Franklin D. Roosevelt

Summary of the Report of the Committee on Administrative Management.

January 12, 1937

Modern management equipment for the Federal Government so that it may do promptly and efficiently what is expected of it by the American people is the keynote of the report made today to the President by his Committee on Administrative Management. The purpose of making Federal administrative management modern and businesslike is to make American democracy efficient. It is the view of the Committee that self-government cannot long survive even in this country unless it can do its work efficiently. "The forward march of American democracy at this point of our history," says the Committee, "depends more upon effective management than upon any other single factor." To this end a five-point program of reorganization of the Executive Branch of the Government is presented by the Committee including these major recommendations.


Modernize the White House business and management organization by giving the President six high-grade executive assistants to aid him in dealing with the regular departments and agencies.

Strengthen the budget and efficiency research, the planning, and the personnel services of the Government, so that these may be effective managerial arms for the President, with which he may better coordinate, direct and manage all of the work of the Executive Branch for which he is responsible under the Constitution.

Place the whole governmental administrative service on a career basis and under the merit system by extending the civil service upward, outward and downward to include all non-policy-determining positions and jobs.

Overhaul the more than 100 separate departments, boards, commissions, administrations, authorities, corporations, committees, agencies and activities which are now parts of the Executive Branch, and theoretically under the President, and consolidate them within twelve regular departments, which would include the existing ten departments and two new departments, a Department of Social Welfare, and a Department of Public Works. Change the name of the Department of Interior to Department of Conservation.

Make the Executive Branch accountable to the Congress by creating a true postaudit of financial transactions by an independent Auditor General who would report illegal and wasteful expenditures to Congress without himself becoming involved in the management of departmental policy, and transfer the duties of the present Comptroller in part to the Auditor, to the Treasury, and to the Attorney General.

These five points are woven together in a single comprehensive program.


The report of the Committee does not deal with the abolition of emergency or established activities or jobs, which is stated to be a matter of policy for the President and the Congress to determine, but devotes itself entirely to setting up an efficient modern machinery of government. But in this process over eighty activities are abolished as separate and independent establishments and their work transferred either to the new Departments of Social Welfare and Public Works, or to one of the ten old departments. The exact placing of bureaus and activities is not set out in the report as this assignment of work is placed upon the Executive as a continuing responsibility, after research by the Bureau of the Budget, in accordance with efficiency and service standards to be fixed by Congress. Such assignment and division of work, once the standards have been set by law, is regarded by the Committee as an "Executive function."

No estimate of savings by reorganization is contained in the report, though these will follow, in the opinion of the Committee. Extensive economy beyond this point depends upon a change of policy, the abandonment of functions, and the demobilization of the staffs involved, and is outside of the terms of reference of the Committee on Administrative Management. The Committee points out, however, that the recommended plan of organization which ties all agencies into twelve departments is designed to permit the prompt and efficient demobilization of any activities which are later discontinued by act of Congress or Executive order.


The proposed addition to the White House staff is not to be made up of "Assistant Presidents," says the Committee. It will be composed of half a dozen men, drawn from the very top of the existing career service or from outside, and will assist the President in organizing and maintaining contact with his departments. These executive assistants will not issue orders or make speeches, but will work directly and anonymously in the White House getting information when needed by the President in making decisions, and then seeing that decisions are promptly communicated to those who are involved. They would be like the private assistants of the president or general manager of a great private business. The Committee condemns the existing situation and says that the President of the United States, managing the biggest business in the world, now has less assistance of this sort than many State Governors, city managers and mayors, and executives of even small private concerns.


Extensive reorganization of the civil service system with increase of salaries for posts of great responsibilities is a part of the program. As the Committee says, "Government cannot be any better or more efficient than the men and women who work in it." It is pointed out that many of the people are now leaving the Government for industry because Government does not offer a satisfactory career. Top posts both in and out of the civil service are underpaid, and there is no systematic provision for transfer and advancement in the service. This is corrected by making personnel administration a part of every department, and a part of overhead management by establishing a Civil Service Administrator to work directly under the President, just as the Budget Director does now. This Administrator would devote his attention not only to giving civil service examinations, recruiting, classifying, etc., but even more to finding able people who can be brought into the Government especially on the lower rungs of career ladders, to discovering able persons in the service, and to seeing that they get training and opportunities for promotion, and generally to advancing the merit system and the career idea. Salaries in top posts should be increased, and the civil service extended upward to include all except the Secretaries, Under Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, and similar positions.

Over 250,000 positions, some of which are now under merit principles, will be brought under civil service within one year. Unless designated as "temporary" or "policy-determining" by Executive Order, all Federal positions will be covered by the civil service. Those persons in these positions will not be given civil service status, however, without taking a qualifying examination given by the new Civil Service Administrator, and without being certified by their director as having "rendered satisfactory service" in their posts.

The Civil Service Commission, which has been the policeman of the civil service since 1883, will be abolished. The administrative duties will be transferred to the Civil Service Administrator, who though appointed by the President, is himself selected on the basis of competitive examination, while the protection of the system from politics is to be enforced by an unpaid citizen board, composed of seven members with seven-year overlapping terms and provided with funds for investigation. This Civil Service Board, says the Committee, for which the President can secure the ablest men and women of the country, drawn from business, administration, education, the professions, labor, and finance, will be "the watchdog of the merit system." Under the program of the Committee it would be impossible to appoint to this Board any person who is a party committeeman, or who has held or run for political office within five years.


The Committee on Administrative Management also condemns all other boards and commissions when used for management, and recommends that they be abolished and their work transferred to the regular departments, in which there would be set up, wherever needed, a commission or board to deal exclusively with the judicial phases of the work. The Committee points out that the independent commissions have been created one by one over the past 50 years, and that they threaten in time to become "a headless fourth branch of the Government, not contemplated by the Constitution, and not responsible administratively either to the President, to the Congress, or to the Courts."


The budgeting and planning are together with personnel, the three managerial agencies which should be strengthened, in the opinion of the Committee. It is pointed out that the Bureau of the Budget was by law supposed to engage in efficiency research and to promote economy, but that the whole Budget Bureau spends only $187,000 a year though it is responsible for dealing with budgets of billions. The Committee recommends that the staff of the Bureau be expanded immediately, particularly through the development of its efficiency research division, which will advise the President in reassigning and reorganizing the work of the Executive Branch under the recommended program.

Planning has been carried on thus far through a temporary National Resources Committee and through many interdepartmental, State, and local planning commissions and committees. The Committee insists that this should be made permanent by the establishment of a National Resources Board. This board would be advisory only, and would work directly under the President to assist him in thinking broadly about the "state of the Nation," dealing particularly with problems which cut across departmental and jurisdictional lines. The board would continue to rely on interdepartmental committees and would encourage State and local planning bodies. The Committee believes that the main purpose of planning in America should be to bring into the center of government more intelligence, research, and long-range thinking about all our related problems, especially those dealing with water, land, and natural resources, so that the Congress and the President may, in determining policy and carrying on the Government, make a better job of it, and so that the Federal Government and the States and localities may work together more effectively in dealing with common problems.


Accountability of the Executive Branch to the Congress, the Committee maintains, has been confused and ineffective in the past because of the fact that the Comptroller General has endeavored to control the spending policy of the departments. This the Committee regards as "an unconstitutional usurpation of power" and recommends the abolition of the office and the establishment of a new office of Auditor General to do what the Comptroller was supposed but failed to do for 15 years, namely, give Congress an independent annual audit and a report on illegal transactions. The Committee does not blame any person for this failure, but says that the system as set up by law was impossible from a business standpoint, and certainly unconstitutional, if what has happened under the law was actually contemplated. The Committee points out that before its adoption the dangers of the law were recognized by Governor Frank O. Lowden, Secretary of the Treasury Carter Glass, and other experts, and since its enactment by President Hoover and by the Committee on Federal Expenditures of the United States Chamber of Commerce.

In line with these criticisms the Committee recommends that there be a postaudit, by an independent auditor (taking no part whatsoever in making administrative decisions) reporting illegal and wasteful practices directly to the policy-determining body, that is, the Congress, as would be done in any American business concern. Current administrative audit is transferred to the Treasury, under guidance on legal matters by the Attorney General, and the business of keeping the accounting system up to date is entrusted to the Treasury where it may be related to the Budget system.


In its conclusion, the Committee on Administrative Management summarizes its five-point program for modernizing the Executive Branch and says:

"These changes cannot be adopted and maintained unless the American people itself fully appreciates the advantages of good management and insists upon getting them. The need for reorganization rests not alone on the idea of savings, considerable as they will be, but upon better service to society. The times demand better government organization, staffed with more competent public servants, more free to do their best, and coordinated by an Executive accountable to the Congress, and fully equipped with modern tools of management."


The President's Committee on Administrative Management, which today submitted its report to the President, was appointed last May. It is made up of: Louis Brownlow, of Chicago, Director of the Public Administration Clearing House, Chairman; Luther Gulick, of New York, Director of the Institute of Public Administration; and Charles E. Merriam, of Chicago, Chairman of the Department of Political Science of the University of Chicago. Its Director of Research is Joseph P. Harris, of the staff of the Committee on Public Administration of the Social Science Research Council.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Summary of the Report of the Committee on Administrative Management. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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