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Special Message to the Congress Requesting Permanent Reorganization Legislation

January 17, 1949

To the Congress of the United States:

In my recent messages to the Congress I have presented the program which I believe this Government should follow in the months ahead. The magnitude and importance of that program, both at home and abroad, require able leadership and sound management. The Government must have the most effective administrative machinery to carry out its vast responsibilities.

The Congress has recognized these needs by the establishment of the Commission on the Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government. The recommendations of the Commission, which are soon to be reported to the Congress, may be expected to contribute significantly to our ability to meet the problem before us. The implementation of the Commission's recommendations and the accomplishment of other improvements in the Government's complex operations, however, will require further and more detailed actions. Improving the management of the public's business calls for continuing efforts by the Congress, the President, and all agencies of Government.

Throughout my administration I have taken action to effect improvements in the organization and operation of the Government. In 1945 I asked the Congress to enact legislation authorizing permanent changes in administrative structure by the reorganization plan procedure. Under the authority granted by the Reorganization Act of 1945, numerous reorganizations were made which contributed to the efficiency of the Government and its transition from war to peace. The establishment of the permanent Housing and Home Finance Agency was an outstanding example of the improvements thus achieved. I also recommended, and the Congress enacted, a major improvement in the organization of our armed forces by the creation of the National Military Establishment. On matters not requiring legislation I have made program adjustments designed to increase the effectiveness of governmental operations.

It is my firm intention to continue to require, throughout the Executive Branch, the highest degree of attention to this need for improved management. I expect each department and agency head to consider this a major part of his responsibility. It is essential that they be given the tools for effective management of their agencies. Further, I believe that every official and employee of the Government should feel a personal responsibility for improving the way in which his work is performed.

Increased efficiency and economy in the Government's far-flung activities can be realized only if certain essentials of organization and operation are satisfied. These essentials are not confined to Government. They have proven their effectiveness in the successful operation of large-scale enterprise, both public and private. They are matters on which it is easy to agree in principle but which are often violated in practice.

There must be, first of all, a clear definition of the objectives of public programs. Second, organizational arrangements must be established which are consistent with those objectives and designed to produce responsible and effective administration. Third, qualified personnel must be obtained to administer the programs. Fourth, the methods by which operations are conducted must be constantly reviewed and improved. Fifth, there must be provision for thoroughgoing review and evaluation of operations, by the President and the Congress, to assure that the objectives are being attained. These conditions can be achieved only through teamwork by the President and the Congress in carrying out their respective responsibilities under the Constitution for conducting the affairs of Government.

I have already recommended to the Congress two measures which will help us obtain better government. The enactment of legislation to increase the compensation of the heads and assistant heads of departments and agencies and to revise the Classification Act will greatly assist the Government in securing and holding the services of the best qualified men and women. The appropriation to the President of a special fund of one million dollars for management improvement will yield major contributions to the better operation of the Government. It will be used in part for the development and installation of recommendations coming from the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch. This fund will in no sense be a substitute for the present day-today efforts by all Government agencies to improve the conduct of their operations.

In addition to these steps, I am now recommending that the Congress enact legislation to restore permanently the reorganization procedure temporarily provided by the Reorganization Acts of 1939 and 1945. This procedure is the method of Executive-Legislative cooperation whereby a reorganization plan submitted to the Congress by the President becomes effective in sixty days unless rejected by both houses of the Congress.

In a letter to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Commission on the Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government has pointed out the need for such a method of reorganization in dealing with many of the changes which it will recommend. I fully agree with the Commission on the necessity of reviving the reorganization plan procedure, which became inoperative on April 1, 1948.

In recommending the enactment of a new reorganization measure, I wish to emphasize three things.

First, the reorganization legislation should be permanent rather than temporary. While the work of the Commission on the Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government makes such legislation especially timely and essential, the improvement of the organization of the Government is a continuing and never-ending process. Government is a dynamic institution. Its administrative structure cannot be static. As new programs are established and old programs change in character and scope to meet the needs of the Nation, the organization of the Executive Branch must be adjusted to fit its changing tasks.

The impracticability of solving many problems of organization by the regular legislative process has been frankly recognized for many years by Congressional leaders. In many cases, changes which are essential cannot attract the necessary legislative attention in competition with the many other matters pressing for Congressional action. On the other hand, the reorganization plan affords a method by which action can be initiated and the proposal considered with a minimum consumption of legislative time.

The reorganization plan procedure is a tested and proven means of dealing with organization problems. Twice within the last ten years the Congress has authorized this method of reorganization for short periods. Under each of those authorizations many changes were made which added to the efficiency of the Executive Branch and tended to simplify its administration. The advances made during the brief life of the Reorganization Acts of 1939 and 1945 clearly indicate the desirability of permanent reorganization legislation.

Second, the new reorganization act should be comprehensive in scope; no agency or function of the Executive Branch should be exempted from its operation. Such exemptions prevent the President and the Congress from deriving the full benefit of the reorganization plan procedure, primarily by precluding action on major organizational problems. A seemingly limited exemption may in fact render an entire needed reorganization affecting numerous agencies and functions wholly impractical. The proper protection against the possibility of unwise reorganization lies, not in the statutory exemption from the reorganization plan procedure, but in the authority of Congress to reject any such plan by simple majority vote of both Houses.

Finally, let me urge early enactment. Under the reorganization procedure, reorganization plans must lie before the Congress for 60 calendar days of continuous session in order to become effective. Unless the necessary legislation is adopted in the early weeks of the session, it obviously will be impossible to make effective use of the reorganization procedure during the present session.

The proper execution of the laws demands a simple, workable method of making organizational adjustments. Without it the efficiency of the Government is impaired and the President is handicapped in performing his functions as Chief Executive. In my judgment permanent legislation to restore the reorganization plan procedure is an essential step toward efficient and economical conduct of the public's business.

NOTE: For the President's special message to the Congress upon signing the Reorganization Act of 1949, see Item 127.