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Mr. SKINNER. It would reduce the overhead quite considerably. The entire business would be drawn together. The idea was, when I left London, that possibly in the distant future we might secure a row of buildings in connection with the new embassy in Prince's Gate.
Mr. FISH. Have we actually taken over that building, Mr. Morgan's former residence?
Mr. SKINNER. It is actually owned by the United States Government at the present time.
Mr. FISH. We have moved into it?
Mr. SKINNER. Not yet. The alterations have not been begun. I do not know much about that. I know the building belongs now to the United States Government; the title vests in the Government. The money has been appropriated and the plans have been worked out. That will be the ambassadorial residence.
Mr. FISH. You do not know whether we have moved in yet?
Mr. SKINNER. I have no means of knowing. It is a matter which does not fall under my jurisdiction in any way whatever; I know nothing about it except that they have not yet moved in.
Mr. FISH. That work has been going on. It is several years since Congress accepted the gift.
Mr. Rođers. The delay in some degree a rose because the appropriation for modernizing and furnishing the house did not become available until the 1st of July of this year.
Mr. COOPER. How much land is there about the residence not covered by the residence?
Mr. SKINNER. There is a small garden space, possibly six or seven times the area of this room to the rear, and then there are certain rights to a large garden which runs the whole length of the entire block of buildings, of which the new embassy is only one.
Mr. COOPER. There is ample surface for additional buildings if we want to put them adjoining the embassy?
Mr. BURTON. It would not be entirely available for business; it is a residential section quite remote.
Mr. SKINNER. The building laws in London are probably of such a nature that it would not be possible to cover much more ground than is now covered by the existing structure, but it would be possible to buy adjoining buildings, as many as might be necessary. The objection to that would be, from the consular point of view, that it would take our special activity too far away from the business center.
The CHAIRMAN. Where is the commercial attaché located ?
Mr. SKINNER. Yes; they, together with the representative of the Department of Agriculture and the dispatch agency occupy one building together.
The CHAIRMAN. They are all separate organizations.
Mr. SKINNER. They are separate organizations—all, however, working in the most complete harmony and, to a degree, under the direction of the ambassador. While organically there is no connection between these various institutions, because the requirements of the United States Government are such as they are they are all working together in harmony and under the super or direction of the ambassador. It necessarily works out that way. You can not have a dozen heads; you have got to have one head. We receive our inspiration from on high, and each one according to his lights and opportunities does the best he can to carry out his part of the work.
The CHAIRMAN. Proceed.
Mr. SKINNER. As Mr. Hughes so well expressed it a few moments ago, there is a very shadowy distinction between the diplomatic and the consular work. As I see it, the consular establ'shment constitutes what I might call the court of first instance. We get the case in the first place. The man who finds himself in difficulty first communicates w'th the consul, and the consul does the best he can with the situation, and he may settle it or may not. If he does not settle it, he appeals to the embassy, and the embassy tries its hand; and if the required adjustment fails of realization there, then it goes to the Depart.
ment of State, so that it is extremely difficult to say - where one branch of the work begins and the other terminates.
Mr. COCKRAN. The commercial work is entirely distinct,
Mr. SKINNER. Yes and no. If you refer to the granting of invoices and other formal papers, the consul's work is carried on independently of any other branch of the service. If you refer to commercial inquiries and the like, it is frequently the case that the embassy and consulate general cooperate quite actively.
Mr. COCKRAN. He verifies every invoice?
Mr. SKINNER. Yes; but that is possibly the least onerous part of the consul's duties. In London any morning you will see hundreds of messenger boys passing before the window putting their papers through and coming back in the afternoon to receive the finished documents, and during the interval the various clerks make numerous book entries. It all passes along very simply and quickly.
Mr. COCKRAN. Is there not a verification of the statements, or anything' of that kind?
Mr. SKINNER. We have such a volume of business in London that it would be humanely impossible for our staff to go into each particular invoice, but we perform a very useful service. Perhaps our most useful service in that con: nection is to see that the invoice is made out in a technically correct manner. We see that the invoice is legibly prepared, made on strong paper, that the statement of costs and all that sort of thing is prepared, so that when these documents reach New York—they may come from Czechoslovakia or from some other part of the world—and appear before the appraisers, who may or may not be familiar with the usages and languages in those countries, they have a document with which they are familiar and know how to use. In London we have a special arrangement with the Treasury attaché, who calls every day and looks through our invoice book and picks out those special invoices which appear to be of interest to us or to him, and he makes a very close inquiry and reports to the Secretary of the Treasury, or, rather, to the Board of Appraisers of the Port of New York.
Mr. COCKRAN. That is a very important feature of your work.
Mr. SKINNER. That is a very important feature of the work going on all the time.
Mr. COCKRAN. You may have observed an inquiry I addressed to Mr. Hughes. About what is the volume of business that goes through your office in a year?
Mr. SKINNER. Expressed in fees?
Mr. SKINNER. Sometimes as much as 10,000,000 pounds a month. In November, 1922, it was 2,572,042 pounds.
Mr. COCKRAN. $50,000,000 a month. That is $600,000,000 a year.
Mr. SKINNER. It varies greatly. For 11 months of 1922 it was approximately 31,000,000 pounds.
Mr. COCKRAN. That requires an enormous staff.
Mr. COCKRAN. Any negligence or incapacity on the part of those officers, subordinates, would result in very heavy loss to the Government, would it not expose our Government to quite heavy loss?
Mr. SKINNER. Of course, inaccurate work on the part of our representatives might undoubtedly result in heavy losses to the United States Government.
Mr. COCKRAN. So the consul at the head of that office passing on $600,000,000 of merchandise in a year is really responsible for the accuracy or correctness with which that work is conducted.
Mr. SKINNER. It is his duty to see that the invoices are properly prepared and that they honestly reflect the value of the merchandise.
Mr. COCKRAN. Your compensation is the same so long as you remain in the office, under this bill?
Mr. SKINNER. Yes.
Mr. COCKRAN. Do you think it would be possible to get a man equal to such a task for as much as $9,000 a year?
Mr. SKINNER. I know that I have many colleagues in the service who would be abundantly competent to carry on the affairs of the office.
Mr. COCKRAN. So you think $9,000 would secure them?
Mr. SKINNER. They would be abundantly fitted by their qualifications to do the work, but I doubt whether if they were required to carry on the office for any length of time that they would be content to remain in the position.
Mr. COCKRAN. The market value of the service is above $9,000?
Mr. SKINNER. Modesty compels me to decline to answer that question. It is a practical fact, however, going back to the question of the representation allowances, that within the last year my own compensation has been reduced by 20 per cent by the effect of exchange.
Mr. COCKRAN. That, of course, is a very serious matter.
Mr. SKINNER. It is absolutely indispensable, if we are going to equalize con. ditions in our foreign service, that there should be some method of relieving that position. It is a very serious matter to a man with a family and wholly dependent upon his official income, and a very small income in the first place, when the rate of exchange is $3.27 in the beginning of the year and then goes to $4.65, or something of that sort, within 12 months. You must do something to remedy that situation.
Mr. MOORE of Virginia. Can you tell us now regarding the question that I asked the Secretary, how this bill compares with the plan that is in effect in England, selecting and compensating officers of rank similar to these officers that are enumerated in the bill ?
Mr. SKINNER. The British foreign service is a very complicated mechanism, indeed. In the first place, they have not one consular service but three consular services. They have what is called the Far Eastern service, limited to officers who have served in China and Siam, and Japan, and who are educated in a special way, compensated in a special way, and who are promoted and live and die in that particular branch of the service. Then they have a near eastern consular service that is an outgrowth of the old East India Company, the staff of which was taken over by the British Government and reorganized as a near eastern consular service. These men work in Turkey, Egypt, and the near east generally. They are educated in a different way and promoted in their own lines. Then they have what is called the general consular service, which is a totally different organization, whose members serve in the United States and in South America and in various parts of Europe. That service, to a very large extent, is composed of noncareer men. We have right in the United States a number of them at American ports, noncareer men; men who are paid considerable sums of money for office expenses and things of that sort. On top of that they have what is called the commercial secretarial staff. They are men who do some things which our consul generals now, do. while at the same time they are commercial attachés with diplomatic rank. They are attached to embassies and legations and they carry on commercial work of one sort and another; and then they have also the diplomatic service, properly speaking, composed of secretaries, ambassadors, and ministers.
Mr. MOORE. They have then a very elaborate and stable service,
Mr. SKINNER. Their service has undergone many modifications within the past few years. The staff of commercial secretaries is the product of the last five years. Undoubtedly they have a very stable service, one of the most stable services in the world. They have increased their salaries very considerably the last five years, and, of course, they retire upon pensions which are fixed by acts of Parliament.
Mr. MOORE. Give a general idea of the salary basis, going into it in detail.
Mr. SKINNER. My recollection is that the consul general in New York receives about $26,000.
Mr. MOORE. So far as you know, Mr. Skinner, are the salary schedules in Whitaker's Almanac correct?
Mr. SKINNER. Yes, sir; they are correct. I think they are entirely correct. Of course, the British consuls receive basic salaries. In addition to that, all the important ones receive allowances to cover the cost of rent and representation. Even the vice consuls, etc., receive allowances for quarters.
Mr. COCKRAN. Do they not have the right to retire after 20 years of service?
Mr. SKINNER. Yes, sir; after 10 or 15 years' service they have the right to retire. They receive retiring allowances based on the number of years of active. service. Mr. COCKRAN. Do they not get full pay after 20 years' service? Mr. SKINNER. No; three-fourths pay.
Mr. Rogers. I should like to inquire either of you or Mr. Carr whether there have been prepared tables showing the salary scale of the foreign service of Great Britain and other countries, giving both the diplomatic and consular sides. I should like to have that in the record.
Mr. MOORE. Will you give us the general method of selection that obtains in England of those officers?
Mr. SKINNER. The selection of officers, in the first place, does not differ very materially from our own method. Men are designated to take the examination, and thereupon they pass the prescribed tests and are admitted to the service.
The CHAIRMAN. Before you leave that matter of retirement, if you know, how many nations provide for retirement of men in their foreign service?
Mr. SKINNER. I really do not know of any important commercial country that has not a retirement system. To my certain knowledge Belgium, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Portugal-all the European powers. I think ours is the only country that has not a retiring feature.
The CHAIRMAN. Will you repeat that, please?
Mr. SKINNER. I do not know of any country in the world other than our own, except possibly some South American Republics, that do not have a retirement provision. In some cases they are straight pensions, as is true of Great Britain. There is no contribution in Great Britain.
Mr. COCKRAN. I understand there is no contribution there.
Mr. COCKRAN. I always understood they retire on full pay. You say it is three-fourths pay.
Mr. SKINNER. I think that is not the case, not full pay; they do retire on very nearly full pay, three-fourths.
I look upon that clause in this bill which gives to the Secretary of State power to lodge men where they will be of the greatest service as of the utmost importance. Of course, we have the foreign service as it now exists, composed of men who were selected as I was selected and others were selected, a good many years ago in a more or less haphazard fashion, but in more recent times, since Mr. Carr has been so successful in his work, we have had an increasingly scientific method of selection, and appointment to the service is handled in a somewhat different fashion.
The great benefits that are going to result from the enactment of this bill, if it is enacted, will not be realized at once, but 15 to 20 years from now, when all the grades of the service are filled by these new men who are going to be recruited in a different fashion and enter the service with a different spirit, and who will have something to look forward to at the very top of their career. Under this bill, should it become a law, the young man who passes examinations, and will be sent by Mr. Carr, or some other directing force in the department, let us say, to some vice consulate in some remote part of the world, where he will serve for a time and learn all that is to be learned in that office. Can he learn in a better school than in a consulate where he meets all our problems as they arise, face to face with the public? Then he can be advanced to some small consulate, then sent as secretary to some small legation, before he goes on somewhere else as secretary, perhaps, to an important embassy, or then turned back again as a consul general, in the Consular Service. Thus our men will receive a great variety of experiences, so that ultimately we shall get a finished product with which to fill the highest positions in the embassies and legations, with reasonable assurance that you will have the right kind of material. There is no sort of system in the world or any power on earth that can devise a system that is going to guarantee that after 20 years' service and experience a man is going to give the very best possible results. All that you can do is to provide a means by which you can take material when it is young and plastic and submit it to certain educational tests, and then throw it into the work in the hope that it will turn out well. We are finding by experience that we are getting that kind of men, and you would be delighted, I am sure, could you step into the London office and see the young men we have there from many States of the Union. We have a staff of 55, and I do not think there is more than one from any one State. They represent every type of our citizenship, and it would be illuminating if you could hear their conversations in the evening, after the day's work is done, talking over the various problems arising in their work. We have language classes in our office at the present time, young men who study German, other young men who study French. The heads of every department meet, perhaps, every week and give little talks to all the young men on the practical work of their own departments. They are all waiting and hoping that this bill will pass.
Mr. MOORE. Would you say that to stabilize or invigorate our foreign service in the way proposed by this bill would result in widening out our foreign commerce? Do you think that the proposition in this bill has any bearing at all upon our commercial activities?
Mr. SKINNER. I do not think there is the slightest doubt about it. I do not think that your foreign representatives can sell goods, but they can ascertain the conditions upon which goods can be sold, as they are on the firing line. They see conditions, and if they have minds that are in the habit of measuring up these conditions, they report back the facts in this country. They can be of the greatest utility. That is what we are doing every day. What we are trying to do in our daily work is to get the plain citizen out in St. Louis or somewhere else, who manufactures goods, to write to us directly. That is the sort of commercial work that really counts. The general reports which we prepare and ought to prepare, no doubt, are of very considerable utility. They are interesting. People read them. But the real work that counts and helps foreign trade is the work that nobody hears very much about. The man out in Kansas City writes to London or Liverpool or somewhere else about his business and wants to know what is the credit of so and so and why things are not as they ought to be, and if he receives an intelligent answer to his specific inquiry he is greatly assisted.
Mr. COCKRAN. Can you answer such inquiries as that if a man in Kansas City or St. Louis should write and ask about the credit of an individual? Would you feel free to answer that question?
Mr. SKINNER. We are not permitted under our regulations to give of our own knowledge information as to the credit of any foreign or other firm, but we are permitted to quote ratings that we get from London agencies. or wherever we can find them, and we try to get that information. You might say the man in Minneapolis, or St. Louis, or Kansas City should know that such agencies as Dun's and Bradstreet's exist, and why does he not go to them or to his banker? However, he wants that information or he would not write for it. So we do not stop to give him a lesson on how to carry on his business, but go out into the market and find the information and give it to him.
Mr. COCKRAN. Is there any machinery in the State Department by which that kind of service is made known to the people who could utilize it?
Mr. SKINNER. I think Mr. Carr is conveying those impressions to the commercial community all the time.
Mr. COCKRAN. There is an agency in the State Department for that purpose?
Mr. SKINNER. It is part of the standing regulations of the State Department to do that kind of work.
Mr. COCKRAN. To make it known to people throughout the country, to make it known to manufacturers and mechants that they can avail themselves of this agency? I never heard of it before. That is a very startling and gratifying piece of information.
Mr. SKINNER. Many of the great commercial concerns are availing themselves of this information. And certainly every utility of the State Department, as long as I have been connected with it, has encouraged direct contacts with the business man who wants information which the consuls in the field are in position to get.
Mr. COCKRAN. How does it encourage that? How does it actually encourage the merchant and manufacturer to apply directly to the consul abroad?
Mr. SKINNER. It is difficult to say. It is in the nature of things that a busi. ness man who desires some special help at, let us say Frankfort, should write to our consul at Frankfort.
Mr. COOPER. I remember your reports, and I have had manufacturers in my own city write to me to get those reports; I have sent them home to them, and ne of them told me that it helped his business. He was engaged in making agricultural implements.
Mr. SKINNER. I am very glad to hear it. That is the value of the general report. The general report is issued in the publications of the Department of Commerce, and they get from there into the technical publications; sometimes the whole report is not published, but there is a reference to it, and then somebody in New Orleans sees it and discovers that the mater‘al is interesting along a certain line, and writes to the consul and says, “I am interested in this particular detail in your territory. What can you get for me?"