The lineage of the ASA (M&RA) organization mirrors the ever-changing needs of the Army, the attitudes of its leaders and the impact of outside forces that have molded the Army's size and organizational structure during the past 40 years.
The War Department entered World War II with a Secretariat and a personnel system that was badly fragmented between a host of military agencies. Although this situation improved somewhat during the course of the war, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson refrained from creating a manpower "czar" within his office. After the war, the Secretariat continued to take a decentralized approach to manpower affairs until 1950, when Secretary Gordon Gray moved to centralize responsibility for the Army's civilian, military and reserve personnel policy under one individual. Nevertheless, these functions continued to be of secondary importance until the Korean War raised serious manpower problems. Ultimately, the Army established an Assistant Secretary for Manpower and Reserve Forces and made manpower issues his primary, rather than secondary, concern.
After the end of the Korean War in 1953, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Manpower and Reserve Forces) began to assume responsibilities that were only peripherally related to its core manpower, personnel and reserve forces mission. Some of these tasks, such as overseeing Army exchanges and commissaries, personnel security and the custody of military prisoners were given to the office because they were "personnel related" functions for which no other Assistant Secretary appeared suitable. Other functions, such as military history, bore no relation to personnel matters and, by 1961, the Assistant Secretary for Manpower, Personnel and Reserve Forces had assumed duties ranging from continental defense and real property to housing and a variety of civil functions -- all in addition to its central manpower functions.
Congressionally-imposed limits on the size of the Secretariat and the need for internal restructuring in 1961, led the Secretary of the Army Staff to abolish the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Manpower, Personnel and Reserve Forces) and transfer the majority of its functions to the Office of the Under Secretary. The Under Secretary continued to oversee Army personnel issues until early 1968, when Congress directed that the Army create a new Assistant Secretary for the specific purpose of managing manpower and reserve affairs.
Since its resurrection in 1968, the Office of the Assistant Secretary (Manpower and Reserve Affairs) (OASA (M&RA)) has assumed an ever-growing list of functions, much in the way that its predecessor had grown prior to 1961. There are three reasons for this general expansion in the duties assigned to the OASA (M&RA). First, over the past two decades there has been a genuine trend to increase the role civilian leadership plays in the day-to-day management of the Armed Forces. This strengthening of civilian authority has resulted in the creation of a more powerful and more active Secretariat than existed prior to World War II. Total Army Concept has elevated the importance of these forces within the Army establishment. Finally the adoption of the Volunteer Army, after the end of the Vietnam War, has led to an increasing emphasis on morale, welfare and equal opportunity issues, all of which have fallen under the purview of ASA (M&RA).
Starting in 1994, the ASA (M&RA) provided policy management oversight of the civilian personnel management and civilian manpower management functioning using the definitions for the functions as approved by the Secretary in 1994. In 2001, as part of the HQDA Realignment Task Force, these functions were realigned to the Army Staff, under the leadership of the Deputy Chief of Staff (DCS), Personnel, now DCS G1.
The Office of the ASA (M&RA) currently operates under General Order 3, dated July 9, 2002.