Franklin D. Roosevelt

Message to Congress on Appropriations for National Defense.

July 10, 1940

To the Congress:

As President of the United States and as Commander-in-Chief of 'its armed forces, I come again to the representatives of the people in Congress assembled, to lay before them an extraordinary estimate of funds and authorizations required for the national defense.

In my opinion, it is necessary now that the people of this nation and their representatives in Congress look at the problem of the national defense with utterly dispassionate realism. Never have we as a nation attempted to define the word "defense" in terms of a specific attack at a certain place at a certain time or with specified land and sea forces. In the long sweep of the century and a half since our defenses have been concentrated and unified under the Constitution, it has been a prime obligation of the President and Commander-in-Chief promptly to advise the Congress with respect to any world circumstances calling for either increased or diminished defense needs.

From time to time during the last seven years, I have not failed to advise the people and their representatives of grave dangers threatening the United States and its people, and the institutions of democracy everywhere. From time to time I have availed myself of opportunities to reassert and to implement the right of all nations of the American hemisphere to freedom from attack or control by any non-American power.

A year and a half ago, on January 4, 1939, in my address to the Congress, I referred to the fact that I had felt it necessary on previous occasions to warn of disturbances abroad, and the need of putting our own house in order in the face of storm signals from across the seas. On that day I said that a war which threatened to envelope the world in flames had been averted, but that it had become increasingly clear that peace was not assured. I said then that all about us raged undeclared wars, military and economic. I said then that all about us were threats of new aggression, military and economic. I said then that the storms from abroad directly challenged three institutions indispensable to Americans—religion, democracy and international good faith.

Unhappily, many Americans believed that those who thought they foresaw the danger of a great war, were mistaken. Unhappily, those of us who did foresee that danger, were right.

A week later, on January 12, 1939, I submitted a program considered by me as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy and by my advisors to be a minimum program for the necessities of defense, saying that every American was aware of the peaceful intentions of this Government and of this people, and that every American knew that we have no thought of aggression and no desire for further territory. The Congress granted that request for the minimum program then deemed necessary.

At the beginning of September the storm broke, and on the twenty-first of that month, in a message to the extraordinary session of the Congress, I said that this Government must lose no time or effort to keep this nation from being drawn into the war, and I asserted my belief that we would succeed in these efforts. We have succeeded. I believe we shall continue to succeed.

In September last, I increased the strength of the Army, Navy, Coast Guard and the Federal Bureau of Investigation within statutory authorizations made by the Congress. In January, 1940, I submitted a budget to the Congress which included provision for that expansion of personnel, as well as estimates for the national defense, amounting to approximately two billion dollars for the fiscal year 1941.

On May 16, in a message to the Congress, I pointed out that the swift and shocking developments of that time forced every neutral nation to look to its defenses in the light of new factors loosed by the brutal force of modern offensive war. I called attention to the treacherous use of the "fifth column," by which persons supposed to be peaceful visitors were actually a part of an enemy unit of occupation, and called especial attention to the necessity for the protection of the whole American Hemisphere from control, invasion or domination. I asked at that time for a sum totaling $1,182,000,000 for the national defense.

On May 31, 1940, I again sent a message to the Congress, to say that the almost incredible events of the then past two weeks in the European conflict had necessitated another enlargement of our military program, and at that time I asked for $1,277,741,170 for the acceleration and development of our military and naval needs as measured in both machines and men.

Again today, in less than two months time, the changes in the world situation are so great and so profound that I must come once again to the Congress to advise concerning new threats, new needs, and the imperative necessity of meeting them. Free men and free women in the United States look to us to defend their freedom against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Those enemies of freedom who hate free institutions now deride democratic Governments as weak and inefficient.

We, the free men and women of the United States, with memories of our fathers to inspire us and the hopes of our children to sustain us are determined to be strong as well as free. The apologists for despotism and those who aid them by whispering defeatism or appeasement, assert that because we have not devoted our full energies to arms and to preparation for war that we are now incapable of defense.

I refute that imputation.

We fully understand the threat of the new enslavement in which men may not speak, may not listen, may not think. As these threats become more numerous and their dire meaning more clear, it deepens the determination of the American people to meet them with wholly adequate defense.

We have seen nation after nation, some of them weakened by treachery from within, succumb to the force of the aggressor. We see great nations still gallantly fighting against aggression, encouraged by high hope of ultimate victory.

That we are opposed to war is known not only to every American, but to every government in the world. We will not use our arms in a war of aggression; we will not send our men to take part in European wars.

But, we will repel aggression against the United States or the Western Hemisphere. The people and their representatives in the Congress know that the threats to our liberties, the threats to our security, the threats against our way of life, the threats to our institutions of religion, of democracy, and of international good faith, have increased in number and gravity from month to month, from week to week, and almost from day to day.

It is because of these rapid changes; it is because of the grave danger to democratic institutions; and above all, it is because of the united will of the entire American people that I come to ask you for a further authorization of $4,848,171,957 for the national defense.

Let no man in this country or anywhere else believe that because we in America still cherish freedom of religion, of speech, of assembly, of the press; that because we maintain our free democratic political institutions by which the nation after full discussion and debate chooses its representatives and leaders for itself-let no man here or elsewhere believe that we are weak.

The United States is the greatest industrial nation in the world. Its people, as workers and as businessmen, have proved that they can unite in the national interest and that they can bring together the greatest assembly of human skills, of mechanical production, and of national resources, ever known in any nation.

The principal lesson of the war up to the present time is that partial defense is inadequate defense.

If the United States is to have any defense, it must have total defense.

We cannot defend ourselves a little here and a little there. We must be able to defend ourselves wholly and at any time.

Our plans for national security, therefore, should cover total defense. I believe that the people of this country are willing to make any sacrifice to attain that end.

After consultation with the War and Navy Departments and the Advisory Commission to the Council of National Defense, I recommend a further program for the national defense. This contemplates the provision of funds and authorizations for the material requirements without which the man power of the nation, if called into service, cannot effectively operate, either in the production of arms and goods, or their utilization in repelling attack.

In broad outline our immediate objectives are as follows:

1. To carry forward the Naval expansion program designed to build up the Navy to meet any possible combination of hostile naval forces.

2. To complete the total equipment for a land force of approximately 1,200,000 men, though of course this total of men would not be in the Army in time of peace.

3. To procure reserve stocks of tanks, guns, artillery, ammunition, etc., for another 800,000 men or a total of 2,000,000 men if a mobilization of such a force should become necessary.

4. To provide for manufacturing facilities, public and private, necessary to produce critical items of equipment for a land force of 2,000,000 men, and to produce the ordnance items required for the aircraft program of the Army and Navy—guns, bombs, armor, bombsights and ammunition.

5. Procurement of 15,000 additional planes for the Army and 4,000 for the Navy, complete with necessary spare engines, armaments, and the most modern equipment.

The foregoing program deals exclusively with materiel requirements. The Congress is now considering the enactment of a system of selective training for developing the necessary man power to operate this materiel and man power to fill army noncombat needs. In this way we can make certain that when this modern materiel becomes available, it will be placed in the hands of troops trained, seasoned, and ready, and that replacement materiel can be guaranteed.

I take this occasion to report the excellent progress being made for the procurement of the equipment already ordered under authorization by the Congress. Every week more and more is being delivered. The several branches of the Government are working in close cooperation with each other and with private manufacturers.

We are keeping abreast of developments in strategy, tactics, and technique of warfare, and building our defenses accordingly.

The total amount which I ask of the Congress in order that this program may be carried out with all reasonable speed is$2,161,441,957, which it is estimated would be spent out of the Treasury between now and July 1, 1941, and an additional $2,686,730,000 for contract authorizations.

So great a sum means sacrifice. So large a program means hard work—the participation of the whole country in the total defense of the country. This nation through sacrifice and work and unity proposes to remain free.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Message to Congress on Appropriations for National Defense. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under



Simple Search of Our Archives