component Programs: The Annual Report of the Reserve Forces Policy Board, Office of the Secretary of Defense, March 1998.
Charles J. Gross
"Reserve Forces Act (1955)." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/reserve-forces-act-1955
"Reserve Forces Act (1955)." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Retrieved September 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/reserve-forces-act-1955
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