Franklin D. Roosevelt photo

Excerpts from the Press Conference

October 14, 1938

Q. You look snappy this morning. [Referring to the President's new suit.]

THE PRESIDENT: I am not feeling snappy. I sat up last night hearing the European side of things from Ambassador Bullitt.

I am not going up to Hyde Park until Sunday noon because I cannot get all the work straightened out until then. . . .

Q. Have you heard of the progress of the work on the Gravelly Point Airport?

THE PRESIDENT: Somebody told me yesterday that they hoped to get the first dirt flying in about ten days and I said that when I got back, a week from Monday, I shall drive down with the Commission and look it over. Nothing formal.

Q. Did anybody tell you it will take two years instead of one?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't know.

Q. Your driving down there will inaugurate the work?

THE PRESIDENT: No speech or anything like that.

Q. They wanted you to run a steam shovel.

THE PRESIDENT: No, just drive around.

Q. At the last Conference you told us you might have something to say on the budget at this one. Any comment you can make?

THE PRESIDENT: The only comment is that I cannot make any comment, for the reason that new developments in national defense require such a complete restudy of American national defense that it will defer, necessarily, any budget comments for some time.

Q. Mr. Baruch, when he left yesterday, said that it was his opinion that the Army was lacking in modern equipment. He said that there is definitely not a first-class organization because of lack of what he termed, "modern arms." Do you propose, Mr. President, to ask for additional funds to supply the Army with—

THE PRESIDENT: [interposing] In the first place, I did not read Mr. Baruch's statement, except the headline, so I cannot comment on that, but there are a good many people, not just Mr. Baruch but a good many others, who are very carefully checking up on certain new elements in defense preparedness that have gradually been coming in for the past three or four years, elements that relate, just for example, to the problem of mass production, which we have never yet adequately considered. They are new things, and therefore they require a good deal of study.

Q. That mass production, does that include airplanes?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, and other things, too.

Q. Have you taken any definite steps toward standardization of certain weapons and plane manufactures, also with the idea of preparing for mass production? I understand there are several branches where standardization is needed, or some people studying it think it is needed, to set up mass production.

THE PRESIDENT: You have answered your own question. The words, "mass production" necessarily mean "standardization." You cannot have mass production unless you have standardization.

Q. Has your product reached a point of development where you feel you can standardize?

THE PRESIDENT: Other nations are doing it.

Q. Is any centralized or interdepartmental body studying this?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I am doing it.

Q. Is that study being conducted with civilian advice?

THE PRESIDENT: Every known kind.

Q. Is it the intent to create an organization similar to the wartime War Industries Board?

THE PRESIDENT: No, this has nothing to do with machinery for running it. It is a question of national defense.

Q. Is it contemplated to materially increase the size of the Army?

THE PRESIDENT: I cannot give you anything on that, because then you get down to a kind of merely partial report. We are then only taking up one small phase. If you ask me, "Are you going to have two more submarines?" or, "Are you going to give up the cavalry?" or, "Are you doing one thing or the other?" it becomes a very difficult matter because it takes away the whole rounded picture. What I want to do is to give to the country a complete picture, when we are ready, rather than in comparatively minor detail.

For instance, talking off the record, talking about $150,000,000 for two new battleships, of course you people had to write something. It was not a new story, really, because the authorizations had been made last year. Obviously they had to go in. But I don't want to confuse the public by talking about items of that kind. I am thinking in general terms of national defense.

Q. Does the power study enter into it?


Q. Do you contemplate creating a unified Department of Defense?

THE PRESIDENT: That is a pure detail of later administration.

What I am doing now is studying a plan to meet needs under rather new world conditions.

Q. When will the plans be ready? Can you tell us the time?

THE PRESIDENT: By the third of January.

Q. Can you throw any light on the reason which led to this decision to reorganize the whole national defense picture?

THE PRESIDENT: I should say, offhand, that it started about a year ago because of information that was coming in at that time. It has been in progress for about a year and it has, in a sense, been forced to a head by events, developments and information received within the past month.

Q. Will you say, are you referring to technical or political matters?

THE PRESIDENT: Defense matters, not political.

Q. I mean information that is coming in, is it technical?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, technical.

Q. Any comment on the statement made yesterday by Groesbeck, of the Electric Bond and Share, in which he pledged cooperation to the Holding Company Act?

THE PRESIDENT: I asked some information on it yesterday afternoon, supposing that the question would be asked. It is fairly long, and I shall try to touch the high spots.

I am, of course, very glad to read the statement made by Mr. Groesbeck at his stockholders' meeting, I think it was. In trying to evaluate it, I think we can say that the announcement illustrates exactly what I meant in the past when I urged cooperation between business and government in concrete, and not in abstract terms; in other words, not merely by lip service but by getting down to brass tacks.

Secondly, it ought to be clear that the term, "death sentence," which was invented, not by the Government or by the Press but by the utility propagandists, three years and a half ago — that is a matter of record — that that term brought more harm than good to the utilities. We are now going to have the opportunity to prove what we have always contended go back and read the debates in the hearings that that Section 11 in the Utility Act was not a death sentence but should properly have been called a "health sentence."

Q. Did you call it a "life sentence"?

THE PRESIDENT: Health sentence. That, apparently, is being recognized by the owners of public utility securities. They are beginning to think that their securities are worth more money now that certain officers of the utilities have given up the old term.

Next, since Mr. Groesbeck is a good business man, the prospect is that private business will be helped by his action in sitting down with a business-minded commission to work things out in a businesslike way; and we hope that other companies will come in. His views will be reflected in the views and statements of other people in similar positions. A number of companies, of course, are in and are cooperating, such as the American Water Works and Electric Company and the Columbia Gas and Electric Company.

Finally, we all wish that this delay might have been avoided, and that the utility companies might have cooperated without the many legal steps they took preceding the Supreme Court's decision upholding the constitutionality of the legislative provisions. On the other hand, this being a democratic country, where democratic processes work, it is a perfectly normal thing to expect that kind of a delay.

Q. Mr. President, do you feel it essential to seek extension of your powers over the dollar after next June thirtieth?

THE PRESIDENT: I have not the faintest idea. I had not thought of it until I read it in this morning's paper. It comes up this time every year, does it not? It is one of the hardy annuals. (Laughter) . . .

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

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