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May 15, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]
Necessity for Contingent Fund
We are under a very heavy handicap because of our inability to take immediate action in many urgent cases which require the expenditure of money to correct. This is due to our rigid financial procedure, relatively unimportant under normal conditions, but now embarrassing, and at times seriously detrimental to morale and effective leadership. Some comparatively minor matter may turn the scale from reasonable comfort to serious discomfort in the living conditions of thousands of Selective Service men and strike at morale. Time, in such instances, rather than money is the vital factor.
For example, we recently found that an operating room in one of our temporary hospitals could not be used because of unusual dust conditions brought on by a drought. This might have meant the difference between life and death in an emergency, and it could have been corrected immediately by installing a small air conditioning unit.2 Under our cumbersome fiscal procedure the responsible man on the ground would either have to wait a matter of weeks or take a chance and make an illegal purchase. Of course, if he is any good, he will make the purchase, but it is not right to force him to the choice.
Recently during the influenza epidemic some of our hospital facilities were overtaxed and as there was no way immediately to increase the number of civilian employees, we had to detail selectees to help out in emptying bed-pans, scrubbing sick rooms, and taking over similar menial work. This is not a good introduction to the military service, especially in the case of older men who have relinquished important positions in civil life, and morale suffered accordingly with severe criticisms from parents, friends, political representatives and the press.3
Local conditions in cantonments vary greatly and impose quite different requirements. Often these matters have a direct, a pressing relationship to the morale of the command. An immediate remedy is indicated—not next week nor next month, as usually must be the case, but immediately. It does no good to say that each of these conditions should have been foreseen. It, in my opinion, was not humanly possible to do so. But even if it were, the troops should not be denied the remedy, and immediately.4
The solution is a flexible contingent fund. We are asking for a change in the wording of the appropriation “Contingencies of the Army” which will permit us to cut red tape and meet unforeseen emergencies without vexatious delays. Garrisons of the new Atlantic bases, are generally isolated and present a serious morale problem. It is necessary to provide them with a great deal more in the way of welfare set-up than is allotted to troops close to civilian communities in the United States. This necessity has developed as the determination of sites in the bases progressed. A contingent fund would permit us to meet these abnormal situations promptly and without complicated administrative procedure.5
The matter is just as important from a tactical standpoint. It was recently discovered that administrative processes were seriously delaying the repair of boats required for mine laying. Funds were available but the routine procedure is slow, and the repairs should be made without delays. They could be made from a contingent fund and the money replaced from regularly appropriated funds when administrative difficulties had been ironed out. The importance of the change in wording and the benefit to be derived from having money immediately available is out of all proportion to the amount involved. It seems to me that in the present emergency we should be trusted to exercise the proper care and judgment in regulating its expenditure, especially as we are being trusted otherwise in the matter of billions.
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, General Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed draft.
1. There is no indication in the Marshall papers for whom this document was intended.
2. During his mid-April inspection trip, Marshall visited the new Infantry training center at Camp Barkeley near Abilene, Texas. There he found that the hospital was having problems with dust in the operating rooms. He then “took special pains to check up on the operating rooms in hospitals at four other places.” (Marshall to Walter Krueger, April 24, 1941, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 21101-10].)
3. The army’s problems in coordinating civilian skills with army duty classifications was a constant source of discontent among newly inducted men. Writing to a base commander about a congressman’s inquiries on behalf of the mother of a chemical engineer who had been assigned routine hospital duties, Marshall observed: “The other day in Texas I found a man who had successfully run his own business at a net of from $15,000 to $20,000 and who was shuffling around bed-pans in a hospital. I think he could better have coordinated the mess halls and a number of other things.” (Memorandum for the Commanding General, Chanute Field, Illinois, May 8, 1941, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, General].)
4. Commenting on his inspection-trip observations to Major General Clement A. Trott, commanding general of the Fifth Corps Area, Marshall said that he was “concerned to find serious delays in the development of the recreational possibilities which are so important at this particular period. . . . At a number of the cantonments I have been distressed over the delays in obtaining furniture and the delays in obtaining books. Please have your Morale officer check on this closely and aggressively to see that the proper action is taken, and not merely to rest on his oars if he thinks he has done his part. My interest centers exclusively on the soldier having the clothing or equipment, or what-not, available and not merely on requisition. . . . Action in favor of the troops is what is wanted.“ (Marshall to Trott, April 24, 1941, ibid.)
5. When the Military Establishment Appropriation Bill for 1942 was signed by President Roosevelt on June 30, 1941, it included, under the Office of the Secretary of War, the item “Contingencies of the Army, 1942,” appropriating $200,000 “for all emergencies and extraordinary expenses . . . as may be determined and approved by the Secretary of War.” Under the heading General Staff Corps $25,000,000 was appropriated for a “Contingent Fund, Chief of Staff, Army, 1942,” which was “for such emergent military uses as the Chief of Staff may determine to be necessary.” (Treasury Department, Digest of Appropriation’s . . . 1942 [Washington: GPO, 1941], pp. 589, 591.)
Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland, Sharon Ritenour Stevens, and Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr. (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 2, “We Cannot Delay,” July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 505-507.