When President Truman addressed Congress asking for Universal Military Training and re-enactment of the Selective Service Act, he possibly did not forsee the minor legislative war he was to set off. Opposition was particularly vigorous in the House, which in desperation had quietly swept UMT under the rug and hoped no one had noticed. On the other hand, support of the draft by itself seemed to be almost equally as strong. Late in March, the Senate Armed Services Committee conducted hearings, at which Defense Secretary James Forrestal outlined what he considered to be the "minimum necessity" for United States military security. Its most immediate requirement was an armed force of 1,734,000 men, which, said Forrestal, would be filled by a draft of men between the ages of 19 and 25.
Acting on Forrestal's recommendations, the Senate committee drew up a proposal which combined UMT and the draft, with an eye on reducing opposition to either one, and minimizing expenses. It was divided as follows: 1) Men 18 to 19 1/2 years old would be required to serve for one year in the armed forces, after which they would remain in one of the organized "Class A" reserve outfits for another four years. In their year of active training they would not be sent overseas. While the original "universal" conception of the program has been changed to a "selective" one, the ultimate goal still remains the building up of adequate reserves. 2) Men 19 1/2 to 25, on the other hand, would go in for two years' training and service. Secretary Forrestal said that relatively few of these men would be assigned to occupation and garrison duty; the greater proportion would make up the nation's ready forces of invasion and defense. After discharge, these men would go into the inactive reserve.
Though much confusion still surrounds the details of the Senate measure, it is fairly certain that veterans of World War II will be exempt, with the possible exception of those who had less than 90 days' active duty, or who served less than 18 months and are not listed or commissioned in reserve components. Quite likely this last provision was put forth in the hope of drawing more voluntary enlistments into the unorganized reserves. The Army and Navy have made it clear that they cannot call up their reserves for active duty, however, without specific Congressional or Presidential action.
How Congress will receive the present proposal is anybody's guess. Already the House has expressed strong opposition to it, and would much rather see a 19-25 draft only. Some circles have criticized this apparent attempt to "ride universal military training through on the coat tails of the draft." Instead of UMT, the House is urging an Air Force of 70 groups, a figure somewhat in excess of Secretary Forrestal's estimate, as a more practical measure. But in defense of UMT General Omar Bradley warned Congress that air power was not the primary concern. "The alternative to UMT," he stated, "Is not 70 groups, 170 groups, or 1000 groups. The alternative . . . is a standing Army big enough to carry the Army portion of a war burden for one year, until mobilization can be effected." General Bradley put the figure at 1,500,000 men, as against the Army's present strength of 542,000! So far Congress is procceding on the assumption that some form of military might is the answer to the preservation of world order, but how it will turn out remains to be seen.