A Common Thread of Service . Introduction


This booklet traces the historical development of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. HEW was established April 11, 1953 by Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1953, which abolished its predecessor organization, the Federal Security Agency (July 1 , 1939) and transferred all components and functions of FSA to the new Department.

The need for grouping such activities into a Cabinet-level Department had long been recognized. In 1923, President Harding proposed a Department of Education and Welfare, which also was to include health functions. In 1924, the Joint Committee on Reorganization recommended a new department similar to that suggested by President Harding. In 1932, one of President Hoover's reorganization proposals called for the concentration of health, education and recreational activities in a single executive department.

The President's Committee on Administrative Management in 1937 recommended the placing of health, education and social security functions in a Department of Social Welfare. This recommendation was partially implemented in 1939 with the creation of the Federal Security Agency, by which action the Congress indicated its approval of the grouping of these functions in a single agency.

A new department could not be proposed at that time because the Reorganization Act of 1939 prohibited the creation of additional executive departments. In 1949, the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government proposed the creation of a department for social security and education.

This historical narrative begins with a brief chronology of the Federal Security Agency, followed by a longer and more detailed account of the key events of each year- in the history of the Department, including organizational changes, legislative enactments, and programmatic highlights.

As the story of the Federal Security Agency makes clear, however, the agencies which were grouped into FSA and later into the Department have origins which can be traced back well beyond 1939-to 1798 in the case of the Public Health Service, to 1867 for the Office of Education, and to 1935 for the Social Security Administration.

Other features of this booklet include a composite organizational chart illustrating how agencies of the Department have been absorbed by other agencies or have been split into new agency-level components; the budgetary development of the Department since 1953; a yearly employment table; and key officials of the Department and the years they served.

This publication has been prepared as a public service for the many persons who have expressed an interest in the historical background of the Department.

July 1, 1972 Washington, D. C.