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REORGANIZATION OF GOVERNMENT AGENCIES
MONDAY, JANUARY 31, 1949
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
COMMITTEE ON EXPENDITURES
Washington, D. C. The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 10 a. m. in the caucus room, Old House Office Building, Hon. William L. Dawson (chairman), presiding.
Present: Representatives William L. Dawson (chairman), Chet Holifield, Henderson, Lanham, Porter Hardy, Jr., Frank M. Karsten, Herbert C. Bonner, George G. Sadowski, Walter B. Huber, John A. Blatnik, Harold D. Donohue, Earl T. Wagner, Robert L. Coffey, Jr., William P. Bolton, M. G. Burnside, Richard Bolling, Anthony F. Tauriello, Clare E. Hoffman, Robert F. Rich, R. Walter Riehlman, Ralph Harvey, Charles A. Halleck, William L. Pfeiffer, and Harold 0. Lovre. Also present were Representatives Clarence J. Brown, Oren Harris, and former Representative Carter Manasco.
The CHAIRMAN. Will the committee come to order.
We have met this morning for further consideration of H. R. 1569, a bill authorizing the President to reorganize the executive department of our Government.
We have with us this morning as our witness, a most distinguished American, one who can probably testify to this matter better than any one other person in the United States, because he is our only living exPresident. We are happy to have him with us and I say to you and to him that our majority leader, Mr. McCormack, regrets that he cannot be present at the beginning because of an appointment with the Executive, but will rush here in order to be present probably before our distinguished visitor and witness leaves us.
The committee at this time will hear the former President of the United States, the Honorable Herbert Hoover.
STATEMENT OF HON. HERBERT C. HOOVER, CHAIRMAN, COMMIS
SION ON ORGANIZATION OF THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH OF THE GOVERNMENT
Mr. HOOVER. Mr. Chairman, I am very grateful for your introductory remark.
This problem, as you well know, of reorganization of the executive branch, to make it more efficient and more economical and less difficult in its contacts with the citizen, has been before the Congress and the Presidents continuously for 40 years.
No one questions the need more than Congress itself. That is amply recognized by the initiative that was taken by the Congress in creating the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch, of which I have the honor to be the chairman. That Commission was established unanimously by the Congress and approved by the President. It was made bipartisan. It was appointed one-third each by the President, by the President of the Senate, and by the Speaker of the House. Now, the Commission has been working steadily for over 18 months since its creation and it has been assisted by task forces comprisin committees of experienced men and women with additional .# . o an exhaustive investigation of every phase of the executive I’an CIn. There have been over 350 of these people interested and involved in the investigations and they have completed their reports. The Commission is now preparing its conclusions for the Congress. All this comprises the most formidable attempt that has yet been made to solve the problem. Its reports will show a host of needs, and, I think, an exhaustive investigation and reasons for the suggestions that we will make. I would like to give emphasis to the fact that this Commission represents a complete step in cooperation between the Congress and the President and the public. If the multitude of problems which are involved are to be solved, it must be solved by a continuation of that cooperation. The legislation that you are considering here was recommended by this Commission as the first step in a cooperative action. It is the first, and a most necessary step in a very grievously needed operation. I need not point out that we must first get these 1,800 bureaus, departments, commissions, divisions, administrations, and offices, which we call agencies, into some sort of orderly relation before we can even begin on the further steps which reorganization requires. That is the object of this legislation. There were only about 350 of these agencies. 20 years ago, and that was too many even before the depression, and war multiplied them about fourfold. So, to secure efficiency and economy in the Government we must begin at this point to resolve this first problem. I want to caution, however, that the most perfect alinement of these agencies would not solve the whole problem of reorganization. Other vital steps will also be necessary and will require different and continuous legislation. That is because aside from multiplicity and overlap in these agencies, their officials are, like Gulliver, enmeshed by thousands of strands of red tape, accumulated by legislative and Executive action over half a century or perhaps a whole century, which paralyzes the efforts of the best of officials. As to the proposals in this bill, it is hopeless to expect the Congress to investigate and legislate out the vast detail of the overlaps, the conflicts, the duplications, and this lack of coordination among this multitude of agencies. This bill does not create dictatorial powers. It proposes that the President take the initiative and propose plans for the redistribution of executive agencies to the Congress and that the Congress reserve a veto power over the plans that he may propose. The sole purposes are to reduce expenses, gain efficiency, and make life easier for the citizen in his dealings with the Government. Some questions have been raised as to the “regulatory agencies.” So far as I know, it is not proposed that the President should interfere with the quasi-judicial or quasi-legislative functions of the major regulatory agencies, such as the Interstate Commerce Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, and the eight others. I do not want to be offering opinions on constitutional questions but I might say that it has been my own opinion that these “regulatory agencies” are not a part of the executive branch of the Government so far as these particular functions are concerned. They might be considered to be outside the constitutional mandate that the executive power shall be vested in the President of the United States. However, the real problem is that these agencies thus being independent of the President's powers have branched out into purely executive functions. Prominent examples are the great business operations of the Maritime Commission and the railway safety inspection activites of the Interstate Commerce Commssion. Assuming these regulatory agencies are independent of the President, it is a certainty that for orderly government their executive functions should be moved to the executive branch of the Government where they are within the authority and responsibility of the President. These administrative activities of the so-called regulatory agencies may be a violation of the spirit of the Constitution, and in any event it is bad government. Their executive functions, as distinguished from their quasijudicial and quasi-legislative functions, should be placed with functions of the same major purpose in the executive departments if we are to clean out overlaps and have a businesslike administration. I might add to this statement what I proposed that I have given here, that I strongly support the idea that there should be no exceptions in this legislation. The reasons for that view are that I do not know any method by which the Congress can make a differentiation of executive and quasi-legislative and quasi-judicial functions in these agencies. It might be possible to arrive at such a definition with regard to them, but we have to bear in mind that there are such functions—quasi-judicial and quasi-legislative—in practically every department of the Government. We immediately get into difficulties if we try to make definitions. On the other hand, it would seem to me that Congress has an ample check on any action that would undermine those judicial and legislative functions when the President makes his proposed plans, and I should not imagine he is going to propose to do otherwise than to remove purely executive functions. This first step in reorganization is an endeavor to solve two immediate problems. The first is to place, and at all times to consolidate, these 1,800 agencies into groups of major purpose. Many agencies with related purpose are scattered over the Government. Such ill-setting creates a constant overlap, conflicts of jurisdiction, competition, and waste. And, perhaps worst of all, it prevents the development of unified purpose and policies. So these agencies that have a similar major purpose should be placed cheek by jowl with each other under some single head who can reduce them to order.
For instance, there are over 30 agencies engaged in lending money and making guaranties and in insurance activities. There are 23 agencies engaged in major construction activities that are competing with each other for labor and materials. They are scattered over 11 departments of the Government. There are 10 agencies dealing with major transportation questions—that is not including regulatory functions—that are scattered through 8 departments and independent agencies. Not all of these agencies can be set in one spot, but the situation can certainly be improved. The Second problem is to relieve the President of a mass of administrative detail and free him for more important duties of his office. I have here three lists of agencies that are outside the regulatory agencies that report direct to the President. One list shows 65 such agencies, another shows 94, and still another shows 101. The discrepancy in the lists is a difference of opinion as to how much responsibility the President may have in each case. Most of them exercise some executive function. Of them, some 18 or 20 are major operational departments, or administrations, leaving some 45 to 80 secondary agencies, depending on how you enumerate them, reporting to the President—if they report to anyone. These agencies are usually, and significantly, referred to as independent agencies. If the President were to give each of them an hour a week, he would have no time for his major responsibilities in national policies and the conduct of the major departments and administrations. In fact, the President cannot physically look after these so-called independent agencies, and they have little checking from anybody or little direction. The idea is to place as many of them as possible under the direction of the major departments or administrations. My only personal hope is that the total number of agencies of all kinds reporting to the President can be reduced to less than 20. There are some points of minor history that may be of interest. As I have said before, this legislative problem is not new. After the failure of Presidents previous to my time to persuade Congress to remedy this problem of rearranging the agencies, I was the first to recommend, in 1931, this idea of Presidential initiative in proposing plans with a congressional veto. But the Congress of that time reversed the veto idea to a requirement of affirmative action by the Congress. That reduced the proposal to the level of any other general recommendation to the Congress by the President. However, at that time I sent to the Congress proposals to combine 59 agencies into 9, out of the 350 then existing, but Congress took no affirmative action and I think that illustrates the problem with which we are confronted. It was not until 1939 that Congress finally adopted this plan of action. Some progress was made under this authority by President Roosevelt and President Truman, although the powers to make such proposals were greatly restricted. In the meantime, due to war and other causes, the number of agencies in the Government, has grown hugely. The authority to the President to initiate reorganization programs expired last April, as you know.