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to handle contracts or subcontracts. That is a desirable end, and we cannot expect to prosecute defense effortfully or to engage in a war effort without great sacrifice of many of the liberties and prerogatives to which we have been accustomed.
According to my experience and wide acquaintance, I can say that defense subcontracts are being widely spread. Every main contractor and every subcontractor that I know (and they are many) are searching diligently for suitable sources and finding many such sources with whom subcontracts and sub-subcontracts are being and have been placed.
There is considerable reference to a lag in defense production. The “lag” in defense production, if there be one, is a lag behind a wished-for or “planned” schedule that was hopefully estimated. There is abounding evidence of the impossible having been accomplished in case after case. Schedules have been met and exceeded, only to have the schedule increased terrifically in view of the outstanding performance of a plant or an industry. Then the complainedof lag is figured from this new desire which is called a schedule.
To permit some board or bureau to send representatives into any plant with the authority of the President and remove any machine or part of inventory would reasonably be expected to work great hardship on the labor displaced and the markets ruined, and with the investment of widows and dependent children ruined without fair compensation.
The value of a machine or a bit of raw material could hardly be evaluated to the defense industry as more than the value of a similar new machine or new material. But to a going plant whose continuation in business depends on that machine or raw material, the value could easily amount to 10 times or 25 times the new or replaceable value (if it were replaceable, which it would not be) of the machine or material being expropriated.
Furthermore, it could reasonably be foreseen that in the operation of this bill that there would be declared a shortage of certain types of machines or materials which would then be gathered from hither and yon and stored and later distributed in the places where the shortages existed. And we could expect to see quantities of requisitioned machinery and materials stored at Government expense in idleness and which items were accumulated at the ruination of many individuals, but which later turns out not to have been suitable for the defense effort and so never were so used.
The drafters of this bill envisioned a need for a machine in a particular de fense plant on which they were unable to get immediate delivery. They also foresaw that such a machine might exist in some plant not on defense and they desired a mechanism to secure such a machine for the needy defense plant. Such a situation is obvious and the suggested procedure seems worthy. If the need were for one machine or a few such specific needs, the operation would be simple and practical, and the hardship not nearly so widespread. In such definite cases, the defense manufacturer could inspect the machine and assure himself of its usability for the purpose intended and take it directly into his plant and start producing. We all agree that defense is entitled to such a desirable end.
But in practice it would not (could not) work out that way. Defense manufacturers would list shortages which would be sent to the new bureau. The bureau would endeavor to collect stocks of machines and materials from lists. Many items so collected (if not most of them) would be found deficient for the purpose desired. The machines would be too old or they would be too worn or without modern attachments and, therefore, not capable of doing fine work. The materials would not be just the size or the temper or the finish needed. They would become available only then as scrap to be reconverted into new material at tremendous waste and would not solve the immediate problem of defense needs. The waste would be prodigious, along with untold hardships which would be rather widespread.
If a nondefense manufacturer has a material or a machine which is needed in defense, he can now be offered the opportunity to accept the defense work that could be done with his material or machine; and, if he refuses, his plant can be requisitioned. As a compromise to requisitioning his plant, he would surely greatly prefer to sell items of raw material or usable machines at reasonable figures which could be agreed upon on a mutual basis, provided that the parting with the machine or the materials would not work almost complete havoc and ruination with his business. This bill, S. 1579, does not provide for any such exceptions or contingencies.
Much more immediate good to the defense effort can be obtained sooner and without hardship by encouraging the design and engineering and inspection departments of the various procurement branches to authorize obvious improvements in methods and materials and designs that are urged by defense manufacturers and for which they are willing to assume reasonable responsibility. Reasonable responsibility” would ordinarily be considered the replacement of any devices found to be defective or unsatisfactory, which is ordinary business practice.
It is almost inconceivable the difficulty that is encountered by manufacturers in getting any deviations from blueprints or standards such as are normally readily secured from any commercial concern. Each Government employee seems to be chiefly concerned with avoiding all responsibility so that nothing can be pinned on them in case something does not work out as well as was contemplated.
Obviously, if an engineer or a department head were to grant 100 changes to 1 or to a number of manufacturers, there would be 2 or 3 or 4 of them which would not work out satisfactorily and which would be a disappointment, and for which somebody should be blamed. In the case of private business the management would weigh all of the successful and improved and economical changes against the few which did not turn out well, and, usually, based upon the financial balance sheet of the concern, which measures its success, they would determine the value of the employee and the success of his judgment. In the case of Government employees, however, they seem to be universally convinced that they must not take any responsibility where they can possibly make a mistake that can be pinned on them and used to either hold them down or to eliminate them from the service. They seem to feel that no matter how many good decisions or how much progress is made by a number of good decisions that if there are even a few errors in judgment made or unfortunate decisions made, that they are quite liable to be made the goat and, therefore, lose their job or lose their advancement; and there is not the incentive on their part to take this responsibility. In the Government service there does not seem to be the opportunity for advancement or gain sufficient to offset the consequences that may follow the assumption of responsibility.
This serious deficiency could be largely eliminated if capable Government employees were given the opportunity to use discretion when they had as a basis the written recommendations of the subcontractor and the written approval of the main contractor together with the reason therefor and the benefits to be obtained. Then if it seemed reasonable to the Government employee and he acted upon his best judgment based on the written recommendations, there should be little occasion for severe censure or possible dismissal of an employee; and, with these fears removed, real progress could be made. - With regard to the specific provisions of this bill, S. 1579, I am sure that most all manufacturers having any facilities that are new and modern and accurate enough to use on defense also have the personnel in their management and in their shop to do defense work. Therefore, they are in a position and are willing to do this work rather than give up their facilities to some other plant. Practically all such manufacturers have already felt the pinch of priorities and delayed deliveries of materials and supplies. For the most part they have already solicited or obtained defense subcontracts,
In view of the foregoing, there would be too little of usable assets of any nature which were usable on defense, but which were in the hands of manufacturers who were too short-sighted on the national-defense picture to see that the way to keep in business and build for the future was only possible if they did all the defense work of which they were capable. The usable defense assets in the hands of such short-sighted manufacturers would be too insignificant to warrant the drastic procedures contemplated in this bill.
This bill, as now drawn, would provide about the most potent weapon possible for political persecution under the guise of defense. As pointed out in detail above, it does not seem possible for it to accomplish enough more for promoting defense production beyond what can be accomplished now under already available national emergency powers to warrant subjecting hundreds and thousands of workmen, widows and dependent children, and aged investors to the bitter, burdensome hardships that would accrue to them.
Again I want to thank you, gentlemen of the committee, for permitting me to express these views, which are based on my personal experience. Sincerely yours,
JULY 2, 1941. To the Military Affairs Committee of the Senate:
I ask that bill S. 1579 would not be made a law. The reasons for my strenu ous opposition to this proposed legislation are:
1. The weakest point in the bill is its wide scope that gives the Government the power to seize any property under a caption of national defense. They have seized property wrongfully in the past, and will now do so—then ram it down your throat and make you like it.
2. Three years ago I called the press' attention to the practice of this illegal seizure of citizens' private property. This was heralded by the papers over the entire United States. I foretold then that the power would be requested to curtail people's freedom and rights. The seeds of this plan were cut and dried 3 years ago. I ask that the committee do something now to stop this Fascist tendency, for I fear that 3 years hence we will suffer deep regret.
3. Why should we be subjected to a long ordeal through the courts in order to protect our rights and sustain our freedom?
4. The President or his agents are attempting to usurp the right to set the price of property. The trend toward such a dictatorial policy was evidenced by an undiplomatic remark of Judge Chesnut from the bench of the circuit court in Baltimore.
5. This bill would serve as an instrument for greater opportunities for malicious abuse of the power of eminent domain. This is clearly illustrated in the illegal seizure 3 years ago of property in the R. G. Fields ? estate of which I am an heir. I charge fraud and collusion in connection with the case. The Government attempted to put over a false sale and a false condemnation. Certain heirs had no knowledge nor gave any consent to the transaction. They were never approached by any representative of the Government with respect to the case. Nor are they the only persons to be treated thus.
6. Undoubtedly the Army is behind the movement to have this bill passed.
I reiterate my request that you of the committee make a thorough investiga tion of the bill itself and of its full import in light of past practices with the taking of property. Respectfully,
Mrs. ELIZABETH F. WIMSATT,
Washington, D. C.
1 Now the site of the Federal post office in Rockville, Md.