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Letter to the Vice President on Reorganization Plans 1 and 2 of 1949.

August 12, 1949

My dear Mr. Vice President:

I am informed that the Senate will soon take action on Reorganization Plans No. 1 and No. 2 of 1949.

I earnestly hope that this action will be favorable. These plans are of great importance in improving the organization and administration of the Federal Government. They are even more important as the first real test of whether the long and difficult effort to achieve increased economy and efficiency in Government is to succeed, or is to be blocked whenever any group fancies that its interests will be adversely affected. The action taken on these plans will demonstrate whether the many recent professions of support for increased efficiency and economy in Government are to be taken seriously or are to be written off as political oratory.

Under the leadership of former President Hoover, the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government has made a careful study of ways to improve the management of the Federal Government. This Commission, composed of outstanding citizens from both political parties, has made a comprehensive report containing its recommendations. Two of its important recommendations are included in Reorganization Plans No. 1 and No. 2.

If these plans fail, the whole great endeavor to reorganize the Executive Branch in accordance with modern principles of administration and management will be imperiled.

It is because of the basic importance which these plans have to the whole concept of governmental reorganization that I take this means of urging the Senate to act favorably upon Reorganization Plans No. 1 and No. 2.

Reorganization Plan No. 1 would create a Department of Welfare to administer most of the activities now in the Federal Security Agency. Reorganization Plan No. 2 would transfer the Bureau of Employment Security from the Federal Security Agency to the Department of Labor.

The important changes which would be effected by these two plans were unanimously recommended by the Hoover Commission. When I submitted these plans, along with five others, I expected that there would be such general agreement with their objectives that they would gain ready acceptance by the Congress. However, a public campaign has been instigated against them, and a majority of the Senate Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments has recommended that they be disapproved by the Senate.

The principal objection which has been made to Reorganization Plan No. 1 is that it does not include all the recommendations of the Hoover Commission which would affect the Federal Security Agency. This is, of course, true, and I pointed it out in my message to the Congress on Plan No. 1. But it is not, in my judgment, a valid objection to the plan. It is not possible to do everything at once. There is nothing in Plan No. 1 which would preclude further reorganization, either by reorganization plan or by legislation. Those who urge the transfer of additional functions into or out of the Federal Security Agency, or the establishment of a United Medical Administration, obviously will not achieve their purpose if Plan No. 1 is rejected. Nor will acceptance of the plan in any way prevent later action along the lines they desire.

It seems to me self-evident that the proper action now is to approve Plan No. 1, which is thoroughly constructive and desirable in itself, and to consider further reorganization in due course. This view is concurred in by President Hoover, who appeared before the Senate Committee and stated that this plan, and Plan No. 2, are desirable steps that should be taken now.

A claim has also been advanced that the reorganization proposed in Plan No. 1 would in some way commit the Congress to a course of action on my recommendations for a national health program. This claim is absurd. Good organization requires that we establish a Department of Welfare, regardless of what legislation the Congress enacts in the field of health. After the establishment of such a Department, the Congress will be just as free as it is now to determine national health policies.

The principal objection which has been made to Plan No. 2 is the claim that the Bureau of Employment Security is being administered more fairly and impartially in the Federal Security Agency than it would be in the Department of Labor. The facts refute this claim. The Department of Labor for years has administered programs for the collection and analysis of labor statistics, the establishment of labor standards, and the enforcement of wage and hour legislation. Honest and impartial treatment of labor and management has been demonstrated in the administration of these and other programs by the Department of Labor. Furthermore, the employment service functions of the Bureau of Employment Security for a number of years in the past were administered by the Department of Labor with conspicuous success and without bias. This claim of possible bias, contradicted by the plain facts, does not seem to me to constitute sensible grounds for attempting to block Plan No. 2.

Some question has been raised as to whether Plan No. 2 would result in increased efficiency or in economies in administration. The answer to this is clear. I pointed out in my message transmitting Plan No. 2 that transferring the Bureau of Employment Security to the Labor Department, which has as one of its principal functions the analysis and promotion of job opportunities, would result in placing more emphasis on finding employment for persons looking for work and less emphasis on paying them unemployment benefits. This is obviously the proper way to achieve more effective service to the unemployed and to reduce the cost of benefit payments. I pointed out that the transfer would permit closer working relationships between the Bureau of Employment Security and the several bureaus now in the Labor Department which have related functions. This, too, would obviously make for both efficiency and economy. I pointed out also that abolition of the Veterans' Placement Service Board and the integration of its work with that of the Bureau of Employment Security would achieve better and more economical employment service for veterans. For these reasons, among others, it is clear that Plan No. 2 would contribute both to efficiency and economy in the operation of the Government.

The objections which are being urged against these two plans appear to me to be ill-founded and mistaken. These plans propose administrative changes, not changes in legislative policy. They will not change the policies of the Government with respect to its employment functions, or with respect to health matters. Those groups who are opposing these plans on such grounds are creating imaginary difficulties.

These plans were submitted at this time as part of the first series of reorganization plans because their desirability is widely accepted. If plans such as these are rejected, a serious blow will be dealt to the prospects for further progress. Every special interest group concerned with the operation of the Government will be encouraged to try to block further steps toward efficiency and economy.

I have discussed these plans within the last few days with President Hoover. He shares my concern that their rejection would be a real set-back to the effort to reorganize the Executive Branch of the Government.

These plans are a first step in moving forward under reorganization authority on the wide range of proposals for greater efficiency and economy submitted by the Commission on Organization. If we fail in this first step, there is small chance that we will ever accomplish the reforms for which the basis has been laid by the diligent, nonpartisan work of that Commission.

I trust, therefore, that the Senate will permit Reorganization Plans No. 1 and No. 2 to become effective.

Very sincerely yours,


[Honorable Alben W. Barkley, Vice President the United States, Washington, D.C.]

Note: Reorganization Plan 1 of 1949 was disapproved by the Senate on August 16, 1949 (S. Res. 147). (Congressional Record, vol. 95, P. 11520; Senate Report 851, 81st Cong., 1st sess.).

Reorganization Plan 2 of 1949 is published in the U.S. Statutes at Large (63 Stat. 1065) and in the 1949-1953 Compilation of title 3 of the Code of Federal Regulations, p. 998. It became effective on August 20, 1949. (See also Senate Report 852, 81st Cong., 1st sess.)

For the President's messages to the Congress on June 20, on Reorganization Plans 1 and 2, see Items 128 and 129.

Harry S Truman, Letter to the Vice President on Reorganization Plans 1 and 2 of 1949. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/229856

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