A new Congressional committee has been recently appointed to investigate surplus disposal. There have been numerous investigations of the surplus property situation, but as far as we have been able to observe, none of them have resulted in any noticeable improvement in surplus sales.
We have contended that the Surplus Property Act, which has been in operation for more than two years, is full of loopholes and errors; that the people who are trying to make it operate are hogtied; that the whole surplus set-up is contaminated with favoritism and politics; that the keeping of records is bogged down with red tape; and that there is plenty of room for personnel improvement.
Now that Congress is starting a new investigation, we hope they will get to the bottom of the trouble—that is, reframe the Surplus Property Act so that sales can be facilitated. Make it simple enough that the Administrator can act without being hamstrung by regulations which are contradictory, impractical and, in many cases, just plain dumb. Give him the power to toss out the incompetent and roof out the grafters. Let him put the whole project on a sound business basis; permit him to appoint experienced executives who have had both merchandising and technical experience. Then, in turn, give the various sales managers in the organization a tree hand to sell according to common business practice. Let Congress also give the Administrator power to delegate sufficient authority to advisory boards of business and economic experts and to see that their recommendations are followed through.
There still are billions of dollars’ worth of surplus gathering dust and rust and generally deteriorating in warehouses, storage yards and idle plants. Literally thousands of tons of this material and machinery cannot be moved because, in many cases, no definite decision has been made with reference to its availability, and because no one knows of what it actually consists.
When we state that much of the machinery, for example, cannot be seen, we mean just that. Hundreds of site sales have been advertised, but the red tape involved in these various sales has been so discouraging for the average buyer that he has given up in disgust.
There are in this country hundreds of large department stores and each day thousands of people enter them—some to purchase and others to shop around. We have never heard of a department store that required a pass for entry and we have never heard of a merchandising organization with salesmen who would not bend over backwards to make sales. One disposal agency is reported to have 50,000 employees, but we imagine that the 50,000 employees are so busy keeping records that they have not the time to give to prospective buyers.
The Surplus Property Act calls for orderly disposal through regular trade channels. Probably the confusion and the mismanagement of disposal has been a boon to some industries and business firms, but the effect of cutting prices is already being felt in the machine fool industry.
Now the latest plan is to lift the restriction of sales for export because of the erroneous belief that the domestic market has been taken care of. We think that any plant operator will agree that there is plenty of room for thousands of replacements in all types of machinery and equipment which would help a manufacturer operate more efficiently.
Until the entire industrial set-up of the United States has been revitalized it sounds silly to even consider shipping to foreign countries machines that are in the least iota more modern than those in the smallest American manufacturing plant.
We are in favor of protecting American industry and controlling the sale of capital goods for the benefit of the American manufacturer, and Congress can do just this if the proper study is given to the entire surplus disposal matter.