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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.

After Truman's stunning election victory in November 1948, Hoover reoriented himself and his commission to working with Truman. The president reiterated his support for the commission's 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.


One 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.

The 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.

The 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.

Herbert 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 staff.)

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.

Chairman Hoover 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 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.

The Commission 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.

The Commission 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.


Hoover 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
Washington, D.C.


Subject: 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.

The Request 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.

Consideration should 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.

In considering 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 these objectives.

The identification 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 of Action

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.

3. Accordingly, 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.

2. Appropriate background information will be provided Mr. Hoover by staff of the Bureau of the Budget.

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


Even 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.)

November 5, [1947] 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.


Although 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.)

April 16, 1948

Memorandum for Honorable Dean Acheson

Without wishing 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.

Suggested Compromise: 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 duck.

Have you told F.F. of your new dining-out companion? I don't think he would approve.

Another suggestion -- 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.


His 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.)

November 5, 1948


The Republican 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 it.

Political leadership 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, etc.

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's 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."

Truman 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.

U.S. Naval Base,
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 for action.

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 for action.

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.

Very sincerely yours,

U.S. Naval Station,
Key West, Fla.,
November 12, 1948


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 Federal Government.

To this end, I have written to former President Hoover, Chairman of the Commission, offering assistance in this important work.



In Hoover's acknowledgement of the president's letter, he suggested that he would maintain a line of communication with the White House through Webb.

Washington, D.C.
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.

Sincerely yours,


In 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.

The White House
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.

Sincerely yours,


Although 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.

Saturday, December 4 [1948]

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.


As 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."

Wednesday, December 29 [1948]

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.


Although 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 House.

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 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 the like.

The 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., 1949].)

. . . 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 the Constitution.

This Commission 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.

This Commission 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, 1948.

The Commission 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 substantial results.

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 . . .

The Commission, 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.


After 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 military establishment."

New York City
Sunday, February 6, 1949

President Truman 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.


Two 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.

February 9, 1949

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 it.

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 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 for legislation.

Sincerely yours,


Hoover 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."

Washington, D.C.
February 14, 1949

Dear Mr. President:

I greatly appreciate the most kind expressions in your letter of February 11.

The Commissioners 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.

Yours faithfully,


Truman 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 subject.

Sincerely yours,


On 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," he wrote.

The Waldorf-Astoria Towers
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.

Yours faithfully,


Hoover 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 side."

Washington, D.C.
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 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 form.

The 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 additional legislation.

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 Security Organization
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

Legislation is being drafted for:

9. The Independent Regulatory Commissions.

Yours faithfully,


Truman 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.

The White House
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.

Sincerely yours,


In 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:

[Letter 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 as

[Names 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 program.

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.


In 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.)


To 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.

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 . . .

The Commission 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 have stated.



Hoover 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.

New York, New York
May 23, 1949

Honorable Arthur H. Vandenberg
United States Senate
Washington, D.C.

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 . . .



Reiterating 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.)


I wish to express again my appreciation of the work of the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government.

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 developed.

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 19, 1949

Even 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."

The Waldorf-Astoria Towers
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.

Effective reorganization 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 Committees.

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 packages."

Proposed 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's plan:

Bureau of Employees' Compensation
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 Service.

The Commission 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.

Reorganization 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 (S. 2019).

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.

The Commission 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.

Yours faithfully,


Although 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.)


To 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 executive branch.

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.

The recommendations 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 arrangements.

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.

Taken together, 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 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 government functions beyond what the President can do under the powers of this Act.


Hoover 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 effort.

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 recommendations.

We proposed to set up the Transportation Division under four Bureaus:

Merchant Marine
Civil Aviation
Highway Transportation
Railroad Transportation

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.

Yours faithfully,

[Letter not in File]


As 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.

The White House
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.

Sincerely yours,

109. TRUMAN TO HOOVER, JULY 14, 1949

Truman 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 activity."

The White House
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.

The recommendations 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.

Sincerely yours,


The 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.)


My dear Mr. Vice President:

I am informed that the Senate will soon take action on Reorganization Plans No. 1 and No. 2 of 1949.

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.

Very sincerely yours,


The 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 or amendment.

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.


The 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 reorganization legislation.

Wednesday, December 14 [1949]

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 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 . . .

The reorganization 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.


114. RICKARD DIARY, MARCH 16, 1950

Hoover 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.

Thursday, March 16 [1950]

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.


Even 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.


Hoover's 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.

Hoover's 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.).

Executive Office of the President
Bureau of the Budget
Washington, D.C.

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 date.

Assistant Director

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