Legislative Branch

Guide to House Records: Chapter 22: 1910-1946 Contracts and Expenditures by the War Department

Chapter 22. Records of the Select Committees of the House of Representatives

Table of Contents

Records of the Select Committees of the House of Representatives (1789-1988) from Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States, 1789-1988

Committee records described in this chapter:

Select Committee to Investigate Contracts and Expenditures Made by the War Department During the War

Select Committee to:VolumeCongress (dates)
Investigate Expenditures in the War Department110 feet66th (1919-21)

22.69 On June 4, 1919, Frank W. Mondell of Wyoming, speaking before the House, noted that "in ordinary times" the War Department spent approximately $130 million each year, but that during the war it had spent $16 billion. He argued that, in fairness to the American public, there should be a select committee to review these enormous expenditures. Though a standing committee with jurisdiction in this matter already existed (see Chapter 11), Mondell noted that it was not equipped or inclined to undertake the task. The resolution to create the select committee was resisted by Democrats who perceived it as a political attack on the Wilson Administration. Nevertheless, the resolution passed, establishing the select committee (66A-F41.1). The select committee created five subcommittees to deal with the areas of aviation, camps, foreign expenditures, quartermaster corps, and ordnance.

22.70 Almost all of the extensive records of the committee are documents transmitted by the Secretary of War to Congress as a report of claims adjusted under the act of March 2, 1919, to provide relief in cases of contracts connected with the prosecution of the war (Public Law 65-322). The Secretary's cover letter and summary report were transmitted to Congress with six file cabinets full of documents and one bound volume. The records consist of case files regarding the claims that are filed according to an alphanumeric scheme. The case files include copies of contracts and related documents, affidavits, statements of claims, and memorandums prepared for the claims board. The claims cover a wide range of contracts, relating to the air service, chemical warfare, construction, real estate, the signal corps, transportation, and other subjects.

22.71 Other records include correspondence, subcommittee minutes, subcommittee staff reports, copies of printed hearings, and administrative records. There are statements of accounts from the War Department for the years 1915-16, lists of salaries of claims board personnel, photographs, blueprints, maps, memorandums, and a card index to committee correspondents.

22.72 Some records concern the Council of National Defense established in August 1916 by Public Law 64-242 for the coordination of industries and resources for the national security and welfare. The Council was comprised of the Secretaries of War, Navy, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, and Labor. The select committee records include minutes of the Council and of its advisory commission.

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Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to the Records of the United States House of Representatives at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-245). By Charles E. Schamel, Mary Rephlo, Rodney Ross, David Kepley, Robert W. Coren, and James Gregory Bradsher. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989.