In our effort to find out just why the surplus property disposal program is not functioning as it should, we have been investigating various sources which are being affected. We have contacted industrial equipment buyers, machinery dealers and also people in the disposal agencies.
The main fly-in-the-ointment, we learn, is the weak and complicated Surplus Property Act which was approved by Congress in October 1944. There is plenty of justification for squawks and criticism because it took nearly a year for Congress to formulate the Act, it being the culmination of some forty surplus property bills presented for consideration. After all of this time and study something more workable should have been concocted.
The first surplus property administrator was appointed by the President before the Act was passed. Since its approval there have been three different administrators and the present one is reported to have offered his resignation. This constant changing is evidence that the job is untenable, making it apparent that the Act itself is so unwieldy that each one has given up in despair. Furthermore, there have been three successive government agencies that have tried to administer the Act and the incumbent administration is now running into complications because it is not a government corporation.
We think that one WAA regional manager expressed the situation aptly when he wrote us, “We must operate within the framework of the Surplus Property Act and the amendments thereto, and we all recognize the fact that the necessity of clearing through the various priority levels is bound to slow up the sales program to some extent. This type of merchandising has no precedent, and it is absolutely useless to compare it with normal industrial sales for the simple reason that we cannot sell on that basis.”
Congress has been extremely busy investigating the administrative activities of surplus disposal ever since RFC started the program. Investigation after investigation has been conducted by both sincere and obviously publicity-seeking Congressmen who know they will make the front page if they produce sensational data. If Congressmen would spend more time reviewing the Surplus Property Act itself, they might find that the trouble lies therein and not through maladministration.
We hope they don’t find out that WAA had no authority to sell and that it will be necessary for the purchasers to return all the goods sold!