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COMMITTEE ON MILITARY AFFAIRS
ROBERT R. REYNOLDS, North Carolina, Chairman ELBERT D. THOMAS, Utah
WARREN R. AUSTIN, Vermont EDWIN C. JOHNSON, Colorado
STYLES BRIDGES, New Hampshire JOSH LEE, Oklahoma
CHAN GURNEY, South Dakota H. H. SCHWARTZ, Wyoming
RUFUS C. HOLMAN, Oregon LISTER HILL, Alabama
JOHN THOMAS, Idaho SHERIDAN DOWNEY, California
HENRY C. LODGE, JR., Massachusetts
WESLEY E. McDONALD, Clerk
REQUISITION OF PROPERTY BY THE UNITED STATES
WEDNESDAY, JULY 16, 1941
UNITED STATES SENATE,
Washington, D. C. The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 11 a. m., in the committee room, United States Capitol, Senator Robert R. Reynolds presiding.
Present: Senators Reynolds (chairman), Lee, Schwartz, Hill, Downey, Chandler, Kilgore, Austin, Bridges, Gurney, Thomas of Idaho, and Lodge.
Also present: Lt. Col. D. A. Watt, military aide; Wayne Coy, and Judge Robert P. Patterson, Under Secretary of War.
(S. 1579 revised, is as follows:)
A BILL To authorize the President of the United States to requisition property required
for the national defense
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That whenever the President, during the present national emergency, but not later than June 30, 1943, determines that (1) the use of any property is required for the defense of the United States, (2) all other means of obtaining the use of such property for the defense of the United States upon fair and reasonable terms have been exhausted, and (3) the use of other property having equivalent utility for the defense of the United States cannot be obtained, he is authorized to requisition such property for the defense of the United States upon the payment of fair and just compensation in . the manner provided for by the act of October 10, 1940, Public, No. 829, Seventysixth Congress, third session.
SEC. 2. Whenever the President determines that the use of property acquired and retained pursuant to this Act is no longer needed for the defense of the United States, he shall, if the original owner desires the property and pays the fair value thereof, return such property to the owner; but, in any event, property so acquired and retained shall, if the owner desires the property, and pays the fair value thereof, be returned to the owner not later than December 31, 1943.
Sec. 3. The President may, from time to time, issue such rules and regulations and require such information as may be necessary and proper to carry out the provisions of this Act, and he may exercise any power or authority conferred on him by this Act through such department, agency, board, or officer as he shall direct or appoint.
Senator REYNOLDS. Mr. Secretary, would you be good enough to just have a seat right here where you could be heard better by the committee?
Senator LEE. Mr. Chairman, perhaps the Secretary would like to say something before it goes on the record. If so, I suggest that we give him that opportunity. If he is prepared to discuss this before us on record, why, then, all right.
Senator REYNOLDS. This, Mr. Secretary, I might state for your information, is a matter of a substitute, which has been presented by Senator Chandler, for S. 1579, upon which we held rather extensive public hearings and during which hearings you testified.
Judge PATTERSON. I have already read the text of this. It differs from the revised bill tendered some weeks ago by me in that it is somewhat narrower in the conditions precedent to a requisition.
It provides explicitly for the return of property after the necessity for the use is past, provided, of course, the property has not been consumed.
On the other hand, it is broader than the bill in the revised form as tendered, because that bill was limited to munitions and supplies, or machinery and raw materials for production of munitions and supplies, or patents controlling the same, whereas this measure applies to, as I see it, any variety of property.
Senator BRIDGES. Mr. Secretary, wasn't that the fundamental objection to the first bill, as to its general application? It seem to me that that general wording in this particular thing, which you eliminated in your substitute and which is wide open in the Chandler substitute here—perhaps Mr. Coy is going to explain later the reason for it-but it would seem to me that you get right back to the original objection, which was its broadness and loaning almost any kind of property without being definite on it.
Judge PATTERSON. Of course, this measure may be preferable to people who are concerned about our having groups of officers tearing around and taking things and keeping them, because it expressly limits the use of property which is not consumable or expendable to a definite time and provides for its return.
I would have no objection at all to such a provision or restriction or qualification, either in this act or in the revised act tendered by the War Department. I am only interested in the ends to be attained. I think they would be attained under either act. ,
Senator SCHWARTZ. Mr. Chairman, I would like to have a definition of the word "property.” We use the word "property” just flat. There are no qualifications in either bill, in one or two places. Isn't a man's invention his property? Hasn't he got a property right in it?
Judge PATTERSON. Yes, sir; I can say this, Senator Schwartz, the first bill, as originally tendered, provided for all property real or personal, useful for national defense. The only qualification was "useful for national defense.” : I found that quite a few on the committee were concerned about that not being restrictive enough, and I think that some people may have felt that that was so elastic that we could, I think the expression was, "seize a man's watch or his bank account."
As I saw it, that would be quite a stretch of the words, "useful for national defense,” but still that apprehension was entertained by people for whose judgment we must have respect. Therefore, the revised act limited it to munitions and supplies, or machinery and raw materials for production of munitions and supplies, or patents controlling the same.
Now, this is still a third expression in this act and this, I think, goes back to, as I see it, practically to the breadth of description in the first act, so far as property is concerned, although it has these qualifications which must be found and determined by the President before the measure can be availed of.
Senator SCHWARTZ. That second paragraph No. 2 there of the President's findings: What kind of procedure would be necessary there and how long could it be extended before the President
Judge PATTERSON (interposing). Provisions as to return?
Senator GURNEY. At this point may we have in the record the amendment proposed by Senator Chandler and following immediately thereafter the modified bill as now printed and labeled “Committee Print No. 2" ?
Senator REYNOLDS. I will state for the information of the Senator that I was going to have that embodied at the head, prior to the statement of the Secretary
Senator GURNEY. Well, either place. I think it ought to be in the record.
Senator REYNOLDS. I believe it is going to be embodied in the record at the beginning of the testimony.
Judge PATTERSON. Had I left a question of yours unanswered, Senator?
Senator SCHWARTZ. Yes; “That whenever the President, during the present national emergency, but not later than June 30, 1943, determines that (1) the use of any property is required for the defense of the United States," and “(2) all other means of obtaining the use of such property for the defense of the United States upon fair and reasonable terms have been exhausted."
Now, what does that contemplate? · Judge PATTERSON. It contemplates that we shall try to buy it from the owner at a fair price, and the owner has refused.
Senator SCHWARTZ. That is all it refers to?
Judge PATTERSON. I take it that is what it is meant to refer to. Show a need of requisition or eminent domain, and an exhausting of the power to bargain for it.
Senator AUSTIN. You mean put such a price on it that you can't agree?
Judge PATTERSON. Yes; we had an instance—I think I gave it in one of the hearings before this committee—where we wanted a certain weapon, and the owners, at that time, were asking an exorbitant price for it.
That might be a case where the President might find that our means of getting that weapon on fair and reasonable terms were exhausted.
Senator SCHWARTZ. A party other than the Government, how long could he carry the thing along in determining whether or not the provisions there have been complied with, all other means, and so forth?
Judge PATTERSON. I don't know. I suppose that would depend on the urgency. You might say if they needed it forthwith, just tendered him a fair price and wanted immediate delivery, and they couldn't get it, this could be availed of, I presume.
I did leave out one thing when I was analyzing the scope of the bills. In the revised form of the bill tendered by the War Department, which we might call the second bill here, there is also the qualifying language that the measure may be availed of only to relieve against shortages. That is rather comparable to this.
Senator Hill. The same idea, isn't it, practically?
Judge PATTERSON. I think so. We could operate satisfactorily under any one of these measures.
Senator HILL. Your third subsection provides, “the use of other property having equivalent utility for the defense of the United States cannot be obtained,” so that is practically a shortage, isn't it?
Judge PATTERSON. Well, that means, I suppose--yes. Or substitutes ,that might have been suggested are unavailable.
Senator HILL. Are unavailable?
Senator DowNEY. Mr. Secretary, I hope the Government won't use this power to take the property that we are most going to be in need of over the next few years for the national defense—that is, money. Well, money is the most important kind of property we have.
Senator LEE. That would be one of the strongest arguments for it. We are going to have to use some way to get it. Mr. Morgenthau's stamp program is falling short of expectations.
Senator DowNEY. You certainly have a right under this bill to seize any man's fortune or money you wanted.
Judge PATTERSON. It would be a rather futile business, Mr. Downey, because you would have to give him the equivalent of the money immediately. There couldn't be any quarrel as to the fair value of it.
Senator CHANDLER. May I ask the Secretary a question ?
Senator CHANDLER. Before the Secretary came I had already undertaken and did explain the provisions of the substitute.
During the last war I am sure the Secretary knows that the Government handled the requisition proposition by piecemeal, made 17 or 18 different attempts by law to try to regulate getting the necessary articles for the defense of the United States.
Judge PATTERSON. Of course, they also went out and commandeered all kinds of property in the last war without any statutory warrant whatsoever, machines and everything else, and they had countercommandeering. The Navy commandeered something and then the Army commandeered from the Navy.
Senator CHANDLER. Saltpeter, that is one of the earliest cases in the country, and if they needed it they could get it now, but he is trying to get a broad enough proposition.
In his letter to the chairman of this committee on the 21st, the President set forth the difficulties and emergencies that were not foreseeable.
It seems to me to be broad enough, and at the same time places limitations that some of our friends insist be placed on it, that the power not continue beyond the emergency, and, of course, the first bills made no provision for the return of the property. This makes provision for the return of the property to a fellow if he wants it.
Judge PATTERSON. Provided it is still in existence?
Senator CHANDLER. Of course, and if it isn't you can't get it, but it seems to me that is broad enough and I want the Secretary to say so, if he felt so, to the committee, that this substitute would be at least reasonably satisfactory, as satisfactory as you could get it.
Senator BRIDGES. Before the Secretary answers that question, if I may, I would just like to say one thing.