Statement by the President Upon Signing the Supplemental Appropriation Act.
I HAVE today signed H.R. 8370, the Supplemental Appropriation Act of 1953. This is an omnibus measure, appropriating funds for a great many agencies.
In a number of ways this act falls so far short of what is required in the national interest that I feel I cannot let it go without comment. Fortunately, some of the most drastic and unwise slashes proposed were averted by the Congress before the act was finally passed. I have been particularly gratified by the determined stand of many Members of the Congress in the days before adjournment, which saved the vital expansion of our atomic energy facilities from disastrous curtailment.
Nevertheless, the act contains a number of appropriation cuts which will seriously hamper our total defense effort. In particular, I am deeply concerned by the slashes in funds for civil defense, for anti-inflation controls, and for our mutual security program.
In the case of civil defense, the Congress reduced the funds requested by more than 90 percent. This repeats the gross error of the last 2 years by postponing once again the construction of key shelters in our most vulnerable cities and the stockpiling of adequate medical and other supplies to save and sustain life in case of attack.
The appropriation for the economic stabilization agencies is another case of reckless slashing without regard to the consequences to our people or to defense. By providing only a little more than half the funds quested--and required--to administer price, wage, and rent controls as effectively as they should be administered, the Congress showed a lack of concern for the consumer, for business, labor, agriculture, and other groups affected by the controls, and for the cost of national defense.
To understand what poor economy this appropriation cut represents, we need only look at some comparative figures. In cutting the stabilization funds for the Economic Stabilization Agency from the $103,000,000 I requested to $60,000,000, the Congress presumably "saved" $43,000,000. But if the cost of living should go up only 1 percent as a consequence of our not having sufficient funds to administer the controls as effectively as possible, the cost to the American public would be nearly 47 times $43,000,000--or $2 billion.
As for the mutual security program, the Congress has cut almost 25 percent from the program which I recommended last February.
The passage of the mutual security legislation and the appropriations for it included in this act are a reaffirmation of one of the cardinal points of our foreign policy--the achievement of peace through helping to build the collective strength of the free world to resist aggression from without and sub version from within. I am gratified that the Congress had the wisdom to reject many of the crippling amendments which were proposed by those who sought to clothe their all-out opposition to this program with devious and specious devices to destroy it. Nevertheless, it is clear that the amount of this appropriation is inadequate and was arrived at in an effort to present the American people in an election year with the illusion of economy rather than with the reality of an adequate collective defense.
Slashes in funds have been particularly severe in the programs for Europe and for the Indian subcontinent.
Our contributions towards building up the forces of our North Atlantic Treaty partners are but a small portion of the contributions made by our allies, but ours is a critical portion. By virtue of the cuts made by the Congress in the military equipment program and in defense support, the European forces will have less equipment and consequently less fire power and less air cover. As a result our own forces in Europe become both more vulnerable and less effective in the defense tasks they might be called on to perform. I think the American people should clearly understand that every dollar which has been cut from the amount requested represents a loss of much more than a dollar's worth of strength for the free world.
There has been an equally shortsighted reduction in funds available for the point 4 program in the new nations of South Asia, including India, Pakistan, Burma, and Indonesia. The original program recommended for this area amounted to $178 million. The amount finally appropriated was slightly over $67 million, or a slash of more than 60 percent. Similar slashes were made in our contribution for technical assistance through the United Nations.
This is an exceedingly dangerous thing for the Congress to have done. Take India for example. India, the largest democratic nation in all Asia, is now engaged in a tremendous effort of her own to build up her economy and living standards--to show that democratic government and democratic methods can succeed in curing the poverty, the hunger, and the misery that afflict so much of Asia. Every dollar of the aid recommended was to back up the concrete and constructive efforts that the Indians themselves are making. Upon these efforts may well depend the whole future course of freedom and democracy on the continent of Asia.
The cut for these Asian countries is even more cruel because it comes at a time when they are facing severe economic strain-when even Pakistan, normally a country of grain surplus, is facing a grain shortage. The American people should carefully note the strange fact that prominent among the proponents of this cut were some of the very individuals who have shouted loudest that we are not doing enough in Asia.
The cuts in our mutual security program have allegedly been made in the name of economy. To me, this is the falsest kind of economy. I am convinced that such cuts will in the long run cost us much more. I am equally convinced that the Congress itself will eventually recognize the necessity of making additional funds available during this fiscal year to meet the needs of this program.
Note: As enacted, H.R. 8370 is Public Law 547, 82d Congress (66 Stat. 637).
Harry S. Truman, Statement by the President Upon Signing the Supplemental Appropriation Act. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231191