Part IV - Reorganizing the Executive Branch
Hoover had not
expected another government assignment so soon after his European relief trip
in February 1947. But shortly before he left, the former president learned that
Congress intended to establish a commission to reorganize the executive branch
of government. Having tried and failed to accomplish this enormous task during
his own administration, Hoover was skeptical of the outcome.
Yet he could not
refuse a call to public service, no matter how dubious he was of the results.
When Speaker Joseph W. Martin asked Hoover to join the commission the former
president agreed with the proviso that he serve as chairman. Truman readily
agreed that Hoover should be chairman. Little did either man realize the importance
of their partnership in achieving the seemingly impossible task of reorganization.
Hoover had not
expected to work with Truman on this effort. Like many Republicans, Hoover assumed
that Truman would be swept from office in the 1948 elections. Because the commission's
recommendations were not due until 1949, he assumed that he would be working
with a Republican president.
stunning election victory in November 1948, Hoover reoriented himself and his
commission to working with Truman. The president reiterated his support for
work and joined Hoover in pushing reorganization throughout his new term. The
partnership between the two men was to be felt in Washington and throughout
the nation for the next two decades.
HOOVER NOTES ON THE FIRST COMMISSION MEETING, SEPTEMBER
of Hoover's important contributions to the nation was his service as chairman
of the Commission on the Reorganization of the Executive Branch of Government,
commonly known as the first Hoover Commission. Created by the Lodge-Brown Act
of 1947, the commission was a product of congressional concern over the expansion
of government during World War II and the massive growth of presidential power
during the Roosevelt administration.
campaign for the commission was led by two Republicans: Clarence Brown of Ohio
in the House and Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts in the Senate. To be sure,
Truman and many Democrats were concerned about the need to reorganize the executive
branch, but the bill that passed the 80th Congress was of Republican origin
and passed with Republican votes.
commission was made up of twelve members four each appointed by the president,
the speaker of the house, and the majority leader of the Senate. Members were
divided equally between the two political parties and between public officials
and private citizens. Concerned himself about the need to reorganize the executive
branch, Truman signed the bill into law on July 7, 1947.
Hoover was among the commissioners nominated by Speaker Martin. Skeptical that
the commission would not amount to much unless he could influence its deliberations,
Hoover accepted appointment with the proviso that he would serve as chairman.
Martin and other congressional Republicans assured the former president that
he would be elected chairman at the commission's first meeting. Truman and the
Democrats agreed and the matter was quickly dispatched on September 29. (The
document that follows is a summary of the first meeting as prepared by Hoover's
At the call of
President Truman on August 6, 1947 the Commission convened in the Cabinet Room
of the White House on Monday, September 29th at 3:30 p.m. The President presided
at the opening, stating the purpose of the Commission and extending good wishes
for its success. He then suggested that as the Commission need have a chairman,
he would like to make a suggestion and that was former President Hoover. Congressman
Clarence Brown formally moved the election of Mr. Hoover as chairman,
which was unanimously carried. President Truman thereupon withdrew.
requested the White House authority to find someone to administer the oath to
members of the Commission. Pending the arrival of the officer to administer
the oath Mr. Hoover, in summary, stated:
I am impressed
with the fact that if this Commission is to justify its formation, we must lift
ourselves into a larger field of thought than has been usually the case in these
matters. We have had commissions set up by the Congress, by the Administration
and by the citizens. There has been an enormous amount of research and publication.
There has been much useful service as a result. Much overlapping and poor functioning
of the Government has been remedied.
The Congress, however,
has not hitherto been willing to even suggest for advice a reorganization of
the Government to the extent that the present law implies. I will not go into
these subjects at the present time, but I am convinced that there is opportunity
for a great public service. And I am likewise also convinced that this group
of men and the circumstances under which this Commission is created make possible
a highly successful contribution.
HOOVER STATEMENT, SEPTEMBER 29, 1947
was ready to get to work as soon as his election as
chairman was made final. On the day of the first commission
meeting, Hoover released the following statement to
the press. Of special significance was his emphasis
on the non-partisan nature of the commission. "In
order that there be no political questions involved,"
Hoover noted, "the Congress has arranged that no
report will be required until after the next election."
For the first year of the commission's existence, therefore,
Hoover and his fellow commissioners labored behind closed
doors, gathering information for a final report due
in January 1949.
The creation of
this Commission is the most formidable attempt yet made for independent review
and advice on the business methods of the Executive branch of the Federal Government.
It is not only set up with the cooperation of both houses of the Congress and
the President but with the cooperation of both political parties. In order that
there should be no political questions
involved, the Congress has arranged that no report will be required until after
the next election.
has not been created to inquire into wrongdoing. That is the duty of other agencies
of the Government. The setting is, therefore, clear for cooperation by the heads
of all divisions and departments and by the employees of the Government. I am
confident that they will all give such aid, for the Commission will welcome
constructive suggestions from them . . .
There are a score
of fields which should be explored by the Commission. For instance, we must
find some effective relief to the President in the vast volume of intolerable
labor and inadequate control imposed upon him by the multitude of independent
establishments. Every President in the past 40 years has protested that it is
impossible to conduct a large part of the government through the 10 great Departments
and the other part through the 40 independent establishments.
must need [sic] consider every branch of the Executive arm as to improvement
which may be effected. In addition, the legislation setting up this Commission
calls for examination of a new aspect of the question in asking for advice "on
defining and limiting executive functions, services and activities." .
There is no hurry
imposed upon this Commission, but the great responsibility involves the utmost
thoroughness and the widest use of all the special abilities in the country.
JAMES E. WEBB TO TRUMAN, [MID-OCTOBER, 1947]
began the work of the Commission as soon as possible.
Within a few days of taking the oath of office, he arranged
to meet with James E. Webb, director of the Bureau of
the Budget. The former president was planning a study
of the presidency and was looking for technical assistance
from Webb and his staff. Webb reported on the meeting
in this undated memorandum to the president. Although
Webb was upbeat about Hoover's study and referred to
it as a "happy development," Truman was more
cautious. In response to Webb's recommendations for
action, Truman responded, "no commitments."
(This document is from the James E. Webb Papers at the
Harry S. Truman Library.)
Executive Office of the President
Bureau of the Budget
FOR THE PRESIDENT
Mr. Hoover's Study of the Presidency
At his request,
I met last week with Herbert Hoover. Among other things, he said that the Commission
on the Organization of the Executive Branch had determined that it should undertake
a study of the Presidency; and that he intended to take the leadership in this
study. He further said that it is his hope that such a study will produce conclusions
and recommendations deserving of your support in addition to his.
for Bureau Assistance
Mr. Hoover then
went on to ask whether the Bureau, in its continuing studies of governmental
organization, did have materials concerning the Presidency from which we could
provide him with, ideas. I replied that as the result of our concern with various
questions of Government management we had been compelled to give attention to
the problems of the Presidency and to develop materials in this area. However,
I said that I must first talk with you about this matter. Mr. Hoover quickly
approved this suggestion.
In contrast with
other persons who have been mentioned to make such a study, Mr. Hoover's personal
assumption of this assignment appears, at this time, a happy development. As
you know, numerous proposals bearing directly on the Presidency are being advocated
-- such as that for a cabinet secretariat. The evaluation of such proposals
by persons who have not either occupied the Presidential office itself, or worked
in extremely intimate relationship with it, is extraordinarily difficult. From
my several conversations with Mr. Hoover, I am convinced of his appreciation
of the difficulty and delicacy of dealing with the whole problem.
The purpose of
this memorandum is to suggest a basis on which staff of the Bureau of the Budget
might work with Mr. Hoover in exploring the problems of the Presidency. Not
only do I need your initial reaction, but I need also to keep you closely advised
of developments as they occur and obtain your guidance.
A Suggested Approach
I believe that
initially I should discuss frankly with Mr. Hoover the various considerations
bearing upon the exercise of Presidential responsibilities. Participation in
the formulation of specific proposals for dealing with existing problems would,
of course, be undesirable as well as inappropriate for a member of your staff.
The President's prerogative of accepting or rejecting the proposals of the Commission
in this, as in all other areas, must not be impaired by the premature indication
of a position in the Executive Office.
Based on the past
work of the Bureau of the Budget in this area, I believe that I can suggest
to Mr. Hoover that his study be concentrated upon two objectives. The first
objective is the elimination or curtailment of obstacles which make it difficult
for the President to discharge the manifold responsibilities now devolving upon
his office. The Commission might make a real contribution in this area if it
recommends constructive measures to fill any gaps in the President's authority
as Chief Executive, or proposes the abandonment or modification of impediments
or restrictions upon that authority.
The second objective
is the identification of the principal facilities needed by the President for
the most effective execution of the essential duties of his office. The efforts
of Mr. Hoover to give orderly consideration to the problem of equipping the
President can produce both positive recommendations for constructive adjustments
and the conclusive rejection of unrealistic panaceas which have been proposed.
In seeking the
attainment of the above objectives, consideration must be given to each of the
various roles of the President. Only if this is done can the nature of his relationships
within the Federal Government and the Executive Branch be fully understood.
I think that Mr. Hoover's experience will lead him to keep in mind that the
President, in addition to supervising the executive activities of the Government,
must participate in the legislative process, serve as the ceremonial head of
the state, speak for the total national interest, lead a political party, and
direct the Nation's relations with other countries. In this multiple role, the
President must maintain constructive relationships with the Congress, with the
political leaders of his party, with the public, with the representatives
of foreign nations, and with the principal officials of the departments and
other Federal agencies.
also be given to the kinds of operations or processes which occupy the President's
time. The fact that the President must see people, and see them on an organized
basis; that he must appoint key executives and select various political officers;
that he must deal with the press and the radio; that he must deliver speeches
and send messages; and that he must review and sign various official documents
and papers -- all have an important bearing on both the removal of obstacles
to the accomplishment of vital tasks and on the nature of the assistance needed
by the President.
the ways and means of equipping the President, the Commission must eventually
determine what it will say regarding changes in the supporting staff facilities
to the President. The degree to which these facilities should be institutionalized
or kept on an informal or fluid basis, the respective role and usefulness of
career and non-career personnel, and the basis upon which the managerial and
policy formulation functions should be assigned to the various staff units --
all are deep and perplexing questions.
It is impossible
to deal with these organizational considerations unless sufficient attention
is given to the relationships and major processes essential to efficient and
well-rounded Presidential decisions and actions. In this connection, an examination
of two broad categories of Presidential responsibility in the direction of the
Executive Branch is especially pertinent. These are (1) formulating and obtaining
the adoption of broad policy and program objectives, and (2) assuring the effective
administrative development and execution of programs for the achievement of
of facilities and processes by which the President is effectively equipped to
fulfill his responsibilities must likewise take cognizance of the role of the
departments and agencies in the exercise of these responsibilities. Interdepartmental
committees as machinery for policy and program coordination, and the effect
of such bodies on Presidential control of Executive Branch activities, have
aroused the interest of many administrators and students of government. The
character of departmental relationships with the President, and of interdepartmental
relationships, has a vital effect upon the exercise of Presidential responsibility
and upon the President's staff requirements.
A Proposed Course
Subject to your
approval, I would propose the following guidelines for dealing with Mr. Hoover
in his study of the Presidency
1. Mr. Hoover's
intention of taking personal leadership in a study of the Presidency should
be supported and encouraged.
2. Any action which
would in any way constitute a commitment to the findings and recommendations
of Mr. Hoover or the Commission should be avoided.
the Bureau of the Budget should confine its relationships with Mr. Hoover to
suggesting considerations, methods of study, and problems which would be useful
in keeping his efforts moving in the right direction.
4. At the same
time, because of the character and delicacy of operations in and around the
Presidency, unusual restraint must be exercised in any study of this office.
If you agree with
these guidelines, I would suggest the following course of action:
1. I will initiate
further conversations with Mr. Hoover along the lines discussed above. I shall
particularly stress the importance to Mr. Hoover of obtaining seasoned and discreet
staff assistance in his studies.
background information will be provided Mr. Hoover by staff of the Bureau of
3. Further exploratory
studies of problems relating to the Presidency will be undertaken in the Bureau,
and its staff resources will be adjusted in order to focus sufficient attention
on the matter.
4.After Mr. Hoover
selects staff to assist him, careful consideration must be given to when and
how his staff can and should deal with your staff.
5. Any thoughts
you may wish to pass on with respect to the problems and needs of the Office
of the President would help immensely in my subsequent contacts with Mr. Hoover.
/HST-s/ No commitments
81. AYERS DIARY, NOVEMBER 5, 1947
though Hoover had been elected chairman without opposition,
some members of the commission had doubts about the
former president's ability to lead such a disparate
group. Foremost among Hoover's critics was the commission's
vice-chairman, Dean Acheson. In this passage from the
Ayers diary, Acheson's doubts about Hoover were recorded.
Press secretary Charles G. Ross commented about Hoover's
health. (See Robert Ferrell, ed., Truman in the White
House: The Diary of Eban A. Ayers [Columbia, Mo.,
1991], p. 208.)
5,  Wednesday.
Steelman said he
had had a talk with Dean Acheson who told him he had had breakfast with Herbert
Hoover who is head of the commission on reorganization of the executive branch
of the government, and Acheson said he either had been wrong about Hoover or
Hoover's mind was not as good as it used to be. He said he had always felt that
Hoover had been a maligned man but apparently Acheson was beginning to doubt
it. Steelman told how Hoover had mentioned the formation of the working staff
for the committee and said that he did not think he needed any executive director,
that he would be his own. Hoover mentioned a man whom he proposed to employ
who, Acheson felt, was entirely unqualified except to answer telephones and
make appointments. Hoover said that was all he would have to do. Then when the
committee met, Acheson said, Hoover announced that he had employed an executive
director and it was the man he had named to Acheson.
Charlie Ross commented
that Hoover was a sick man.
JAMES ROWE TO DEAN ACHESON, APRIL 16, 1948
the work of the Commission was to be non-partisan, politics
did come into play with the approach of the presidential
elections of 1948. The Democrats on the Commission particularly
Dean Acheson and James Rowe -- were suspicious of Hoover
and his actions. When Hoover invited him to dinner on
Saturday, April 17, Acheson asked Rowe what Hoover might
want. Rowe responded with the following memorandum.
Most interesting are Rowe's postscripts in which he
refers to Acheson's friend Supreme Court Justice Felix
Frankfurter ["F.F."] and On Active Service
in Peace and War, the recently published
memoirs of Henry L. Stimson. The dinner party on the
seventeenth included Hoover, Acheson and his wife, Mr.
and Mrs. Allan Hoover, and Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Mitchell.
There is no record of what Hoover and Acheson discussed
on that occasion. (This document is from the Dean Acheson
Papers in the Harry S. Truman Library.)
Honorable Dean Acheson
to appear too brusque I can think of no adequate reason why Herbert Hoover should
give you a free dinner unless he has something to sell you.
I wish to hazard
a guess and to suggest (if my guess is right) that you ought to have a better
"asking price" than a lukewarm dinner at the Mayflower.
I would remind
you, my dear Mr. Acheson, that as vice chairman of this distinguished Commission
you are the titular leader of the six members who are affiliated with a great
political party. True enough, I do note a regrettable unwinding around the seams
but nonetheless it is still the "other" great party unless Mr. Wallace
does better than we think.
So I suspect that
Mr. Hoover is going to suggest to you that in view of the coming campaign and
election, none of the task force reports should be submitted to the Commission
until after the election. This will prevent a leak and it will also prevent
the commission getting into partisan politics. He is talking that way hard and
if you agree with him his job would be simple.
To his suggestion
I say "nuts". In the first place, in the heat of a campaign I don't
think it will really matter what a task force says to a bi-partisan commission,
which itself is taking no action, on any subject. Campaigns aren't run on government
reorganization. The subject is too dull. I know you will not think I am boasting
when I say I am a better politician than Mr. Hoover -- who isn't -- and this
"bogey" is frightening him unduly.
What is more important,
if Mr. Hoover's suggestion is adopted on Monday, it means that in November we
are faced with reports on 25 projects. We must digest them and if we disagree
we must be able to rebut them. I would guess they would fill a room. Even if
we proceed with our own project of writing a "report", we must
pay some attention
to these task force reports. I cannot absorb them in a month and, while I make
a low bow to your qualities of absorption, I also remind you that you no longer
have the State Department millions to tear this material apart.
I suspect myself
of being over-suspicious at times, and perhaps this is one of them, but my careful
study of Mr. Hoover's past performance indicates that he always operates this
way. He will tell the task force leaders what he wants them to put in their
reports and he will not give his fellow Commissioners any time to prepare adequate
rebuttal material. He has done it since 1921 and he has gotten away with it.
Objectively I admire the technique, but by an odd coincidence I don't happen
to be objective to this deal.
Some of these reports will have political repercussions in a partisan sense.
Government enterprise in business is one for example. Natural resources is another.
But a number of the others, such as the Presidency, departmental administration,
personnel management, fiscal and budgetary controls, are not political for the
simple reason they are complicated. They are controversial but not for purposes
of a Presidential campaign.
Therefore I suggest
that you agree that some of the obviously political reports be held over until
after November, but in return for this, the ones I have mentioned be speeded
up so that we have them in July.
I have just gone
over the list and I think it would be dangerous to agree on which ones are political
and which ones are not without serious consideration. Offhand I would say that
reasonable men could agree they are about half and half.
Of course I may
be talking through a cocked hat and, if so, you have wasted your time reading
this. In such event, I would like to know what kind of wine he served with the
Have you told F.F.
of your new dining-out companion? I don't think he would approve.
-- which I am sure you have already done -- is to read Messrs. Stimson and Bundy
on Mr. Hoover. I have been cheered by it for two days. I think Mr. Stimson has
our Chairman's number and now I have it.
83. WEBB TO TRUMAN, NOVEMBER 5, 1948
election to a new term assured by a surprising upset
victory over Thomas E. Dewey, Truman turned his attention
to the future. In a memorandum written just three days
after the election, Webb wrote to the president of the
value of bi-partisan cooperation with Hoover and the
Republicans on the reorganization of the executive branch.
Webb provided the rationale for a renewed collaboration
between the two presidents over the next several years.
(This document is from the Webb Papers at the Harry
S. Truman Library.)
Party has historically been against Presidents. It has not been willing to give
any President either the authority or the staff facilities to discharge his
Constitutional responsibilities as the Chief Executive. That is why we have
never had a Republican Andrew Jackson or Woodrow Wilson or Franklin D. Roosevelt
or Harry S. Truman.
For two years --
really, for four years -- you as President have defended the integrity of the
Presidency and the Executive Branch against invasion by an unsympathetic Congress.
This is the greatest feat in our history in the way of "preserving, protecting,
and defending" the Constitution. You have used the staff work of the Bureau
of the Budget in a pioneering way to develop and strengthen "the Institution
of the Presidency," and I am sure you have seen the absolute necessity
of strengthening the staff facilities available to the President in other fields.
You now have a
chance to establish the Presidency on a permanent basis as the kind of Chief
Executive Office that will have enough authority and the right kind of an organization
to do this most difficult of all jobs and at the same time avoid killing yourself
from overwork. This will require reforms based on legislation. But it will not
be generally understood and will not be supported as a matter of course even
by Democratic Congressmen. Republican Congressmen will obviously tend to oppose
alone cannot do this job. Roosevelt lost, at the height of his power, on reorganization
authority, on the Civil
Service Commission, etc. You now have the power, if skillfully applied, to accomplish
what is necessary.
Based on my relations
with Mr. Hoover, as your liaison representative, I believe there is now a possibility
of getting the last Republican President to urge you to accept an implementation
of and organization for executive responsibility that the Republican Party has
historically denied to Presidents. If that can be managed, you will undoubtedly
be able to achieve -- with at least a show of bipartisan agreement -- a new
level of Presidential leadership and effectively discharged responsibility for
administration unknown in our history.
This could serve
to establish a fundamental advance in the nature of the Presidency and also
its relations with the Congress.
I consider it important
to get the Republicans on record.
We must have administrative
reforms to carry through the objectives of the great political victory that
you have just won. Specifically, we need for the President permanent reorganization
authority; a better control over the executive machinery by which policy is
developed; ability to manage, transfer, and develop top administrative personnel,
This is an opportunity
to get for the President, with the assistance of the Hoover Commission, the
kind of executive authority the Constitution meant for him to have. We ought
not to miss the chance to make this fundamental reform in the way the Constitution
works, and make your leadership more effective and your job easier.
TRUMAN TO HOOVER, NOVEMBER 12, 1948
upset election victory left Hoover in a quandary. Even
though the work of the commission was non-partisan,
the former president had worked for over a year on the
assumption that the commission's report would be presented
to a Republican president and passed by a Republican
Congress. The Hoover Commission would provide a blueprint
for dismantling the New Deal.
Truman's election changed all that but Hoover emphasized
that the commission would work with the president, not
against him. The former president called the first of
a series of weekly press conferences a little more than
a week after the election to make that point. "What
we would like to do is set up the machinery that would
be of help to the President," Hoover told one reporter.
"What would be included [in each department] would
have to be determined by him."
reemphasized the importance he placed on the work of
the commission. In a letter to Hoover shortly after
the election, he noted that "the task, as you and
I have seen from our own experience, is to crystallize
this general belief into concrete and wise proposals
for action." He closed with an offer to assist
the commission in any way and reiterated his support
in a public statement attached to his letter.
Key West, Florida,
November 12, 1948
Dear Mr. Hoover:
Today I took occasion
to reaffirm the importance which I attach to the work of the Commission to which
you and your able colleagues are giving so generously of your time and experience.
The field in which the Commission is working is one which calls most pressingly
There seems to
be general agreement that the present organization of the Executive Branch,
in many instances, imposes handicaps on effective and economical administration
and must be brought up to date. The task, as you and I have seen from our own
experience, is to crystallize this general belief into concrete and wise proposals
The Country is
fortunate that a Commission, composed of men whose capacity in this field has
been forged by experience has devoted so much time and thought to the tremendous
problems involved, I am most hopeful that its recommendations will go far to
make sound and effective organization possible.
If at any time
the Commission's work can be facilitated by action on my part, you have but
to let me know.
/s/HARRY S. TRUMAN
U.S. Naval Station,
Key West, Fla.,
November 12, 1948
BY THE PRESIDENT
Among the important
matters which will require early action by the 81st Congress is that of improving
the organization of the Executive Branch of the Government. For over a year
the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government has
been at work studying the existing organization, the deficiencies, and proposals
for its improvement. I attach the greatest importance to the early solution
of the problems which lead to the establishment of this Commission.
The Executive Branch
under my instruction has in the past cooperated in every way to facilitate the
work of the Commission and it will continue to do so. I am most hopeful that
the Commission's report will be a milestone in the development of a sound and
economical structure and efficient procedures for the Executive Branch of the
To this end, I
have written to former President Hoover, Chairman of the Commission, offering
assistance in this important work.
HOOVER TO TRUMAN, NOVEMBER 20, 1948
Hoover's acknowledgement of the president's letter,
he suggested that he would maintain a line of communication
with the White House through Webb.
November 20, 1948
Dear Mr. President:
I beg to acknowledge
your letter of the 12th of November in respect to the work of the Commission
on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government.
Your letter has
been very helpful and makes progress much more possible.
I would like to suggest that on critical points as we go along, I shall consult
your views through Mr. Webb. By this means your time could be better conserved.
His detailed information and his advice are most helpful.
TRUMAN TO HOOVER, NOVEMBER 26, 1948
Truman's response to Hoover's letter of November 20
he stressed the importance of teamwork and appealed
to Hoover's special understanding of the unique burdens
of the presidency.
November 26, 1948
Dear Mr. President:
Thanks for your
note of the twentieth.
Jim Webb has reported
to me on several occasions of conversations that he has had with you and it
seems to me that satisfactory progress is being made.
As soon as I can
dig out from the letters of congratulations and things of that sort, I'd like
very much to have a conversation with you on the whole subject. I believe we
can really accomplish some good results, as you and I are fully acquainted with
what is necessary to make the Government run more efficiently.
I do appreciate
most highly your willingness to proceed with this program.
/s/HARRY S. TRUMAN
RICKARD DIARY, DECEMBER 4, 1948
Truman was polite in his letters, he was sarcastic in
comments about Hoover during the election campaign.
In speeches in North Carolina on October 19 and in Massachusetts
on October 27, Truman excoriated Hoover and his administration.
The North Carolina speech became well-known for its
references to "Hoover carts -- the remains of an
old tin lizzie being pulled by a mule because
you couldn't afford to buy a new car (and) you couldn't
afford to buy gas for the old one." Truman thought
of these remarks as nothing more than politics, but
Hoover was incensed. He met with Truman on November
30 and is rumored to have told the president of his
displeasure. In a December 4 meeting with his friends
Rickard and Jeremiah Milbank, he confided his frustration
in working with Truman.
Noon at Waldorf
and see H.H. with Jerry Milbank. H.H. not elated after talk with President Truman
and says he is unpredictable, recalling that after his nice personal notes to
H.H. he slammed him in [a] Boston speech. He doubts if Truman will give his
plan for revamping Executive functions his unqualified support. Already three
of Truman's appointees on H.H.'s committee are endeavoring to prevent complete
publication. They went along until November election and then began giving trouble,
as undoubtedly any real, vicious New Dealer does not want the misrule of the
last 15 years exposed, or the wholesale reduction of Govt. Employees with votes.
H.H. thinks Truman will have his way with the new Congress for several months
and anticipates excess profits tax and price control of strategic metals. Jerry
gloomy, but not as pessimistic as H.H. We both leave pretty well depressed.
RICKARD DIARY, DECEMBER 29, 1948
the deadline approached for the commission's first report,
Hoover became increasingly pessimistic that anything
of value would result. But there was no hint from the
former president that he would give up the cause of
governmental reform: that was not his way. As Rickard
noted in his diary, Hoover continued to "give his
all to this commission work."
Dine with H.H.
and Hugh Gibson and [hear] pretty general gossip on world affairs and American
politics. H.H. is pessimistic about most everything and leaves one depressed.
He is giving all he has to this commission work, and does not expect many of
the recommendations will be enacted into law; too many entrenched bureaucrats
and job-hugging employees in Federal service.
89. HOOVER NOTES OF A MEETING
WITH TRUMAN, JANUARY 7, 1949
Hoover had met previously with the president to discuss
the commission, the meeting of January 7 was one of
substance and strategy. As noted in his memorandum,
Hoover briefed Truman on some of the changes necessary
to bring efficiency to the executive branch. Noting
that he might need Truman's help, he recalled that Truman
agreed to support the commission and suggest that cabinet
members do likewise.
On January 7, 1949, at 3:00 o'clock, I visited with
the President. I settled with him the date of issue
of a letter from the Commission to the Congress.
I then spoke to
him of the complete necessity of reducing the number of agencies reporting directly
to the White House and the difficulties I was meeting at bringing this about.
I stated that there were about 70 agencies, outside of the regulatory agencies;
that it was impossible for the President to give adequate time and attention
to each of them; and that they were a constant danger to the Executive for lack
of supervision. I stated that I was endeavoring to get the Commission to reduce
the number of these agencies to at least 20, but that already vested habits,
jurisdictional pretensions and other objections were arising, and that the time
might come when I would have to appeal to him for help.
I also spoke to
the President about having all of the major construction of public works of
the Government concentrated in some one agency. I suggested that it should be
the Department of the Interior and that it should include Flood Control, Rivers
and Harbors, and Reclamation, and all of the building construction of the Government.
I told him that there were three major reasons for this:
First, to get much
better and more technical ability than could be had when these services were
scattered in so many departments and agencies.
Second, that there
was great competition for labor and materials among these agencies and that
that tended to advance prices.
Third, that it
was eminently advisable to have this in one grouping in order that the erection
of these could be adapted to the business cycle.
I further stated that there should be a Commission of Review, comprised of eminent
engineers who would review all of these projects, and that this Commission should
be in the Department of the Interior. I stated that there was a division of
opinion in the Commission on Organization as to what Department and as to the
formation of a Commission of Review. I pointed out that if it were not placed
in another Department it would bring all of the promotional activities of the
country about the President's ears, and that the thing to do was to have it
in the Department of the Interior where it would be once removed from the White
The President entirely
agreed as to the constitution of this Department and said he would be glad to
aid in this matter. I told him that within a matter of a week or ten days I
might be calling upon him to suggest to his Cabinet Members that they support
me in this. He said he would be glad to do so.
HOOVER COMMISSION REPORT, FEBRUARY 5, 1949
delivered the first of the commission's twenty-one reports
to the Congress on February 5. In it Hoover mentions
a number of the commission's task force reports that
had already been delivered to Congress; these had been
prepared by the nation's leading authorities on natural
resources, records management, national security, and
commission's principal reports, however, contained its
suggestions for reorganization of the government. Beginning
February 5, and for the next seven weeks, Congress received
a steady stream of recommendations for change. In the
following passage from the first report, Hoover layed
out the history and the purpose of the commission. (These
passages are from General Management of the Executive
Branch: A Report to Congress [Washington, D.C.,
. . . The writing
and adoption of the Federal Constitution proved that a republic could deliberately
analyze its political institutions and redesign its government to meet the demands
of the future. The broad pattern that America then selected is sound. Today
we must deal with the infinitely more complicated Government of the twentieth
century. In doing so, we must reorganize the executive branch to give it the
simplicity of structure, the unity of purpose,
and the clear line of executive authority that was originally intended under
has found that the United States is paying heavily for a lack of order, a lack
of clear lines of authority and responsibility, and a lack of effective organization
in the executive branch. It has found that great improvements can be made in
the effectiveness with which the Government can serve the people if its organization
and administration is overhauled.
has been engaged in its task for the last 16 months and is reaching its conclusions
only after the most painstaking research. We decided at an early date that we
must have the aid of leading and experienced citizens to assist us in making
findings of fact and recommendation of remedies. The Commission, therefore,
divided its work into functional and departmental segments; it created 24 "task
forces" with authority to engage such research aid as they might require.
About 300 outstanding men and women, expert and experienced in the fields to
which they were assigned, have now submitted to us their findings and recommendations.
Thanks are due them. They brought great talent and diligence to their work.
Their findings will be found useful by the Congress and the executive branch
in solution of the problems considered.
Some of the recommendations
contained in the volumes of our report, which we plan to file from time to time
between now and the expiration of the life of the Commission, can be put into
effect only by legislation. Others can be accomplished by executive action.
But many of the most important can probably be accomplished only if the Congress
reenacts and broadens the power to initiate reorganization plans which it had
previously granted to the President under an act which expired on March 31,
recommends that such authority should be given to the President and that the
power of the President to prepare and transmit plans of reorganization to the
Congress should not be restricted by limitations or exemptions. Once the limiting
and exempting process is begun it will end the possibility of achieving really
But, in saying
this, the Commission should not be understood as giving sweeping endorsement
to any and all reorganization plans.
It does believe that the safeguard against unwise reorganization plans lies
both in a sound exercise of the President's discretion and in the reserved power
in the Congress by concurrent resolution to disapprove any proposed plan . .
in accordance with the act of Congress creating it (P.L. 162, as amended), will
file a series of reports, the last of which will be delivered within 70 days
of the organization of the Eighty-first Congress. These reports will contain
its findings and recommendations. They will begin with the top organization
and structure of the executive branch and proceed through the services which
are common to the whole executive branch to the reorganizations recommended
for particular agencies and groups of agencies.
HOOVER NOTES OF A TELEPHONE CALL WITH TRUMAN, FEBRUARY
reading the first commission report, Truman called Hoover
in New York. Never one to waste an opportunity, Hoover
reviewed the challenges they faced in reorganizing "the
Sunday, February 6, 1949
called me on the telephone shortly after noon today. He expressed his appreciation
and admiration for our first report.
I took occasion
to discuss with him the reservation put in the first legislative proposal of
the House Committee, stating to him that I saw no objection to the provision
about separating the regulatory agencies from the others, but that the exception
of the Defense Services would be demoralizing to all other powers. A great deal
of the reorganization of the Defense Establishment could be accomplished under
such powers of budgeting, accounting, procurement of supplies, etc., all of
which applied to the Military Establishment, and that if such exception were
made for that Department it would be not only a complete block on these reforms
but also on the transfer of certain civilian agencies out of that Department
and the transfer of some military agencies into it.
The President said he was in complete agreement with me. I suggested that he
take up the matter with the House and Senate leaders to see if such an exception
could be withdrawn before the bill came to the floor. He said again he was in
entire agreement with me and that he would do so at once.
HOOVER NOTES OF A MEETING WITH TRUMAN, FEBRUARY 9, 1949
days following his testimony before the Senate Committee
on Expenditures in the Executive Branch, Hoover called
on the president to discuss his testimony and the commission's
recommendations. The two men commiserated about the
congressional lobbying that was undermining the commission's
work and the president's reorganization plans. Hoover
noted that if these efforts "were as successful
in the Senate as they were in the House, we then might
as well give up any thought of reorganization."
Of great value to Hoover was Truman's support for separate
departments for medical services and public works as
well as the consolidation of all the transportation
agencies in the Commerce Department.
On Wednesday, February
9, at 11:00 a.m., I called by appointment on the President. Accompanying me was
Mr. George Mead.
We discussed the
exemption of the Defense Services from the full effect on the Reorganization
plan as passed by the House of Representatives. The President expressed his
regret that they had done so, and said that he would take the matter up with
the Senate leaders to see if the exemption could be removed.
I suggested that
the telegraphic barrage upon the Senators, which had originated with the Army
Engineers, came from the contractors whose contracts were about to expire or
had expired, and gave him a copy of one of them which I had with me. I urged
that if this "bureau barrage" were as successful in the Senate as
it had been in the House, we then might as well give up any thought of reorganization.
I suggested that it would be wise if at one of his press conferences he would
refer to this particular barrage and perhaps use the telegram I left with him
to show how these were being used against public interest.
I then took up with the President the question of the unification of the medical
services to include the Army, the Navy, the Veterans' services, and the medical
research activities. I told him that the commission was not in full agreement;
that these agencies should be consolidated; that there was some disagreement
among the Commissioners as to whether these agencies should be put into a new
Welfare Department, or be put into some other agency. I said that I thought
it would be less difficult to accomplish if it were set up as an independent
agency with a single head and a board of directors responsible for this agency.
To this he said he was in complete agreement and hoped that we would recommend
I again referred
to the necessity of consolidation of the Public Works under one head and gave
him the major reasons, to which he again not only agreed but cited various incidents
where that necessity had come up time and again. He also fully agreed that there
should be Boards of Review and that these should not be in the White House.
Mr. Mead supported
both of these proposals and cited instances in private industry where construction
work, outside of the routine work of the Departments, was practically universal.
We also mentioned
to the President that it was our view that all of the transportation agencies
should be placed in the Department of Commerce. We had some discussion on the
wretched functioning of the Maritime Commission in the business field. The President
was in complete agreement on this point.
TRUMAN TO HOOVER, FEBRUARY 11, 1949
had second thoughts after meeting with Hoover on February
9. The former president had elicited the president's
support for departmental changes before the White House
had even considered the commission's recommendations,
and Truman found himself in an uncomfortable position.
Above all, the president did not want to appear as if
he was siding with Hoover over his own commissioners.
In a letter of February 11, Truman withdrew his support
for departments of medical services and public works
pending the commission's report and further study.
The White House
February 11, 1949
My dear Mr. Hoover:
I have been giving
further thought to the conversation we had on Wednesday. I am impressed by the
evidences of the conscientious and thorough manner in which the Commission has
gone into many of the complex questions of governmental organization.
I am sure you can
understand that I cannot, at this time, take a final position on those recommendations
of the Commission which involve the shifting of functions from one department
to another. It will be necessary of me to consider carefully such moves in the
light of what the Commission recommends, the judgment of the responsible officials
of the Executive Branch, and the prevailing legislative program.
I hope to make
the fullest possible use of the work of the Commission in making progress towards
our joint goal -- the more effective organization and operation of the Federal
Government. To this end, it seems to me that it would be most helpful if you
would arrange to discuss with the Budget Director the development of your program
and any suggestions with respect to its implementation through reorganization
authority. The Budget Director is in constant touch with me and will be able
to give you my current thinking with respect to the development of any program
/s/HARRY S. TRUMAN
HOOVER TO TRUMAN, FEBRUARY 14, 1949
wrote a conciliatory reply to the president, and also
took the opportunity once again to press his own position
on reorganization and appeal to Truman's sense of a
common purpose: "I feel there are fields here where
direct cooperation between you and me might contribute
to successful reorganization."
February 14, 1949
Dear Mr. President:
I greatly appreciate
the most kind expressions in your letter of February 11.
and I will be glad to have any information or suggestions from the Director
of the Budget and to cooperate with him.
Inasmuch as the
Reorganization Commission by law is making an independent report to the Congress,
I can quite understand your desire to keep a free hand, and naturally I would
want the same reservation on any plans subsequently proposed.
I feel, however,
there are fields here where direct cooperation between you and me might contribute
to successful reorganization. For instance, my initiative in proposing to the
Congress the restoration of Presidential powers of reorganization was thought
by several members of the Commission to be outside the Commission's province.
I, however, believed that cooperation with you in this matter and the support
of my friends in the Congress would further our ultimate objective. Other cases
in point are, our agreement upon the broad principles that the quasi-legislative
and quasi-judicial functions are outside the executive arm; that there should
be unification of Public Works and also of Medical Services and the grouping
of certain lending agencies under the Secretary of the Treasury, all enable
me to be of more service in holding this work in the nonpartisan field. Therefore
it has seemed to me that such personal understanding from time to time would
forward our common purpose.
Again may I express
my appreciation of your encouragement of the work of the Commission.
TRUMAN TO HOOVER, FEBRUARY 16, 1949
responded to Hoover's conciliatory letter with one of
his own. Although supportive of the goal he shared with
Hoover, he made it clear that he would read the Commission's
reports and consult with Acheson before he made any
decisions on reorganization.
The White House
February 16, 1949
Dear Mr. President
I certainly appreciated
most highly your good letter of the fourteenth and I believe that we undoubtedly
will get some results from our efforts toward the reorganization of the Executive
Branch of the Government for a more efficient setup.
I've been spending
a great deal of time with the Budget and Dean Acheson, as well as reading the
reports of your Commission as they come out.
I can't tell you
how very much I appreciate the effort which you put forth on this most important
/s/HARRY S. TRUMAN
HOOVER TO VANDENBERG, MARCH 3, 1949
February 26, the former president received a disturbing
letter from Vandenberg that documented the influence
of special interests opposed to reorganization, Vandenberg
was concerned that the entire reorganization plan would
go down to defeat because of the opposition of a coalition
of powerful minority interests. Would it not be better
to break up the plan into smaller legislative proposals,
some of which would pass? "This whole matter is
rapidly coming to a showdown," Vandenberg wrote,
"and I shall deeply appreciate it if I may have
your early comments." In response, Hoover sought
to rally the Republicans in Congress to his cause. "My
general idea is that our Republicans should support
every item in the recommendations without quibble,"
New York 22, New York
March 3, 1949
My dear Senator:
I gather this matter
will not come up for some time and I hope to discuss it with you before then.
My general idea
is that our Republicans should support every item in the recommendations without
quibble. The Administration
will not support several important recommendations. That is evidenced by the
constant dissent of the Cabinet representatives on the Commission. Yet the majority
vote of the Commission every time included some of the Democratic members. The
responsibility for not effecting these enormous savings and these complete necessities
in method and principles should be kept squarely up to the Administration.
HOOVER NOTES OF A TELEPHONE CALL WITH TRUMAN, APRIL
visited Truman late in the morning on April 7. Although
there is no memorandum of the meeting, it is likely
the two presidents discussed the slow progress of the
reorganization legislation. Judging from an afternoon
telephone call between the two men, Truman agreed at
the morning meeting to get the Democratic leadership
in the Senate to take more action. For his part, Hoover
agreed to "get it straightened out on the Republican
April 7, 1949
I had a short conversation
with the President this morning. At 2:15 p.m. he telephoned me at the Commission's
office and said that he had had a talk with Senator Barkley and that Senator
Barkley had told him he thought he could get the bill (on Reorganization powers)
straightened out on the Senate floor, if I (HH) could help them get it straightened
out on the Republican side, which I said I would do.
HH over telephone:
"That will be fine. I will come down on Monday and see what we can do from
our side. All right"
HOOVER TO TRUMAN, APRIL 10, 1949
sought every opportunity to push any and all of the
commission's recommendations. In a letter to the president
on April 10, he singled out nine reports that "being
those of little contention, might be recommended by
you to the Congress for specific action." Legislation
based on three of the reports had already
been introduced in Congress, action based on three more
was pending and bills for the final three were in draft
Waldorf Astoria Towers
New York, New York
April 10, 1949
Dear Mr. President:
I promised to send
you a list of the reports of the Commission on Organization of the Executive
Branch of the Government, which, being those of little contention, might be
recommended by you to the Congress for specific action. To send them to the
Congress at intervals would follow the precedent which you set in recommending
the Report of the Military Establishment.
An additional reason
for such action is that in the following cases there is very little "movement
of bureaus," which is the principle object of "the Reorganization
Act of 1949" now before the Congress. None of the following reorganizations
could, in any event, be wholly effected by that Act (if passed), as they require
The reports, which
I believe are unquestionably in these categories are as follows:
1. General Management
of the Executive Branch
2. Budgeting and Accounting
3. Office of General Services
4. The Organization and Management of Federal Supply Activities
5. Personnel Management
6. Foreign Affairs
7. The Post Office
8. Department of Agriculture
9. The Independent Regulatory Commissions
There are others
which seem to me could be dealt with in this manner but those mentioned above
would be a start.
Of the above list,
bills providing for three of them have already been introduced:
1. The National
2. General Management of the Executive Branch (S 942 and HR 2613)
3. Office of General Services (S 991 and HR 2641)
The bills for the
following have been drafted by Mr. Morgan and handed to the congress but have
not yet been introduced:
4. Foreign Affairs
5. The Post Office
6. Budgeting and Accounting
The bills have
been drafted for:
7. Personnel Management
8. Department of Agriculture
being drafted for:
9. The Independent
TRUMAN TO HOOVER, APRIL 12, 1949
responded with a brief note of appreciation. He thanked
Hoover for testimony "before the Finance Committee
of the Senate." Hoover, in fact, had testified
before the Armed Services Committee the day before,
but it is possible, that Truman was referring to Hoover's
testimony on February 7 in support of the president's
reorganization plans before the Committee on Expenditures
in the Executive Departments.
April 12, 1949
Dear Mr. President:
I certainly appreciated
your good letter of the tenth.
I have already
gone to work on the suggestions which we discussed at our meeting the other
day and which are contained in your letter.
It was a pleasure
to talk with you and I appreciate very much what you said before the Finance
Committee of the Senate.
/s/HARRY S. TRUMAN
100. HOOVER COMMISSION MEMOIR,
APRIL 13, 1949
the midst of the campaign for governmental reorganization,
Hoover drafted a rather bitter memoir of his service
on the commission. The purpose is unclear; perhaps he
wanted to vent his frustration with the "New Dealers"
on the commission. Whatever his purpose, Hoover was
certainly upset by the votes of Dean Acheson, James
Rowe, James Pollock, and James Forrestal on various
commission reports. He must have had second thoughts
about this assessment of his Democratic colleagues because
he never completed the memoir.
I called the first
meeting of the Commission fourteen months before the election of 1948. I stated
the importance of keeping the work free from the politics of the time and that
I would take no active part in the campaign. During this fourteen months the
task forces made progress with their investigations. The Commission seemed entirely
objective and gave every promise of courageous action. We discussed the major
problems and seemed entirely united upon the recommendations we would make.
The four New Dealers were not only most agreeable but even sycophantish. They
all believed the Republicans would win the campaign and their remarks were seldom
complimentary to Mr. Truman. I seemed at times the only member who spoke kindly
of him. In fact, from remarks to our staff, the New Dealers took some delight
in the idea that the Commission's conclusions would be an embarrassment to the
Republicans and were willing "to go the limit." Two Republicans --
Aiken and Brown -- held back as they realized the problems they might front
with the responsibilities of power. My chief disagreements were with them in
which the New Dealers took joy in supporting me against them.
At once, after
the election, the whole attitude of Forrestal, Acheson, Rowe and Pollock changed
front and went into immediate opposition on the difficult questions. I was much
interested in what Truman's attitude would be and, therefore, kept in contact
with him. As shown by the following letter, he agreed with me on important steps:
not included in draft; possibly HST to HH, 11-12-48.]
However, I found
his three -- and at times four (Forrestal) -- opposed these ideas. I then took
Mr. Mead with me to see Truman
and went over this ground in Mead's presence. Truman confirmed his support to
these proposals in Mead's presence. But the New Dealers continued to oppose
and obstruct. They filed voluminous "dissents" but I managed to carry
the majority with me. I concluded that the order of the double cross might be
generously awarded to all of them.
It was obvious
from these actions that Truman and his Administration had no idea of supporting
half of the Commission's recommendations.
However, not to
have the two years of work by my staunch colleagues -- Mead, Flemming, Brown,
Kennedy (and at times Manasco, McClellan and Aiken) -- destroyed, I organized
a "Citizens' Committee on Reorganization", under the chairmanship
of Robert L. Johnson, President of Temple University. At my request, such men
not included in draft.]
joined this Committee.
We put on a great campaign of public education. I had no idea we could win against
an opposition which controlled the president and both houses of Congress. However,
our campaign would erect certain standards, the opposition to which would be
dear to the country.
The major worries
of the New Dealers were: the total abolition of political appointment in civil
servants; the entire subjection of the military to the civilian arm; forms of
budgeting and accounting which would expose the concealed expenditures and subsidies
in the Government; the exposure of the extent to which socialism had run; and,
especially, they disliked the estimates of $3.5 billion annual savings at a
time when they were trying to add $4 billion taxes for their socialist-fascist
The majority reports
are the reports of the Commission. The dissents are not. The majority reports
present a complete pattern for the reorganized Executive Branch. To vary from
the pattern will destroy the whole. For instance, a minority objection to a
consolidation of Flood Control and River improvement under the Department of
the Interior. At once the whole project of proper development of our water resources
falls to the ground, and a waste -- to say nothing of a saving of some hundreds
of millions annually.
Some members dissented on including other construction work from ten departments
in the Interior. The continuation of these dissents would not only leave the
Government without a concentrated water resource development, and a Department
of Public Works (which has been recommended by every President for thirty years),
but would leave these agencies again overlapping all over the Government. In
other words, the dissenters could not get together on any constructive alternative.
The same lack of constructive alternatives among the dissenters exists as to
Medical Services, [and] Business Enterprises of the Government.
If the American
people want a reorganization of their Government which will save between $3
and 4 billions a year, and will enable it to perform constructive policies efficiently,
this pattern should be adopted as a whole. If experience proves it wrong, it
can always be remedied. To pull it to pieces in detail has been the tactics
of bureaucracy in destruction of the many efforts to produce these reforms made
in years past. And it may be observed that at least three of the constant dissenters
are today part of the bureaucracy.
TRUMAN TO CONGRESS, MAY 9, 1949
early May, the president again emphasized the importance
he placed on the work of the Hoover Commission. More
significant, Truman stressed that he was in agreement
with the commission's recommendations. (The complete
text of Truman's remarks is in Public Papers of the
Presidents: Harry S. Truman, 1949 [Washington, D.C.,
1964], pp. 244-245.)
the Congress of the United States:
During the past
three months, the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch, established
in July 1947, has submitted a series of reports containing its recommendations
on steps which should be taken to improve the organization and operation of
the Federal Government. These reports, together with a summary statement now
in preparation, are the product of extensive work by distinguished private citizens
and members of the Government. They represent a challenge to the achievement
of better government
based on the fundamentals of sound organization and management. While there
will be honest differences of opinion concerning many of the Commission's specific
recommendations, I believe that the Commission's work as a whole represents
a landmark in the field of Government organization. The highest commendation
is due the membership of the Commission.
has stated -- and I believe quite correctly -- that the basic requirement for
achieving effective management in government is to grant to the men upon whom
responsibility is placed by the Constitution and the statutes an adequate measure
of authority and flexibility to perform their jobs. To this end, the Commission
has proposed that the Chief Executive be given the authority and resources which
he must have to fulfill his Constitutional responsibility for directing the
Executive Branch of the Government. Without such authority and resources the
President cannot be held accountable for the conduct of Federal administration.
The Commission has further urged that there be a clear line of authority from
the President to and through each department and agency for which he is accountable
and responsible; that the executive functions of the Government be grouped under
the smallest practicable number of departments and agencies; and that the ability
of the President and of department heads to carry out their responsibilities
not be impaired by numerous detailed statutory regulations.
With these general
propositions of the Commission I am in full accord. My approval and acceptance
of them springs not alone from my personal conviction but equally from the compelling
mandate of my oath of office to support the principles of the Constitution .
on Organization has served the country well by pointing the way toward achieving
continued improvements in government operations. The most effective recognition
of their work will be the vigorous application of the principles which they
102. HOOVER TO VANDENBERG, MAY
served as a Republican power broker on matters related
to government reorganization throughout the spring and
summer. Through James Rome and others, Hoover received
requests that he rally the Senate Republicans to support
compromise measures. One of the most sensitive matters
was the ability of the Congress to override the president's
reorganization measures. Hoover's endorsement of the
veto compromise in this telegram helped to insure its
acceptance by Senate Republicans.
York, New York
May 23, 1949
United States Senate
I understand conferees
propose veto by majority vote of both Houses or two-thirds vote one House. Administration
persons say they are satisfied and ask me to communicate my views to you. I
think it a fair settlement . . .
TRUMAN STATEMENT, MAY 26, 1949
the comments he made in his May 9 letter to Congress,
Truman praised the Hoover Commission at a brief ceremony
during which he accepted the commission's final report.
Throughout his statement the president emphasized the
actions he was taking to implement the commission's
recommendations. (The complete text of Truman's remarks
is in Public Papers of the Presidents: Harry S. Truman,
1949 [Washington, D.C., 1964], pp. 264-266.)
wish to express again my appreciation of the work of the
Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of
In its study of
the executive branch, the Commission has been impressed by the size and complexity
of our Government. This fact alone has led to the conclusion that only through
good management can we weld the governmental organization into a mechanism for
carrying on efficiently the public business.
The Commission has thought of good management not in terms of structural changes
alone. Good management and good organization require far more than the transfer
and consolidation of bureaus. The Commission's reports reflect this point of
view. A major recommendation is that certain principles of good management be
adopted for the purpose of achieving more efficient and responsible government.
In striving for this goal, we all recognize that there are no easy shortcuts.
The solution does not lie in any one action of the Congress or any one order
of the President.
I personally concur
in the recommendation that the administration of the executive branch be considered
the responsibility of the President and, under him, the department heads. I
also agree that to discharge this responsibility the President and department
heads should have authority commensurate with their responsibility. Only when
these conditions are established can there be effective accountability for the
conduct of governmental affairs. These are necessary and desirable objectives
which have proved intensely practical in their application. I intend to work
for their adoption as guides to the effective organization of the Government
. . .
These actions --
the requests for statutory changes to place Government officials in a position
to do an effective job of management, and increased attention within the executive
branch to management improvement -- are tangible expressions of my general approval
of the major principles underlying the Commission's work.
I have noted that
the Commission has been cautious in attaching dollar figures to claims of saving.
Anyone who is familiar with this problem realizes that savings which result
from improvements in management will take time to achieve. Before substantial
savings can be made, new relationships and new ways of doing business must be
I recognize that
the best economies which the Government can effect are those which allow the
provision of the same or better service to the public at a lesser cost. This
is what the Commission has worked for during the past year and a half; this
is what I desire. Since it will take time to accomplish these savings, what
is needed now is a redoubling of our efforts toward the objective which the
Commission so clearly has set before us.
104. HOOVER TO TRUMAN, JUNE
though the commission closed its doors in early June,
Hoover continued to work on government reorganization
matters throughout the summer. On June 19 he provided
the president with a detailed analysis of the Budget
Bureau's draft reorganization plans. Hoover offered
specific recommendations on actions that Truman could
take under the Reorganization Act of 1949 and on actions
that would require legislation. Hoover was uncharacteristically
optimistic in assessing the chances for success. "It
seems to me," he told Truman, "that in the
present favorable atmosphere in Congress, we might get
substantial items through this session."
New York 22, New York
June 19, 1949
My dear Mr. President:
I have received
from the Budget Bureau certain drafts of reorganization plans which it is proposed
that you send to the Congress at an early date under the authority of the "Reorganization
Act of 1949."
I would like to
make the following comments.
in many agencies or departments can only be brought about by special legislation
as your authority in this "Reorganization Act of 1949" is not broad
enough to effectively do the job. Early in the Commission's work, the Congressional
leaders on both sides requested, and also the Senate Committee on Expenditures
in the Executive Departments instructed that the Commission's recommendations
be put into legislative drafts by the Commission's staff. This has been done
in the case of many reforms, and some of these bills are before the Congressional
There are therefore
two distinct types of action:
First. Those reorganizations
which can be accomplished under your authority in the "Reorganization Act
of 1949" by the submission of "plans".
Second. Those that
will require special legislation outside of these authorities. Where special
legislation is required it would seem to me desirable not to confuse the issue
with partial action under the limited powers of the "Reorganization Act
of 1949," but
to front the issue with "special package" separate recommendations
for legislation. You have established a good precedent for this "special
package" legislation in the Armed Services bill (S. 1843).
I therefore, am
dividing this memorandum into a discussion of the reforms now proposed for action
by the Budget Bureau which should, in my view, be sent up under the authority
of the "Reorganization Act of 1949," and those which I believe should
be the subject of much more inclusive recommendations and sent up in "special
Actions Under the Authority of the "Reorganization Act of 1949"
1. Certain transfers
to the Labor Department are proposed by the Budget Bureau. The Commission felt
that the Department of Labor should be wholly revitalized. We recommended that
the following functions be transferred to it which are not included in the Budget
Bureau of Employees'
Employees' Compensation Appeals Board
Selective Service System (including the Appeals Board)
Functions of the Maritime Commission relating to minimum wages for seamen
Certain components relating to the industrial hygiene from the Public Health
recommended that the primary responsibility of this Department for Enforcement
of Labor Standards in Government contracts and prevailing Wage Studies should
be fixed, and that clarified authority therefore be placed in it.
All this could
be done under the authority of the "Reorganization Act of 1949" and
would greatly strengthen the Department.
2. The Budget Bureau
proposes a reorganization of the business activities within the Maritime Commission.
While the Commission on Organization was unanimous in the opinion that there
must be a single-headed administration of the business side, as is implied in
the Budget Bureau's proposals, the Commission was also unanimous in the opinion
that these business functions had no place in a regulatory commission and that
they should be transferred to the Department of Commerce. That recommendation
has also been
approved by the Department of Commerce, and has been frequently recommended
in previous years. I believe you could both centralize the authority and transfer
it to Commerce under the authority of the "Reorganization Act of 1949;"
such action would result in greatly improving the business efficiency of the
administration in many other directions.
3. The Budget Bureau's
proposals in respect to the Department of Welfare are in accord with the Commission's
recommendations insofar as they go. (The Commission's plans also included removal
of certain bureaus and the addition of the Bureau of Indian Affairs). These
other transfers might be the subject of later action in connection with other
features of reorganization.
4. The Budget Bureau's
proposed reorganization plan in respect to the National Security Council and
the National Security Resources Board is in accord with the recommendations
of the Commission.
Action to Be Made by Special Legislation in "Package Form"
5. The Budget Bureau
proposes certain changes in the Soldiers' Home and Naval Home which, although
not entirely in accord with some of the Commission's recommendations, seem to
me to be justified.
The other needed
reforms in the Veterans Administration cannot be accomplished under the "Reorganization
Act of 1949." I suggest that instead of this limited "plan" of
the Budget Bureau, there should be sent to the congress a "special package"
recommendation, including the suggestions of the Budget Bureau and also the
setting up of the Veterans Life Insurance Corporation, which was unanimously
recommended by the Commission and for which there is a bill before the Congress
6. As to the proposed
reorganization plan in respect to the Post Office Department, again it seems
to me that this should be a "special package". The proposals of the
Budget Bureau are all right insofar as they go, but (a) they do not include
the setting up of the Post Office Department with the methods of budgeting and
accounting equal to those provided in the Government Corporation Control Act
of 1945, which the Commission unanimously recommended;
(b) they do not include the abolition of Senate confirmation of postmasters,
which was a unanimous recommendation; (c) they do not include specific authority
to the Postmaster General to fix certain postal rates outside the first, second,
third and fourth class areas, including postcards; (d) they do not include the
separation of indirect and hidden shipping and air subsidies by the Post Office
into specific appropriations.
These further reforms
the Commission considered of the utmost necessity in a reorganization of the
Department and should effect savings of upward of $150 million annually.
drafted a bill covering all these items, including the essence of those proposed
by the Budget Bureau. I believe if you would simply recommend this bill, it
would receive the widest public support.
7. The Budget Bureau's
proposal for the personnel services does not include fundamental reorganization
required in this quarter. That could only be accomplished by special legislation
which would include many of the Budget Bureau's recommendations. A Commission
bill is already before the Congress in this particular and could be expanded
to include the suggestions of the Budget Bureau.
It seems to me
that in the present favorable atmosphere in Congress we might get substantial
items through this session.
The State Department
Reorganization Act (S. 1704) has been passed. The Armed Services reorganization
bill (S. 1843) has passed the Senate without dissent. The Procurement, Disposal
of Property and General Services Administration bill (S. 220) has passed the
House and been recommended by the Senate Committee.
It should be possible
to get through the items 1-4 above under the authority of the "Reorganization
Act of 1949."
In addition, I
suggest that the Congress be recommended to act upon the following "special
package" bills already in their hands:
The Veterans Administration
- No. 5 above
The Post Office - No. 6 above
The Personnel Services - No. 7 above
The Budgeting and Accounting bill (S. 2054)
If this list succeeds
this session, we might urge such lesser contentious special bills as those covering
the Department of Commerce and the Treasury. The others would probably need
to go over to the next session.
TRUMAN TO CONGRESS, JUNE 20, 1949
he did not respond to Hoover's suggestions, no doubt
Truman agreed with what the former president had to
say. Truman sent a special message to Congress on June
20 that outlined seven plans for additional legislation.
(The complete text of Truman's letter is in Public
Papers of the Presidents: Harry S. Truman, 1949
[Washington, D.C., 1964], pp. 307-309.)
the Congress of the United States:
I have today signed
the Reorganization Act of 1949. The provisions of this Act depart from my recommendation
and that of the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch in that they
permit the rejection of reorganization plans by action of either House of Congress,
acting alone. Nevertheless, I am glad to proceed, under this measure, in cooperation
with the Congress on the important task of improving the organization of the
I am today transmitting
to the Congress seven reorganization plans, each with a related message setting
forth its purpose and effects. I shall also transmit an additional message recommending
legislation to place the management and financing of the Post Office Department
on a more business-like basis. These reorganization measures will contribute
significantly to the more responsible and efficient administration of Federal
programs. They are important steps in putting into effect several major recommendations
of the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government.
During this session
of the Congress, I have made a number of recommendations for improvement in
the organization and management
of the executive
branch. They are closely related to the proposals submitted today.
presented to the Congress at this session, in response to the specific opportunity
presented by the reports of the Commission on Organization and the passage of
the Reorganization Act, are of two types. First are those dealing with the general
management of the Government and affecting all or a large number of the agencies.
Second are those dealing with the organization of individual major departments
or agencies . . .
It is important
that the Congress and the people appreciate the significance of these legislative
proposals and reorganization plans. The common objective is a government establishment
which performs its authorized functions with effectiveness and economy. We are
seeking to obtain this through improvements in organization and administrative
The approval of
a reorganization plan or the enactment of a statute dealing with organizational
and administrative arrangements does not automatically produce efficiency and
economy or reduce expenditures. Only the curtailment or abolition of Government
programs can be expected to result in substantial immediate savings. The significance
of reorganization plans or legislation is that they make it possible to work
out improvements in administration which will increase efficiency and reduce
expenditures over a period of time. Thus, they provide a necessary basis for
increased economy and efficiency.
I intend to see
that full advantage is taken of the opportunity for securing better operations
which the reorganization plans afford. This will require a steady and sustained
effort to achieve improved management. Without such an effort a major purpose
of the reorganization actions will not be realized.
the actions listed in this message place before the Congress an initial program
of reorganization covering certain areas which the Commission on Organization
of the Executive Branch has stated hold great promise of increasing economy
and efficiency. The Commission did not state the amount of savings which could
be anticipated, nor is it possible for me to indicate their ultimate dollar
effect. By enlarging the opportunity for effective management within the Government,
however, they will lead
to more efficient performance of services by the Government and lower costs.
In addition to the potential economies, these actions will invigorate and promote
better management within the Government.
They deserve the
support of the Congress and the people.
HOOVER STATEMENT, JUNE 21, 1949
responded immediately and positively to Truman's reorganization
plans. Although the two presidents disagreed on some
reorganization matters, for the most part they were
in full accord.
The President is
to be complimented on his promptness in submission of seven "plans"
under the authority of the "Reorganization Act of 1949." They are
advantageous steps on the long road to effective reorganization of the Federal
Government. It must be understood, however, that under this act the Presidential
authority is very limited, even if these proposals are not vetoed by the Congress.
As the President
says, many more important steps must be taken. The most important of them require
special legislation by the Congress.
The major economies
must come from such separate and special legislative acts. A start in this field
of special legislation has been made. The Congress has passed the act reorganizing
the Department of State. The reorganization of the Armed Services has been passed
by the Senate and is now before the House. The legislation consolidating certain
general services and reorganizing procurement and the disposal of government
property has been passed by the House and is now before the Senate. Other bills
prepared by the Commission at the request of the Congress are now before committees.
Among these seven
"plans," the recommendations of the President in the cases of the
Post Office, the Maritime Commission and the Civil Service will all need to
be amplified by special acts of the Congress if large savings are to be effected.
At least fifteen other major legislative acts must be passed to reorganize other
functions beyond what the President can do under the powers of this Act.
HOOVER TO TRUMAN, JULY 4, 1949
was not a man to take a day off -- not even the nation's
birthday. After discussing reorganization matters with
Frank Pace, the president's new budget director, he
lobbied Truman once again for the plan that he had pushed
at their meeting on February 9. Hoover believed that
the federal government's diverse transportation functions
belonged in the Department of Commerce. Hoover knew
that such a reorganization would require work -- the
transfer of eight agencies or parts of agencies to Commerce.
He was convinced, nonetheless, that it was worth the
Waldorf Astoria Towers
New York, New York
July 4, 1949
My dear Mr. President:
The Director of
the Budget conferred with me last week on what further immediate steps could
be taken on reorganization by way of "plans" under the Reorganization
Act of 1949.
After some thought
it seems to me an immediate point for action upon a large scale lies in the
Department of Commerce. The Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch
of the Government strongly recommended the gathering together of functions relating
to Transportation into a rounded division of that Department. These proposals
were backed not only by the members of the Commission familiar with the problems,
but also by an exhaustive investigation of the Brookings Institution. I understand
that the Secretary of Commerce has, except for some details, also approved our
We proposed to
set up the Transportation Division under four Bureaus:
To effect this
very large purpose will require the transfer of eight agencies or parts of agencies
into the Department.
Not only would such a Division of Transportation create a center for constructive
policies, but it would lessen overlaps and duplication and relieve your office
from the burdens of five agencies or parts of agencies, which now have "independent"
status and insufficient supervision.
I believe there
is great favor in the Congress for such a Transportation Division. I believe,
however, that in order that the Congress should appreciate fully the objective,
all these transfers should be submitted in one "plan." I enclose a
copy of a letter which I have written in more detail to Mr. Pace.
not in File]
TRUMAN TO HOOVER, JULY 6, 1949
was his practice with reports from Hoover, Truman quickly
responded with a brief note of thanks. He made a point
of noting his continued work on new plans to be introduced
in the second session of the 81st Congress.
July 6, 1949
Dear Mr. President:
I appreciate most
highly your good letter of July 4th, in regard to plans under the Reorganization
Act of 1949.
The Budget Bureau
and I are working together on these plans and programs, and hope to have as
many of them ready for the new Congress as we possibly can.
I certainly do
appreciate your continuing interest in this program.
/s/HARRY S. TRUMAN
109. TRUMAN TO HOOVER, JULY
sent Hoover a more detailed response to the former president's
proposals on government transportation. Noting that
he did not disagree with Hoover, Truman stressed his
"immediate concern with the establishment of a
strong General Services Administration which both you
and I have advocated as providing the basis for substantial
gains in efficiency and economy in a major area of governmental
July 14, 1949
My dear Mr. Hoover:
I have read carefully
your letter of July 4 concerning the reorganization of transportation functions
in the Executive Branch. As you know, my failure to act on this subject does
not represent a decision against the recommendations of the Commission on Organization
of the Executive Branch. Rather, it reflects my immediate concern with the establishment
of a strong General Services Administration which both you and I have advocated
as providing the basis for substantial gains in efficiency and economy in a
major area of governmental activity.
of the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch provided in effect
that the General Services Administration should not be encumbered with extraneous
responsibilities. This is extremely important, in my judgement, if the General
Services Administration is to concentrate effectively on the major job of improving
the various housekeeping activities of the Executive Branch of the Government.
I provided for
the transfer of Public Roads Administration out of the General Services Administration
by Reorganization Plan No. 7 of 1949, both to meet this purpose and to effect,
in the same move, one of the other recommendations of the Commission. I intend
to give careful consideration to the other moves you have recommended in this
area in formulating reorganization plans for submission in 1950.
I do appreciate your letter of July 4 and your continuing efforts for improving
the organization and administration of the Executive Branch.
/s/HARRY S. TRUMAN
TRUMAN TO VICE PRESIDENT, AUGUST 12, 1949
White House lobbied for the president's first two agency
reorganization plans. The first would establish a Department
of Welfare superseding the Federal Security Agency (FSA);
The second plan would transfer the Bureau of Employment
Security from the FSA to the Department of Labor. In
his letter to the Senate, Truman emphasized that these
changes had been recommended by the Hoover Commission
and were supported by Hoover himself. (The complete
text of Truman's letter is in Public Papers of the
Presidents: Harry S. Truman, 1949 [Washington, D.C.,
1964], pp. 423-425.)
dear Mr. Vice President:
I am informed that
the Senate will soon take action on Reorganization Plans No. 1 and No. 2 of
I earnestly hope
that this action will be favorable. These plans are of great importance in improving
the organization and administration of the Federal Government. They are even
more important as the first real test of whether the long and difficult effort
to achieve increased economy and efficiency in Government is to succeed, or
is to be blocked whenever any group fancies that its interests will be adversely
affected. The action taken on these plans will demonstrate whether the many
recent professions of support for increased efficiency and economy in Government
are to be taken seriously or are to be written off as political oratory.
Under the leadership
of former President Hoover, the Commission on Organization of the Executive
Branch of the Government has made a careful study of ways to improve the management
of the Federal Government. This Commission, composed of outstanding citizens
from both political parties, has made a comprehensive report containing its
recommendations. Two of its important recommendations are included in Reorganization
Plans No. 1 and No. 2 . . .
I have discussed these plans within the last few days with President Hoover.
He shares my concern that their rejection would be a real set-back to the effort
to reorganize the Executive Branch of the Government.
These plans are
a first step in moving forward under reorganization authority on the wide range
of proposals for greater efficiency and economy submitted by the Commission
on Organization. If we fail in this first step, there is small chance that we
will ever accomplish the reforms for which the basis has been laid by the diligent,
nonpartisan work of that Commission.
I trust, therefore,
that the Senate will permit Reorganization Plans No. 1 and No. 2 to become effective.
/s/HARRY S. TRUMAN
HOOVER STATEMENT, AUGUST 16, 1949
Senate voted down the president's first two plans in
spite of endorsements by Truman and Hoover. Hoover was,
nonetheless, philosophical. "This is not a defeat
for reorganization," he noted. "I do not understand
that the Senate was opposed to reorganization, but disliked
step-by-step action." He urged the Senate to consider
passing the Commission's recommendations without revision
I am informed that
the Senate today voted down the preliminary step to reorganization of the Social
Security Agency recommended by the President which I supported. The Commission
on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government of which I was Chairman,
recommended extensive Administrative changes in this agency to make for economy
and efficiency. This is not a defeat for reorganization. I do not understand
that the Senate was opposed to reorganization, but disliked step-by-step action.
It would seem that the thing to do now is for the Congress to consider a bill
incorporating all of the Commission's recommendations regarding this agency.
112. RICKARD DIARY, DECEMBER
administration's failure to submit new plans during
the fall of 1949 turned Hoover pessimistic again. He
told Rickard the president was "only giving lip
service" to the Commission's reforms. No doubt
the former president placed more hope in the work of
his Citizens Committee for the Hoover Report (CCHR),
a non-profit organization established in February 1949
to rally public opinion in favor of governmental reform
and to lobby Congress to implement the changes recommended
by the Hoover Commission. The CCHR was a predominantly
Republican organization yet it succeeded in making governmental
reform a non-partisan issue. In fact, the CCHR was widely
credited with pressuring a reluctant Congress into passing
To Waldorf and
have [a] good talk with H.H. He [is] pleased with the Washington meeting of
[the] Citizens' Committee [for the Hoover Report], his own reception at [the]
meeting and in the press. He says that Truman [is] only giving lip service to
the proposed economies, and will not give his whole hearted support.
TRUMAN TO CONGRESS, MARCH 13, 1950
learned from his defeat in the Senate and instructed
his staff to develop new reorganization plans. In March
1950, the president sent to Congress a comprehensive
set of twenty-one plans for reorganizing the executive
branch. Again, he invoked the name and the recommendations
of the Hoover Commission. (The complete text of Truman's
message is in Public Papers of the Presidents: Harry
S. Truman, 1950 [Washington, D.C., 1965], pp. 195-199.)
To the Congress
of the United States:
I am today transmitting
to the Congress 21 plans for reorganization of agencies of the Executive Branch.
These plans have been prepared under the authority of the Reorganization Act
of 1949. Each is accompanied by the message required in that Act.
Our ability to
make such comprehensive recommendations is due in large part to the outstanding
work of the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government.
The plans which I am transmitting are all designed either to put into effect
specific recommendations of the Commission or to apply principles set forth
by the Commission in its reports.
When these plans become effective, we shall have acted on almost half the proposals
made by the Commission on Organization. I expect to transmit additional plans
for putting into effect other recommendations of the Commission later in the
present session of Congress . . .
and modernization of the Government may never be called complete. I am confident,
however, that these plans will take us well along the road toward more effective,
economical and responsible Government.
RICKARD DIARY, MARCH 16, 1950
did not release a public statement in support of Truman's
new reorganization plans. Indeed, he was not at all
pleased with the plans and confided his displeasure
to his friend Rickard.
Walk to Waldorf
and have [a] good talk with [the] Chief, who [is] unhappy because Truman, in
presenting the Hoover plans to Congress, has so altered their contexts as to
ruin the ultimate results.
HOOVER STATEMENT, MAY 23, 1950
though Hoover had disagreements with some of Truman's
reorganization plans, he was pleased to see progress
in Congress. On May 23 the former president looked back
on work accomplished. After noting that the Congress
had passed four of the eighteen reorganizations recommended
by the commission, Hoover added "all together we
are making progress." This would be among the last
of the former president's comments on the Hoover Commission.
(This text is in Addresses Upon the American Road,
1948-1950 [Stanford, Ca., 1951], p. 164.)
The score from
the President's 21 Reorganization Plans just acted upon by the Congress is sixteen
passed and five missed. Of the five missed, some were either only in part recommendations
of the Commission on Reorganization or varied from the commission's recommendations.
The President has the right and
the duty to present his own ideas in these matters and the Congress has the
duty to pass on all of them.
Of these 21 Reorganization
Plans only one was a major operation -- that is the Merchant Marine reorganization.
The Commission on Reorganization has recommended eighteen major operations.
Four of these major operations have been performed up to date. They are, unification
of the Armed Services, creation of the General Services Administration, the
State Department reorganization, and now the Merchant Marine reorganization.
All together we are making progress.
ELMER B. STAATS TO STEELMAN, OCTOBER 18, 1951
involvement with governmental reform declined gradually after mid 1950. To be
sure, the former president continued to deliver testimony before Congress and
quietly participate in the activities of the Citizens' Committee on the Hoover
Reports, but he stepped back from the day-to-day strategy of lobbying Congress
and the president that so occupied him in 1949.
role was taken up by the Citizens' Committee which continued
to press the Congress for reforms, The Truman administration
was impressed with the effectiveness of the Committee
and hoped to convince its leaders to support the president's
new reforms. Elmer Staats outlined the following plan
for Truman aide John Steelman. (This document is from
Official File 285A in the Harry S. Truman Library.).
Office of the President
Bureau of the Budget
DR. JOHN R. STEELMAN
Subject: Reorganization Program
We have set up
a date with Bob Johnson, Charles Coates, and Bob McCormick for next Tuesday,
October 23 at 10:30 a.m. at their request to discuss possible reorganization
program for the next session of Congress.
As you probably
know, the Citizens Committee has been formally extended through next May. We
think it is important therefore so far as possible, that we have a meeting of
minds with Johnson
as to the approach which their Committee will take. The principal issue which
we have in general is the extent to which they are going to insist on a literal
construction of the Hoover Commission recommendations as the basis for their
support for reorganization actions. The bills which they have sponsored in the
Congress, of course, have been in this direction. The Hoover Commission recommendations
are now becoming somewhat out of date in many respects and we are, therefore,
hopeful that if the President decides on a reorganization program, we can get
the Citizens Committee support on desirable actions even though these recommendations
do not go as far as the Hoover Commission report.
We are currently
attempting to outline major reorganization possibilities and I hope we will
be in a position to sit down and have a good discussion with you at an early
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