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office of general services


supply activities





A  Report  to  the  Congress






Preface and Explanation

Office of General Services


Records Management

Operation and Maintenance of Public Buildings

Relations with Certain Institutions

The Organization and Management
Of Federal Supply Activities

Federal Supply Activities

What is Wrong with Federal Supply Operations

Basic Causes of Deficiencies in Supply Administration

Program for Improving Federal Supply Operations








Recommendation No. 14

Eliminate the present surcharge levied on the price of commodities purchased through central supply organizations for the Government as a whole and the departments and pay the administrative costs of such organizations through direct appropriations.

Program for Improving Federal Supply Operations
Report on an Office of General Services


On July 7, 1947, The Lodge-Brown Act of 1947, Public Law 80-162, was signed into law and The Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government was born.  Fortunately, President Harry Truman effectively appointed former President Herbert Hoover as its Chairman.  Either Hoover's stature as a former President or the impossible official name of the Commission led to its popular name, The Hoover Commission.  Since Hoover chaired a second commission under President Eisenhower, this Commission is referred to as the First Hoover Commission.  The purpose of the Commission was to review the Executive branch of Government and to recommend ways to reorganize and improve it.  The Commission was born in politics, operated in politics, but in the end, President Hoover decided that the Commission's ultimate role would be to improve the efficiency of government.  When it began to issue its reports in 1949, they were met with acclaim both inside and outside of the government.  As a result, changes recommended by the Commission were made.

This February 1949 report is the Commission's report on an Office of General Services and it takes little imagination to realize that it is the basis for today's General Services Administration.  Less than 5 months after this report was issued, the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949 became law.  The Federal Property Act did not create the exact Office of General Services that the Commission had in mind.  Needless to say, anyone in federal contracting and anyone seeking to effect change to federal contracting should be aware of and read this report.

The report consists of two parts.  The first part deals with the creation of an Office of General Services that includes offices for federal supply, records management, and public buildings.  The second part deals with supply activities.  The Commission included specifications, purchasing, traffic management, inspection, property identification, storage and issue, and property utilization in its definition of supply.  Additionally, the report on federal supply activities is supported by a task force report on The Federal Supply System which the report refers to as "Appendix B."  Appendix B is not include in this report.  However, it may be added in the future.  Finally, there are two Bureaus of Federal Supply mentioned in this report.  One is the Bureau that was abolished as a result of this report and the other is the one that was proposed for inclusion in the Office of General Services.  When the report mentions the Bureau, you must determine the context in which it is used. 

About The Electronic Version

This electronic version is based on the hard copy of the Commission's report.  Font is Times New Roman which appears to be the same type used in the hard copy.  Every effort was made to match the electronic version to the hard copy.  This electronic version is copyrighted.

Bob Antonio, June 23, 2008

Owner, Wifcon.com LLC

Copyright 2008 by Robert Antonio





Office of

General Services


A report to the Congress by the Commission on

Organization of the Executive Branch of

the Government, February 1949








The Commission on Organization of The

Executive Branch of the Government


Herbert Hoover, Chairman

Dean Acheson, Vice Chairman


Arthur S. Flemming

James Forrestal

George H. Mead

George D. Aiken

Joseph P. Kennedy

John L. McClellan

James K. Pollock

Clarence J. Brown

Carter Manasco

James H. Rowe, Jr.








Letter of Transmittal

Washington, D. C.,        
12 February 1949.      

Dear Sirs:  In accordance with Public Law 162, Eightieth Congress, approved July 7, 1947, the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government submits herewith its report on the Office of General Services, and separately, as Appendix C, the task force report on Records Management, which is relative to this report.
    The Commission wishes to express its appreciation for the work of its task forces and for the cooperation of officials of the various departments and agencies concerned.




The Honorable

The President of the Senate

The Honorable

The Speaker of The House of Representatives











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An Office Of General Services




          Records Management


          Operation and Maintenance of Public Buildings


          Relations With Certain Institutions




Related Task Force Reports






          Proposed Office of General Services


          Two Decades of Federal Records Accumulation


          How Record Centers Would Save Money


Report on Supply Activities













An Office of General Services

   Three major internal activities of the Federal Government now suffer from a lack of central direction.  These are Supply, Records management, and the Operation and Maintenance of Public Buildings.  These activities are carried on in several places within the executive branch with varying degrees of adequacy.  While, as a general rule, centralized direction is lacking, there are some instances of the exact reverse of this situation in which operations are centrally controlled down to the smallest detail.
   To the general public, the "housekeeping" activities listed above are little-known, but unless they are properly administered, the executive branch cannot be effectively managed.  Moreover, huge sums are spent on these activities.  Rents and utility services have cost in the neighborhood of $200,000,000 in each recent year.  Civilian supply purchases alone total an estimated $900,000,000 per year, and this is exclusive of such large items as transportation of property and storage or handling costs.
   Since these activities relate to all departments, there is only one place in the executive branch of the Government where authority should be vested.  That is in the President, subject, of course, to appropriate legislative directions.  Yet obviously the President personally cannot exercise this responsibility except in most unusual circumstances.








   The principal issue affecting service activities:  How much of any such activity shall be centralized and how much shall be performed by the individual executive departments and agencies?
   Undoubtedly, some housekeeping services must be performed centrally in order to avoid waste.  On the other hand there is frequently too much centralization.  In a large scale effort like the Federal Government, too high a degree of centralization of services may result merely in congestion, red tape, and inefficiency.  When highly specialized equipment must be purchased by a single agency only for its own use, for example, it is more reasonable and efficient for it to develop the specifications, negotiate the purchase contract, and inspect delivered goods.
   Two important questions about these housekeeping services must be determined.

First.     Who shall decide what part of any service shall be centralized and what part shall be left to individual operating agencies?

Second.     Who shall supervise the centralized services to make certain that they perform their work satisfactorily?

Recommendation No. 1

The Commission recommends that responsibility for these three internal service operations should be placed in an Office of General Services under a director appointed by the President.









   The office of General Services should be given authority, subject to the direction of the President, to prescribe regulations governing the conduct of these three activities by departments and agencies of the executive branch.  However, the Office of General Services should, to the greatest extent possible, delegate responsibility for exercising these three functions to the departments and agencies.
   In addition to these internal service operations, there are certain miscellaneous activities, primarily centered in and about the District of Columbia, which either report directly to the President or report to no one.  These include the District of Columbia Government, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Capital Park and Planning Commission, the National Capital Housing Authority, and the Commission of Fine Arts.  These activities have numerous relations with executive branch; and there has never been anyone―other than the President―who has been responsible for handling their problems or for giving them such supervision as may be required under the law.

Recommendation 2

The Commission recommends that the relationship between these organizations and the executive branch be centered in the Office of General Services.  All of the activities named above must be coordinated or directed from some central point with responsibility upon particular persons for their performance.














Recommendation 3

We recommend that the following functions, each under a director, shall be placed in the Office of General Services.1

     a.     Supply,
     b.     Records Management,
     c.     Operation and Maintenance of Public Buildings.
     d.     Certain Relations with the Smithsonian Institution, the National Parks and Planning Commission, the National Capital Housing Authority, the Commission of Fine Arts, and the District of Columbia.
     (See chart, Proposed Office of General Services.)

   We submit separately, the task force report on the second subject as appendix "C".
   The Commission's detailed recommendations on supply summarized below are filed in a separate report.


   It is proposed, as discussed in our accompanying report, that the supply bureau in the Office of General Services be developed primarily, although not exclusively, for policy-making and coordination of the procurement of supplies and other supply functions for the executive departments.
   It would assign responsibility for the purchase and storage of commodities peculiar to the use of an agency to the agency best suited to make such purchases or to store such com-

   1DISSENT:  Commissioner Herbert Hoover and Arthur Flemming have recommended (in our report on Budgeting and Accounting) that the Statistical and Publications units now in the Office of the Budget should be placed in the office of General Services for reasons which they state in that report.








modities.  It would also designate certain agencies to purchase specified supplies for all agencies and it would award contracts to vendors for common-use items.  These contracts would be utilized by all agencies in the purchase of such items.  The bureau would handle the purchase for small agencies when economical to do so.  It would assure systematic handling and fundamental standards, and its objective would be to decentralize activities into the different departments, agencies and field office regions.
   Civilians and military supply activities would be coordinated through a Supply Policy Committee.

Recommendation No. 4

The Commission recommends that a central Bureau of Federal Supply be created in the Office of General Services and that the Federal Bureau of Supply in the Treasury be abolished.

Records Management

   The maintenance of records costs the Federal Government enormous sums annually.  The records now in existence would fill approximately sic buildings each the size of the Pentagon.  (See chart, Two Decades of Federal Records Accumulation.)
   In 1948, some 18 million square feet of space were filled with records.  Our task force estimates that, on the basis of rental value alone, the space costs for this volume of records
















is at least 20 million dollars annually.  The filing equipment for handling these papers would be worth 154 million dollars at current prices.
   A new central records service is needed to consolidate and reduce the records centers which various Government agencies now operate, and to direct the work of these regional records centers along with that of the National Archives in Washington.
   More detailed recommendations to accomplish improved records management have been submitted by our task force.  The task force report estimates that probably 50 percent of the total records of the average Government agency can be eliminated from the main office with a substantial savings of personnel, plant, equipment, and space.  Every time the contents of one file cabinet are transferred to a records center, the Government can save approximately $27 a year in office costs.  (See chart, How Records Center Would save Money.)

Recommendation No. 5

We recommend:

a.     The creation of a Records Management Bureau in the Office of General Services, to include the National Archives.

b.     Enactment of a new Federal Records Management Law to provide for the more effective preservation, management, and disposal of Government records.

c.     Establishment of an adequate records management program in each department and agency.















Operation and Maintenance of Public Buildings

   Maintenance of buildings, allotment of space, and moving service in the District of Columbia and in some selected cities would be the responsibility of the third bureau in the Office of the General Services.  Its work thus relates to all departments and agencies. it has the management of over 54 million gross square feet of Government-owned space and over 6 million gross square feet of leased space, of which 24 million square feet are outside the District of Columbia.
   It is not proposed that space allotments in the Post Offices and the National Military Establishment should be made by this agency although servicing by this agency of the buildings occupied by the Post Office and the Military Establishment is desirable.  In any event, close cooperative arrangements should be established between this agency, the Post Office Department, and the National Military Establishment.
   It is essential in these matters that authority be expended and that there be a central agency (a) to prepare and issue standards of efficiency in the management of public buildings; (b) to supervise space allotments in Government buildings in towns where there are several large agencies (except in buildings of the National Military Establishment and the Post Office Department with which cooperative arrangements should be established);2 (c) to maintain and operate Govern-

   2 Dissent:  Commissioner Pollock is unable to agree with the restrictive wording of this because he believes that the Public Buildings Administration should have complete control over space allocations, not merely in Washington, but throughout the Country.








ment buildings; (d) to prepare standard forms of leases and deeds and maintain a record of leases and buildings owned by the Government.

Recommendation No. 6

The Commission recommends that the administration of the functions enumerated above be placed in the Office of General Services, but it expresses no opinion as to design and construction of buildings, and other functions of the Public Buildings Administration.

Relations with Certain Institutions


   Under the Constitution the Congress has authority to "exercise exclusive legislation" over the District of Columbia.  The District of Columbia Government is primarily supported by its own revenues, but the Federal Government makes annual contributions to it.  The Federal contribution amounted to 12 million dollars in fiscal year 1949.  The budget of the District is transmitted with the President's budget message and appropriations for it are made by the Congress.  Although the executive branch does not directly supervise the District of Columbia Government, departments and agencies, and the District Government, have many mutual contacts and problems for which there is no central clearing house other than the President himself.








Recommendation No. 7

The Commission recommends that matters involving Presidential action be referred by the District of Columbia officials to the Director of the Office of General Services.


   The Smithsonian Institution is one of the great scientific museums and research institutions of the country.  It is partly endowed and partly supported by appropriations ($2,090,000 in 1949).  The establishment has as its members the President of the United States, the Vice President, the Chief Justice, and the members of the President's Cabinet.  The Institution is governed by a Board of Regents, comprised of the Vice President, the Chief Justice, three members each of the Senate and of the House of Representatives, and six citizens of the United States appointed by joint resolution of Congress.  It cooperates with several Departments of the Government.

Recommendation No. 8

No change is proposed in the Institution, but when its officials need assistance from the Chief Executive of the departments, it is recommended that they consult with the Director of the office of General Services.










   The following separate agencies perform activities in the District of Columbia:

The National Park and Planning Commission.
The National Capital Housing Authority.
The Commission of Fine Arts.

Recommendation No. 9

These agencies should report to some responsible part of the executive branch.  We recommend that they should report to the Director of the office of General Services.













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Related Task Force Reports

   The Commission has had printed Appendix C, the task force report on Records Management.


The Commission wishes to acknowledge the assistance of the following persons:

records management

Undertaken by

National Records Management Council.

Research Director

E. J. Leahy, executive director of the Council; formerly of the National Archives and director of Records Administration, United States Navy.


Herbert E. Angel, director of Office Methods Branch, Department of the Navy.
Wayne C. Grover, Archivist of the United States.
Robert H. Bahmer, assistant archivist of the United States, formerly Director of Records Management, Department of the Army.
F. M. Root, Westinghouse Electric Co., Pittsburgh, Pa.
Edward Wilber, director of the Division of Organization and Budget, Department of State















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