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ticular bureau or institution, will be prepared to give the subcommittee a brief outline of the work of his bureau or institution, and of its accomplishments for the current year or the past fiscal year, so that the Members of the House who may consult the hearings may get a good view of the work of the department, and a clear idea of what the Government or the people of the country are getting from the money that they have turned over to this department.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 5, 1922.
STATEMENT OF HON. ALBERT B. FALL, SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR, ACCOMPANIED BY MR. EDWARD C. FINNEY, FIRST ASSISTANT SECRETARY.
Mr. CRAMTON. Mr. Secretary, in taking up the appropriation bill for the Department of the Interior for the fiscal year 1924, we thought we would be very glad to have from you such statement as you might care to make with reference to the work and accomplishments of the department; and, in addition, any particular suggestions you have to offer as to any particular items in the bill.
Secretary FALL. Well, I do not know that I have any suggestions to offer as to the particular items in the bill further than to make a general statement of the policy wnich we have been attempting to pursue in the matter of making our original estimates which are submitted, of course, to the Budget Bureau. I happen to have been in Congress myself and I know the idea has prevailed, possibly very well founded in many instances, that estimates were padded with the expectation that some of them would be cut down. This has not been the custom since we have been in charge of the Department of the Interior. Instructions have been issued to the different bureau heads that the necessary estimates for carrying out the work of their respective bureaus should be made as conservative as possible, with no padding, leaving the responsibility upon the Congress of the United States as to whether we would have the money which we considered necessary in the performance of our duties.
Some of you gentlemen are very familiar with the work of the department and others are not so familiar. The Department of the Interior, with the exception of two of its activities, consists of bureaus created by Congress, their duties prescribed by Congress, and from time to time Congress directs those bureaus how to perform their different duties, by special laws, whether in the form of appropriations or whether by direct legislative action.
The Reclamation Service was organized within the department itself under the authority of the act creating the reclamation policy in 1902, so that the Reclamation Bureau is largely under the direction. of the Secretary of the Interior.
The Alaskan Railroad is being constructed and so far operated under that same theory; that is, the Congress of the United States directed the President of the United States to construct the road, and he, in turn, directed the Secretary of the Interior to do it.
But all the other bureaus are creatures of Congress. They are just as separate and distinct, one from the other, as is the Department of War and the Department of the Interior itself. The Indian Service, of course, you are familiar with. It is one of the oldest bureaus in the Government, created long before the Department of the Interior; and the same thing is true of the Patent Office. Others have been created either at about that time or since, and their duties specified.
Now, in making the estimates for the discharge of their duties, particularly those which are constructive bureaus, where they are actually doing new work, we bear in mind, of course, that their duties generally being prescribed and Congress appropriating from time to time for the necessary construction, forces are built up, both field forces and administrative forces, carrying out the desire of the Congress of the United States. If something that Congress has directed us to do, either by general legislation or by specific legislation, is to be done, we make the necessary estimates for doing that work. If Congress sees fit, or the Budget Bureau sees fit, to curtail the expenditures, while there are half a dozen different pieces of constructive work carried on, it is possible, of course, for the bureau chiefs to say that possibly some particular work may be the least necessary at this immediate time-some time it has got to be done or otherwise Congress must revoke the law, because we are directed to do it--but possibly we can put that particular work off.
The estimates have been made under that theory for the full necessary work, as we understand it, and for the amounts necessary to accomplish the work with which we are intrusted.
Those estimates were submitted to the Bureau of the Budget. We were told then by the Budget Bureau that there was so much money available for the different departments, and under an allocation of those moneys, based, I presume, upon the expenditures in previous years of the respective departments, there would be a certain amount available for the Department of the Interior, and that we must conform to that amount in our expenditures.
It was impossible to do it. We are directed to pay pensions in a certain amount. I have no discretion. I can not say who I shall cut off the pension roll or who I shall decline to pay. I have no authority to cut a pension down. I must estimate for the amount which I consider to be necessary, based on actual figures. The fixed charges, in other words, against my department amount to more than the Budget commissioner thought he was justified in allocating to the Interior Department, to say nothing of the payment of the expenses of the different bureaus of the department.
An arrangement has been arrived at, although I stated to the commissioner of the Budget frankly and am perfectly frank to state to you gentlemen that this amount of $281,000,000 approximately is necessary an arrangement was arrived at by which $25,000,000 is to be made immediately available, as I understand it, and then at the expiration of the year we will have a deficiency of $25,000,000, which we will borrow from the next year. I understand that is the arrangement.
Mr. CRAMTON. That is with reference to the payment of pensions? Secretary FALL. Yes; I speak of that because that is one of the fixed charges I can not deviate from. I certainly can not say what pensions shall be paid and what shall not. I am going to pay them all as far as the money goes.
Mr. CRAMTON. That deficiency, I take it, as to pension payments was caused by changes in the pension laws in the course of the year, was it not?
Secretary FALL. Partly that, sir, and partly as a hangover.
Mr. CRAMTON. Of course, last year, you were given the full amount for that particular purpose, that was requested.
Secretary FALL. No; I beg your pardon. The same thing was done last year that is being done this year. In other words, we have borrowed. We kept books. If my estimates, as submitted to General Dawes last year, are examined you will note they were approved by the Secretary of the Interior as explained and amended in a letter to the Budget Commissioner and to the President of the United States.
Mr. CRAMTON. It was my recollection that the money for direct payment of pensions was entirely in accordance with the estimates that originated in the Bureau of Pensions.
Secretary FALL. No, sir; I think you are wrong.
Mr. CRAMTON. I know that the amount we gave was the amount that came to us.
Secretary FALL. It was assumed, sir, that the estimate of the Budget Bureau was the estimate of the department, which it
Mr. BYRNES. Did I understand that the amount which the department estimated for pensions was not submitted by the Bureau of the Budget to us?
Secretary FALL. Oh, no; in no instance is the submission made by the Budget Bureau my estimates to them.
Mr. BYRNES. I mean a fixed charge like pensions.
Mr. BYRNES. They reduced the amount that you estimated, which accounts for the situation you now complain of. Secretary FALL. Yes, sir.
Mr. CRAMTON. I had the impression, which, of course, I would not put against your knowledge of the subject, that in that item. the figures came to us as they were made by the Bureau of Pensions.
Mr. FINNEY. Mr. Cramton, there was an estimate for the payment of pensions that was an estimate covering the amount necessary to pay pensions monthly instead of quarterly. Now, adding those two together
Mr. CRAMTON. Mr. Finney, let us not confuse matters.
Mr. FINNEY. It was all part of the pension appropriation.
Mr. CRAMTON. Let us not confuse the administration portion of it with that portion for the payment of the pensions themselves. I am only speaking about the payment of the pensions themselves and not the cost of administration.
Mr. FINNEY. I think the Secretary is correct. General Dawes made a cut in the estimates for the payment of the pensions themselves.
Secretary FALL. General Dawes made a statement, I think a public statement, to the effect there had been a saving of something like $21,000,000 under the Budget in the matter of the Interior Department. I called his attention to the fact that he was in entire error, that there was no such saving; that there was a genuine saving of approximately, we will say, $1,000,000; that included in his amount of so-called saving was $19,000,000 on pensions, which had not been expended and was turned back because we could not get to it. There were 99,000 pension cases undisposed of and they would require every cent of that $19,000,000, and the only way to create a saving was to postpone the adjudication of those cases until the old soldier died of starvation or old age. He was entitled to the 663 estimate and those are the cases that are put on the pension list, and under that estimate of 99,000 cases pending there would be required every cent of this $19,000,000.
Mr. BYRNES. As a matter of fact, it was a saving only to the extent of the failure to act upon the cases.
Secretary FALL. Where we were not able to get to them and for that reason I asked Congress to give me more money for the Pension Office, and I am glad to state now that by the 1st of July, as a result of your action in giving us that money, we will be current with the pensions, in spite of the fact that our duties have been very largely increased by additional pension legislation.
Mr. CRAMTON. Let me be sure I understand that statement. Mr. Secretary. You anticipate that on the 1st of July the Pension Office will be current with its work?
Secretary FALL. I hope so; yes, sir. I am rather confident it will be, although the Pension Office has asked that instead of reducing the entire force, that they be allowed to keep 100 of the more than 200.
Mr. CRAMTON. It is my recollection that the estimates before usSecretary FALL (interposing). Call for $148,000 for additional force.
Mr. CRAMTON (continuing). Call for a large portion of the temporary roll that was given for the purpose of bringing the work current. Secretary FALL. Yes, sir.
Mr. CRAMTON. And the figures that appeared before us last year when we made that appropriation showed that a gain was being made in the handling of cases with the force they then had, but the gain was so slow that the old soldiers would die before you ever got caught up; but now, if you are going to be caught up by the 1st of July, it would be difficult to understand why we would need over half of that temporary roll.
Secretary FALL. I hope we will not, sir; but I would like to have authority to do it, because otherwise we will be disappointed in the general results, because we will be behind again in the accumulation of cases. If we have the authority and at the same time can perform the work by the 1st day of July, we certainly will not spend the money. If it is necessary to continue this extra work beyond that time we will spend it; and it has got to be spent some time, unless we can get the work up. Our estimates for this additional
work as presented to the Budget Bureau was $620,000. How much did they allow?
Mr. CRAMTON. I really do not want to take much time in the discussion of the figures of the Budget Bureau.
Secretary FALL. I can only discuss this matter intelligently by so discussing it.
Mr. CRAMTON. We have only the figures that were sent to us by the Budget.
Secretary FALL. That is exactly what I say.
Mr. BYRNES. May I ask this question: I am anxious that the Secretary state it because I am convinced that we can consider these estimates solely and only if we do know what the desires of the department are. I know that the committee takes the position that they are going to abide by the estimates of the Budget, but I know, too, that Members of the House may believe that for a certain activity of the Government the action of the Bureau of the Budget has not been wise. I do not believe the Congress has abrogated its functions in that regard, and I think the Secretary ought to be permitted to make a statement of the views of the department, so that the record will give to the Members of Congress information that they may desire. Then Congress can act or not, as they see fit; but I know that the position of our committee is that they will not increase any estimates submitted by the Bureau of the Budget, and I have no question about that, but on this matter of the Budget, I do not believe Congress has surrendered its rights, and as we are making a record for the information of Congress, if the Secretary wants to make a statement of what he thinks the demands of the department are, I think we ought to let him make it, so that the record will show that.
Mr. CRAMTON. I will say that so far as the chairman is concerned, I fully agree with Mr. Byrnes that Congress has not abrogated any of its functions. It has just as much authority to double an estimate sent in by the Budget as it has to cut it in two; but as a matter of general policy, in this time when retrenchment is so necessary, it has been agreed upon as a policy by the full committee, which this subcommittee necessarily must coincide with, in order to get by the full committee, that the estimates sent by the Budget would not be increased. That was the choice of the full committee, and it has been the thought of the chairman that while we would not restrict the Secretary in any way, because we are willing to put our time up against his and we will not restrict him in any way as to any matters he may desire to place before the committee, and if he desires to go into not only what action was taken by the Budget Bureau on his estimates. this year but what action was taken a year ago by the Budget, he has that privilege and will not be restricted in any way; at the same time, it only seemed fair to the Secretary, as we do assume he is a busy man, that I suggest as a general proposition he has a rather prejudiced court before him in an appeal from the action of the Budget. Secretary FALL. I think I understand that.
Mr. BYRNES. Mr. Secretary, I want you to understand that while you may be appealing to a prejudiced court, that you still have another court which has the final say, and that is the whole House of Representatives, and that those Members of the House of Representatives and of the Senate will never know your case, if you have anything you wish to present, unless you put it in this record.