Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference

August 04, 1939

Q. Look at that necktie! [Referring to necktie worn by General Watson]

Q. Watson's necktie!

Q. You do not have to look at the mirror.

Q. It is a breakfast egg tie.

Q. [Mr. Young] Do you think you will go down the river tomorrow?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I shall stay right here. Bills will begin coming in tomorrow, I hope.

I do not think there is any news. Rudolph [Mr. Forster] says there are about 350 bills, somewhere between that and 400, that are due to come to us-after the Congress has adjourned. I shall stay here for two full days to see any members of the House or Senate that want to come in and talk about anything and, incidentally, I shall sign bills on the side. Then I shall go up to Hyde Park and keep on signing bills for nearly a week—and vetoing. Then I shall get on the cruiser and disappear for a little while.

Q. How long do you intend to disappear, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: A week or ten days.

Q. Where will you board the cruiser, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: I do not know yet definitely; probably New York.

Q. Mr. President, I know you do not anticipate things of this sort, but there is a Civil Service Retirement Bill which you possibly know all about by now. Do you intend to sign it?

THE PRESIDENT: I do not know enough about it yet, Earl [Mr. Godwin]. The general principle is pretty good. I have not seen the bill in its final form. . . .

Q. Getting back to the cruise, when you finish with the cruise are you going back to Hyde Park or here?

THE PRESIDENT: Probably at the end of the cruise we shall turn around and come back here because I shall have been away for about two weeks. I probably shall come back here for a while and then go to Hyde Park; and between then and October I shall divide my time between here and Hyde Park.

Q. Where does that put the Western trip?

THE PRESIDENT: About the first of October.

Q. Do you agree or disagree with the statement of Senator Taft to the effect that no sensible person will want to be President after 1941? (Laughter)

THE PRESIDENT: No sane person, did you say?

Q. No sensible person.

THE PRESIDENT: Did he say that about his own candidacy?(Laughter)

Q. He said it in connection with his own candidacy.

Q. Won't you answer?

THE PRESIDENT: Don't you think that is an awfully good answer that I have already given?

Q. Have you found any more people with a "passion for anonymity" yet? [Referring to the administrative assistants to the President.]


Q. Are there to be three more appointed or are you going to stand pat on the first three?

THE PRESIDENT: I am not going to stand pat on the first three. Whether I will appoint three more, I do not know. In other words, there is no reason why I should not tell you the exact situation. My general thought is that I will appoint two more, and keep the sixth place vacant as a place to put in somebody to perform some special duty, some specific duty of a temporary character. That was the general thought originally, and it seems to be a pretty good one.

Q. Would that, then, be temporarily filled from time to time, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: If necessary.

Q. Any comment on the House action on the housing bill yesterday?

THE PRESIDENT: No comment. Res ipsa loquitur; including the roll call.

Q. When will those two be appointed?

THE PRESIDENT: I do not know.

Q. Mr. President, there seems to be some conflict between the Army Engineers having charge of flood control projects and the engineers of the Bureau of Reclamation, regarding the construction of some dams and reservoirs in the West. I believe you recently had some people here to talk over that situation. Is there anything you can tell us about it?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. It goes back, really, to the first study of the reorganization steps two years ago. At that time we had two agencies that were building the larger type of dams. One was the Bureau of Reclamation that has built Boulder Dam and was building Grand Coulee; and the other was the Army Engineers that were building Fort Peck and Bonneville.

The feeling at that time was that these two construction agencies ought to be maintained for construction work in such a way that neither one of them would overwhelm the other, that there would be what might be called a healthy rivalry between the two big Government construction agencies instead of having the whole thing done by one. Both are extremely good.

In the past few years the Army Engineers have, of course, got away beyond the Army personnel in their construction work. It was thought, for that reason, that the Army Engineers should not become too big. They only have a limited number of officers that can do the work; and it has got to the point where something like three-quarters of the Army Engineers' construction work was being done by civilian employees. The reason for keeping them from absorbing all the work is that their primary function is a military function. In case of war the Army Engineers are intended, the great bulk of them, for service at the front with the Army and, therefore, we felt it would be a mistake to make them so big that they would do all the construction work.

So we laid down what might be called a rule of thumb; and that was that they would continue to do all the harbor work, all the Mississippi work and all the river work where flood control was the primary function—flood control and navigation, the two being tied together; and to allocate the rest of the work, that is to say, on the upper reaches of a river, especially where navigation did not enter into it, in such a way that the Bureau of Reclamation would be kept going with equal importance to the Army Engineers—to keep both organizations functioning. Each one would be merely a check on the other. The result is that we have now a very excellent system worked out so that when a report is asked from either Reclamation or the Army Engineers, it is studied by the other service.

If there is a question of a dam on the upper reaches of the river that has irrigation possibilities, we weigh the importance of the irrigation as compared to navigation and flood control; and in some cases, of course, power enters into it to a certain extent. The system as worked out now will mean no crossing of wires, but it will mean that if a dam is principally for irrigation it would be done normally by the Reclamation people; and if it is primarily for navigation, it would be done by the Army Engineers. . . .

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Excerpts from the Press Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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