The Evolution of U.S. Military Policy from the Constitution to the Present, Volume I: The Old Regime: The Army, Militia, and Volunteers from Colonial Times to the Spanish-American War


Tracing the evolution of the U.S. Army throughout American history, the authors of this four-volume series show that there is no such thing as a “traditional” U.S. military policy. Rather, the laws that authorize, empower, and govern the U.S. armed forces emerged from long-standing debates and a series of legislative compromises between 1903 and 1940.

Volume I traces the history of U.S. military policy from the colonial era through the Spanish-American War. This period is critical for understanding the genesis of the basic structure of today’s Army and the various factors that informed that structure. For a combination of strategic, cultural, economic, ideological, and political reasons, in the 18th and 19th centuries the United States did not establish a standing army large enough to handle a major conflict and instead relied on a variety of mechanisms for raising volunteer units and marshaling state militias to expand or augment the Army. The Spanish-American War (1898) was a major turning point: The difficulties the United States faced in raising and equipping a large-enough Army for the conflict prompted led to major reforms in the early 20th century.

This research was sponsored by the United States Army and conducted by the Strategy, Doctrine, and Resources Program within the RAND Arroyo Center.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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