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Veto of Bill Authorizing Certain Construction at Military Installations.

July 16, 1956

To the House of Representatives:

I return herewith, without my approval, H. R. 9893, "To authorize certain construction at military installations, and for other purposes."

The bill authorizes the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force to establish or develop military installations and facilities by acquiring, constructing, converting, rehabilitating, or installing permanent or temporary public works and family housing necessary for the operation of the Armed Services.

While I recognize the manifest importance of this measure to national defense, I cannot approve it so long as it contains certain provisions found in sections 301 and 419.

Section 301 provides that none of the authorization contained in that section relating to the Talos missile "shall be effective until the Secretary of Defense shall have come into agreement with the Armed Services Committees of the Senate and of the House of Representatives with respect to its utilization." If the Committees should fail or decline to agree to the plans prepared by the Secretary of Defense, the practical effect of this provision would be to lodge in the Committees the authority to nullify Congressional authorization. The provision would also compel the Secretary of Defense, an executive official, to share with two Committees of the Congress the responsibility for the carrying out of the Talos missile authorization. This procedure would destroy the clear lines of responsibility which the Constitution provides.

Section 419 provides that: "Notwithstanding any other provisions of this Act or any other law, no contract shall be entered into by the United States for the construction or acquisition of family housing units by or for the use of the Department of Defense unless the Department of Defense, in each instance, has come into agreement with the Armed Services Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives." While the Congress may enact legislation governing the making of Government contracts, it may not constitutionally delegate to its Members or Committees the power to make such contracts, either directly or by giving them the authority to approve or disapprove a contract which an executive officer proposes to make.

Two years ago I returned, without my approval, a bill, H. R. 7512, 83d Congress, containing similar provisions. At that time I stated that such provisions violate the fundamental constitutional principle of separation of powers prescribed in Articles I and II of the Constitution, which place the legislative power in the Congress and the executive power in the Executive Branch.

Once again, I must object to such a serious departure from the separation of powers as provided by the Constitution. Any such departure from constitutional procedures must be avoided. I am persuaded that the true purpose of the Congress in the enactment of both of these provisions was to exercise a close and full legislative oversight of important programs of the Department of Defense. This purpose can be properly attained by requiring timely reports from the Executive. Such reports would provide the Congress with the basis for any further legislative action it may find to be necessary.

Accordingly, I am returning H. R. 9893, with my urgent recommendation that it be reenacted without the objectionable provisions.


Dwight D. Eisenhower, Veto of Bill Authorizing Certain Construction at Military Installations. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232954

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