Defense Program Lag Blamed on Roosevelt (12-18-40)

The Pittsburgh Press (December 18, 1940)

Defense Boss Urged –
G.O.P. Congressmen Assail Lack of Coordination
Washington, Dec. 18 (UP) –
Republican Congressmen today blamed President Roosevelt for much of the lag in the defense program and demanded that he name a boss for the nation’s rearmament effort.

They renewed their criticism of the administration while Mr. Roosevelt continued exploring his new plan to lend or lease to the British all types of armaments except naval vessels. He called an afternoon conference with top civilian chiefs of the War and Navy Departments.

Representative Melvin Maas (R-MN), himself a Naval Reserve officer, said in an interview that “the most essential thing” at present is appointment of a responsible head of the national defense program. He said his recent inspection tour of the country as a member of the House Naval Affairs Committee showed him that the program seriously lacks coordination, although it is going well in several respects.

Representative Roy O. Woodruff (R-MI) suggested to the House that perhaps the administration willfully had permitted the production lag so that there would be a popular demand for Congress to enact the industrial mobilization plan.

That demand for the adoption of the mobilization plan has come. It arose from so many sources so suddenly as to bear a close resemblance to a preconceived propaganda program.

That means the setting up in peacetime in this country of a complete military dictatorship. Refusing to appoint a responsible head, and insisting upon passing on all matters himself. President Roosevelt has, in part at least, been the bottleneck behind which the defense program has damned up.

Representative John Taber (R-NY) introduced in the House a bill calling for coordination of all defense procurement under a $15,000-a-year administrator.

’Effort to Circumvent’

Representative Everett M. Dirksen (R-IL) accused Mr. Roosevelt of a “plain effort to circumvent” the Johnson and Neutrality Acts by his proposal to achieve maximum and to Britain by lending the British war materials directly rather than money.

What difference does it make whether belligerent nations owe us in goods or in dollars? Would we charge Great Britain’s account with so many bombers, shrapnel, field pieces, underwear or bushels of wheat and render a bill in that form? Obviously this is absurd. The debt would be reflected in dollars on the Treasury books. The forthright and courageous thing to so would be to repeal both statutes if they stand in the way of President Roosevelt’s interventionist policy.

Mr. Roosevelt’s conference on the general defense program was with Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, Assistant Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson and Undersecretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal.