Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Truman Committee

Back in 1940, a relatively unknown Harry S. Truman was elected Senator from the State of Missouri. While campaigning in Missouri, Truman heard about wasteful spending and profiteering in the construction of Ft. Leonard Wood. After being elected and determined to see for himself whether the stories were true, he jumped into his Plymouth (some accounts say it was a Dodge) and drove not only to Ft. Leonard Wood but to many other military installations across the mid-west and down to Florida. In fact, he traveled more than 10,000 miles on these visits. Everywhere he traveled, he witnessed poverty among the workers and contractors reaping excess profits off of their cost reimbursable contracts. He found no accountability for poor quality and he also found that most of the contracts were held by a small number of contractors based on the East Coast rather than spread out among companies in the various states.

He returned to DC and reported his findings. A year later, in 1941, the Senate formed the "Senate Special Committee to Investigate Contracts Under the National Defense Program" (later known as the Truman Committee) and appointed Truman to head it up. From 1941 until he stepped down to concentrate on running for Vice President, the Truman Committee held 432 public hearings, listened to 1,798 witnesses and published 2,000 pages of reports. It is said that his efforts saved billions of dollars in wasteful military spending and saved countless lives. The bi-partisan Truman Committee had a reputation for honesty and courage, was viewed as successful and the headlines it generated became popular among the American people. Truman's dogged pursuit of unscrupulous contractors propelled him into the Vice Presidency.

Some historians believe that Truman was the precursor to the contract management we have today; the Defense Contract Management Agency, the Defense Contract Audit Agency, the various Inspector General organizations, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, the Government Accountability Office and many others. Certainly, none of these Agencies existed before the Truman Committee nor was there any other form of organized contract oversight. In fact, the Committee was extremely critical over the lack of Government oversight of Government contracts and many of its recommendations centered upon the need for increased contract oversight.

The next time someone shows up to conduct a review of one of your business systems, a proposal you've submitted, a payment request you've turned in, or to see whether you've engaged in any defective pricing, you can thank the man where the "buck stopped".

From all of us at Pacific Northwest Consultants, have a Merry Christmas. We'll be back on Thursday.

No comments:

Post a Comment