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the administration of public work. They will be put in charge of military construction; Mr. Cushing is of the opinion that would be a bad thing for the military department, that it would not make for economy or efficiency, that it would destroy morale, and that it would be a bad thing for the construction itself; that is the point he makes in his letter.
Mr. SCHAFER. All right; but the way they are now operating, these activities under the War Department and under the Navy Department, they are in charge of an Army officer and a Navy officer personnel, which is moved about, on temporary assignment.
Mr. BRITTEN. But they remain permanently in one service and always have been attached to their particular corps. As I understand this legislation, you propose putting these officers under superiors who have had no experience whatever in a particular military direction; that is the point made by Mr. Cushing, and he thinks that will be bad business, if that is attempted, and I agreed with him; I also think it would make for inefficiency and extravagance.
Mr. SCHAFER. I gathered from the letter which you read to the committee, that one of the arguments against the proposed consolidation, by the man who had written the letter, was the temporary nature of the assignment. I shall not support the bill unless I find good, clear, and convincing evidence to indicate that it is a consolidation bill and will save money instead of being an expansion bill, as the map seems to indicate, which will cost more money. I believe from an economical standpoint, if we are going to consolidate these activities in the name of consolidation and elimination, we should not create a number of new bureaus and bureaucrats. If we want to consolidate them, let us consolidate them under the War Department and Army Engineers.
Mr. BRITTEN. I agree with you entirely. These officers are transferred from place to place, from time to time, sometimes they are on the job 2 or 3 years, sometimes 5 or 6 years, but they are always civil engineers of the War Department who have been there the greater part of their lives, and who hope to remain there the balance of their lives. The bill would put these men under the administration of public works. An engineer in the War Department might have, as his superior officer, under this bill, a certain civilian; within three weeks he might have another civilian to take that man's place; in six months he might have another civilian to take that man's place. It is true the officers themselves are ordered from time to time on various assignments, but the weakness of this legislation as I see it now, is that it makes superior officers of civilians who are not experienced to do specific military construction. You would create a lot of political jobs and in the end pay much more for construction than at present. The directing force would and could not take the place of a well-equipped Army engineer.
Mr. Wilson. Is it not true these transfers are always carried into the same line of work, in order that he might be acquainted with every project in the country, purely from a national defense standpoint ?
Mr. BRITTEN. That is true.
Mr. Wilson. He may change, but he is transferred into the same line of work that he was in before.
Mr. BRITTEN. That is true. Mr. Martin. The idea is here you get superengineers-great engineers.
Mr. BRITTEN. In these various departments ?
Mr. MARTIN. I mean in this consolidated department you get great wen, great engineers in charge of it, supermen at the head of it. Mr.
BRITTEN. I hope that would be the result. Mr. MARTIN. Do you think you could get a great enginer, a great superman who would work for $15,000 a year?
Mr. BRITTEN. No.
Mr. MARTIN. Or these other subsupermen that get $10,000 a year, what kind of a man would you get for such a salary as that?
Mr. BRITTEN. I would answer that in this way. It is perfectly natural that men come into these two branches of the Government very young in life; they come from the best engineering schools in the United States, and they have selected the Army or Navy civil engineer corps for their life's work. They build up their knowledge, they get great experience, they stay there, they go to postgraduate schools, and they become really and truly great engineers. Salary is no great inducement for them. There are many men in this Government service to-day who could get more money on the outside, but they like military life and work, they like Government activity, and they stay in their jobs. Just as there are many Members of Congress who could earn ten times the salary they are getting in Congress. There are others who come from small communities who could not, but the average Member of Congress is a very hard and sincere worker. As the gentleman puts it, when they leave, through propaganda or otherwise, they could all make a lot more money. Admiral Harris immediately earned twenty times his Navy pay after he retired. Others could do the same. Gentleman, that is the way I think about it.
Mr. SCHAFER. The gentleman has been chairman of the Naval Affairs Committee, he talks about life's work. With reference to the officer personnel of the Navy Department assigned to the engineering branch, do we have officers who have gone to the Naval Academy and wanted to devote their life's work to service of their country as engineers under the Navy, and do we also find operating in that branch the so-called star-chamber plucking board that will arbitrarily take, say, 100 lieutenant commanders, and select 60 per cent of them as eligible for promotion and have the 40 per cent, after they have had 21 years' continuous service, retire and become a burden on the taxpayers for over $2,500 a year, without rendering any service.
Mr. BRITTEN. I will say in reply to that question there is no such thing as a plucking board any more; we did have a plucking board in the Navy many years ago.
Mr. SCHAFER. You have a worse situation right now, a star-chamber board that does not keep any records.
Mr. BRITTON. I am sorry, but the gentleman is mistaken.
Mr. SCHAFER. Is not that a fact?
Mr. BRITTEN. Let me answer you, and I will be glad to make the situation clear to the gentleman. There is no such thing as a plucking board in either of the services. Years ago there was a plucking board in the Navy, which met once or twice a year and plucked officers for retirement, particularly in the high grades.
Mr. SCHAFER. You pluck them now, but pluck them for promotion.
Mr. BRITTEN. No; they do not pluck them at all. The Army never had anything like that. What the gentleman is referring to is the system of promotion in the line of the Navy, which is by selection; it is selection up, and not selection out. I think it is the best system in the world for the promotion of officers; the Army does not have it, I am sorry to say, because the Army does not get all of its principal officers from its Military Academy at West Point like the Navy does its line officers from the Naval Academy, and 99 per cent of the higher officers in line in the Navy to-day are graduates of the Navay Academy. That does not apply in the Army. There is nothing like a plucking board now.
Mr. SCHAFER. I say there is a plucking board that may have plucked them out in the past; now they pluck them in for future promotion. Right now, with reference to the officer personnel of the Army engineers and the Navy engineers, is it not a fact that these officers, say a lieutenant commander who had been assigned to the naval engineering service, where also in that same list that this selective board, as you call it-I call it plucking board-acted upon recently, where they established a list of lieutenant commanders for promotion. The board released about 60 per cent of those lieutenant commanders and held that they were properly available for promotion and should be promoted, and they took about 40 per cent of them and rejected them. In the 40 per cent and in the 60 per cent you have included the experts whom you have talked about, who had gone to the Naval Academy and wanted to devote their life's work to engineering. Now, when they get to promotion, to the higher grade, from lieutenant commander, and they reach some of these experts in the engineering service who were lieutenant commanders who this star chamber plucking board has decided were not eligible for promotion, is it not a fact that those lieutenant commanders can not continue in the service; after they have 20 or 21 years of active service, and in the very prime of life, physically and mentally, they must retire, in the name of promotion, and be a burden to the Treasury for the rest of their natural life.
Mr. BRITTEN. I am quite satisfied that the gentleman's remarks do not apply to the Bureau of Yards and Docks of the Navy.
Mr. SCHAFER. Do you mean to tell me that with reference to selecting Navy officers for promotion, we have a different method for selecting Navy officers who were assigned to the Bureau of Yards and Docks—that they have a separate list ?
Mr. Britton. Yes; an entirely separate list and under decidedly different legal stipulations.
The CHAIRMAN. What does that have to do with this bill!
Mr. BRITTEX. I want to go along with the gentleman; I do not want the gentleman to get into the record something that is an error. His impression does not apply to the BỊreau of Yards and Docks nor to the Corps of Army Engineers.
The CHAIRMAN. It seems to me that matter has nothing to do with this bill?
Mr. SCHAFER. It has as much to do with this bill, and possibly more, than the gentleman's oration on politics this morning.
The CHAIRMAN. Maybe so, but it has not any place in this bill.
Mr. BRITTEN. Concerning promotion in the Bureau of Yards and Docks, Admiral Parsons is here and can tell you all about it. They go up with their running mates in the line.
The CHAIRMAN. If we eliminated the Navy and Army entirely from this bill, would you favor the bill?
Mr. BRITTEN. I do not know what the bill contains; I would like to read it first; as far as these two items are concerned, I would oppose the bill if they were included under its administration.
Mr. DAVENPORT. Mr. Britten, it is well recognized, is it not, that the finest group of experts on construction are the Army Engineers ?
Mr. BRITTEX. Gen. Lytle Brown, General Jadwin, and others who preceded Brown have been outstanding engineers, not only in the War Department but all engineering institutions of the United States recognized them in the past as great, outstanding men of the profession.
Mr. DAVENPORT. Then, in view of the fact that they are the finest we have in the United States in construction matters, do you think it is possible to make a bureau or consolidation that would center around them, instead of around a new group entirely outside?
Mr. BRITTEN. That would be a matter for serious consideration. The question then would arise how far could you reasonably go in this consolidation ?
Would you suggest taking branches of the Government other than those two military services? They are, to a large degree, separate and distinct, for instance the War Department has nothing like a great dry dock construction, that is wholly and distinctly Navy; as are ship yards, docks, waterfronts, piers. The War Department may build a pier occasionally, but not generally, Navy-yard activities, for instance, are quite different from anything that the Army has; naval station activities may be somewhat similar to the Army activities; I should say that unless there was a very sound reason for amalgamating them, I would be opposed to their amalgamation; I think they are going along economically to-day. I wondered a few moments ago, just how far the amalgamation should go in connection with the Department of Commerce or Department of Agriculture. That may be a matter for serious consideration. Whether it would be considered wise or economical, for them to be attached to the Army or Navy Civil Engineer Corps, is a questionable matter.
Mr. DALLINGER. It is a fact, is it not, Mr. Britten, for many years all of the public works of the District of Columbia have been under an Army Engineer.
Mr. BRITTEN. Yes.
Mr. DALLINGER. The law provides that one of the commissioners, the one in charge of public works, shall be an Army Engineer?
Mr. BRITTEN. Yes.
Mr. MARTIN. Take the Panama Canal, that is an example of wonderful engineering construction
Mr. BRITTEN. That could never have been done in any other way except by men like Goethals, Gorgas, and Gallaird. That was the most serious piece of engineering in the entire world.
Mr. MARTIN. The construction and operation of that canal has been satisfactory to the American people, and there has never been a breath of scandal.
Mr. BRITTEN. The construction of the Panama Canal might almost be considered one of the seven wonders of the world. Its operation is administered by the Army.
Mr. SCHAFER. We have in this new expansion program under the new bureaucratic administrator of public works, a division of public roads, including roads, bridges, telephone, telegraph, railroad, and communications. Do you not believe this bureau is properly assignable to the War Department, because in the case of emergency, those roads, bridges, railroads, and lines of communication are most vital to carry on in a defensive war.
Mr. BRITTEN. In Europe that particular construction enumerated by the gentleman would always have been considered of the very greatest military importance. In every country in Europe, the roads, telephones, and public utilities
Mr. MARTIN. That started with the old Roman rule.
Mr. BRITTEN. Of course, when they brought the water into Rome, it was a public utility.
Mr. SCHAFER. The rivers and harbors are a vital function in time of war. Why should not the rivers and harbors work be retained under one of the departments created to preserve the Nation in time of war?
Mr. BRITTEN. I know the gentleman feels as I do about it. When you set up these superbodies like this one, I am afraid-Mr. Chairman, I am not an expert in this thing, and I have not even thoroughly read your bill, when. you get to setting up these superbodies, we want to be careful what we are doing, because invariably we provide for greater expense, more employees, and greater wasting of public funds, and the country now, in your district and in: mine, is demanding economy, economy in Government expenditures in every direction of Government expenditures, and this and various other bills, not only before your committee, but before other committees are providing not only more employees for the Government, but tremendously greater expense, and the country does not want that right now. I think, on the contrary, they want eliminations from, rather than additions to our present activities:
The CHAIRMAN. All right; the committee thanks you, Mr. Britten.
Mr. BRITTEN. Gentlemen, I feel I should apologize for taking up so much time; I did not expect to be a general witness.
The CHAIRMAN. We have with us Admiral Parsons, who; I understands, occupies a somewhat similar position in the Navy as that occupied by General Brown in the Army. Is that correct?
Admiral PARSONS. Yes, sir.