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EVALUATION OF LEGISLATIVE REORGANIZATION ACT
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 1948
UNITED STATES SENATE,
Washington, D. C. The committee met, pursuant to call, at 10:35 a. m., in the committee room, 357 Senate Office Building, Senator George D. Aiken (chairman) presiding.
Present: Senators Aiken (chairman), Thye, Hoey, O'Conor, and Hickenlooper.
Also present: E. B. Van Horn, committee staff director.
We are glad to have Senator Millikin, chairman of the Finance Committee, with us this morning.
This is one of a series of hearings which we have been holding, Senator, under the requirement of the Reorganization Act that this committee evaluate its effect. You may come forward with any recommendations that you may have for improving the efficiency of the legislative branch of the Government.
We are very happy that you can take a little of your valuable time this morning to come before the committee and tell us what you think can be done to improve the work of the legislative branch.
STATEMENT OF HON. EUGENE D. MILLIKIN, A UNITED STATES
SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF COLORADO Senator MILLIKIN. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, I am honored to be here.
I had some idea of the general scope of your inquiry. I do not know what you would like to have me talk about particularly.
There is one feature of the Reorganization Act which has come to our attention many times that has not been working very well, and that is the requirements for the budget.
The budget is not an end in and of itself. The budget is supposed to be an aid to efficient administration of government. As the matter has stood, it is perfectly apparent that we have not had the facilities to make a sound, thoughtful budget estimate by February 15, principally, I suggest, because there has been no adequate staff for doing the preliminary work. It seems to me that we have got to get at the thing in a two-barreled way.
I am thoroughly sold on the suggestion of Senator Butler and Senator Byrd that we have got to come to a single appropriation bill basis. It seems to me quite obvious that you can't have a February
15 budget and then hope to refer to that budget a series of appropriation bills coming along later. Therefore, I believe that we should come to a one-appropriation bill system. I believe that we are somewhat fooling ourselves if we believe that any remedy that we adopt right now would be a complete solution to all of our troubles. As I see it, we are going to have disordered budgets and disorderly financing of this Government until we get this world postured for peace.
If we had a single appropriation bill today and passed it, and passed it thoughtfully, and if it were in strict accordance with the budget estimate, it might be that tomorrow, under the troubled state of world affairs, the President would have to come in with a supplemental request, which might throw the whole thing out of kilter. Those supplemental requests sometimes can be anticipated with greater intelligence and foresight than they have been anticipated in the past. In other words, we have had notice of impending events long before the event caught up with us which should have called for supplementals long before they were presented. But be that as it may, until we can get the world set for peace, we might as well face the fact, I repeat, that we are going to have disordered budgets and somewhat disorderly financing of our Government.
Obviously, we cannot conform the requirements for the protection of our welfare to a budget or to any other mechanistic device. The end purposes of everything that we do should be to serve the public welfare. Until we do get this world in better shape, I am afraid that the best that we do will not operate entirely the way we want it to.
Now with that single appropriation bill, I believe that we have got to set up a staff-either by way of implementation—a staff of this committee or of the Appropriations Committees or of the existing Joint Budget Committee or of a new joint committee, which will be of sufficient magnitude and which will possess the skills necessary to get into all of these agencies of the Government and make a detailed study of their work loads and the pay rolls which they now have to perform those work loads. Strange as it may seem, nothing of that kind has ever been done on an adequate basis in this Government.
We are running a $40,000,000,000 a year business, and in ultimate essence, we on the congressional side do not have a very accurate idea of what is going on and what is required to be done to correct errors. We have to take the word of the agencies which have self-serving interests and which it must be assumed under human nature will present their requests in the light of those interests. We have limited staffs which peck at things here and peck at them there. We make some progress by cross-examination. We make some progress probably by arbitrary reductions, which we are frequently called upon to correct by supplementals. The whole thing is an incredibly inefficient procedure from the standpoint of Congress.
Now there is nothing whatever novel in studying the work loads of businesses to determine whether the business is overstaffed or understaffed. I am not talking now about the basic decisions as to proper functions. I am assuming that the functions, merely for the purpose of discussion, are well considered, and, of course, there is room for much improvement there. Assume that the functions of the Government, merely for the sake of discussion, are well considered, we have
no way, practically speaking, of knowing whether a particular agency is understaffed or overstaffed in carrying out its purposes.
Now in the business world, we have efficiency experts. There is some tendency to sneer at them. But it is a pretty sound institution now. An efficiency expert can go into any one of these great administrative agencies and he can find out: “Now what is your job? How much mail do you get in here? What is the nature of your mail? What is the extent of your mail? How many requests do you get? Just what are your administrative problems?" And once be knows the magnitude of the legitimate work load, he knows almost automatically how many stenographers you need, how many filing clerks you need, how many supervisors you need, and so forth, and so forth, clear up to the top.
Senator THYE. Senator Millikin, do you think it would be feasible, if at all possible, to take the steps through a committee similar to this committee, the Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments, making appropriations available to such a committee to hire what you might call a public-service engineer to go in and make the investigation?
I made that same proposal in the Post Office and Civil Service Committee with reference to the Post Office Department. We had a deficit there last year, as you know, of more than $300,000,000 and that deficit occurred in some departments, whereas other departments, like first-class mail, showed a net balance.
It seems to me that you are entirely right when you say that we just go at it “hit or miss,” that we don't take it on a scientific basis and know what this or that department is doing.
Do you think that we could establish within this committee such a function as the employment of a public engineering service to make comprehensive studies of the various departments?
Senator MILLIKIN. I agree entirely that it could be done, and I agree that it should be done. I think it should be attached to some permanent-let us call it-budget organization, whether it is an implementation of this committee, whether it is an implementation of the Appropriations Committee or whether it is an implementation of the existing Joint Budget Committee, however it may be done. It can be done, and I suggest it should be done. At this time, I have no choice as to the particular committee to which that kind of work should be attached, but certainly it seems to me, Senator Thye, that that is something which is vitally needed, and we never can have an intelligent legislative budget until that is done by some committee or some agency that we establish on behalf of the Congress to do the job.
I may remind you gentlemen that the Reorganization Act has a provision in it whereby the Comptroller General's staff could be imple- . mented to make such studies and report back, I assume, to the Appropriations Committees. I am not talking about the mechanics or where to attach this particular implementing agency. But I say that somewhere that should exist, and that we cannot have an efficient budget until it does exist and until it does operate. And when it exists, I have a very strong conviction that we can get a lot of blubber out of the Federal pay roll. I think we will find some agencies that are understaffed, some agencies that will need help, but I think that
on the over-all, from the over-all standpoint, we will be able to squeeze all sorts of fat out of this morbidly overswollen Federal Government.
Senator HOEY. Senator, you were discussing the budget a while ago. I am wondering if you have given any particular thought to the question as to whether or not different agencies of the Government ought to account for moneys which they receive from various sources, that that should go into the Treasury, and let them get current appropriations, or whether or not we ought to continue the policy of letting these various agencies collect this money for various causes that come into their hands, use it and then merely ask for an appropriation for an additional sum which they desire?
Senator MILLIKIN. I may say, Senator, that, generally speaking, I am very much opposed to the practice of agencies accumulating surplus and using it for purposes not prescribed by Congress. The thing has come up practically in connection with TVA
Senator HOEY (interposing). And so many other agencies.
Senator MILLIKIN. And there are other agencies. I don't know which ones you have in mind, but I am merely mentioning TVA. I have always voted to require TVA to bring its surplus into the Treasury, subject to the disposition of Congress. I don't see anything of a crippling nature in doing that. Even if it were of a crippling nature, I would still favor it, because the Congress cannot give a blank check on its appropriating powers to any agency, no matter how efficient it is.
The CHAIRMAN. Senator, I might say that the staff of this committee has been doing a lot of work in that direction. There may be circumstances which make the carrying over of funds advantageous; I presume there are at least a certain number of funds of this type. The real trouble seems to be not in the carrying over of the funds, but in the fact that that prospective carry-over is not always revealed to the Congress when new appropriations are requested. When you reach the Senate today, you will find a work sheet of the budget which has been prepared by the staff of this committee in which the staff has condensed a 1,500 page budget down to about 17 or 18 pages, where a Member of the Congress can find out what is really asked and also
Senator MILLIKIN (interposing). Well, God bless you for that.
The CHAIRMAN. Ascertain the amounts that those agencies have which are not revealed in the budget.
I don't think that I am doing anything wrong in telling you here before I tell the whole Senate, that in those budget requests, there is omitted almost $4,000,000,000 which the agencies already have on hand-$3,750,000,000, something like that-and we are making it clear in this very concise condensation of the budget.
Senator MILLIKIN. I think that is a very admirable thing that you have done.
The CHAIRMAN. We hope that this is a start. In my own opinion, the Senate doesn't mind the carrying over on the 1st of July so much as it does the failure to reveal the extent of the carry-over to the Members of Congress.
Senator Hory. That is true. In addition to that, these different agencies collect a lot of fees which go into their regular account. The Congress, of course, gets notice about it when they are asking for other appropriations, but it seems to me that all of this money ought to go into the Treasury and that each agency ought to get an appropriation. Then when the budget comes along, we know exactly how much the Government is costing, whereas in order to get the cost now, you would have to take the appropriation and then go into each agency and find out how much money they collected in fees and for other purposes, because all of that is expended there in that department. .
Senator MillIKIN. This is thinking off the cuff, Senator. There is just one possible exception, and that will be a very minor and inconsequential one. Recently before a committee, of which I am a member, we considered a bill which would set up a small emergency fund for an agency which at times has to deal with emergencies arising out of weather---transmission lines might blow down or a flood breaks a dike or something---where there isn't time to come before Congress to get a specific appropriation for the particular job. It may be that a few limited, carefully defined exceptions would have to be carved out of that, but I am in hearty agreement with the general principle which the Senator has been discussing.
If I may mention an example, Mr. Chairman-and I will do my best to keep any politics out of it. Last year we had a great fuss about reclamation. Coming from a Western State, I am very much interested in reclamation. It is a fact that the bookkeeping of the Bureau of Reclamation was so confused that it took three different estimates by that Bureau before they could tell us accurately what the carryover was from one fiscal year to another. It was not until the matter had passed the House and came over into the Senate that we finally received a set of figures-through the combined efforts of the Budget and the Bureau of Reclamation and some other agency--on which we could really base sound judgment. That sort of thing is a disgrace.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you think it would be possible to get an appropriation bill enacted at an earlier date, so that, if we eliminated the carry-over each year for the different agencies, they would be able to have advance notice of what they would have to operate on before the end of the fiscal year?
Senator MilliKIN. I think Senator, that if you come to a single appropriation bill, you will have a confusing lag period, where you may have to deal with a large number of supplementals, until the thing gets to clicking on a true annual basis, but that, as I view it, is nothing insuperable and assumes minor importance compared with the great objective of a single appropriation bill.
Senator O'Conor. Senator Millikin, having great respect for your judgment and opinions on this matter, I would like very much to go one step further on the very interesting point that Senator Thye brought out.
Do you think it would be an insurmountable task or would it entail a very large outlay to have such an inquiry made as to the present staffing of the departments and bureaus? Personally, I had hoped it would not and think it would not, but I wonder, from your greater experience and knowledge of the general subject, whether you think it could be undertaken without having such a long inquiry that it might defeat its own purpose. In other words, just take an instance. We had an experience with the Customs where there was a decrease in the appropriation. Immediately something was done which shocked us all, because they cut off some very vital employees, whereas if there had been prior to that any knowledge at hand as to