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DUPLICATION OF WORK OF BUREAU OF CHEMISTRY BY THE BUREAU OF STANDARDS
The work of the Bureau of Chemistry on tanning materials, hides, tanning, and leather which is conducted under the appropriations for agricultural investigations, has been and is being duplicated in part by the Bureau of Standards of the Department of Commerce. Work along those lines has been done in the Department of Agriculture almost since its organization in 1862, and was specifically provided for in 1904, 23 years ago. Investigations on leather, according to the annual reports of the Bureau of Standards, were inaugurated as a new line of work in that Bureau in 1917, but 12 years ago. The attention of the Bureau of Standards has been called to this duplication which several times has been the subject of conference between the two Bureaus. Nevertheless the more recent annual reports of the Bureau of Standards continue to outline a program on leather which involves a striking and extensive duplication of lines of work plainly within the scope of the following long established and published projects of the Bureau of Chemistry:
Investigation of the Wearing Quality of Sole leather.
Investigation of the Composition of Leather and Tanning and Finishing Materials.
Deterioration of Upper, Bookbinding and Other Light Leathers.
Tanning Sole and Harness Leather on a Small Scale.
These projects were known to the Bureau of Standards not alone through annual reports, program of work, and other publications, but also through the fact that before the Bureau of Standards had organized and equipped its laboratories the courtesy of the laboratory of the Bureau of Chemistry was extended to them and its force was temporarily housed in the laboratories devoted to the leather, tanning and related work of the Bureau of Chemistry. Nevertheless, the Bureau of Standards later entered these fields despite this knowledge and ignored the usual customs of scientific bureaus to referring inquiries and work within the province of other bureaus to those bureaus. In other words, the Bureau of Standards has, without discussing the subject with the Bureau of Chemistry, duplicated and started to build up on this work, knowing that it was already organized and had been in operation for some time in the Department of Agriculture.
Moreover, with the view to eliminate the duplications which had become intolerable and indefensible, the Bureau of Chemistry, in July, 1914, transferred to the Bureau of Standards and itself discontinued the work it had been doing for many years, and before the existence of the Bureau of Standards, on paints, varnishes, inks, oil, and miscellaneous supplies for the Government departments with the distinct verbal understanding between Dr. Alsberg, then Chief of the Bureau of Chemistry, and Dr. Stratton that work in certain fields, among them leather and tanning, should remain in the Bureau of Chemistry.
Authority for the Work. Authority for the work on tanning materials, hides, tanning and leather, which the Department of Agriculture has been doing, is contained:
(a) In the organic act creating the Department of Agriculture, which act defines its duties as "to acquire and to diffuse among the people of the United States useful information on subjects connected with agriculture in the most general and comprehensive sense of that word,
(b) In subsequent annual appropriations made for work on these and related subjects after statements by the several bureau chiefs before Congressional committees, describing the work being done;
(c) In a special order, by the Secretary of Agriculture, on July 1, 1904, as follows:
"There is hereby established in the Bureau of Chemistry a laboratory to be known as the Leather and Paper Laboratory to which are to be committed the analyses and investigations relating to the following subjects:
"Investigations of tannins and tanning materials and their effects upon the strength and properties of leather with a view to promoting the agricultural industries relating to the production of tannins and tanning materials and leather of a high quality.
"All technical problems of a chemical nature relating to the production of tannins and tanning products and of leathers.
"All technical problems of a chemical nature relating to the production of leather, * * *."
(Signed) James Wilson, Secretary.
The substance of this order has been made public in Bureau of Chemistry Circular No. 14, 1904, on " The Organization of the Bureau of Chemistry."
History of the Work. Work on tanning materials, hides, tanning and leather, began in the Deparment of Agriculture in the early days of its existence, and has been described in the various annual reports as far back as 1872. The nature and results of this work were laid before Congress not only in these annual reports but in the hearings before the appropriation committees. This work had progressed so that by 1900, that is before the establishment of the Bureau of Standards, it was definitely organized and a cooperative basis between the then Divisions of Forestry and of Chemistry. The work on all these lines has continued uninterruptedly. Since the specific organization of this work the Bureau of Chemistry has developed an experienced and informed personnel which has done much valuable work in the conservation and development of raw materials; in the development and improvement of methods of examination to determine quality: on the care and serviceability of leather; and in an advisory capacity to the Government, the public and the industry, the results being published from time to time either as Government bulletins or in scientific journals until the publications now number in all more than eighty-five.
It has been the claim of the Bureau of Standards that all standardization work and even all scientific work of the Federal Government should be done there. Obviously this Teutonic, imperialistic viewpoint can not be admitted by any of the Federal Departments, first because it is not fair, economical or efficient, and second, because such has never been the intent nor practice in government work. It would seem clear that from any reasonable point of view each Department should, so far as feasible, standardize those materials which fall within its functions, and this has been the practice until the Bureau of Standards has constantly encroached upon the fields of other bureaus of the several departments.
This ruthless and expensive duplication of fields of work has actually, as is to be expected, resulted in needless duplication on specific problems, as strikingly shown by the duplication of the work done by the Bureau of Chemistry on the wearing quality of shoe leather, published as Department Bulletin 1168 in 1923, which work was duplicated even to the conclusions and published by the Bureau of Standards in 1925 as Technological Paper 286, "Comparative Durability of Vegetable and Chrome Sole Leathers."
The last and most astonishing encroachment of the Bureau of Standards on the functions of the Department of Agriculture is found in the appropriation to investigate agricultural wastes. These studies heretofore have been almost continuously conducted by the Bureau of Chemistry. It will result in useless repetition of many studies in the past thirty years looking to utilization of cornstalks, salvaged fruits and watermelons, waste of canning factories, unmerchantable marketable products, and various other agricultural wastes. These may not rise to the dignity of crimes but they afford striking instances of bad ethics.