August 25, 2020|Jeff Davis
This is a 79-page PDF compilation of documents from the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas relating to consideration of the 1960 Commerce Department report on “Federal Transportation Policy and Program.”
President Eisenhower had ordered the Commerce Department to conduct a study of federal transportation policy, across all modes, in early 1959. By the end of the year a draft report was almost ready. The documents in this compilation are, in order:
- A January 13, 1960 memo from Cabinet Secretary Robert Gray to White House Chief of Staff Wilton Persons asking for guidance on how to prepare for a scheduled January 22 Cabinet meeting to consider the draft report. (1 page)
- A January 18, 1960 memo from the Special Assistant to the President for Economic Affairs, Don Paarlberg, to Persons sounding warnings about the draft report. Paarlberg said that “It appears that other Departments did not participate, and it appears that there was little direct reference to extensive hearings on this subject held recently by Congress.” Paarlberg recommended that the report be “staffed out” to other Cabinet departments on a confidential basis before submission to the Cabinet. Paarlberg closed with “There will be some pains involved in staffing this out. But they would be less than the pains involved in a Cabinet squabble over it, or if the report should be quickly accepted, less than the pains involved in living with it.” (3 pages)
- The preliminary draft of the report, dated January 21, 1960. (61 pages)
- A cross-reference document rearranging the draft report’s 83 recommendations by agency of jurisdiction. (3 pages)
- An excerpt from the minutes of the January 22 Cabinet meeting, asking for the personal attention of Cabinet members to their portions of the plan and urging against leaks to the press. (1 page)
- A document (probably from the Bureau of the Budget) summarizing the main issues raised by the draft report. (3 pages)
- A list of suggestions for changes in the draft report from various other agency and department heads (again, probably compiled by the Bureau of the Budget). (3 pages)
- A February 8, 1960 list of changes made to the draft by other agencies. (1 page)
- A February 17, 1960 memo from Gray to Persons asking how to handle the revised draft with the other agency amendments – whether to formally refer it to other agencies for “detailed study and further comment,” or to have the Commerce Secretary submit it on his own, as a Commerce recommendation, not an Administration policy. (2 pages)
- A February 20, 1960 memo from White House staffer Robert Merriam to Gray saying that Persons had talked to the Commerce Secretary and they would have to wait until next week for a decision. (1 page)
President Eisenhower left the capital on February 22 for a long trip to South America, returning March 7. When he returned, he had a letter waiting from the Commerce Secretary transmitting the revised report, which Eisenhower then transmitted to Congress and to federal agencies on March 14, with an odd not-quite-endorsement of the contents:
This report identifies emerging national transportation problems, suggests a redefined Federal role in meeting these problems, and recommends certain legislative and administrative steps intended to assure the balanced development of our transportation system.
I have transmitted copies of the report to the interested Executive Agencies, in order that the Secretary’s recommendations may be carefully considered with a view to developing appropriate administration legislative proposals and Executive Branch actions.
The final report (which only had 78 recommendations, not the 83 of the initial report, and many of them altered) can be read here. (The five recommendations that were dropped from the initial draft report were numbers 52 (plans for labor cost reductions in shipbuilding and longshoring), 74 (tax treatment of state/local rail subsidies), 75 (national railcar construction reserve), 76 (railroad labor study), and 77 (longshore rate readjustment).)
Very unusually, a month after the Commerce Secretary had endorsed the revised report and sent it to the President, the staffers who wrote the original report, Ernest Williams and David Bluestone, submitted an supplement to the report, because they thought “it may be helpful to have publicly available a somewhat amplified statement of the staff thinking bearing on such conclusions as your report, necessarily very brief, has adopted.” The staff supplement, “Rationale for Federal Transportation Policy,” was then published by the Commerce Department and sold by GPO.