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Special Message to the Congress on the Organization of the Executive Branch.

May 24, 1945

To the Congress of the United States:

The Congress has repeatedly manifested interest in an orderly transition from war to peace. It has legislated extensively on the subject, with foresight and wisdom.

I wish to draw the attention of the Congress to one aspect of that transition for which adequate provision has not as yet been made. I refer to the conversion of the Executive Branch of the Government.

Immediately after the declaration of war the Congress, in Title I of the First War Powers Act, 1941, empowered the President to make necessary adjustments in the organization of the Executive Branch with respect to those matters which relate to the conduct of the present war. This authority has been extremely valuable in furthering the prosecution of the war. It is difficult to conceive how the executive agencies could have been kept continuously attuned to the needs of the war without legislation of this type.

The First War Powers Act expires by its own terms six months after the termination of the present war. Pending that time, Title I will be of very substantial further value in enabling the President to make such additional temporary improvements in the organization of the Government as are currently required for the more effective conduct of the war.

However, furrier legislative action is required in the near future, because the First War Powers Act is temporary, and because, as matters now stand, every step taken under Title I will automatically revert, upon the termination of the Title, to the pre-existing status.

Such automatic reversion is not workable. I think that the Congress has recognized that fact, particularly in certain provisions of section of the War Mobilization and Reconversion Act of 1944. In some instances it will be necessary to delay reversion beyond the period now provided by law, or to stay it permanently. In other instances it will be necessary to modify actions heretofore taken under Title I and to continue the resulting arrangement beyond the date of expiration of the Title. Automatic reversion will result in the re-establishment of some agencies that should not be re-established. Some adjustments of a permanent character need to be made, as exemplified by the current proposal before the Congress with respect to the subsidiary corporations of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. Some improvements heretofore made in the Government under the First War Powers Act, as exemplified by the reorganization of the Army under Executive Order No. 9082, should not be allowed to revert automatically or at an inopportune time.

I believe it is realized by everyone--in view of the very large number of matters involved and the expedition required in their disposition-that the problems I have mentioned will not be met satisfactorily unless the Congress provides for them along the general lines indicated in this message.

Quite aside from the disposition of the war organization of the Government, other adjustments need to be made currently and continuously in the Government establishment. From my experience in the Congress, and from a review of the pertinent developments for a period of forty years preceding that experience, I know it to be a positive fact that, by and large, the Congress cannot deal effectively with numerous organizational problems on an individual item basis. The Congressional Record is replete with expressions of members of the Congress, themselves, to this effect. Yet it is imperative that these matters be dealt with continuously if the Government structure is to be reasonably wieldy and manageable, and be responsive to proper direction by the Congress and the President on behalf of the people of this country. The question is one that goes directly to the adequacy and effectiveness of our Government as an instrument of democracy.

Suitable reshaping of those parts of the Executive Branch of the Government which require it from time to time is necessary and desirable from every point of view. A well organized Executive Branch will be more efficient than a poorly organized one. It will help materially in making manageable the Government of this great nation. A number of my predecessors have urged the Congress to take steps to make the Executive Branch more business-like and efficient. I welcome and urge the cooperation of Congress to the end that these objectives may be attained.

Experience has demonstrated that if substantial progress is to be made in these regards, it must be done through action initiated or taken by the President. The results achieved under the Economy Act (1932), as amended, the Reorganization Act of 1939, and Title I of the First War Powers Act, 1941, testify to the value of Presidential initiative in this field.

Congressional criticisms are heard, not infrequently, concerning deficiencies in the Executive Branch of the Government. I should be less than frank if I failed to point out that the Congress cannot consistently advance such criticisms and at the same time deny the President the means of removing the causes at the root of such criticisms.

Accordingly, I ask the Congress to enact legislation which will make it possible to do what we all know needs to be done continuously and expeditiously with respect to improving the organization of the Executive Branch of the Government. In order that the purposes which I have in mind may be understood, the following features are suggested: (a) the legislation should be generally similar to the Reorganization Act of 1939, and part 2 of Title I of that Act should be utilized intact, (b) the legislation should be of permanent duration, (c) no agency of the Executive Branch should be exempted from the scope of the legislation, and (d) the legislation should be sufficiently broad and flexible to permit of any form of organizational adjustment, large or small, for which necessity may arise.

It is scarcely necessary to point out that under the foregoing arrangement (a) necessary action is facilitated because initiative is placed in the hands of the President, and (b) necessary control is reserved to the Congress since it may, by simple majority vote of the two Houses, nullify any action of the President which does not meet with its approval. I think, further, that the Congress recognizes that particular arrangement as its own creation, evolved within the Congress out of vigorous efforts and debate extending over a period of two years and culminating in the enactment of the Reorganization Act of 1939.

Therefore, bearing in mind what the future demands of all of us, I earnestly ask the Congress to enact legislation along the foregoing lines without delay.


Harry S Truman, Special Message to the Congress on the Organization of the Executive Branch. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232472

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