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FEDERAL PROPERTY ACT OF 1949
FRIDAY, APRIL 8, 1949
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE COMMITTEE ON
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 9:30 a. m., in room 1501, New House Office Building, Hon. Chet Holifield (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. HOLIFIELD. The subcommittee will come to order.
We are gathered here this morning to have additional testimony on H. R. 2781 which seeks to reorganize and simplify the procurement, utilization, and disposal of Government property and for other purposes.
We are fortunate this morning to have with us one of the former members of this committee and a member of the Rules Committee, our colleague, Hon. Clarence J. Brown. Mr. Brown is also a member of the Hoover Commission, one of the two Members of Congress that received the honor of being appointed to this great task.
Mr. Brown, we are glad to have you with us this morning and we will ask you to testify in your own words for as long as you like. We are all glad to listen to you.
STATEMENT OF HON. CLARENCE J. BROWN, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF OHIO
Mr. Brown. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman; it is good to get back in this room where I enjoyed very much my service on this important committee. Before discussing the problem at hand, I would like very much to compliment the committee and its chairman, Mr. Dawson, and the subcommittee which is headed by yourself for the work that you are doing in actively attempting to put into effect the recommendations and findings of the Hoover Commission, tempered of course by your own wisdom and good judgment.
While I understand that this hearing this morning is directed specifically to H. R. 2781, I feel that perhaps my comments must be of a general nature which will go beyond the provisions of this bill itself.
I have not had an opportunity to study this measure as closely as I would have liked, but as I understand it, H. R. 2781 would create an administration or an agency of the Government for the purpose of simplifying procurement, utilization, and disposal of Government property
The Hoover Commission, in considering the very important question of supply, went further perhaps than this bill goes. We had a task force which was appointed for the purpose of studying on behalf of the Commission the entire Federal supply system and this task force which was made up of very outstanding citizens filed its report with the Commission early in January of 1949.
The Commission also had a task force report filed during the same month on records management and on other phases of general services in the Government.
The Commission, after a great deal of discussion of these task force reports, finally came to the conclusion that the supply problem was of such great importance and that the general services, such as record management and the administration of public buildings and the relations of the President and of the Federal Government with many of our institutions, should be put into one agency directly responsible to the President.
If I may digress for a moment, as I am sure your committee understands it has been the intent and the thought and the purpose of the Commission on the reorganization of the executive branch of the Government, to attempt to create and to establish a line of command as it were from the President down through his various department heads or the agencies or specific offices reporting directly to the President on into divisions and bureaus of the Government, finally to the individual employee, so that there would be not only a line of organization but also a line of responsibility where the President himself could place responsibility on individuals; that is the officials under him and they in turn could hold minor officials responsible to them and in that way the President and of course the Congress could have some well-organized means of controlling the operation of the Federal Government.
We have spent some 18 to 20 months in rather painstaking research on all of the activities of the Federal Government. Perhaps one of the most difficult problems that confronted the Commission and its task forces was that of Federal supply and also the problem of general services, how to tie them in together so they could be controlled, so that there could be some real organization, so that the supply activities and efforts of the Government would not be just scattered willy-nilly in every nook and cranny of the land.
It was for that reason that the Commission recommends the consolidation into one agency to be known as the Office of General Services the major activity in the area of supply, records, the operation and maintenance of public buildings along with certain executive relationships of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Park and Planning Commission, the National Capital Housing Authority, the Commission of Fine Arts, and the District of Columbia into this one Office of General Services under a single administrator who would be directly responsible to the President.
Now one of the things that we have found, Mr. Chairman, is that the President probably has more work to do than any 100 men can possibly do and do either wisely or well. I do not recall exactly now the number of Government divisions or agencies or heads who under the law or the Constitution are required to report only to the President.
I think every President has been somewhat perplexed and certainly irked by these responsibilities. Every President in recent years has been very frank in stating that it was impossible for him to give the attention to all of these divisions and agencies of the Government and to hear these reports from the various heads of these various agencies and divisions as the law contemplates.
I should not quote the President, but I remember when he signed H. R. 775, of which I happen to be one of the authors, to create the Commission on the reorganization of the executive branch of the Government into law, we were at the White House and the President pointed to a chart on the wall.
As I remember it, on that chart were 93 different agencies or officials who were required to report only to the President. He said to us : "I hardly know who all these people are, let alone know exactly what they are doing. I do not have time to see all of them."
Nr. Hoover, the only living ex-President who served as a member of this Commission, advised us that these requirements as they now exist for the reports of these various agencies to be made only to the President had been one of the troubles that he had to bear while he was President and that it was simply impossible for the Chief Executive to give his attention to the various matters that he should give and that the Congress had contemplated when the various l.. w's establishing these various services or agencies were created.
For that reason, in order to take the burden off the President and to still have this line of command and control that I mentioned a moment ago, the Commission has seen fit to recommend that we establish in the Office of the President, the Office of General Services and Supply Activities with a single Administrator who reports and is responsible to the President and in that way the President only has one man to talk to.
In that way a lot of the detail and many of the minor matters of administration which have been such a burden on the President could be eliminated and this Administrator could handle such work.
The annual cost of all these activities as we suggested go into one office approaches $8,000,000,000 a year and it involves almost half a million of our Federal employees. It therefore represents of course a major portion of our budget for the entire executive branch due to the fact that it embraces activities which are almost completely devoid of glamour, and I might add, Mr. Chairman, that glamour does have something to do with obtaining personnel.
Too little attention has been devoted to these problems in recent years. Since the introduction of a suggestion for the Federal Property Act of 1948, I have noted an ever-increasing interest in these matters with the membership of this committee and I believe, as I think you do, that the time for remedial action is long overdue. Perhaps the greatest contribution which I might provide to the committee would be to explain how the Commission report was developed and I have tried to do some of it.
As I told you it is primarily based on the task force base, with some additional research taken from the studies on departmental management and the Office of the Presidency. We early decided that one of the basic principles of Government reorganization was the necessity of grouping activities according to major purpose. Concurrent with
this was the obvious necessity for relieving the President of a great many of his routine duties, as I have explained, and at the same time to supply him with a consolidated staff agency containing the major housekeeping functions of the executive branch.
I want to emphasize that this is a housekeeping job. Quite frankly there was considerable sentiment at an early date within the Commission for inclusion of other executive services within this proposed organization. Some of the Commissioners maintained that existing statistical services and publications units should be incorporated within this office. In fact, I think you will note from the report that the Chairman, Mr. Hoover, was one of two or three members of the Commission who wanted to take some of the Budget Bureau's activities and put it in this Department.
It soon became apparent, however, that such an all-inclusive agency would assume such proportions as to defeat the primary purpose of the entire reorganization effort. Further study and deliberations dictated our conclusion that the consolidation of supply, records, administration of public buildings, and certain other executive relationships will best provide the President with a workable formula for managing the housekeeping functions of the executive branch.
A few moments ago I mentioned the fact that this report pertains to activities which are almost devoid of glamour. I believe that this fact, coupled with a revelation of its size in dollar volume, presented a challenge to the individual Commissioners, and, as a result, they evidenced a consuming interest in it. Their recommendations were not hastily devised. For example, they were in complete accord on the 14 recommendations representing a program for improving Federal supply operations. That is the particular problem in which you are interested here today.
Because of your interest in these matters, I would like to summarize the major ones, which are as follows:
1. We recommend that existing legislation be clarified and amended to provide the basic principles for an effective supply system. This should include extending the principles of the Armed Services Procurement Act of 1947 to buying by all agencies.
2. To give proper recognition to supply activities as a major function of government with competent personnel and adequate authority to provide the leadership necessary to achieve an efficient supply organization for the executive branch.
3. Eliminate the present surcharge levied on the price of commodities purchased through the Central Supply Organization and enlarge the revolving fund available so that economical buying technique can be extended. Redefine the concept of the Federal supply activity to include not only purchasing, specifications, inspection and storage and issue, but also matters of traffic management, property identification and utilization, including final disposition.
4. And in my opinion of greatest importance, the establishment of a supply policy committee to coordinate civilian and military supply operations. I believe that the suggestion for the establishment of this top level policy committee is the best one yet devised for the development of a standard property catalog and uniform standard specifications for items of common use by both the military and civilian agencies.