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The President's News Conference

December 29, 1931

GENERAL DISARMAMENT CONFERENCE

THE PRESIDENT. I have appointed Mr. Norman Davis, who was formerly the Under Secretary of State, as a member of the delegation to the Disarmament Conference. There may be one or two more members.

ECONOMY IN GOVERNMENT

The question of economy in government is prominently before the country--economy in Federal expenditure especially. The most constructive direction for economy in Federal expenditure beyond the rigid reduction of appropriations and the resolute opposition to any new legislation, lies in the consolidation of Government bureaus and the general reorganization of the Federal Government. I have delivered various public addresses and messages to Congress on this--he addresses over the last 10 years and the messages to Congress over the last 2 years-repeatedly. And one of those recommendations in particular has been carried out in the Veterans' Bureau where we consolidated all the veterans' activities. General Hines 1 reports to me that the administrative savings in consequence run somewhere from 10 to 15 million a year.

1 Frank T. Hines, Administrator of Veterans' Affairs, Veterans' Administration.

And outstanding amongst those reorganizations is the creation of an administrator of public works to cover all construction activities of the Government as a service agency to all the other departments. There are very large economies to be made there by a thorough reorganization of all construction activities. We have, I should think, 10 different agencies of the Government engaged in construction at the present time; each one of them with its separate organization spread over the entire country; every one of them with a separate organization in Washington, with duplication of engineers and architects and activities, and competition in the purchase of supplies; no one of which can be properly eliminated unless we can bring all those activities under one head.

We could accomplish very great savings if we could consolidate all the merchant marine activities and all the services to the merchant marine into the Department of Commerce. I have referred a great number of times in messages, particularly in the last message, as to the necessity of consolidating into the Department of Commerce the merchant marine.

We could make economies if we could consolidate the conservation activities of the Government in the same manner, as well as the public health activities which are scattered through several different departments; the educational activities that I think are in eight different departments of the Government. There are a great number of activities of the same general major purpose that now lie in all sorts of commissions and departments and scattered hither and yon all through the Government.

However, the consolidation does not alone lie in the elimination of overlaps but it lies also in having single-headed direction under which policies can be formulated and where they will be much more under public inspection, and especially, as a remedy to a sort of stir-growth of bureaus, the placing of these things into groups under a single head will prevent much additional future expenditure.

This subject is a very old one, but now that economy is absolutely the first necessity of the Government, it is an appropriate time for Congress to take the matter up. In fact, such an action would constitute a major accomplishment at the present session of Congress. And that is all I have got today.

Q. Mr. President, do you plan a message on this?

THE PRESIDENT. I have stated all this in three different messages. Mr. Joslin can give you an extract from those messages--each one of them. I also in the last message referred to the fact that I would send up some more information on the subject later in the session, so that I shall send up still a further message but not for a month or two until we have dealt with the emergency measures and the economy program.

Otherwise I haven't anything today.

Q. Mr. President, you speak of public works first. Do I assume that will be the first one in the message ? You emphasized that in your talk just now.

THE PRESIDENT. I would put it parallel with the merchant marine reorganization. Both of them are very important, and both of them offer unusual opportunities for economies.

Q. Mr. President, you speak of that consolidation under an administrator--

THE PRESIDENT. Setting up an agency similar to the Veterans' Bureau.

Q. Without representation in the Cabinet ?

THE PRESIDENT. The Veterans' Administration was a new type of organization in the Government. As public construction relates to every department of the Government, I think it would be better to set up a similar type of organization to that which we have in the Veterans' Bureau rather than put it in one of the departments.

Q. That would take the Supervising Architects from the Treasury 1 and Public Roads from Agriculture 2 and Rivers and Harbors--

1 Office of Supervising Architect, Department of the Treasury.

2 Bureau of Public Roads, Department of Agriculture.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, Rivers and Harbors from the Army. 3 In my message to Congress I suggested that the Engineers continue to administer Rivers and Harbors as in the past. The Department of the Interior covers a very large measure of construction in the reclamation service 4 and the Boulder Dam. Lighthouse service 5 have construction activities. The Department of Justice builds prisons. The War Department builds buildings of one kind or another. I do not propose to put the actual military construction in such an activity, of course. The construction of navy yards and other things of that kind are necessary and military matters would have to remain in those two departments.

3 Board of Engineers for Rivers and Harbors, Office of Chief of Engineers, Department of War.

4 Bureau of Reclamation, Department of the Interior.

4 Bureau of Lighthouses, Department of Commerce.

Q. Mr. President, do I understand that Rivers and Harbors is to remain in the War Department?

THE PRESIDENT. No, to transfer to this new agency, but to transfer the Army Engineers for service--not to take them out of the Army, but to delegate them to the administration of that service as before.

Q. And on the merchant marine

THE PRESIDENT. The proposal was that the Shipping Board should return to its function as an advisory and regulatory body and remove all of its administrative functions to the Department of Commerce. There are a number of shipping lines which could be economized on and various other things that could be done if properly consolidated. There are various other merchant marine activities in the Government.

Q. Mr. President, has there been any estimate of the possible saving on this ?

THE PRESIDENT. There has been no attempt to estimate them. We thought the savings of the veterans' activities was an indication. It is difficult to tell until you get them together cheek and jowl where we could get at the overlap.

Note: President Hoover's two hundred and twenty-sixth news conference was held in the White House at 12 noon on Tuesday, December 29, 1931.

On the same day, the White House issued a text of the President's statement on economy in Government (see Item 454).

For the excerpts of the messages distributed by Theodore G. Joslin, Secretary to the President, see 1929 volume, Item 295, page 431 and this volume, Item 430, pages 594 and 595.

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/207159

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