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Senator Harry Truman, Speech to the Senate regarding the establishment of a national defense committee, February 10, 1941

Senator Harry Truman of Missouri introduced a resolution calling for an investigation of the National Defense Program. A former shop owner, Truman argued for a fair deal for small businesses. He protested the disproportionate allocation of contracts to large manufacturers and their abuses in handling taxpayer dollars. The Senate unanimously approved his resolution on March 1, 1941.

Truman Presidential Library, National Archives and Records Administration

Senator Harry Truman, Speech to the Senate regarding the establishment of a national defense committee, February 10, 1941 Senator Harry Truman, Speech to the Senate regarding the establishment of a national defense committee, February 10, 1941

The Defense Industry

Anticipating the nation’s possible entry into World War II, Congress appropriated $10.5 billion for defense contracts in 1940. To observe how those funds were used, Senator Harry Truman of Missouri toured military bases and plants and then pressed Congress to investigate the defense industry. The Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program, created in 1941 with Truman as chairman, saved taxpayer dollars—and soldiers’ lives—by reducing corruption, waste, and inefficiency. In 1948 the Senate created a Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to continue the Truman Committee’s oversight mission.

I consider public funds to be sacred funds, and I think they ought to have every safeguard possible to prevent their being misused and mishandled.

Senator Harry Truman of Missouri, Speech to the Senate, February 10, 1941