The difficulty that President Carter will face in reorganizing the federal bureaucracy was vividly dramatized yesterday in an event that lasted 30 minutes.
Representatives of the American Battlefield Monuments Commission went before a House Appropriations subcommittee to ask for $6.4 million to operate in the next fiscal year. The consensus after the meeting was that the commission probably will get all or most of it.
The monuments commission is one of those small, obscure independent a symbol. It leaps to the minds of government reorganizers as a target for agencies that has become somewhat of extinction. Only last Sunday, in fact, Rep. Paul Simon (D-III.) said on national television that the commission's existence was a good indication that "something's out of whack with the federal bureaucracy."
Simon's comments on a CBS-TV program were fresh in the memory of participants in the meeting between commission representatives and members of the subcommittee yesterday.
"They talked about you on the 60 Minutes' program," said Rep. Edward P. Boland (D-Mass), the subcommittee chairman.
"Yes, Simon did," said Maj. Gen. Andrew J. Adams (U.S. Army, Ret), the commission's secretary.
"As I remember it, the [Simon] statement was something to the effect that the American Battlefield Monuments Commission was one of 14 organizations tending to battlefield monuments," Adams said.
"Adams, a small, bespectacled man, mumbled something else about the Simon comment and then went to the matter at hand.
"We thank you for this opportunity to appear before you and to testify in support of the American Battlefield Monuments Commission's fiscal 1978 appropriation request of $6,463,000," he said, reading from a prepared statement.
"The request is $639,000 more than the commission's 1977 appropriation," Adams said.
He went on to point out that the commission maintains 37 American military cemeteries and monuments throughout the world.
Of the request for fiscal 1978, Adams said that $6,038,000 is to administer, operate and maintain the cemeteries and monuments; $125,800 is to complete construction of two Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial honoring by individual name the 2,505 soldiers who were listed as missing in action in Vietnam; and $300,000 is to erect a small memorial in the District of Columbia to Gen. John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force in World War I.
Adams added that the American Legion "has generously set aside $125,000 to provide a statue of Gen. Pershing" for the Pershing memorial.
That point made, he added: "All too often the anguish suffered by the families of cur missing-in-action has been intensified by the realization that their loved ones will never a gravesite to them to visit and place flowers [WORD ILLEGIBLE] recognition in [WORD ILLEGIBLE] of their sacrifices.
"In an effort to provide permanent recognition to these men, and provide some solace to their families. The American Battlefield Monuments Commission has been honoring the missing-in-action individually, by name and on stone tablets, in cemeteries since World War I."
Boland nodded in silent agreement and praised Adams for the "efficiency" of his organization and the "quality" of his agency's work.
Another subcommittee member asked how many people worked for the commission.
"Three hundred and ninety-eight, worldwide. Eleven of those are in Washington. They are mostly maintenance people," Adams said. "Sixty Minutes" has been wrong, Adams said. They had said 415 worked for the commission.
Boland later pointed out that Rep. Ray Roberts (D-Tex.), chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee had visited the commission's cemeteries and had praised them as being the "finest government operation" he had seen.
Adams gratefully acknowledged that praise and left. The testimony had lasted a half hour.
Afterwards, Adams told a reporter that he was not troubled about speculation that his agency would fall to the sword of government reorganization. "They're always saying they're going to do that," he said.
Why doesn't it ever happen? he was asked.
"Wegive 'em the facts," he said. "Tell you what, you got 28 minutes to see a movie?"
The answer was yes.
"Well, come on over to our office - 4CO14 in the Forrestal Building. That'll help to explain . . ."
The movie, entitled "The Price of Freedom," was produced in 1969. Seventy million people have seen it, Adams said. He said its purpose was to counteract the belief of many young people at that time that their nation was worthless, and worse.
The movie opens with a tale of the battles between the Greeks and the Persians. It then shows monuments built to the fallen heroes of those convicts. It goes on to depict other wars - the American Revolution, the Civil War, World Wars I and II. American fighting men in action. Men falling. Men dying. Men being buried. And monuments to those men, expertly built and maintained by Adams' commission.
Adams then offered several letters from relatives of some those men - pastives who had traveled to Italy, France and England to see the gravesites of loved ones. All of the letters praised the commission for its work.
Adams, [WORD ILLEGIBLE] smiled.
"You see," he said, "the people who criticize us don't really know us. And all we have to do to get them to understand is to give them the facts."