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Memorandum for Senator Truman
June 4, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]
At your suggestion I submit herewith an informal proposal for a new set-up to handle Army construction and maintenance work. As this idea has not been submitted to the Bureau of the Budget, I am not informed as to whether or not legislation along the line indicated would be in accord with the President’s program.1
My view is that Army construction and maintenance other than river and harbor work should be handled by an independent office separate from either the Quartermaster Corps or the Engineer Corps; that the officers should all be on a detailed status; that other employees should be civilians. It would be important to include the following provisos: That in the present emergency, in the discretion of the Secretary of War, the Corps of Engineers could remain in charge of all projects now under their control (Air Corps and outlying Atlantic bases), and also that the Secretary would have authority at any time in the future to assign work to the Corps of Engineers when, in his judgment, such a procedure is advisable in the public interest. We should never deny ourselves the utilization of trained personnel to meet an emergency.
While the problem of maintenance is not in the public or congressional eye at the present time, yet in the future it will be one of the most serious problems of the War Department, as it will consume a constantly increasing proportion of the military budget unless handled with great efficiency. This phase of the Army problem from 1920 to 1935 was an example of how not to handle this matter.
I attach an outline of a possible proposal by your Committee. This seems more advisable than to submit a draft of a proposed law.2
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed memorandum.
1. Harry S. Truman, chairman of the Senate Special Investigating Committee examining national defense programs, charged that the army mobilization plan was an “Indian-war plan.” According to Truman, insufficient planning explained many of the conditions which caused high construction costs: hasty site selection, the lack of specific programs and blue prints, and the reliance on fixed-fee contracts. As a partial solution to these problems, the Truman committee was considering a recommendation to create a separate construction division within the War Department. (Lenore Fine and Jesse A. Remington, The Corps of Engineers: Construction in the United States, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1972], pp. 39-91.)
2. The chief of staff’s outline is in GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers (Pentagon Office, Selected). On August 14, 1941, the Truman committee released its report, advocating a separate construction and maintenance division, as Marshall had recommended. (Fine and Remington, Corps of Engineers, p. 391.) Legislation transferring the construction function to the Corps of Engineers was signed by the president on December 1, 1941. (Ibid., p. 475.)
Recommended Citation: ThePapers 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. 523-524.