The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. I wish to take this occasion to wish you all a Happy New Year.
REPORTER We thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. No doubt you are going to find plenty of news during the next 12 months. That is the main objective of your lives.
REORGANIZATION OF THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH
I would like to discuss with you for a moment the question of reorganization of the Government.
The proposals of Democratic leaders in Congress to stop the reorganization of Government functions which I have made is a backward step. The same opposition has now arisen which has defeated every effort at reorganization for 25 years. The chairman 1 of one House committee discloses: "Many members of the administration itself opposed Mr. Hoover's plan," but that he had not called them to testify because "he saw no reason to embarrass them." He could add that outside groups, congressional committees, and Members of Congress fear a reduction of influence in the administration of these functions. The proposal to transfer the job of reorganization to my successor is simply a device by which it is hoped that these proposals can be defeated. Statements that I have made over 10 years as to the opposition which has always thwarted reorganization have come true. Five years ago I made a statement like this:
1 Representative John J. Cochran was chairman of the House Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments.
"... Practically every single item in such a program has invariably met with opposition of some vested official, or it has disturbed some vested habit, and offended some organized minority. It has aroused the paid propagandists. All these vested officials, vested habits, organized propaganda groups, are in favor of every item of reorganization except that which affects the bureau or the activity in which they are specially interested. No proposed change is so unimportant that it is not bitterly opposed by someone. In the aggregate, these directors of vested habits surround Congress with a confusing fog of opposition. Meantime, the inchoate voice of the public gets nowhere but to swear at 'bureaucracy'."
Any real reorganization sensibly carried out will sooner or later embrace the very orders I have issued. For instance the consolidation of all agencies into one coordinated public works function has been recommended by every study of the subject since the Roosevelt administration. Every other advanced government on Earth has a definite public works department or division. No private business and no other government would tolerate the division of its construction work into over 20 authorities scattered through 12 different departments and establishments, as in the case of our Government. It is only by consolidation that duplication and waste of a multitude of offices and officials can be eliminated. It is the only way that the public can know what is going on in this branch of Government. They can only be brought under the limelight if they are concentrated in one place. It is the only way to further reduce logrolling and personal politics in these appropriations. The opposition to placing rivers and harbors work and a lot of independent activities into such a consolidation had been constant for years. The excuse that the services of the Army Engineers in the direction of such work will be sacrificed is untrue under the plan I proposed.
No other government and no good government would tolerate merchant marine activities separated over five or six departments or independent establishments. The same can be said as to public health, education, land utilization, et cetera. Altogether I have directed that 58 boards, commissions, and bureaus should be consolidated into nine divisions. There are still others to be consolidated. Many regulatory functions now in the departments should be transferred to the Federal Trade and other regulating commissions. The financial and economic functions relating to agriculture should be consolidated. There should also be some change in major departments.
Either Congress must keep its hands off now, or they must give to my successor much larger powers of independent action than given to any President if there is ever to be reorganization. And that authority to be effective should be free of the limitations in the law passed last year which gives Congress the veto power, which prevents the abolition of functions, which prevents the rearrangement of major departments. Otherwise it will, as is now being demonstrated in the present law, again be merely make-believe politics.
I have asked Mr. Joslin to get out extracts of what I have said about this before, because it is particularly apropos to the kind of opposition that has now developed.
Q. These other changes that can be made, will you be sending up any more Executive orders before March 4?
THE PRESIDENT. I think not. We have some studies going on that I would have sent up if there had been a disposition to go ahead. I may yet send them up if they are ready in time. There are regulatory functions in the departments carried out under Executive authority and these amount to tyrannies of pretty poor order at times. They ought to be in the hands of regulatory bodies. That does not make so much for economy as for efficiency and better government.
There are some questions as to manufactured works in the Army and Navy that should be investigated and got in better unity, and these investigations are going on. But reorganization of the Government is a long process, and it ought to be done step by step.
Otherwise I have nothing to add.
Note: President Hoover's two hundred and sixty-third news conference was held in the White House at 12 noon on Tuesday, January 3, 1933.
On the same day, the White House issued a text of the President's statement about reorganization of the executive branch (see Item 440).
Herbert Hoover, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/207933