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Letter to Jess Larson on the Signing of the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949

June 30, 1949

My dear Mr. Larson:

I have today signed H.R. 4754 which was passed by the Congress "To simplify the procurement, utilization, and disposal of Government property, to reorganize certain agencies of the Government, and for other purposes." Pursuant to the authority of the new Act, I hereby designate you to perform temporarily, pending the appointment of the first Administrator of General Services, the functions of that officer, with the title of "Acting Administrator of General Services."

The Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949 consolidates functions which until now have been carried out piecemeal under some 38 overlapping statutes dating back to 1870. A better system of property and records management has been needed by the Federal Government for many years.

An important responsibility is vested in the Administrator of General Services to achieve effective and economical results in the property management field and to insure that the General Services Administration affords the operating agencies the type of service requisite for the successful conduct of their programs.

The Act requires that a fair proportion of all procurement shall be placed with small business concerns. It also states that all purchases and contracts for supplies and services shall be made by advertising, except under circumstances specified in the Act where exceptions to this general policy may be made.

The Act also grants civilian agencies unprecedented freedom from specific procurement restrictions during peacetime. That freedom is given to permit the flexibility and latitude needed in present day activities. The basic need, however, remains to assure favorable price and adequate service to the Government. To the degree that restrictions have been diminished, therefore, responsibility upon the General Services Administration has been increased.

There is always the danger that the natural desire for flexibility and speed in procurement may lead to excessive placement of contracts by negotiations and undue reliance upon large concerns. This must not occur.

I am therefore asking you to undertake a study looking toward the issuance of detailed standards to guide procurement officers in carrying out the intent of this law to insure a fair and substantial proportion of contract placement with small business establishments. I am relying upon your discretion to delegate the authority to negotiate contracts so that it will be used sparingly and with care, and so that it may be promptly withdrawn when necessary.

In order to make this policy uniform in the Federal Government, I am asking you to make an annual report which will show, as of the end of each fiscal year, the total value and the 'proportion in each agency of contracts under individual exceptions to competitive bidding the total value and the proportion in each agency of contracts placed with small business concerns, and any other pertinent information.

I have heretofore required the three departments of the National Military Establishment, and the Coast Guard and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, to make similar reports under Public Law 413, 80th Congress. In the interest of uniformity, the General Services Administration should utilize the definition of small business which those agencies are currently using.

Sincerely yours,


[Honorable less Larson, Administrator, Federal Works Agency, Washington 25, D.C.]

Note: As enacted, H.R. 4754 is Public Law 152 (63 Stat. 377).

Portions of the President's letter to Mr. Larson were released June 30 in a White House statement on the signing of the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949. The statement pointed out that the new General Services Administration would carry out the functions of the Federal Works Agency, including the Public Buildings Administration, the Bureau of Community Facilities, and the Public Roads Administration; the Bureau of Federal Supply and the Office of Contract Settlement, which had been in the Department of the Treasury; the War Assets Administration; and the National Archives Establishment.

"The Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949," the statement continued, "is important to the efficient management of the Government's business. It represents favorable action in a major area of Government reorganization as recommended by the President to the Congress and as proposed by the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government.

"Through special messages and the submission of reorganization plans, the President has placed a number of reorganization proposals before the Congress at this session. Four of these represent major areas in which the Commission on Organization found that the greatest possibility existed for improving the efficiency and economy of governmental operations. These four areas are:

"1. The procurement and supply activities of the Government, on which the President today acted by signing the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act.

"2. The organization of the National Military Establishment, on which the Senate has acted and the House is now considering its action.

"3. The reorganization and adoption of business practices in the Post Office--Reorganization Plan No. 3 and the President's special message of June 24, 1949, deal with this matter.

"4. The Personnel operations of the Government. The first step in this area is embodied in the reorganization of the Civil Service Commission proposed in Reorganization Plan No. 5 of 1949.

"Taken together, these four areas represent the principal opportunities indicated by the Commission on Organization for substantially increasing the efficiency and economy of governmental operations."

For the President's letter of July 2, 1949, to agency heads on implementation of the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949, see Item 145.

Harry S Truman, Letter to Jess Larson on the Signing of the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/229680

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