Harry S. Truman photo

Letter to the Vice President Urging Senate Action To Raise the Salaries of Federal Executives.

September 26, 1949

Dear Mr. Vice President:

The Senate now has under consideration the Armed Services Pay Bill and, I understand, expects soon to consider the bills to revise the salary scales of the civilian officers and employees of the Government. I am glad that the Senate is taking up this much needed legislation. However, I have been surprised at some of the reports I have heard concerning objections that are being raised to these bills, particularly as they relate to revision of the salaries of officials holding key executive positions.

This is a matter of such great personal concern to me that I want to take this means of asking the Senate to consider this legislation particularly from my point of view. As I have said many times, the efficient administration of the Executive Branch of the Government requires well qualified people for important positions. Because of the inadequate salaries provided for these positions, it has become increasingly difficult for me to get and keep such people. The passage of the legislation now pending in the Senate will help the situation materially. Unless it is passed, my difficulties will be greatly increased. The relatively small cost of this legislation will be repaid many times over in improved efficiency in the operation of the Government.

I have heard that objections are being raised to the executive pay bill on the ground that some of the proposed increases are too high in terms of percentage of the present salaries for the positions involved. The fact is that the proposed salaries are very modest in relation to the responsibilities of these positions. If they appear to be high in relation to the present salaries, that is because the present salaries are ridiculously low. As I recently pointed out, the 15 top executives of a single private corporation in this country are paid more than the aggregate salary now paid to all the 250 or so Federal officers to whom this bill applies.

I have also pointed out that these officers have been passed over time and again when the Congress made adjustments in the compensation of other officers and employees. Senators and Representatives have increased their own compensation by more than 100 per cent since 1924, while the salary for many of these executive officers has not been increased at all. Over the same period, the salaries of most Federal judges have also been doubled and the others have been increased by more than two-thirds. Substantial increases have been made recently in the compensation of the President, the Vice President and the Speaker of the House. Since 1945 the compensation of Federal employees below the top executive level has been increased several times. The total increases range up to 96 per cent in the lower grades. Salaries and wages in private industry have also been greatly increased in recent years, while no corresponding increase has been made in the salaries of Federal executives.

The legislation now pending in the Senate to correct this anomalous situation has had long and careful study. It has been considered at length and reported favorably by the Senate Committee on Post Office and Civil Service in both the 80th Congress and this Congress. It is in line with the recommendations of the Hoover Commission. It has already passed the House of Representatives. The salary rates provided in the bill passed by the House and reported by the Senate Committee are, for the most part, lower than those I recommended. Nevertheless, that bill does provide a reasonably adequate means for meeting this difficult problem. Together with the revisions of the Classification Act proposed in other legislation now pending, it will provide a pattern in which the salaries for different Federal positions have a much more reasonable relationship to the relative responsibilities of those positions than under present law.

In this letter concerning pending pay bills, I have spoken chiefly of the legislation concerning salaries for executive positions, because it is concerning those salaries that the most question appears to have been raised. I wish to point out, however, that all the pending bills are related to one another and that substantial injustices are likely to be done unless the proper relationship between them is maintained.

I urge the Senate to act favorably upon this legislation, which will do so much to help me in properly discharging the duties of my office.

Sincerely yours,


[The Honorable Alben W. Barkley, Vice President of the United States]

Note: The Career Compensation Act of 1949 was approved by the President on October 12, 1949 (63 Stat. 802).

H.R. 1689, "A bill to increase rates of compensation of the heads and assistant heads of executive departments and independent agencies," was approved by the President on October 15, 1949 (63 Stat. 880).

For the President's letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House urging pay increases for Federal executives, see Item 3.

Harry S Truman, Letter to the Vice President Urging Senate Action To Raise the Salaries of Federal Executives. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230095

Filed Under


Simple Search of Our Archives