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Message to the Congress Transmitting Reorganization Plan 6 of 1949: United States Maritime Commission

June 20, 1949

To the Congress of the United States:

I transmit herewith Reorganization Plan No. 6 of 1949, prepared in accordance with the Reorganization Act of 1949. This plan is designed to strengthen the administration of the United States Maritime Commission by making the Chairman the chief executive and administrative officer of the Commission and vesting in him responsibility for the appointment of its personnel and the supervision and direction of their activities. After investigation, I have found and hereby declare that each reorganization included in this plan is necessary to accomplish one or more of the purposes set forth in section 2(a) of the Reorganization Act of 1949.

Unlike other major regulatory commissions, the Maritime Commission is responsible not only for the performance of important regulatory functions but also for the administration of large and complex operating and promotional programs. Whereas the budgets of most regulatory agencies amount to only a few million dollars annually, the expenditures of the Maritime Commission exceed $130,000,000 a year. As a result of the war, the Commission is the owner of a fleet of over 2,300 ships aggregating more than 23,000,000 deadweight tons.

While it is the policy of the Government, as set forth by the Merchant Marine Act of 1936 and the Merchant Ship Sales Act of 1946, to develop and maintain an adequate and effective merchant marine under private ownership, the Commission is still confronted with the necessity of carrying on substantial programs for the charter and sale of government-owned vessels and with the continuing task of maintaining the reserve merchant fleet.

Apart from its functions with respect to the war-built fleet, the accomplishment of the Government's permanent objective with respect to the development of the American merchant marine inevitably involves the Commission in a wide variety of activities. Among these are the regulation of rates and competitive practices of water carriers, the determination of essential trade routes and services, the award of subsidies to offset differences between American and foreign costs, the design and construction of ships, the inspection of subsidized vessels, and the training of seamen.

In the last two years the operation of the Maritime Commission has been subjected to independent examination by three bodies-the President's Advisory Committee on the Merchant Marine, the Senate Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments, and the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government. All of these studies have pointed to difficulties in the conduct of the Commission's business and the necessity of improved organization to strengthen the administration of the agency. The remedies proposed have differed in some respects, but all the studies have emphasized the need of concentrating in a single official the management of a large part of the agency's work.

During the war such a concentration was temporarily accomplished by executive order under the authority of the First War Powers Act. In effect, the Chairman of the Commission as War Shipping Administrator was made directly responsible for the administration of several major operating programs of the Commission. This arrangement proved its value under the stress of war. About a year after the end of the fighting, however, it was terminated and the organization reverted to the prewar pattern.

As a result of postwar experience, the Commission appointed a general manager in 1948. While this has brought considerable improvement, it has not extricated the Commission from administration to the degree which is desirable.

After careful consideration of the problems involved in improving the operation of the Maritime Commission, I have concluded that the proper action at this time is to concentrate in the Chairman the responsibility for the internal administration of the agency. This is achieved by the proposed reorganization plan by transferring to the Chairman the appointment of the personnel of the agency, except for the immediate assistants of the Commissioners, and the supervision and direction of their work. This is substantially the arrangement recommended for regulatory commissions by the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government.

Such a plan of organization has many advantages. It leaves in the Commission as a body the performance of regulatory functions, the determination of subsidies, and the determination of major policies. Thus, it utilizes the Commission for the type of work for which such a body is best adapted. At the same time the plan places under a single official the day-to-day direction of the work of the staff within the policies and determinations adopted by the Commission in the exercise of its functions. This will provide more businesslike administration and help to overcome the delays, backlogs, and operating difficulties which have hampered the agency. At the same time by freeing the members of the Commission of much detail, the plan will enable them to concentrate on major questions of policy and program and thereby will obtain earlier and better considered resolution of the basic problems of the agency.

Though the taking effect of this plan in itself may not result in substantial immediate economies, it is probable that the improved organizational arrangements will bring about, over a period of time, improved operations and substantially reduced expenditures. An itemization of these reductions, however, in advance of actual experience under the plan is not practicable.

I am convinced that this reorganization plan will contribute importantly to the more businesslike and efficient administration of the programs of the Maritime Commission.

NOTE: Reorganization Plan 6 of 1949 is published in the U.S. Statutes at Large (63 Stat. 1069) and in the 1949-1953 Compilation of title 3 of the Code of Federal Regulations (p. 1001). It became effective on August 20, 1949.