After World War I began, the United States remained virtually uninvolved in the combat for nearly three years. As the conflict
in Europe continued to escalate, prominent U.S. citizens began speaking out against the nation's isolationist approach. Theodore
Roosevelt, a former U.S. president, and Leonard Wood, the U.S. Army Chief of Staff from 1910 to 1914, launched what was known
as the Preparedness Movement, demanding that the U.S. government begin planning for entrance into the war. Despite these
efforts, it was not until two years later that the U.S. Congress began war preparations through the National Defense Act of
1916. The U.S., though ultimately triumphant, was severely hindered by its lack of trained soldiers, low stockpiles of combat-ready
weapons, and outdated strategies.
While the World War I Preparedness Movement had been largely unsuccessful, Bush believed that it was conceptually sound.
For a similar strategy to be effective, he knew that better organization would be necessary. During World War I, he had been
deeply concerned by the lack of cooperation between the U.S. military and civilian scientists. This war against Germany would
require technology and tactical maneuvering on an almost unfathomable scale. For that, military men and scientists would
have to work together.
Bush was determined to prod his government into action. After consulting with his fellow CSAL members, it was decided that
Bush would be the spokesperson for a preparedness movement not altogether unlike that supported by Teddy Roosevelt. He lived
in Washington, D.C. and, through his position as chairman of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and his work
on various Congressional committees, was known amongst the capital's elite. And so, in the spring of 1940, he began his campaign.
He made personal calls, solicited help from friends and colleagues, and did his best to navigate Washington's complex political
structure. What the country needed, he said, was a civilian-operated research group capable of developing technologies and
weapons in preparation for the United States' entry into the war. This group would need to be well funded, well supplied,
autonomous, and staffed with the best scientists the country had to offer.