Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Special Message to the Congress Transmitting Reorganization Plan of 1953 Creating the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

March 12, 1953

To the Congress of the United States:

I transmit herewith Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1953, prepared in accordance with the provisions of the Reorganization Act of 1949, as amended.

In my message of February 2, 1953, I stated that I would send to the Congress a reorganization plan defining a new administrative status for Federal activities in health, education, and social security. This plan carries out that intention by creating a Department of Health, Education, and Welfare as one of the executive departments of the Government and by transferring to it the various units of the Federal Security Agency. The Department will be headed by a Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, who will be assisted by an Under Secretary and two Assistant Secretaries.

The purpose of this plan is to improve the administration of the vital health, education, and social security functions now being carried on in the Federal Security Agency by giving them departmental rank. Such action is demanded by the importance and magnitude of these functions, which affect the well-being of millions of our citizens. The programs carried on by the Public Health Service include, for example, the conduct and promotion of research into the prevention and cure of such dangerous ailments as cancer and heart disease. The Public Health Service also administers payments to the States for the support of their health services and for urgently needed hospital construction. The Office of Education collects, analyzes and distributes to school administrators throughout the country information relating to the organization and management of educational systems. Among its other functions is the provision of financial help to school districts burdened by activities of the United States Government. State assistance to the aged, the blind, the totally disabled, and dependent children is heavily supported by grants-in-aid administered through the Social Security Administration. The old age and survivors insurance system and child development and welfare programs are additional responsibilities of that Administration. Other offices of the Federal Security Agency are responsible for the conduct of Federal vocational rehabilitation programs and for the enforcement of food and drug laws.

There should be an unremitting effort to improve those health, education, and social security programs which have proved their value. I have already recommended the expansion of the social security system to cover persons not now protected, the continuation of assistance to school districts Whose population has been greatly increased by the expansion of defense activities, and the strengthening of our food and drug laws.

But good intent and high purpose are not enough; all such programs depend for their success upon efficient, responsible administration. I have recently taken action to assure that the Federal Security Administrator's views are given proper consideration in executive councils by inviting her to attend meetings of the Cabinet. Now the establishment of the new Department provided for in Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1953 will give the needed additional assurance that these matters will receive the full consideration they deserve in the whole operation of the Government.

This need has long been recognized. In 1923, President Harding proposed a Department of Education and Welfare, which was also to include health functions. In 1924, the Joint Committee on Reorganization recommended a new department similar to that suggested by President Harding. In 1932, one of President Hoover's reorganization proposals called for the concentration of health, education and recreational activities in a single executive department. The President's Committee on Administrative Management in 1937 recommended the placing of health, education and social security functions in a Department of Social Welfare. This recommendation was partially implemented in 1939 by the creation of the Federal Security Agency--by which action the Congress indicated its approval of the grouping of these functions in a single agency. A new department could not be proposed at that time because the Reorganization Act of 1939 prohibited the creation of additional executive departments. In 1949, the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government proposed the creation of a department for social security and education.

The present plan will make it possible to give the officials directing the Department titles indicative of their responsibilities and salaries comparable to those received by their counterparts in other executive departments. As the Under Secretary of an executive department, the Secretary's principal assistant will be better equipped to give leadership in the Department's organization and management activities, for which he will be primarily responsible. The plan opens the way to further administrative improvement by authorizing the Secretary to centralize services and activities common to the several agencies of the Department. It also establishes a uniform method of appointment for the heads of the three major constituent agencies. At present, the Surgeon General and the Commissioner of Education are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, while the Commissioner for Social Security is appointed by the Federal Security Administrator. Hereafter, all three will be Presidential appointees subject to Senate confirmation.

I believe, and this plan reflects my conviction, that these several fields of Federal activity should continue within the framework of a single department. The plan at the same time assures that the Office of Education and the Public Health Service retain the professional and substantive responsibilities vested by law in those agencies or in their heads. The Surgeon General, the Commissioner of Education and the Commissioner of Social Security will all have direct access to the Secretary.

There should be in the Department an Advisory Committee on Education, made up of persons chosen by the Secretary from outside the Federal Government, which would advise the Secretary with respect to the educational programs of the Department. I recommend the enactment of legislation authorizing the defrayal of the expenses of this Committee. The creation of such a Committee as an advisory body to the Secretary will help ensure the maintenance of responsibility for the public educational system in State and local governments while preserving the national interest in education through appropriate Federal action.

After investigation I have found and hereby declare that each reorganization included in Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1953 is necessary to accomplish one or more of the purposes set forth in section 2 ( a ) of the Reorganization Act of 1949, as amended. I have also found and hereby declare that by reason of these reorganizations, it is necessary to include in the reorganization plan provisions for the appointment and compensation of the new officers specified in sections 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the reorganization plan. The rates of compensation fixed for these officers are, respectively, those which I have found to prevail in respect of comparable officers in the executive branch of the Government.

Although the effecting of the reorganizations provided for in the reorganization plan will not in itself result in immediate savings, the improvement achieved in administration will in the future allow the performance of necessary services at greater savings than present operations would permit. An itemization of these savings in advance of actual experience is not practicable.


Note: Reorganization Plan 1 of 1953 is published in the U.S. Statutes at Large (67 Stat. 631) and in the 1949-1953 Compilation of title 3 of the Code of Federal Regulations (p. 1022). Public Law 13, 83d Congress (67 Stat. 18), advanced the effective date to April 11, 1953.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Special Message to the Congress Transmitting Reorganization Plan of 1953 Creating the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231523

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