The First Presidential Communications Agency

FDR's Office of Government Reports

By Mordecai Lee

Subjects: Presidency, The, Political Communication, American History
Series: SUNY series on the Presidency: Contemporary Issues
Paperback : 9780791463604, 295 pages, January 2006
Hardcover : 9780791463598, 295 pages, February 2005

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations


List of Abbreviations

1. Introduction and Overview


A Federal Agency Dedicated to Government Reports?
Significance of Studying the Office of Government Reports
Public Reporting in Early-Public-Administration Theory
Plan of the Book


2. Origins: The National Emergency Council, 1933-39


Adding Information Activities
Field Service
United States Information Service
United States Government Manual and Other Publications
Division of Press Intelligence
Radio Division
United States Film Service
Waiting for Implementation of the Brownlow Committee Report, 1937-39


3. Planning a Presidential Communications Agency, 1936-39


The Brownlow Committee
Implementing the Brownlow Committee Report, 1938
Implementing the Brownlow Committee Report, 1939
Reorganization Plan Number 2
Prospective Funding for the New Agency
First Steps


4. A Better Idea from the Military? The Industrial Mobilization Plan for a Public Relations Administration, 1931-39


Initial Plan: 1931
Revised Plan: 1933
Revised Plan: 1936
Final Plan: 1939


5. Congress Authorizes a Presidential Communications Agency, 1939-41


Roosevelt Outfoxes WRB and the Military
The Public Relations Plan of the War Resources Board
The Military Tries Again and Again
Seeking Permanent Appropriations Through the Back Door
Seeking Authorizing Legislation: House of Representatives
Seeking Authorizing Legislation: Senate and Conference Committee


6. In Operation, 1939-41


Mission and Overview
Division of Field Operations
United States Information Service
United States Government Manual
Other Publications
Press Intelligence Division
Radio Division
A Propaganda Agency?
Back to Capitol Hill for Fiscal Year 1942


7. High Water Mark, Winter-Spring 1941-42


Lifting the Congressional Spending Cap
Expanding in Size and Budget
Adding Responsibility for Film


8. Roosevelt Fights to Create the U.S. Information Center, Spring 1942


Senate Appropriations Committee
Attacks by the Washington Post and Congress
Open for Business
Fate of the Building


9. Roosevelt Reluctantly Surrenders, May-June 1942


Fiscal Year 1943 Appropriations: A Hint of Weakness
Reorganizing Information Agencies
Moment of Truth
The Office of Government Reports and Office of War Information


10. Truman's Office of Government Reports, 1946-48


BOB's Government Information Service: OGR by Another Name
Facing Congress
Other Presidential Communications Activities
Reestablishing the Office of Government Reports
Office of Government Reports Redux
Facing Congress
End Game: De Jure Dissolution, de Facto Continuation


11. Since Then, Till Now: Vestiges and Lessons


OGR III? Hoover Commission, 1947-49
OGR's Legacy to Contemporary Times
White House Office of Communications
Explaining Congressional Hostility to the Office of Government Reports
The Struggle for Ascendancy: Congress versus the President
Public Reporting as a Threat to Congressional Ties with Constituents
Public Reporting Equals Public Support?
Reporting in the Aftermath of the Office of Government Reports





The history of FDR's Office of Government Reports.


This book explores a forgotten chapter in modern U.S. history: the false dawn of the communications age in American politics. The Office of Government Reports (OGR) was created in 1939 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but after World War II Congress refused President Truman's request to continue funding it. OGR proved to be ahead of its time, a predecessor to the now-permanent White House Office of Communications. Mordecai Lee shows how OGR was only one round in the long battle between the executive and legislative branches to be the alpha branch of government. He illustrates how OGR was in the most important sense an effort to institutionalize public reporting. Given the diminished trust in government in the twenty-first century, the study of OGR could act as a model for reviving public reporting as one way to reinvigorate democracy.

Mordecai Lee is Associate Professor of Governmental Affairs at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.