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Special Message to the Congress on Reorganization of the Executive Branch of the Government

May 9, 1949

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 creation of clear lines of responsibility and authority within the Executive Branch does not weaken but instead strengthens-the Constitutional position of the Congress to determine the scope and character of activities in which the Government shall engage and to prescribe the policies which shall guide their execution.

With the completion of the Commission's work, we should now consider the specific reorganization steps which should be taken at this time. The reorganization of the Executive Branch is a complicated and difficult task. Its accomplishment requires an orderly and systematic plan of action and dose cooperation between the President and the Congress.

Certain reorganization measures are now before the Congress. Bills to improve the organization of our national security and foreign affairs activities are under consideration. Action in both of these areas was recommended by the Commission on Organization and endorsed in my earlier messages to the Congress. There are also pending in the Congress bills dealing with the establishment of a National Science Foundation, the conversion of the Federal Security Agency into a Department of Welfare, increased pay for top Federal officials, and the creation of a General Services Agency with improved arrangements for property management. The objectives of these bills have been generally endorsed by the reports of the Commission on Organization, and I have previously indicated my support of action in these fields.

These specific bills are important and cover major areas of the Commission's work. Of equal importance is the general reorganization bill now before the Congress. There is no need in this message to recapitulate the compelling reasons for enacting a general reorganization statute. These were fully stated in my message to the Congress January 17, 1949.

In keeping with past experience, the pending bill provides that reorganization plans, submitted to the Congress by the President under the reorganization authority, must lie before the Congress for 60 consecutive days without Congressional disapproval, if they are to become effective. Because of this 60 day waiting period the bill should be enacted soon if any reorganization plans are to be submitted to the present session of the Congress.

It is neither possible nor wise to proceed simultaneously in all areas on reorganization. When reorganization authority is enacted reorganization plans will be submitted to the Congress as rapidly as it is feasible to do so. I shall also submit additional recommendations for action on matters which cannot be covered by reorganization plans. Such plans and recommendations will represent the most carefully considered judgment of the Executive Branch of the Government. In their formulation I shall give careful consideration to the recommendations of the Commission.

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.

NOTE: The reports of the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government are published as House Documents 55, 63, 73, 76, 79, 80, 84, 86, 92, 100, 115, 116, 119, 122, 128, 129, 140, 152, and 197 (81st Cong., 1st sess.).

The Commission was composed of the following persons: Herbert Hoover, Chairman, Dean Acheson, Vice Chairman, Arthur S. Flemming, James Forrestal, George H. Mead, Senator George D. Aiken, Joseph P. Kennedy, Senator John L. McClellan, James K. Pollock, Representative Clarence J. Brown, Carter Manasco, and James H. Rowe, Jr.

For the statement by the President upon receiving the final report of the Hoover Commission, see Item 111.