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Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Asking for Additional Emergency Legislation.

December 18, 1950

The defense effort we are now undertaking in order to meet the critical world situation will call for the use of a number of emergency powers. Many of these powers can be exercised under the authority of legislation now in effect. It is clear, however, that, as our mobilization program moves forward, there will be need for additional legislative authority. A number of proposals for new legislation are now being studied in the Executive Branch, and I expect to transmit recommendations to the Congress from time to time for emergency legislation as it becomes necessary.

Two of the measures which we know will be needed are of such importance for the tasks immediately ahead, that I wish to request action by the present Congress before adjournment.

The first of these is legislation along the general lines of Title I of the First War Powers Act, 1941, which contained the emergency reorganization powers available to the President during World War II.

The current mobilization effort requires that the President be able to adjust from time to time, by rapid Executive action, the organization of the Executive Branch. Clear authority should be provided to establish such defense agencies as may be required, to coordinate, consolidate, transfer and utilize existing agencies and officers, and to rearrange Government functions and personnel. Only in this way can the organization of the Executive Branch be kept continuously in line with the evolving requirements of defense mobilization.

In World War II the provisions of Title I of the First War Powers Act, 1941, were used extensively in matters of vital importance to the war effort. For example, there were established under the authority of that title such major agencies as the War Production Board, the War Manpower Commission, and the War Shipping Administration.

It is clear that in a number of instances there may be need for similar kinds of action very quickly, as the present defense program moves forward. The Director of Defense Mobilization, Mr. Wilson, is already beginning to review the scope and character of our present programs and organizational arrangements in relation to the expanding job which lies ahead. As soon as changes are found to be necessary, the President should be enabled to place them in effect. Delay would only hamper the over-all effort. Therefore, it is of great importance that the necessary legislative authority be made available now, for the duration of the national emergency.

As was the case in World War II, these powers will not be used to make permanent changes in the organization of the Government. The changes that will be made under this authority will be temporary in nature, for the purpose of furthering the defense effort. When the emergency has ended, the agencies affected will revert to their present status unless further action is taken by the Congress.

The second of these measures on which I wish to request action by the Congress before adjournment of the present session is legislation along the lines of Title II of the First War Powers Act, 1941, which contained the emergency contracting provisions in effect during World War II.

The authority to let contracts through negotiation can now be exercised as a result of the declaration of a national emergency. However, there is considerable doubt as to whether authority now exists for modifying contracts after they have been entered into.

It is already apparent that the agencies responsible for defense production will need authority to modify existing contracts in order to avoid undue delays in production and to keep suppliers in business on Government work.

For example, some Government suppliers now face possible bankruptcy because fixed prices in their Government contracts are entirely inadequate to meet rising costs. In certain cases, contract price adjustments are essential to keep these firms in production. Other Government contractors, engaged in especially hazardous work for the military services, may have to be indemnified promptly for damage to facilities and equipment in order that repairs or replacement may be undertaken without delay.

In these and many other instances, contract adjustments are needed to speed defense procurement. Therefore, I urge that Title II powers again be made available, so long as the emergency lasts.

Representatives of the Executive Branch stand ready to furnish the appropriate committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives any information or assistance which may be desired in connection with these matters.

Sincerely yours,


Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Alben W. Barkley, President of the Senate, and to the Honorable Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

On January 12, 1951, the President approved a bill "to amend and extend title II of the First War Powers Act, 1941" (64 Stat. 1257).

Harry S Truman, Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Asking for Additional Emergency Legislation. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230553

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