The Secretary of State to the Secretary of Agriculture (Wallace)

My Dear Mr. Secretary: I have received your letter of March 13, 1935,17 with reference to Public Act 412, 73d Congress,18 which makes available under the Department of State title the sum of $1,000,000 for surveys and construction on the Inter-American Highway. You suggest that the Bureau of Public Roads of your Department be designated as the engineering organization to carry out the provisions of the law referred to, and that the approval of the President be secured for the expenditure at this time of not to exceed $100,000 for surveys, plans and estimates of those projects the construction of which in the several countries may be agreed to.

In this connection it is recalled that Public Act No. 393, 73d Congress,19 contained the following item:

Sec. 15. To provide for the continuation of the cooperative reconnaissance surveys for a proposed inter-American highway, as provided in Public Resolution Numbered 104, approved March 4, 1929 (45 Stat. 1697), and for making location surveys, plans, and estimates for such highway, the Secretary of Agriculture is hereby authorized to expend not more than $75,000 to pay all costs hereafter incurred for such work from any moneys available from the administrative funds provided under the Act of July 11, 1916 (U S. C., title 23, sec. 21), as amended, or as otherwise provided.”

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It will be recalled also that prior to the passage of Public Act 412, making available the sum of $1,000,000, this Department gave assurances to Congress that to the greatest extent possible the sum made available would be used in the purchase of materials in the United States, the desire of Congress being, particularly, that some stimulus might be given in this manner to the heavy goods industries in the United States.

In view of this commitment, the Department of State prefers not to request authorization to expend any sum of the $1,000,000 fund mentioned on surveys or studies, unless it can be shown that funds for these purposes are not obtainable from some other source.

As already indicated by the text quoted above, Public Act No. 393 authorizes you to expend up to $75,000 in continuation of the reconnaissance surveys and in “making location surveys, plans, and estimates” for an Inter-American Highway.

This Department, for reasons of a political nature, does not consider that the time is appropriate to approach Governments of South America further with suggestions that they ask the assistance of this Government in connection with reconnaissance surveys of the proposed highway route through those countries. Furthermore, even were requests to be received without prior solicitation or suggestion by this Government, the Department would be unwilling for the same reasons that engineers in the employ of this Government should engage in survey work in any of the countries of South America at the present time. It is apparent, therefore, that there will be no opportunity in the near future for your Department to expend any part of the $75,000 made available to it in conducting reconnaissance surveys in South America.

I take the liberty of suggesting, therefore, that the interest of the proposed highway will be best served, and the intent of the United States Congress in making available for highway purposes a total of $1,075,000 will be adequately carried out if your Department would consent to utilize the sum of $75,000 made available to it in making the instrument surveys, preparing the estimates, et cetera, which will be required before actual construction work may be undertaken in the countries of Central America and Panama, it being understood that this Department will request the President’s authorization for the expenditure, out of the sum of $1,000,000 made available to it, of such additional funds, if any, as may be necessary for the proper completion of such instrument surveys, estimates, et cetera.

There is evidence that the Governments of some, at least, of the countries of Central America, and Panama, through which a reconnaissance survey of the proposed highway was made by engineers of [Page 249] the Bureau of Public Roads, are eager to receive the further aid from this Government which is made possible by the legislation referred to.

This Department is of the opinion that the Government of the United States, in view of the situation I have explained, should confine its present assistance to the countries of Central America and Panama; that the fund of $75,000 made available to your Department might best be expended in the manner I have suggested, and that the interests of this Government, as well as of the proposed highway will be served and the intent of the Congress carried out if the further assistance I have suggested can be extended without delay.

Sincerely yours,

Cordell Hull
  1. Not printed.
  2. 48 Stat. 996.
  3. 48 Stat. 1042.