Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Requesting Legislation on Behalf of the Civilian Member, Permanent Joint Board on Defense, U.S.-Canada.
Dear Mr. President:
I recommend that the Congress enact legislation to exempt the civilian member of the permanent Joint Board on Defense, U.S.-Canada, from certain statutory restrictions on the prosecution of claims against the United States by Government employees.
On October 7, 1947, I appointed Mr. Dean G. Acheson as civilian member and chairman of the United States Section of the Board to fill the vacancy caused by the death of former Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia, who was appointed to the position by President Roosevelt in 1940.
The Permanent Joint Board on Defense, U.S.-Canada, was established by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Mackenzie King on August 18, 1940, to "consider in the broad sense the defense of the north half of the Western Hemisphere". The Board is wholly an advisory body which makes recommendations to the two Governments concerning measures that should be taken for the joint security of Canada and the United States against attack from abroad. Practically all its recommendations, many of them of fundamental significance, have been adopted.
Membership of the U.S. Section of the Board since 1940 has been composed of a civilian chairman, a representative of the Department of State who acts as secretary, and representatives of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force. The civilian member and chairman serves without compensation and at the pleasure of the President; his position is not a statutory one and is not subject to Senate confirmation. His service requires about two weeks' work a year.
It was recently brought to Mr. Acheson's attention, and he promptly brought it to mine, that this advisory, uncompensated service might fall within the provisions of certain statutes (specifically Sections 109 or 113 of the Criminal Code or Section 19(e) of the Contract Settlement Act of 1944) restricting the activities of officers or employees of the United States in cases in which the Government might be involved. Following his resignation as Under Secretary of State on June 30, 1947, Mr. Acheson returned to the practice of law. I believe the Congress will agree that his service on the Board is far indeed from those situations where the Congress feared there might be divided loyalty or the use of "inside" information for private purposes. Nevertheless, in view of the possible technical bearing of the statutes in question, Mr. Acheson has quite properly submitted to me, and I have accepted, his resignation as civilian member and chairman of the Permanent Joint Board on Defense.
The civilian member and chairman of the U.S. Section of the Board represents me but also in a much larger sense the broad civilian interest in joint U.S.-Canadian defense plans. I know that the Congress will agree with me that we should find for this position a man of outstanding character, qualifications, and national reputation. I also venture to hope that the Congress will agree with me that Mr. Acheson fulfills these requirements, and will therefore understand my desire to reappoint him to the position of civilian member and chairman. However, the problem which arises is broader than the appointment of any particular individual and will continue to be a serious impediment in the filling of this position. I therefore earnestly hope that the Congress will enact appropriate legislation which will exempt the position from the above-mentioned statutory restrictions. I enclose a draft of a proposed bill which would achieve this end.
Very sincerely yours,
HARRY S. TRUMAN
Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Arthur H. Vandenberg, President pro tempore of the Senate, and to the Honorable Joseph W. Martin, Jr., Speaker of the House of Representatives. A copy of the proposed bill was also released.
Harry S. Truman, Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Requesting Legislation on Behalf of the Civilian Member, Permanent Joint Board on Defense, U.S.-Canada. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232417