Militia Act of 1903
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The Militia Act of 1903 (32 Stat. 775), also known as the Dick Act, was initiated by United States Secretary of WarElihu Root following the Spanish–American War of 1898, after the war demonstrated weaknesses in the militia, and in the entire U.S. military. The act formulated the concept of the National Guard and also ensured that all state military forces were simultaneously dual reservists under the authority of the Army Reserve.
This last measure was to prevent state governors from using National
Guard forces as "private armies", in many ways as had been done in the American Civil War and to ensure that the President could, at any time, mobilize state military forces into the federal armed forces.
three classes H.R. 11654 provides for are the organized militia,
henceforth known as the National Guard of the State, Territory and
District of Columbia, the unorganized militia and the regular army. The
militia encompasses every able-bodied male between the ages of 18 and
The National Guard Militia can only be required by the National
Government for limited purposes specified in the Constitution (to uphold
the laws of the Union; to suppress insurrection and repel invasion).
These are the only purposes for which the General Government can call
upon the National Guard. Attorney General Wickersham advised President
Taft, “the Organized Militia (the National Guard) can not be employed
for offensive warfare outside the limits of the United States.”
Charles W. F. Dick, a Major General in the Ohio National Guard and the chair of the Committee on the Militia, sponsored the 1903 Act towards the end of the 57th U.S. Congress.
Under this legislation, passed January 21, 1903, the organized militia
of the States were given federal status to the militia, and required to
conform to Regular Army organization within five years. The act also
required National Guard units to attend 24 drills and five days annual
training a year, and, for the first time, provided for pay for annual
training. In return for the increased Federal funding which the act made
available, militia units were subject to inspection by Regular Army
officers, and had to meet certain standards.
The increase in Federal funding was an important development. In 1808
Congress had allocated $200,000 a year to arm the militia; by 1887, the
figure had risen to only $400,000. But in 1906, three years after the
passage of the Dick Act, $2,000,000 was allocated to arm the militia;
between 1903 and 1916, the Federal government spent $53,000,000 on the
Guard, more than the total of the previous hundred years.
With the increase in Federal funding came an increase in paperwork
and bureaucracy. Before the passage of the Dick Act, militia affairs had
been handled by the various bureaus of the War Department,
as the subject dictated. But the 1903 act authorized, for the first
time, the creation of a separate section responsible for National Guard
affairs. Located in the Miscellaneous Division of the Adjutant General's office, this small section, headed by Major James Parker, Cavalry, with four clerks, was the predecessor of today's National Guard Bureau.
This section remained under the supervision of the Adjutant General's
Office until War Department Orders on February 12, 1908 created the
Division of Militia Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of War. The
act also provided for "necessary clerical and official expense of the
Division of Militia Affairs." Lieutenant Colonel Erasmus M. Weaver, Jr., Coast Artillery Corps,
assumed duties as the division's first Chief. An increasing volume of
business meant more personnel, and the four clerks had by this time
increased to 15.
The Division remained a part of the Office of the Secretary of War
until July 25, 1910 when the Chief was directed to report directly to
the Army Chief of Staff. The Division continued to perform under the direct jurisdiction of the Chief of Staff until the passage of the National Defense Act of June 3, 1916. Then the Division of Militia Affairs became the Militia Bureau of the War Department, under the direct supervision of the Secretary of War.
The Militia Act of 1903 was indirectly used by the Executive Branch of the government during Civil Rights demonstrations during the 1960s. Many southern governors, chief among them George Wallace,
attempted to use National Guard forces to block civil rights and
desegregation initiatives. In these cases, whenever a governor called up
the National Guard for use in blocking federal directives, the
President promptly mobilized the Guard into the Army Reserve, placing
the Guard commanders under federal authority, and subject to court
martial should they not carry out executive directives.
While some cite the passage date of HR 11654 as June 28, 1902, others state January 1903.