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Letter to Dr. Irvin L. Stewart on the Establishment of the President's Communications Policy Board.

February 17, 1950

My dear Dr. Stewart:

Communications services represent a vital resource in our modern society. They make possible the smooth functioning of our complex economy; they can assist in promoting international understanding and good will; they constitute an important requirement for our national security. There is, accordingly, a major public interest in assuring the adequacy and efficiency of these services.

Developments in this field during and since the war have created a number of problems which require careful consideration at this time. The extent to which the Government should, in time of peace, continue to operate its own communications facilities is one such problem of current importance. The question of merging the overseas operations of our commercial communications companies also requires objective review. The most pressing communications problem at this particular time, however, is the scarcity of radio frequencies in relation to the steadily growing demand. Increasing difficulty is being experienced in meeting the demand for frequencies domestically, and even greater difficulty is encountered internationally in attempting to agree upon the allocation of available frequencies among the Nations of the world. In the face of this growing shortage, the problem of assuring an equitable distribution of the available supply of frequencies among all claimants, both Governmental and private, is rapidly assuming major prominence.

Problems such as these cannot adequately be considered on a piecemeal basis. They must be viewed as parts of the broader problem of developing a total national communications policy, designed to assure the most effective utilization of the various forms of communication facilities, and the full satisfaction of those needs which are most essential to the broad public interest. An over-all, objective review of this entire situation is urgently needed.

I am therefore establishing by Executive order a temporary Communications Policy Board of 5 members to study and to make recommendations to me on the policies and practices which should be followed by the Federal Government in this field in order best to meet the broad requirements of the public interest. I am asking you to serve as Chairman of this Board. In view of the need for early action in this field, I should like to receive the Board's final report by no later than October 31, 1950.

The Executive order establishing this Board states that the Board shall study the present and potential use of radio and wire communications facilities by governmental and non-governmental agencies. The Order further states that the Board shall make recommendations in the national interest concerning (a) policies for the most effective use of radio frequencies by governmental and non-governmental users and alternative administrative arrangements in the Federal Government for the sound effectuation of such policies, (b) policies with respect to international radio and wire communications, (c) the relationship of Government communications to non-government communications, and (d) such related policy matters as the Board may determine.

I feel that the problem of radio frequencies will be one of the most important areas for the Board's investigations. I hope that, as a result of its studies, the Board will be able to recommend possible means for conserving frequencies, as well as standards for determining the relative priority of competing claims for frequencies, and possible administrative arrangements within the Government for assuring, on a continuing basis, a sound and equitable allocation of the limited frequency supply.

I believe that the studies to be undertaken by the Board are of vital importance to the economy of this Nation, to our international relations, and to our national security. I am sure that you will receive the full cooperation and assistance of all parties concerned.

Sincerely yours,


[Dr. Irvin L. Stewart, President, University of West Virginia, Morgantown, West Virginia.]

Note: The President's Communications Policy Board was established by Executive Order 10110 (3 CFR, 1949-1953 (Comp., p. 302).

The following persons were appointed by the President to the Board, in addition to Dr. Stewart: Dr. Lee A. DuBridge, president, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif.; David H. O'Brien, Hackettstown, N.J.; William L. Everitt, dean, College of Engineering, University of Illinois, Urbana, Ill.; and Dr. James R. Killian, Jr., president, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.

On February 16, 1951, the Board submitted to the President its report, "Telecommunications, A Program for Progress" (238 pp., Government Printing Office, Mar. 1951).

Harry S Truman, Letter to Dr. Irvin L. Stewart on the Establishment of the President's Communications Policy Board. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230679

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