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Is the U.S. mobilizing in the right way? General Motors’ President Charles E. Wilson does not think so. The U.S. has shouldered the major responsibility for leading—and protecting—the free world. But, said “Engine Charlie” Wilson, the nation has failed to provide a “permanent national defense program” which would provide protection “for several generations if necessary.”

Said he, before the American Ordnance Association in Cincinnati last week: “The current emergency is again being met with emergency measures which are exorbitant in cost, disruptive to the civilian economy and may not be adequate in time.” There is no virtue, he believes, in desperately mobilizing whenever war threatens, desperately reconverting when peace sets in. Then Engine Charlie advanced his own simple, horse-sensible plan. Its basis: “dual-purpose plants.” These plants would be capable of producing either arms or civilian goods alone or a combination of both.

Such plants, said he, would largely eliminate the feverish building and later abandonment of wartime facilities, as well as the frenzied hirings, firings and other headaches of the present mobilization-reconversion cycle. Only a dual-purpose plant offers “the immediate employment of industrial labor … in its normal location and in a type of military production most closely associated with peacetime production.”

As examples, Wilson exhibited plant-layout drawings showing how jet engines and car-body stampings, or planes and automobiles, could be produced under the same roof. “A large proportion of the manufacturing space could readily be made available for either purpose” with equipment and workers transferred quickly from one type of work to the other. In times of limited defense production, manufacturers could maintain pilot lines, continually updating their know-how for turning out military products on an all-out schedule. Then if all-out war came, the U.S. would be sure of all-out war production—and in time.

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