Jack S. Futterman Oral History
Part V- Budget Officer
Trust Fund Interest
In 1948 I became the BOASI Budget Officer (Chief of the Financial Management Branch). One of my earliest contributions during this period was what I've been calling lately, The Futterman Provision.
Very early after I became Alvin's Deputy, within a matter of weeks, there was a big discussion with the head of Research, and the head of Program Planning, in Alvin's office. They were talking about legislation. In those days, Social Security was getting 3% interest on the Trust Funds, and Civil Service was getting 4%, and other funds were getting different amounts. There was some discussion about this. The group was then beginning to talk about what we should write into legislation we were seeking for changes in how the Trust Funds were handled by the Treasury. And there was a lot of stuff going back and forth. And out of the blue it seemed to me that there were three principles which should be in any legislation we would seek:
Q: For T-bills and the like?
No, long-term debt. Because the Trust Funds hold long-term debt.
Q: Because prior to that time, it wasn't based on that?
We were getting 3 percent, as I recall; Civil Service was getting 4. And for all I know there might have been other rates for others.
Q: It was kind of arbitrarily determined?
It was a legislative process in the basic law.
That's what we are doing, even today. And that was a very key provision. For a guy who just came in, without any background--I still remember it as noteworthy.
The Townsend Plan
Right from the first, before I went to Program Analysis, I did a few jobs that they solicited from me as Budget Officer. I remember one stands out.
They were having a lot of trouble on the legislative end about Dr. Townsend's proposal. There was a growing interest in that plan, especially the other side. I think they were opposed to Social Security, and Dr. Townsend's plan, which is really not a plan, was to pay people $200 a month, everybody would get it, very simple, etc.
As the Budget Officer for DAO I had to make a defense for Alvin David, who was then the head of Program Analysis, of our recordkeeping system in the light of the Townsend Plan, which would save all this money because there wouldn't be any extensive record-keeping involved.
Q: The Townsend Plan was still active even after the Social Security Act was passed?
Oh yeah. It was very powerful, even in around 1951-52. I recall doing this analysis that Alvin David never forgot, you know. He thought it was just magnificent and it dealt with this problem which he didn't know how to handle. I mean he and his staff were involved in legislative policy and stuff like that, and they just didn't know how to handle that kind of a situation.
Q: So the argument was that if you went to a Townsend Plan we would eliminate all this cost of maintaining earnings records?
Q: And not keep records?
And not keep records. It soon becomes apparent that it was a very expensive and inefficient operation. Keeping records produces a lot of benefits, at a lower cost, than the so called "simple systems." The question of establishing who was qualified was the question, who met the requirements for benefits. It becomes clear in a Social Security wage record system, but establishing entitlement later on without such records, and investigating their whole circumstances, was a hell of cost.
And here I'm coming up the line from DAO, a smart kid. I graduated from college, a Phi Beta Kappa, and all that stuff. But I wasn't privy to the issue, or the technical aspects, because I wasn't trained in that, even at Social Security. And here I was dealing with the fiscal matters and trying to persuade the Bureau of the Budget and the Congress, in ways that were meaningful to them, of the importance of the Social Security program.
Q: So you wrote something?
I wrote the paper. Maybe you somehow could dig it out of the files--this was in the early fifties. It might be in the files. But the memo was rich in figures. I gave him the cost of operating and maintaining an account and then I compared that cost with the cost of interviewing people at the end of their work to see if they would qualify.
Basically, I set out to do it without any guidance. They just said, "This is the problem." And my first realization was, "Well, they're being sold a bill of goods." Because the cost of administration in Social Security was extremely low. We were talking about less than 2 cents on the dollar that we received in contributions. And so I established that. Then, I established that you're not going to eliminate all of that cost because you still have to take claims, you have to adjudicate them, you have to send checks and all that. The only thing that you would be eliminating was recordkeeping. And then I established that recordkeeping was extremely inexpensive in terms of the whole process.
Q: A very small part of the whole operation relatively.
Just to keep the records, when we're talking about 2 cents on the dollar, we're talking about 1/10 maybe, a fraction of that 2 cents. And then I showed that for that fraction of 2 cents, one gets a tremendous amount of value in terms of reducing the cost of the program. Because otherwise, what controls do you have in terms of fraud, duplicate payments, duplicate claims? One of the benefits that flows out of assigning an account number to each individual is that when it comes time for him to make a claim, he has to bring with him, in that record for his account number, a lifetime of earnings. And so people can't just show up at 65 with a phony account number, as they can in systems that don't keep records. So the lifetime record identifies the individual and really ties him down; it really ties him down so that he really can't get away with multiple claims.
In order to prevent that under the Townsend plan, to have some defense, you have to go into an extensive interview; to establish that he met the requirements. Now, there's no requirement in the Townsend Plan except age; so you have to check that out, and check it out real good. But also, you have to check out that multiple account number business; to rule that out. But under the Townsend Plan, it was very, very difficult to do that in the 1950's. You didn't have a national register. The guy could pop up and in one sitting come up with another and all that. And we just didn't have a good way of associating it. So that interview and the investigation of the facts of that individual would be very, very expensive, many times the cost of a lifetime earnings record.
Q: How did they use that paper? What happened to it?
I gave it to Alvin. But apparently, it was used very effectively. But they never reported back to me. Because you didn't hear too much about the Townsend plan after a while. That was one thing that stuck in Alvin's memory about me. As I said, there was no follow-up; I just did it and he thanked me for it. But it turned out years later that it must have been very, very helpful and really was effective (and I don't know what other considerations were involved). But it must have been very effective in stopping what was then looking like the beginning of a stampede in Congress.
Q: Well, I want to get clear a little bit on approximately what time this all happened. Because the Townsend plan, of course, was around at the beginning of the Social Security program, as a competitor. And after Social Security was established, it stayed around at least until after the 1950 Amendments; at least, it was being talked about.
Well, I went to Fiscal in 1949, or late December of 1948. And I left in 1955. And this was early on.
Q: So, it was sometime between those dates?
Yes. But it was more likely around 1950. I was new to Fiscal. And I did this job by myself. Alvin approached me and asked me whether I could write a paper; they said they didn't have the background to answer that and needed it for whatever books and briefing stuff. For all I know, we may find that.
Q: Yes, that would be very interesting.
I think you might find that in the Program Analysis files.
Sense of Program Values
But I had--and this is something Bob noted in the years before I became his administrative officer--that I had a strong sense of program values. He once called me, and asked that I not take Bartlett's policy job, which I didn't aspire to. He said to me, "You could have it; you're one of the best policy people in the place." I thought of myself more in administrative terms. And I used program values in making fiscal decisions. How do you decide where to put your money unless you have a good sense of priorities? How could a budget officer have a good sense of priorities if he isn't guided by the very highest values in connection with program objectives, etc?
I didn't have the details. But I had a very good sense of those priorities and in what direction we should be going all the time. So he said, "You could have it; that job. You're entitled to it. But I'd rather keep you (I was his Executive Officer); I'd like to have Tom Parrott do it." I said, "whatever." I wasn't aspiring to it, but it was a higher grade than I was getting.
Q: So he asked you to sacrifice that, and stay put?
More than once. He wanted me to sacrifice when Joe Fay left. Well, you see, they were always having trouble getting my grade up in terms of the substance that appeared on paper, the classification factors. Actually, our system of classification gives no real weight to substance, to quality; it gives it to quantity. In real life, some people could take a little bit of experience and run with it. And others could go to school, and get all kinds of degrees, and then they get all tripped up.
Herman Downey & Departmental Budget Officials
This was the first time I met Herman Downey. And I was new at this job, at financial planning. And I got to know Roy Wynkoop, he might have been sick at that point. But he and I became close friends. Roy Wynkoop occupied a sort of an overview position on administrative matters for the Commissioner's office, which was in Washington. Altmeyer was there; Mitchell was Altmeyer's Executive Officer.
Now I'm going to tell you the other thing, because it becomes a part of this story. I go over to the Senate Appropriations Committee office, the main office. And he's occupying the Appropriations Committee Chairman's office, Herman. He's got his papers all over, running it like it's his own show. The man he worked for was Senator McKeller of Tennessee, known throughout government as a machine politician who was big on patronage and that kind of thing, and who could be mean. And Herman was his man, and Herman ran the show for McKeller. McKeller was, I think either the senior or next to the senior senator. I entered Herman's office, the Senator's office, and he's on the phone. This burly guy, big burly guy. And he's listening and he says, "Listen to me General. Will you shut up?" And he started telling him. And he just began to lay him out. I'll pause there, because I later learned that Nelson Rockefeller, who was the Under Secretary of HEW, I think was under Hobby, was in Herman's office, and he threw him out. This is why I can reconstruct the conversation between Roy and myself; I didn't know this all at that time.
Well, I have several modes. One mode is: I'm the earnest technician. I don't know about any of those things, they're beyond me. And I began to explain to Herman, Mr. Downey then, how we constructed our budget and why, you know, we had a budget that was based on production data. And I would tell him how many man-years we needed, how we figured it out, what we did last year, etc. And that was an eye-opener in those days. Of course, not all of our budget was that way; just parts of DAO were on a production basis, like all the punchcard operations were, and all the production operations were; the clerical operations. But we did a pretty good job that way. We simulated that approach in the area offices and in the district offices, although the district offices were tallies; they'd tally how many claims they handled, how many account numbers they issued, whatever. It was very much subject to creative production recordkeeping.
Q: But that was an innovation in budgeting, right? Not every agency did that?
That's right. It was at that time, they had a word for that; it was a production budget, based on production data, etc. And in fact, when I was Budget Officer, which was at this time, I could make very, very accurate budget estimates of what a provision of law would involve. We were very good, I was good at it. What was important when you did that was that you had to be able to visualize each step of the operation. Because the things that you didn't think of could be the most costly. Like, you know, if you had to stop and go out and get proof of something in the field, that would add a factor of "x" to the cost. But where you were continuously processing something, you could be very accurate.
But the point I wanted to make is that this approach was received very favorably by Herman Downey. He became enamored of Social Security. He would come over to Baltimore and visit with me a lot. But my pose was the earnest technician, technologically-oriented budget person, not involved in the machinations either at the Social Security level or the Department level. He knew that I wasn't that simple, and that Bob Ball wasn't that simple either.
Q. How did he react to that pitch? Did you persuade him of anything?
Oh yes. Shortly after this he started coming over for lunch, and we would explain more of the issues. It was all legitimate stuff. But he enjoyed it. Because I think he was so used to going to places where he ripped their arguments apart. And here he liked it.
A Letter From Herman Downey
Well, this is a letter from Herman Downey.
I think this letter was given to me by Herman Downey, in a jocular way, and this letter says, and I'll read it to you. This is on Social Security Board stationery and it is addressed to Mr. H. E. Downey at Maple Street, Johnson City, Tennessee. "Dear Mr. Downey: Your letter of June 30 addressed to Mr. J. Reed Carpenter has been referred to me for reply." J. Reed Carpenter was a personal assistant to Oscar Pogge who was the Director of Bureau of Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, and the signer of this letter is H. Norman Milburn, Jr., the head of Personnel, who assumed that role, well he was early on, the head of the Personnel Office, from the beginning until about World War II, and then there was some problem then. "We have forwarded your application to the Field Division," that's McKenna's, "and the matter has been taken up with Mr. H. E. Bray, Regional Representative of Region VII." (That's down in the Tennessee Region.) "Since this region includes our southern states, Mr. Bray informs us that due to present budgetary limitations, he will have sufficient eligibles for positions at $2,300 per annum and above for some time to come."
Q: He's turning him down.
Yes. "We regret that we are unable to give you any encouragement concerning appointment at this time. However, I will retain your application in case of future vacancies. Very Truly Yours, H. Norman Milburn, Jr." Now I've pasted to it a memorandum slip from the United States Senate and it says: "Memorandum: (It's a pink slip only about a fifth or sixth of a normal page, and it's dated 3-21-62.) "Mr. Futterman: Here is a copy of a recent letter which might indicate that the Bureau of Old-age and Survivors Insurance had made mistakes, horrible mistakes, Downey of Johnson City (he gives his Social Security number) issuance of which is not to be charged to IRS." It's some kind of joke. I took this letter and had it pasted to a backing, and put the memorandum note on it. Then I had the drafting staff that did some of this letter work add this big line says: "The big boner of 1943," with an exclamation mark. I had it in a frame and I had it for a while on my desk, particularly so I could have it on anticipated visits when Downey came to visit. This was my penitence--you know it was a game. I mention this only in terms of here's a holy terror, and he was and continued to be, but I found that he had some very good soft spots, and we struck the right chemistry.
The Move To Woodlawn
Q: I have two topics I thought we could talk about today. One is the move to Woodlawn. I would like to have you tell me about the planning for that, the preparation for that, the politics of it, any of that stuff. That is the main topic I want to talk about. The other topic I thought we might talk about was the Program Simplification Project.
I was hoping I could dig out some of the materials.
Q: Alright, you want to do the move to Woodlawn or what?
I'll do the move to Woodlawn, but obviously without having given even a moments thought about it, and going back all the way to the early '60's.
Q: Late '50's even.
Yes. Well I'm afraid that this will not be a complete or full accounting because I am reaching back now with hardly any, with no preparation, about the planning of the Social Security building in Woodlawn. I was involved, I think, lets see, the years were the late '50's, right?"
Q: Right. It was built in '56, '57, '58 and '59.
I told you how as Budget Officer of the Bureau of Old Age and Survivors Insurance, I short-cut the whole process in which, for years, going back to immediately after the war, I was a small participator. I obtained in 1951, I think that's the correct year, an appropriation for, I believe, $129,000 for plans and specifications for a building. All the years before, going back immediately after the war, to the time that it was decided for Social Security to move out of the building that was being erected for it in Washington, I am sure that the question arose about what do we do about Social Security now that we were going to give that building away.
When I came back from service, in January of 1946, I became the Chief of the Control Branch in the Division of Accounting Operations. That was in my bailiwick although we had no staff to do this, we had no assigned function up till that time. I was the repository of all managerial tasks that were not a part of the operating scheme of Social Security, of the Division of Accounting Operations. I was the representative whenever they required some kind of participation by a lower echelon like the Division of Accounting Operations, which did not, off the record, have much status then in matters like that. The people on high, meaning the people in the Equitable Building, called on us when they needed something. We were sort of hangers-on in that process.
During all of those years, from the time that I moved in and became the head of the Financial Office, the Budget Officer, and handled the Budget and the financing of BOASI, we were going the route of trying to get legislation authorizing the construction of a building for Social Security, preliminary to getting a budget for it and we went up that hill and down it time after time and year after year.
You will recall that the Social Security building, which was built for us in Washington, was turned over to others, and BOASI moved here. So we had all of the BOASI, of Social Security, here except welfare: welfare was Public Assistance, the Children's Bureau and the Rehabilitation Agency, they were very small, and the Commissioner's Office. These were all in Washington. But BOASI, which was the forerunner of SSA, came to Baltimore; they were housed in the Equitable Building.
Then we began to overflow; so the idea was to bring them all together in Baltimore. And we sought an alternate approach, which was to go to the Hill, go to the Public Works Committee, ask them to authorize the construction of a building. I have to amend that; for a building, not necessarily in Baltimore. But it was for a building, because we lost the one that was already built. And this had been going on before I got involved around the mid-1940s. They'd have one of the top people in the Department or in Social Security involved with legislation on the Hill to promote this building. Sometimes we got it through the House. If we did, it failed to get through the Senate and become enacted, and it would lapse and we'd have to start all over again. Never did we get a bill through both houses. The best we did was get it through the Public Works Committee. And then I became BOASI's Fiscal Officer, and that was around 1949.
I became quite effective in drawing in Herman Downey in participating in these problems and departing from his normal way of operating with us up to that time, which was usually to be the guy who said "no" to things. I got him to approve the approach that would add a small appropriation to do some beginning things, to prepare the way--this was my tactic, my strategy, and this was on my own, without any direction from on high. I would report back that I was working on this. My strategy here was to get an appropriation, no matter how small. Because once the Congress made an appropriation, now matter how small the amount, it led in the course of things to the additional amounts, and that is precisely what happened. My recollection is the first amount was $129,000 and it was I think in the 3rd supplemental of 1951, which meant that really it was probably around 1950 when this was occurring, a supplemental appropriation to the 1951 appropriation, which in those days ended June 30th. It was passed and we were on the way.
Prior to that we were also doing some investigation in the location of sites. Because it is one thing to talk about it in abstract, but the minute you get people who are interested they want to know specifics. People who are amicable to supporting you, but they would want to know specifics. Roy Touchet was officially the head of Administrative Management and Planning, that was an office under Oscar Pogge the then Director of the Bureau of Old Age and Survivors Insurance. It was a staff office and he had direction over three branches: the Fiscal Management Branch, which I came to occupy in 1949; Warren Belcher, who was my co-equal, headed the Management Planning Branch, and then we had several people succeeding one another who handled the Supply and Service Branch. Supply and Service giving you space and working out contracts for procuring of services and things like that. I remember that we had many offers from people, this antedates my being in there, I recollect Joe Fay being my boss and so during these site visits, I was involved, I was in the loop so to say, and I also visited a number of the sites.
Q: Were all these sites near where we ended up?
No, no. We had one site in Silver Spring where the hospital now is on St. Johns Lane. I think it's St. Johns Hospital. If my recollection is right, the owner of this site also owned a liquor store that did a lot of business in those days in that area. But he was not just in the liquor business he was a real estate operator and all of that. I think that he offered us a free 10 acres or something of that size in a very desirable location and he didn't ask anything for it as far as I knew, except that obviously benefits would flow to him. I am sure he had or owned the surrounding territory and things like that. We visited that site, I didn't myself, but there were people who visited it who were familiar with it and so that was in the mix.
We also visited what was called the Alexander Brown Estate. Alexander Brown was the founder of the brokerage house that used to be for a long, long time, and the building is still there I am sure, on Calvert, Southwest Calvert street off Charles. Alexander Brown Brokerage House. And that was an estate, of about 10 acres, an enclave in the Mondawmin community. That estate was an enclave, truly an enclave, streets went all around it but not through it. It was very enticing because there were major highways on the boundaries. Major transportation. Reisterstown Road, the park was on its southern border, by the, what is the name of that park?
Q: Leaken Park?
Not Leaken, it's right here in town where the reservoir is. The major park. See you are stirring up memories for me. It was a major Baltimore City park and that was an asset. The street car lines, Reisterstown Road street car lines and others, as a matter of fact the street car barn was within blocks. So that was a major place for important ways of urban transportation, that was a heavy consideration. There were other sites in the Harford Road area and in the area where Social Security now is located in Northwest Baltimore. There were quite a few sites.
Q: Did we ever talk about going back to D.C., was that part of the consideration?
Well that was a little later.
Q: Ok, go ahead.
It's hard you see, I'm being propelled way-back, I need to reorient myself and it's not easy with all of those memories of mine to precisely place myself before or after.
Q: Yeah. Ok.
But I'll talk about that if you want me to pick it up.
Q: Yes, please do.
My recollection is that Joe was willing to go ahead with the 10. I was on the staff and I just knew that was bad, bad. We would get stuck with 10 acres and I thought that what we needed was plenty of space with plenty of space for parking so that we could grow, and this was a generalization, not just with the Alexander Brown Estate. When I could, as a member of the team, without being disloyal in any way, I always spoke up for that we should get a lot, a lot more acreage than 10. I was trying to reach out to the future and not just come up with a solution that would be very temporary.
Put yourself back into 1951 or that time that we were growing at great length and at great speed. Enormous jumps in size in workload and all of that. Think about it. In 1950 we had the major Amendments and we had a whole series of Amendments and then we had additions like 1953 that we had temporary disability?
1953, and 1955 we had the Disability Freeze.
Q: In 1954, and then Program Benefits in 1956.
Yes. We had that whole series and there was hardly any year that we didn't have major additions. Even without that, our workloads were growing as more and more of the population became eligible to go on the rolls. We started out after all with only one person on the rolls. That wasn't our purpose just to pay one person, our purpose was to establish a program that, after equilibrium, after maturation took place, we would be big enough to handle the rolls and to maintain them and to issue account numbers and service the employers and all of that.
Of course not every thing was going to be handled in Baltimore, but obviously we were going to have a lot of growth in the Central Office. Especially since the major operation of Accounting Operations in Baltimore was, sort of by agreement, going to remain centralized, and in terms of the technology that existed then that was a pretty good conclusion. I told you earlier about the intent within Social Security, within the Division of Accounting Operations, to assess whether a Regional dispersion of that function would be the way to go and the early determination that it would involve too many problems. That was about 1939. So that question was put to bed for a long, long time. So growth was certainly in the picture.
So I kept interjecting. I kept interjecting. I wasn't holding out for a particular map. I said many times, I would take 50 thousand, I'll take 30 thousand, but not 10. And I would want particularly, even if I was taking a lesser amount, I would want the ability in the area to be able to grow. Not be jammed in and the cap be placed by the very geographical situation in which we would be moving into.
Then we got to this offer from Knott, he offered a self-serving deal with 26 acres as I recall it, for about a 100 and so odd thousand dollars--peanuts even in those days. Of course he owned or had options on a lot of the surrounding territory. You could see what happened as a result of Social Security going there. We then got Social Security Boulevard, a big two-lane highway, and a lot of the underpinnings for the business community which developed around Social Security. Knott was advantaged by his ownership of the surrounding territory. Before we moved there it was just a farm, and in fact it was known as the Weiss farm.
Roy Touchet was very active with GSA, once we made that selection, because GSA had to handle that deal and sometimes they had some of their own axes to grind, but in this case they pretty much went the way we agreed. Even though I didn't have a major vote, I had a minor vote in those things in terms of decision making. I was effective in bringing up things that were later adopted by the decision of people above me. Oscar Pogge made that decision for BOASI and he might have been influenced by some of the arguments I made.
Anyway, I didn't feel I could oppose 26 acres, particularly because it was still surrounded by a lot vacant property. In short there were a lot more things that related to that period, but that's how we came about picking Baltimore, 26 acres in this place where we knew a beltway was going to be, that was accessible to the people who lived in the city or in the suburbs. And we got land where we could build a lot of parking space and could build a campus, which was acceptable.
But I immediately started thinking about expansion. I started working with Downey on this. Without his support we couldn't get to 1st base. Without him the development of Social Security could not have happened the way it did, which was in part dependent on, in a major way, dependent on the physical way we grew in headquarters. If we were jammed as we were before we moved, we would never have had the capacity to really run an efficient operation. It would have almost forced an operation which would have been full of problems for employees, and all the kinds of things that happen when you have politicians involved. I am not saying that this happened, but I foresaw it happening, it would have happened. When you try to close down a facility and you awaken all the wrong motivations in terms of local political reaction.
Q: Did you have to go back to the Congress for an authorization at any point in this process or for another appropriation at least?
We just went back for appropriations. We never went back for authorization. From there on we were on the appropriation track.
Herman Downey was the Clerk in the Senate Appropriations Committee and a very powerful guy who had a terrible temper, everybody was afraid of him. He was always intrigued on how to solve problems, especially if he became interested in finding the solution to do something that he thought was good. He had his own standards. He was tough and rough and sometimes he had a mean streak, I don't know whether he was mean, maybe that's not the right word, but he was, he didn't mind exercising raw power. But with this dog-eat-dog kind of existence, he came up through with Senator McKeller's machine, he became powerful and of course McKeller had a lot of power. He was not popular I'm sure. He was a very powerful Senator and I am sure that he didn't make friends, and he didn't mind grabbing the fruits of his power, and Downey was one of his key persons that helped him do those things. I had a special relationship with him. Anyway, he and I worked out an appropriation.
Now, you know you're not supposed to get into an appropriation, technically, before an authorization. If somebody does propose an appropriation that is not authorized, a single member can get up and object that it's not authorized, so it gets thrown out. We had to survive that kind of thing. Herman Downey and I worked out that we would get at the end, I think in fiscal year 1951, I could be off on the date, an annual appropriation. I think it was for around $200,000. Now obviously, $200,000 isn't going to buy you anything, even in those days. It was for planning, or some word like that. And we got it. And you know what that meant? We could forget all this going up the Hill and down the Hill for years, which we had been doing. Because once you get an appropriation, you just keep on getting appropriations on the basis of they already gave you $200,000 for planning and whatever. So the next year, we got $200,000 to do something else, additional.
I didn't break any rules, not when the Clerk of the Committee asked me to do this. Of course, he got the idea from me, but I didn't ask him. I explained to him the problem. He became convinced that the problem was worthy of getting done. And in his job, he wasn't going to be bound by these regular rules, he was an operator too. So between the two of us we did this.
I'll give you one more example with Herman, that had to do with this kind of thing. We got 26 acres, ultimately, with that first appropriation, 26 acres, and we built up the main building, etc. It was all on that first series. And then I began to be concerned, because real estate people were beginning to impinge on that pristine area, almost pristine area, to our left, where the computer building is now. That was about a hundred and some-odd acres. It was plotted years before for a community. There was a church in there, a Mormon church. There were a few houses here and there, and a lot of abandoned junk like bathtubs and all that-- people would drop things in there. So again, the routine way, and it was very tough to overcome it, was to get the Bureau of the Budget's approval in the budget to budget for more land for additional buildings. I wanted to acquire that land because I was afraid it would be eaten up by the speculators who were moving in and pressing on that. I thought that by the time we got around to being able to demonstrate an immediate need for it, it would be gone. And we would have to then consider doing what we did originally in Baltimore: build up separate installations wherever we could. And our operations at DAO particularly, I was convinced, you know, would be utterly disastrous if it had to be spread around. And I was also convinced to a lesser extent, but strongly convinced, that the operations of headquarters, where claims policy could meet with BRSI, what was then BDO (Bureau of District Office Operations) would be inhibited in our operations if they were in separate parts of Baltimore. And so to me it was vital then to get that land. Nobody else in the building was preoccupied by that; it never even came up.
So I entered into discussions with Mr. Downey, off the record. He used to come over to Baltimore to visit me at restaurants he liked; it was just for lunch, I wasn't bribing him or anything. But he liked my company, and he liked to tease me. Because he was a Southerner and had grown up in the Deep South and he looked down on Negroes. He knew that I wouldn't stand for that. You know, he teased me on that. But over time, I got him to moderate his own views on that. So he didn't get me to change; I got him to change. He became a very likeable guy.
Anyway, I negotiated with him. He said, "But the Committees always want to know when you're going to use it? They won't vote something that you're going to use for 10, 15 years from now." And I said, "well, the thing about it, Herman, is that if you play that game, you see what's going to happen. We've got to strike now to protect our ability to do it later. If we were a private business, we would have done it long ago. We would have made sure that when the price was low and the place was still available without competition, we would go and keep that. Because look at our history in those days, look at our history. It's every year we're growing X amount; that many people. And our headquarters is growing too. So it's inevitable that we're going to grow; it's just a matter of being able to give you the exact specifications for a particular year. We can make projections now." So he became convinced, he wasn't stupid. And as I say, his heart was good, but he was tough as hell, tough as nails. Meaning he was sometimes very generous to some people, to poor people; he had a real feeling for them. And he wanted to do good, but in his own way. And he said, "Well, how can we do it?" I said, "We can make projections." Then he said, "But then the problem is there are people in this Congress who will not want to buy land that's not needed immediately and dispossess people from it." And I said, "We don't have to do that." And he says, "How?" And I said, "Easy." Write the legislation so that it says, and you can check it out, legislation to say that Social Security is authorized to buy all the land adjacent to it, that the individuals who own property within it are willing to sell." And I thought I was being very smart, as fair as I wanted to be to the individuals. I said, "We won't dispossess them until we really need it. And we may not need it for 10 or 15 or 20 years."
Well, it was that language, which had never been done before, that enabled us to acquire some 127 acres or 150 acres adjacent to us. And we flowed around the individual houses. Now I thought I was being fair to them. But years later, and I'll tell you that in a minute. Anyway, the Mormon church was glad to do it; they moved, they got the money, and they moved. Furthermore, we made sure that the GSA people that were dealing with them did not deal harshly. In those days, GSA was not the complete master, although they did have the authority and we didn't. Nonetheless, they were not without fear that we might get some political support. I never have gone for political support; I am entirely apolitical in that sense. And it went through swimmingly, although the Bureau of the Budget tried to stop it later on; they said they didn't authorize it. But we overpowered them at that point.
Keep in mind that Roy Touchet was my boss, so he was in on all of this. But after that I was the one who took the lead and I always of course fully apprized my boss, and whatever direction that he gave I followed. But the major force was my connection with Downey. He had influence, not only with the reaction that the Senate gave to our action, but he also influenced indirectly the Bureau of the Budget's reaction. They didn't want to stir his animus up, although they wouldn't hesitate to do so on something major. But if there wasn't any major directive to the contrary, some current priority to something that was involved, they wouldn't stir up Downey. Roy Wynkoop and the Department were also similarly influenced. They had a lot of "fish to fry" with him and they didn't want to get into any hassles with him. Furthermore, they decided to ride the coattails of Social Security and they did.
What was in effect an initial relationship with Herman and I expanded to include Roy Wynkoop and Bob Brown, who were the people I reported to up the line. They often would all come over to Baltimore and I would take them out to lunch, at a certain place, Goeitz, where there was some delicacy, just ordinary eggs, whatever with ham, Smithfield ham. This was a well-known restaurant at that time, not fancy. It was very well served, but not expensive. I am not talking about a place where only the highest economic rank would go to. It was a place where ordinary people would go, but it had a very good reputation in those days. And they would come over and spend the day in Baltimore.
So we were all on the team together. Roy Wynkoop, who was Bill Mitchell's executive officer, and before Bill Mitchell, Arthur Altmeyer's, and in the interim, Schottland and a number of other Commissioners we had. Then Bob Brown, who was Marion Stieffens "man," and who handled the budget. Marion Stieffen was the DHEW Assistant Secretary for Finance--I don't remember the right title.
Q: Did Herman Downey or any of the members of the Congress try to influence the site selection that you came up with?
Not in those days. Not to my knowledge. I wasn't entirely in the "loop" on things coming the other way. Although I would be in the loop for most of it. Some of it that never got very far may never have gotten to me. But the dominate measure, the dominate force was that axis. When we got ready to get additional appropriations we got it through the regular budget. You see, both Wynkoop and Bob Brown were in the budget process.
Prior to my coming into that process as Budget Officer, the major emphasis was getting an authorization to build and influencing the Congress, visiting individual Congressmen, and the head of buildings and whatever. We had a Chairman that lived in Baltimore, I forget his name, but the post office building, I think, was named after him. He wasn't particularly favorably inclined, maybe he was completely unaware, but he was an operator on buildings, public buildings, I mean a political operator within the Congress. But I never was aware of his interest or lack of interest in the Social Security Building. He had other fish, apparently, to fry.
Q: Tell me a little bit about the construction then. Did we have to do a lot of planning and preparation and all of that stuff?
We hired two architectural firms, of which I cannot tell you the names now. Dick Ayers was the lead man, Ayers and Saints, I think. But Ayers and Saints are, I think, a firm that is in business currently, they may have some change of name now. There was another architectural firm that was associated them. The other guy was from Texas, the lead man from the other firm, was a "hale guy," you know, "well-met," slapped you on the back, ho! ho! ho! and told good stories and all of that. I didn't have much to do. Dick Ayers was sort of the intellectual leader of the group and through him we got a complete mutual understanding of the kinds of atmosphere and surrounding that we were seeking from the physical layout, from the interrelationship between the various aspects of the buildings, to the kind of auditorium and other facilities that we would want, and in general the kinds of offices we would want for the Commissioner, etc. I remember particularly that I had a lot to do with the Multi-Purpose Room, that idea was mine. I suggested to him that we not have an auditorium in the standard way, but that we have these removable doors that would enable us to go from 500 in the auditorium on an occasion to a thousand. I wonder if they still do it?
Q: Oh yes we still do it. We do it the exactly the same way.
Then shut it off and use the two rooms separately.
Q: Yes, we still do it today.
It was wonderful to have that Multi-Purpose Room and precisely where it was and the kind of outside arrangement we wanted. We wanted something pleasant. I am of course, giving you what I know and what I was responsible for. Others too, I am sure, had their way with Dick, but my focus was on interrelating to the community, so that had an effect on the lobby and the layout and the attractiveness of the whole thing to the community. So that it would be an enhancement, would be regarded as an enhancement rather than a negative influence on the community. And so it was. Those people were proud.
When I was in charge of the facilities, later on, I established sort of a general rule that we wanted to interrelate to the community. We didn't want to keep the building "up on the hill" away from the public, we wanted to blend in the community and we looked benignly, I looked benignly, on the use of our lobby by the retired folks who would come in for no other purpose than to have a nice experience, etc. They asked for permission to use our cafeteria and I said, "by all means." You know I often was called upon and I told them, "sure." We would give them passes when we established some kind of fairly lenient security measures, not with all of the police around and all of that, so that they could still come in. I've gotten a little off of the topic, but I think that it is part of the atmosphere with which we dealt with Dick Ayers. He also had major responsibilities for the esthetics, the color schemes that we established in the various parts of the building, and of course he was very expert in knowing which colors were effective for which areas. So Dick Ayers lead the team which continued to be associated with us even when we built the Annex.
We had the Social Security Building, the Altmeyer Building, and the Accounting Operations in the back, and I think that we then had Disability in the East Building I guess, and then we needed more space to expand in, so we built the Annex, and then the West Building.
The Annex was first, and of course Dick Ayers and his outfit were the people that we worked with. GSA, we had to work with GSA, did all of the legal contract work, we didn't have that authority. But as I said, in those days they didn't feel constrained to try to give us much direction. I personally did not have direct dealings with GSA. Roy Touchet loved to handle that part of it and he was quite friendly with them and he knew the people there and that was where he spent most of his attention. He also had a close relationship with Dick Ayers who was the architect I'm talking about. So they led that. When they developed the architectural plans then they went to GSA to do the building for construction. There was I'm sure politics in that end, but I personally had no involvement that I can recollect now. If there was any it was of just incidental nature, with who was to get the contract. I'm sure GSA had its own considerations when they made awards, but there was no public discussion of it. Nobody that I was aware of within the community of builders and contractors really raised an outcry that this was unfair, that this was politics. They were sort of routinely done. I think the guy who did the East Building, the contractor on the East Building, he missed time after time the sub-dates, they were always calling for adjustments. Ultimately it got built you know, but not lickety-split right on-time.
Q: Now were you involved in the planning of the physical move and who was going to be where and how you were going to move everybody and did you get involved in any of that?
What are we talking about, the move from Baltimore?
Q: Yes, from the other buildings, Equitable and from Candler. I imagine if it were nothing else it was a big logistics problem.
What was it 1961?
Q: It was 1960 I think.
1960. Yes, but in 1960 I was no longer in the Candler Building. In 1960 I was the Fiscal Officer or Financial Officer.
Q: You were in Equitable at that point?
I was in Equitable, but the Branch of Administrative Planning and Management, or whatever--the Division--was under Roy Touchet. They had involvement in that, the Supply and Service outfit. I don't remember whether that was the official title of the organization, but they handled those physical things.
Q: I guess the thing that I really want to get a little information about is just the transition to the new facility, any stories you can tell me about moving in and getting things set up?
My recollection now is that it was very, very smooth. That the actual physical moving of the machines, the IBM machines, was well coordinated. I believe that it was scheduled in a way that we didn't actually move a lot of equipment that IBM had. We established in the new building the later versions, the newer versions. To some extent, I couldn't offhand tell you in detail, but it sticks in my mind that these enormous machines, which today are hardly the equivalent of a desktop computer, which required air conditioning rooms and under-floor cabling and all of that stuff and many, many reels of tape, were pioneering things on the part of IBM that we were very much involved in. Because we in effect were their laboratory. We were the ones that were identifying needs and that would be worth some review at some point. How IBM really moved from being a producer of National Cash Register machines to a punch card system machine maker of very limited outlook, and how that outlook was suddenly magnified many times in terms of business systems by the necessity to invent a collator, a collator machine that performed the function that we wanted performed in matching our master records against income items reported by employers. And how to match them, you know, on what characters, etc. We led the way in photographic developments, that were married to the data processing operation.
Q: I imagine that everybody was happy to be out in Woodlawn?
Yes that is the other point that I was going to mention myself, but I'm glad that you reminded me. It was one of those things that was a happy event, it was looked forward to. The vast majority of people were delighted with their new working situation, their cafeteria, the whole ambiance of the campus and also the fact that the building was for us. It increased the stature, the obvious stature of Social Security from a number of different offices, which were helter skelter, various kinds of leftovers from commercial use that we occupied, to a building built especially for us. So it was a relatively joyous event and of course was very good, I think, although I am speaking not without any particular evidence or study of it, that it was very good for the morale of the organization, contributed to it. It contributed to the attractiveness of working for Social Security in Baltimore.