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(The information referred to follows:)
The number of service postmasters at offices of the first, second, and third classes is 1,231.
Senator DWORSHAK. Are those confined to the larger post offices ? · Postmaster General DONALDSON. No; they are not confined to the larger offices. As a matter of fact, there are more career postmasters in the smaller offices than there are in the larger ones.
I was merely trying to point out that it was not limited to the large offices, but extended to the large offices as well.
Senator DWORSHAK. There may be some reasons for picking career men in the larger post offices, because naturally a man without any experience in postal work could not serve efficiently in those large offices.
Postmaster General DONALDSON. Well, it has been to the contrary, Senator, for the reason that the salary in the larger offices is so much greater than it is in the smaller offices, and therefore more incentive for somebody from the outside to aspire to be postmaster.
And I was just trying to point out, notwithstanding that fact, that we have quite a lot of service postmasters in these offices where the salary is very high.
The CHAIRMAN. General, since you do not have a prepared statement, if you do not mind these interruptions, I thought as a point was presented we could make the record on that point very well as we go along, if it does not interfere with the chronology of your presentation.
Is it all right with you that we ask these questions?
Senator SMITH. General Donaldson, as I understand it, there are two ways by which a postmaster can be appointed.
Who determines which way will be followed, and how is that determination made?
Postmaster General DONALDSON. When a vacancy occurs in a post office, the Post Office Department ordinarily makes a check of the records of the supervisors or officials of the post office to see whether or not someone in there would merit the promotion.
But, in the final analysis, some adviser is consulted as to whether or not he prefers that someone be promoted, or whether he prefers an open competitive examination.
By the way, tomorrow ends my forty-fourth year in the Post Office, and as far back as I can remember it has been the practice of both political parties to consult advisers in the appointment of postmasters.
So, if a vacancy occurs in any particular office, this adviser is first consulted as to whether or not he prefers to recommend the promotion of somebody in the office, and we ordinarily will furnish him with the name of some capable employee who can be promoted; or an open competitive examination, in which all eligibles can compete.
We usually follow his recommendation.
Senator SMITH. Would that include those already in service? Would they be permitted to take the examination even though they were in the service?
Postmaster General DONALDSON. Yes; that is right. If an open competitive examination is held, those in the service can compete as well as those outside the service. And then, when the eligible register
is supplied by the Civil Service Commission, the highest three eligibles, the names of them, are submitted to this adviser for his comment, which in fact is tantamount to a recommendation in a way.
I might point out that the consultation of advisers has been of little use, so to speak, in late years, because it narrows it down to three people, and under the law you must recognize the veteran's preference, and if a veteran is at the head of a list he cannot be passed by a nonveteran without giving some reason to disqualify the veteran; not a reason to better qualify the nonveteran, but a reason for disqualifying the veteran. And that can rarely be done.
So, it is down to the point where there is so little leeway that the adviser can have in the matter that it seems to me there is less and less use for the confirmation.
In other words, it has been my experience over the years that where we have these advisers-and, ordinarily, it is the Congressman in his own district—it usually results that consulting the adviser means creating maybe 20 enemies and 1 ingrate for the adviser.
So, as I see the picture today, it would seem to me like it would be much better to eliminate the confirmation and get away from so much of this advising, because there is so little they can do about it anyhow.
Senator SMITH. The adviser, then, is not in the post office. He or she is someone outside, either the Congressman of the district or a member of the political party in power?
Postmaster General DONALDSON. That is right.
Senator SMITH. And the adviser is usually the head of the political party in that State. Is it one of the committee members usually?
Postmaster General DONALDSON. Sometimes it is and sometimes it is not. As a rule it is.
Senator SMITH. It is interesting to follow the procedure and know that it is not always by promotion, then; that, even though there would be someone in the service that would be qualified and capable of handling the postmaster's job, if it is someone the adviser does not approve of or appreciate, the adviser can very easily call for open competitive examinations.
Postmaster General DONALDSON. I think most of the open competitive examinations are called for not because of that reason but because of the feeling that it ought to be opened up to as many citizens of the community who can qualify as possible.
Oftentimes that proves to be a very good way. There may be any number of people in the community who aspire to be postmaster and who are qualified for it, and the only way you can eliminate any number of those is by holding an examination, and then it narrows down to three.
I think in many instances the recommendation for an open competitive examination is based upon that fact: that they want to give everybody a chance.
And especially, now, give a veteran a chance. I see a great many letters suggesting that we have an open competitive examination because there are a number of qualified veterans whom they would like to see participate.
I think that is the greatest reason at present.
Senator Hory. General, if this plan is adopted, would it have any effect on the advisers ?
Postmaster General DONALDSON. I am going to just have to assume, Senator Hoey, on that, that it would seem to me that the President; whoever he may be, might instruct the Postmaster General, whoever he may be, as to whether or not they are going to consult with anybody at all in the appointments.
Senator HOEY. Then, as far as the plan itself is concerned, about the only change it makes is on the matter of confirmation by the Senate?
Postmaster General DONALDSON. That is correct. · Senator Hory. Now, as to the advisory system, which has been in effect over the years in both political parties, there is nothing in the plan itself that changes that?
Postmaster General DONALDSON. Yo, sir.
Senator HoEY. The administra ion, anyone who comes in, could adopt the advisory plan or what ver they wanted to. It would not be affected by this plan?
Postmaster General Donaldsox. That would have to be controlled entirely by whoever is the President and whoever the Postmaster General might be.
Senator HOEY. But the President would have the power to make an order of anything he might want along that line. So, he might be able to set up advisers like you have now, or not have any at all?
Postmaster General DONALDSON. That is right. I might say, Senator Hoey, that, so far as personal consultation with the President on postmaster appointments is concerned, during my time in the Post Office Department here in Washington, I have only known of two instances where a President expressed any interest in the appointment of a postmaster.
. Senator HOEY. I understand most of the advice comes from somebody who has been designated, either a Congressman from the district or a committeeman. They comply with the provisions of the statute. But there is nothing in this plan that changes that.
Postmaster General DONALDSON. There is nothing in this plan that would prevent the Postmaster General, whoever he may be, from .consulting advisers, as has been done in the past. After all, it is the Postmaster General who does the consulting of advisers, and not the President.
Senator Hory. That is right.
Now, in this there is nothing to bind the Postmaster General to take the advice of advisers, either.
Postmaster General DONALDSON. No; there isn't anything in the law that prohibits the Postmaster General from consulting whoever he may please.
And I think the Attorney General ruled one time that there is no violation of the civil-service rules and regulations in consulting anyone, as long as you did not permit any of the advice or the consultation to deal with political or religious affilation. · Senator HOEY. Well, the powers in the Postmaster General would be, under this, to make his election, usually his own election, as to consultation ?
Postmaster General DONALDSON. As I stated a little while ago, Senator Hory, you might have a President who would direct the Post, master General to consult nobody, or no political party, about an appointment. And, if you did, the Postmaster General would be bound to follow that policy.
Now, whether that would happen or not, I don't know. I couldn't speak for the President in that particular.
Senator HOEY. I notice this plan provides that when the vacancy occurs—now, for how long are the postmasters appointed now?
Postmaster General DONALDSON. There is no term. They are appointed without term.
Senator HOEY. Appointed without term. Now, in the case of the first-class postmaster, if this plan is adopted, when does the vacancy occur? Upon the adoption of the plan?
Postmaster General DONALDSON. You are speaking now of a vacancy where we already have a postmaster ?
Senator HOEY. Yes; I am talking about a vacancy. You see, this plan says that when there is a vacancy you fill it. And, if a postmaster is not appointed for any definite time, then does the vacancy occur upon the adoption of this plan?
Postmaster General DONALDSON. In that particular case, the vacancy would occur when the postmaster died, resigned, or retired, and not until then.
Senator Hory. In other words, when it is an indefinite period, like first-class postmasters are all-
Postmaster General DONALDSON. This plan, Senator Hoey, does not affect incumbent postmasters.
Senator HOEY. I wanted to get that clear. Is there any length of time set for the second-, third-, and fourth-class postmasters?
Postmaster General DONALDSON. No; there are no terms of postmasters, so far as tenure is concerned, for any postmaster in any class.
Senator Howy. When this comes along and abolishes all of these offices, that does not change the situation when a man is appointed to an indefinite term?
Postmaster General DONALDSON. No.
Senator HOEY. And the postmasters who are in would continue unless they resign or are removed for cause or something like that?
Postmaster General DONALDSON. That is right. The only immediate change would be where vacancies are existing.
Senator HoEY. I understand that.
Senator SMITH. In other words, the method of appointment is by Executive order and not by law; do I understand? The method of appointment is by Executive order?
Postmaster General DONALDSON. At the present time?
Postmaster General DONALDSON. No; it is by law. The method of appointment is by law, requiring the President to nominate somebody to the Senate and then to appoint the person after the Senate has concurred in the nomination. That is law at the present time. That would still be law, excepting with reference to the confirmation.
Senator Smith. The procedure adopted as to the appointment, the naming of the postmaster, is by Executive order? The procedure to be followed ?
Postmaster General DONALDSON. No; the procedure is under the act of June 25, 1938, which is a law. The law specifically states that whenever a vacancy occurs it may be filled in one of three ways: either by the reappointment of the incumbent, who at that time was serving a 4-year term, or by the promotion of an employee in the vacant office through a noncompetitive test, or by selecting one of the highest three eligibles through an open competitive test. Now, the first method provided for in the law no longer exists, because there are no postmasters now who are serving 4-year terms. That has all been wiped out.
The present appointment is provided for by law.
Senator SCHOEPPEL. General Donaldson, you are a career man in the Department?
Postmaster General DONALDSON. Yes, sir.
Senator SCHOEPPEL. In my way of looking at it, people who have been in the Department, who have the know-how of the Department, probably would be more efficient by far than those coming into the Department entirely new.
Now, do you think that this reorganization plan, if carried out, would be more efficient from the standpoint of the operation of the Department as it affects the general public?
Postmaster General DONALDSON. I think it would.
Postmaster General DONALDSON. I base it upon the fact that more promotions will be made within the service. More postal employees will have ambition to become postmasters. It will create a better morale in the office.
You would be surprised how many letters we get from time to time from people in post offices who desire to be considered for promotion to a vacancy, who do not get that opportunity. And I think it would create better morale. And, besides, you have the postmasters now under civil service just as completely as the clerk or the carrier or anybody else is under civil service, except that he can't get his job in any other way than by nomination and confirmation.
Senator SCHOEPPEL. That is the way it is now under the present act, which takes in Senate confirmation.
Postmaster General DONALDSON. Yes.
Senator SCHOEPPEL. Now, this may be a little blunt, this question, but you have heard it bandied around, I am sure; namely, that the plan would tend to bring a rather autocratic machine into the Department. That may be a little embarrassing, but I would like to have your judgment.
Postmaster General DONALDSON. I will answer that question in this way, Senator.
There are complaints, and there is criticism from time to time about the postal service being political; and practically all that criticism and complaint comes from the fact that postmasters have to be confirmed by the Senate, and that the man selected is arrived at through the consultation of advisers. And it is the only thing left in the postal service that has that political criticism about it.
You read many articles saying the Post Office Department is political. It has never been freer of politics, in my whole connection with the postal service, than it is now. But still there is that charge, that it is largely political. And it all arises, just as it did in the Hoover Commission report and in the task-force report, and now in the recommendations of the citizens' committee, on the basis that one way to cure this thing is to take postmasters out of politics. And I think it would be wholesome, and it would eliminate that charge that is