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Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Urging Pay Increases for Federal Executives.

January 06, 1949

Dear Mr._____________:

I request that the Congress take prompt action to increase the compensation of the heads and assistant heads of the Executive departments and of other Government officers of comparable rank.

Inadequate salaries have long made it difficult to obtain and hold able men for positions of greatest responsibility in the Government service. For most of those positions, there have been no pay increases in many years. In the meantime, other salaries, in both government and industry, have risen sharply, and opportunities for larger compensation in private industry have greatly expanded.

In recent years, the difficulties of obtaining and holding the best qualified citizens for official positions has definitely impaired the Government service. This condition has now progressed to the point where it constitutes a serious threat to the efficiency of the Government.

The men who hold the offices in question must translate into action the policies determined upon by the Congress. Their ability determines in large measure whether these policies are to succeed or fail. The national interest requires that we get and keep in these positions the most capable men and women that can be found. To do this, we must pay fair salaries.

I recognize that the Government cannot pay salaries equal to those in private industry for positions of comparable importance. But it can reduce the discrepancy enough to permit able and public spirited citizens to serve the Government without too great a disadvantage.

Fortunately, the Congress is in a position to take intelligent and considered action on this problem without delay. Within the last month, extensive evidence on the subject has been presented to a Senate subcommittee and is now available to the Congress. This evidence includes supporting testimony by former President Hoover, as Chairman of the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government. The subcommittee examined the problem carefully, fairly, and without partisanship. The bill which they developed, and which has now been introduced in the 81st Congress, is the result of more than a year's study.

That bill establishes a salary range of from $17,500 to $25,000 for the officials in question. These provisions are in accordance with recommendations made to the subcommittee by the Administration. I urge their passage in their present form. Questions concerning the compensation of Federal officers and employees not included in this bill should not be permitted to impede or delay its passage, but should be considered separately at an early date.

On January twentieth, a new Presidential term will begin. During that term the Executive branch of the Government will be called upon to bear responsibilities of great magnitude. Prompt action on this bill is of great importance to me in strengthening the management of the Executive Branch to meet those responsibilities. Its small cost will be repaid many times. I ask the Congress to give me the means which will make it possible for me to get and keep the men who are required for the job ahead.

I hope that this legislation will be enacted into law immediately.

Sincerely yours,


Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Kenneth D. McKellar, President pro tempore of the Senate, and to the Honorable Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the House of Representatives. See also Item 218.

On October 15 the President approved a bill "to increase rates of compensation of the heads and assistant heads of executive departments and independent agencies" (63 Stat. 880).

Harry S Truman, Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Urging Pay Increases for Federal Executives. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/229868

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