Rebuilding the Army

November 17, 1971

Report Outline
Faltering of Morale and Discipline
Public Attitudes Toward the Military
Proposals for the Post-Viet Nam Army
Special Focus

Faltering of Morale and Discipline

Role of Viet Nam and Society in Army Unrest

In an address to the cadets at West Point on May 29, President Nixon said it was no longer a secret that “discipline, integrity, patriotism and self-sacrifice …can no longer be taken for granted in the Army in which you will serve.” Many professional soldiers frankly admit that discipline in America's armed forces has broken down. Enlisted men sometimes have refused to obey their officers, even on the battlefields of Viet Nam. Assaults on officers are increasing. Desertion rates are high. Drugs, violence, crime, protest and racial tension—the problems of society—have all been intensified in the barracks. According to a highly respected military writer, Col. Robert D. Heinl Jr., “The morale, discipline and battleworthiness of the U.S. Armed Forces are, with a few salient exceptions, lower and worse than at any time in this century and possibly in the history of the United States.”

There appears to be no clear-cut single cause of the military malaise. Some officers find a permissive society at fault for sending them young men who refuse to accept discipline. Others blame the top leadership for placing a higher priority on military hardware than on the needs of the men and officers. Still others look beyond the generals and the privates and accuse the President, Congress and the public for failing to support the military. But if there is a preponderant cause of the Army's problems, the one most frequently mentioned is the Viet Nam War.

“It is just now beginning to be understood by the public that the Army has suffered no less than the rest of American society from the war,” the London Economist remarked recently, “and an excellent case can be made that the Army is in fact the main casualty.” Some officers say morale is low because the Army is being forced to fight an unpopular war. Public revulsion against atrocities perpetrated in Viet Nam has tainted everyone connected with the military and struck at the cherished ideals of Duty, Honor, Country. According to some observers, most of the Army's other problems flow from the anti-military attitude that the war has fostered.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Military Draft
Aug. 19, 2005  Draft Debates
Jan. 11, 1991  Should the U.S. Reinstate the Draft?
Jun. 13, 1980  Draft Registration
Jun. 20, 1975  Volunteer Army
Nov. 17, 1971  Rebuilding the Army
Nov. 18, 1970  Expatriate Americans
Mar. 20, 1968  Resistance to Military Service
Jun. 22, 1966  Draft Law Revision
Jan. 20, 1965  Reserve Forces and the Draft
Feb. 14, 1962  Military Manpower Policies
Jun. 03, 1954  Military Manpower
Sep. 24, 1952  National Health and Manpower Resources
Oct. 24, 1950  Training for War Service
Aug. 21, 1950  Manpower Controls
Aug. 13, 1945  Peacetime Conscription
Sep. 09, 1944  The Voting Age
Apr. 15, 1944  Universal Military Service
Feb. 17, 1942  Compulsory Labor Service
Jun. 11, 1941  Revision of the Draft System
Aug. 14, 1940  Conscription in the United States
Apr. 24, 1939  Conscription for Military Service
Defense Personnel
U.S. at War: Vietnam