Foreign Economic Administration

In the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Foreign Economic Administration was formed to relieve friction between US agencies operating abroad. As described by the biographer of the FEA's chief, Leo Crowley, the agency was designed and run by "The Nation's #1 Pinch-hitter". S. L. Weiss describes Crowley's management style as follows: “Based on his own success in Washington, he had concluded that sound administration meant clearly demarcating lines of authority between agencies and, within each, finding the right staff and giving it only the most basic guidance and coordination”(p. 162).

Weiss’ evidence for Crowley’s design is a memo Crowley sent to James Byrnes on September 21, 1943 of “his assessment of the conflict and confusion among the economic agencies operating abroad. His lengthy memorandum argued that the major culprit was the State Department, which interfered with (or micromanaged) the execution of policy when it should only formulate and coordinate it. That led to problems in the field, ranging from wasteful duplication or the more critical problems of needless delays and confusion” (p. 162).

Weiss details these problems: “The British … were complaining of difficulty in dealing with ‘conflicting jurisdictions’ in North Africa; and the New York Times was emphasizing ‘uncertainty regarding the representative spheres of OEW(Office of Economic Warfare), Lend-Lease, and OFRRO (Office of Foreign Relief and Rehabilitation Operations) … friction between OEW and the War Food Administration as regards foreign food purchases” (p. 161).

According to the New York Times, September 26, 1943, Roosevelt said on the occasion of the establishment of the FEA: “one of the best administrators in or out of government, I find great satisfaction in promoting … to a position which will centralize all foreign economic operations in one operating agency” (p. 163)

When the war was over, Harry Truman wound up the FEA. As he reports in his Memoirs, "When the FEA had been formed in 1943 as a wartime agency, the move involved a merger of all or parts of forty-three different agencies. The functions and services with which it had been charged were such that it could not be stopped suddenly. ... I issued an Executive Order on September 27 terminating the FEA ... not later than December 31, 1945"

In 2007 martin Lorenz-Meyer published a book that investigated one of FEA’s public programs. Naturally the author sketches the career of administrator Leo Crowley (p. 22,25,26) and his organization of the FEA:

Crowley quickly got to work streamlining his new realm of 4,009 employees at home and abroad. He merged fourteen agencies combined into FEA into four and created two bureaus, the Bureau of Areas and the Bureau of Supplies. In general the Bureau of Areas was in charge of determining the needs of the various regions of the world, while the supply side was then responsible for fulfilling those requirements …
… the FEA was in charge of a dazzling array of functions…
The global dimension of the FEA is demonstrated by the fact that in 1944 it had forty-three offices total, with some on every continent except Antarctica. (p. 27)

Read more about Foreign Economic AdministrationMisstep, Statutory History

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