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Why Congress Passed the Defense Production Act in 1950

The War Powers Acts represented unprecedented presidential power, but most of those powers contracted with the end of World War II. As the Cold War heated up, President Harry Truman and his advisors saw Korea as a pivotal front. When Soviet-backed North Korea invaded South Korea in June 1950, catching the United States unawares, western powers worried that it was the first foray of a larger communist world takeover and braced for military intervention.

Once again, the United States was unprepared for war. Defense production had dropped off and industries were once again catering to civilian needs. Even the kinds of tools that would be needed to produce more military materials were in short supply, and experts agreed the nation was not ready for another war. If Communists attempted to fight their western opponents on another front, too, the United States would be unable to respond. 

In July 1950, Truman warned Congress that the seemingly inevitable war in Korea would cause supply shortages and inflation at home and asked them—and the nation—to ramp up defense spending at home. 

“The things we need to do to build up our military defense will require considerable adjustment in our domestic economy,” he said in an address. “Our job now is to divert to defense purposes more of [our economy’s] tremendous productive capacity–more steel, more aluminum, more of a good many things.”

Read entire article at History.com