Franklin D. Roosevelt

Appointment of Harold L. Ickes as Petroleum Coordinator for National Defense

May 28, 1941

My dear Mr. Secretary:

Recent significant developments indicate the need of coordinating existing Federal authority over oil and gas and insuring that the supply of petroleum and its products will be accommodated to the needs of the Nation and the national defense program. Government functions relating to petroleum problems are now divided among numerous officers and agencies of the Federal Government and the principal oil-producing States. The various phases of operation in the petroleum industry itself are numerous and complex. One of the essential requirements of the national defense program, which must be made the basis of our petroleum defense policy in the unlimited national emergency declared on May 27, 1941, is the development and utilization with maximum efficiency of our petroleum resources and our facilities, present and future, for making petroleum and petroleum products available, adequately and continuously, in the proper forms, at the proper places, and at reasonable prices to meet military and civilian needs.

Some of the problems with which we are now confronted and which require immediate action are: The proper development, production, and utilization of those reserves of crude oils and natural gas that are of strategic importance both in quality and location; elimination or reduction of cross hauling of petroleum and its products and the development of transportation facilities and of methods by which more efficient use can be made of existing transportation and storage facilities; balancing refining operations to secure the maximum yields of specific products with full consideration for requirements, the most economical use of the raw materials, and efficiency of production and distribution; and the elimination of the drilling of unnecessary wells in proven fields and of other unnecessary activities and equipment.

In order to provide the desired coordination, I am hereby designating you as Petroleum Coordinator for National Defense. In that capacity it will be your function and responsibility as my representative:

1. To obtain currently from the States and their agencies, from the petroleum and allied industries, from the officers and agencies of your Department, and from other appropriate Federal departments and agencies information as to (a) the military and civilian needs for petroleum and petroleum products, (b) the factors affecting the continuous, ready availability of petroleum and petroleum products for those needs, and (c) any action proposed which will affect such availability of petroleum and petroleum products.

2. To make specific recommendations to any appropriate department, officer, corporation, or other agency of the Federal Government, particularly the Office of Production Management and the Office of Price Administration and Civilian Supply, to the appropriate agency representing any State or any combination of States, and to any appropriate industry or part thereof, as to action which is necessary or desirable, on the basis of your determinations, to insure the maintenance of a ready and adequate supply of petroleum and petroleum products.

In carrying out these responsibilities, it is expected that you will consult with the several officers and agencies of the Federal Government, and with the States acting severally or in any joint capacity, to the end that all governmental participation shall consistently further the purposes above outlined. It is also expected that you will consult with the petroleum industry and those industries which affect its functioning, to aid them in shaping their policies and operations in the discovery, development, production, processing, transportation, storage, distribution, marketing, consumption, and import and export of petroleum and petroleum products.

In order to facilitate your work and efforts, I am requesting that the several departments and agencies having functions related to the petroleum problem give you antecedent advice of any action proposed which may affect the continuous, ready availability of petroleum or petroleum products for military and civilian needs, so that you may have opportunity to make specific recommendation concerning such action. I am also requesting that they notify you of all meetings and conferences dealing with these problems, so that your representatives may be in attendance when you deem it advisable.

It is suggested that from time to time you call together all or any of the heads of such departments and agencies, or their representatives, as a committee to discuss such problems as may arise and to develop ways and means of effectuating the highest degree of coordination of Federal functions for the furtherance of the policy herein outlined. The heads of the departments and agencies concerned are being informed of this suggestion and of the contents of this letter, and I am sure you will find them ready to cooperate fully in rendering the assistance requested herein or otherwise needed to assure success of the program.

Within the limits of such funds as may be made available to you, you may employ necessary personnel, including a Deputy Coordinator whose appointment shall be approved by me and to whom you may make any necessary delegation of functions, and may make provision for necessary supplies, facilities, services, and for actual and necessary transportation, subsistence, and other expenses incidental to the performance of their duties. You will, of course, make use of such statistical, informational, fiscal, personnel, and other general services and facilities as you now have available or as may be made available to you through the Office for Emergency Management or other agencies of the Government.

Yours sincerely,

Franklin D. Roosevelt

[The Honorable, The Secretary of the Interior]

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Appointment of Harold L. Ickes as Petroleum Coordinator for National Defense Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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