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friend of one of their political satellites is going to get off of the Government pay roll?
Secretary WILBUR. Yes. And whenever a man gets to be 65 and is to go on the retired list, we find that he has more friends in the United States than we ever knew anything about.
Mr. SCHAFER. And you find the same thing in consolidations. If you
find you can efficiently and economically reduce some personnel, you find that same thing that you have found with reference tó putting them on the retired list
Secretary WILBUR. That is true; but when the President has ordered that promotions shall not be made except under extraordinary conditions and positions shall not be filled, it operates.
Mr. SCHAFER. Under the present law, can one of the departments transfer some of the personnel to some other department? For instance, say under your department you had an engineer and it appeared that for four or five months you could not utilize that engineer's services 100 per cent, and the Agriculture Department could utilize his services 100 per cent during that period, under the existing law could that engineer be transferred to the Agricultural Department?
Secretary WILBUR. All through the Government men are assigned from one department to another for a specific period of time, for specific duties, when the other department makes a request.
Mr. SCHAFER. Then the testimony we had from the Secretary of Agriculture inadvertently did not put the true picture before us. He indicated in his testimony, in favor of this public works administration, that one of the economies would be the taking up of work in various departments when work was slack, and utilizing those employees, and under the existing law, if my recollection is correct, he indicated they could not do that.
Secretary WILBUR. I did not answer your question with regard to the law; I said what the custom was. It is done, and if we want the services of some one for a while, we can get them.
Mr. SCHAFER. Is there any reason why we can not abolish one of the independent establishments we have in the National Government, namely, St. Elizabeths Hospital? Why could not that hospital, in which are hospitalized a great many veterans of the World War, be transferred to the Veterans’ Bureau which administers Government hospitals?
Secretary WILBUR. It is just a matter of the policy of Congress in handling the District of Columbia—whether they want the insane of the District to be cared for in that way.
Mr. SCHAFER. We are told that by shifting independent bureaus and consolidations we can economize, and then further we are told that we can economize in the cost of administration. If that is so, then why could not we, in a very little bill, economize right here at the beginning? We can not effect all of these savings at once and here we have this separate institution with a separate administrative force from top to bottom, and, of course, it is no more a superinstitution than any of our other hospitals; because, if it is, if the poor wards of the District are going to have a better institution than
the shell-shocked veterans, something would be radically wrong. Why could not we start our economy program by throwing St. Elizabeths Hospital under the Veterans' Administration, which operates hospitals, and save the administrative costs ?
Secretary WILBUR. I doubt whether in that way you would make any particular savings. The cost figure per patient in that hospital is as satisfactory, I think, as the veterans' hospital organization could possibly bring about.
Mr. SCHAFER. Yes; but we would remove duplication with reference to purchases, with reference to supplies, as the witnesses have told our committee. They have all told us, when we had under consideration the consolidation of the Army and the Navy, how much money we could save by consolidating the purchasing of supplies and materials and things like that.
Secretary WILBUR. The supplies for that hospital could be purchased through a common purchasing bureau, if one were set up. There would be no difficulty about having them get the economies that any other governmental establishment would get.
Mr. SCHAFER. You really believe, Mr. Secretary, in view of your experience in administrating the Department of the Interior, that if we really want to consolidate and eliminate, for economy purposes and for the purposes of increasing the efficiency of the departments, it would be best to set up a skeleton plan and give the Executive the authority to make those consolidations and then let Congress have the final say—the veto of the plan?
Secretary WILBUR. It is my judgment.
Mr. SCHAFER. And that would not be giving to the Executive all the rights and authority of the Congress, when you provide that the Congress, in the final analysis, had to approve of the set-up?
Secretary WILBUR. No. It would be just the normal procedure in working out a thing of this kind, I think—the legislative body and the Executive working together.
Mr. DALLINGER. Mr. Secretary, what we are after is to save money. Secretary WILBUR. Yes.
Mr. DALLINGER. As you probably know, when Congress tried to reorganize the executive departments under President Harding the plan of the special committee was to do away with independent bureaus as far as possible and put them all under some executive department. Now, if we have this independent bureau, this new public works bureau, the plan is to have offices all over the United States, in convenient places, and it is the fear of many that it will greatly increase the expenses of the Government, instead of diminishing them. The minute you start a new bureau it is bound to expand and feel that it has got to have a lot of employees and offices. Now, we have the Army engineers in the War Department, men who are educated by the Government at great expense, and we have found by experience that they are very capable in construction work of all kinds. It is admitted that the river and harbor work and the floodcontrol work is admirably done by them, and wherever they have been called in to do other things, such as supervising the construction of the Congressional Library, the Washington Monument, the new Memorial Bridge, and the Wilson Dam
Mr. SCHAFER. And the Panama Canal.
Mr. DALLINGER (continuing). They are trained engineers; trained in construction work, educated by the Government, as I say, at great expense, and why would it not be possible to have this public works service bureau as a bureau of the War Department?
Mr. MARTIN. Just for engineering and nothing else.
Mr. DALLINGER. Well, yes; as a bureau of the War Department acting as a service bureau for all other departments, and in that way obviate the expense that is bound to come in setting up a separate establishment! The War Department have offices all over the country. For instance, in Boston they have an office in the Customs House Tower, where they have draftsmen and engineers, and they are already located there and are ready to do construction work.
Mr. Martin. The whole country is districted; they have division engineers and then they have district engineers.
Mr. DALLINGER. They have the organization, and it would simply mean a few more Army engineers in order to take care of all this supervisory construction work, and why would not that be something that would result in the saving of a lot of money for the Federal Government?
Secretary WILBUR. There are two comments I would like to make on that. In the first place, Public Roads of the Department of Agriculture, which has been building highways, has just as many offices scattered all over the United States as any other department of the Government. They are a good nucleus; if you want to start with existing offices and existing organizations, they have got them.
Mr. DALLINGER. I know; but it is recommended here that the Bureau of Public Roads in the Department of Agriculture be transferred to this new bureau,
Secretary WILBUR. But I am just answering that part of your question, in which you say that the Army is already distributed. We already have this other distribution.
Mr. DALLINGER. And we have the other one, and why not take the Army?
Secretary Wilbur. The second point I want to make is this: It is all very well, but you must remember every engineer is under the orders of his chief, and if there is any emergency comes, every one of those engineers will be pulled right out of this position he is in, and the whole organization will be dissipated the moment any idea of war comes.
Mr. DALLINGER. Has not that been true in the case of river and harbor work?
Secretary WILBUR. Yes; but this is much broader. You would have engineers in charge of post offices, in charge of the Keokuk highway, and they would suddenly be pulled out of there and “ sent to France."
Mr. SCHAFER. In time of war, we do not pull all of the engineers off of river and harbor work.
Secretary WILBUR. Very true; but the most of them go.
Mr. MARTIN. In the division engineer headquarters, they all have civilian assistants; they have quite a technical staff that stay there all the time.
Secretary WILBUR. I think you ought to realize, if you mix up civilian construction with full Army control, that you are going to have a whole series of problems that you have no idea of now. It will be contrary to the way things have gone in this country ever since its beginning.
The CHAIRMAN. Take, for instance, the duties of the Army engineer in time of war is the construction of roads and bridges.
Secretary WILBUR. That is very true; but it would not be construction here, or at least we hope it will be at some other place.
Mr. SCHAFER. But they would be getting experience which would be of immeasurable benefit in case they had, under trying circumstances, to construct works in the zone of actual battle in a future war.
Secretary WILBUR. There is no question about the fact Army engineers must have a part in this, and they do now. They are building the roads in Alaska, for instance, under the Army. The question is where the final power will lie; whether it will lie with the Secretary of War or some other relationship.
Mr. DALLINGER. You spoke, Mr. Secretary, in case of war of the men having to be taken off of a post-office job. As a matter of fact, during the World War all those things were suspended. There was a post-office building in my district that was authorized by the act of 1913, and it was never finished until 1929. There were no publicbuilding bills passed during the war. The attention of the whole country was concentrated upon the carrying on of the war, and it seems to me we would naturally have to suspend many such enterprises in time of war.
Secretary WILBUR. You might suspend some; but, remember Abraham Lincoln put through the Central Pacific Railroad in the midst of the war because of the vital necessity of getting transportation.
Mr. DALLINGER. Would it not be possible, if this were put under the War Department, to have civilian engineers as well as Army engineers ?
Secretary WILBUR. It all gets back to the point of whether you want the control of this in the hands of the Secretary of War, with his peculiar powers, or whether you want it in an organization of a different type. Now, that is up to Congress.
Mr. SCHAFER. We should consider that the rivers and harbors work and the inland waterways have been the largest projects under the War Department, and they are far greater in proportion, I believe, than the actual work of the Government on roads, and that the War Department has successfully performed the work with reference to rivers and harbors and inland waterways, and the people throughout the country are demanding that this work should not be taken away from them. Our common council of the great city of Milwaukee unanimously passed a resolution, our rivers and harbors commission unanimously passed a resolution, vigorously protesting any thought of taking away the river and harbor work from the Army engineers. Do you not believe that this may properly enter into the question of consolidating under the Army engineers? We know there would not be such a likelihood of having so much political pressure on these projects in the expenditures of those funds if administered under the Army engineers as we would have if some politician was running this great, super-independent organization.
Secretary WILBUR. It is merely a matter of policy. I am speaking for unification in the consolidation of construction. What Congress may decide to do as to placing it in the War Department or some other department is not so significant to me and is not my particular business.
Mr. SCHAFER. I think we are getting away from a consolidation plan when, in the name of consolidation, we advocate the creation of a new super-independent establishment. I am going back practically to the same posititon—and perhaps you may have been right on that at first—that with reference to the Veterans' Administration activities, if it was to be called consolidation, should have been consolidated under one of the existing Cabinet officers, instead of leaving it as an independent bureau. I well recollect I differed with your position at that time.
Secretary WILBUR. That was my idea at that time.
Mr. SCHAFER. And I am not so sure I would not be willing to vote now, in the name of consolidation and efficiency, to putting the Veterans’ Bureau under a cabinet officer rather than having it continue as an independent bureau.
Secretary WILBUR. I still think it should be.
Mr. WILLIAMSON. Mr. Secretary, is there not something incongruous in placing this tremendous civilian program under the Military Establishment ?
Secretary WILBUR. Well, that was the general purport of my answer, that you are getting a great civilian organization under a different type of control. For instance, it has been said that if our various insular possessions had been promptly put under a civilian department, instead of kept under the Army or Navy, that we would have had a different situation developed in the minds of those people as to where they stood in relationship to the Government. And I think that same thing has to be faced with our own people. If somebody in uniform shows up every time there is to be a public building, it will be a little different conception from the way things have been done in the past.
Mr. SCHAFER. They do not wear uniforms in our locality.
Secretary WILBUR. They are recognized right away as what they belong to.
Mr. WILLIAMSON. Is there not another consideration? The Military Establishment is a defense organization. You might largely dissipate that idea from their minds by taking them away from their military duties and charging them with others of a purely civilian character.
Secretary WILBUR. I think you will have to ask the Secretary of War as to that.
Mr. SCHAFER. If the rivers and harbors work has not taken their minds off of the actual work of national defense, certainly these small additional projects would not do so, particularly in view of the fact we would have a greater number of engineers.
Mr. COLTON. Well, rivers and harbors are very intimately connected with national defense.
Mr. SCHAFER. Well, roads are just as intimately connected, and bridges, and perhaps more so.
Mr. DAVENPORT. Mr. Secretary, on this point that is now being discussed, the experience of the members of this committee indicates that the Army engineers in their public-works projects are a force of great integrity and great ability, and that is the reason we emphasize their relation to public works reorganization. And there is another point that I think is involved in it, also, that has not been mentioned: An Army group, in many countries, has been a group