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it directs to be charged to the naval supply account), to be charged against specific appropriations as reissued. Nor does it expressly require “surveyed material taken from repairs made to ships or plant at navy yards and stations”
“stores turned in from ships” to be so charged when reissued. The only provisions which that act contains with respect to charging an appropriation for stores issued are as to the amounts advanced for the purchase of stock or expenditures for manufactured or repaired articles for stock at navy yards or stations, and, in the proviso, that certain articles mentioned, and such others as the Secretary may designate, may be purchased by or transferred to specific appropriations before such materials are issued for use or consumption.
If, therefore, the stores on hand July 1, 1910, are to be required to be charged to specific appropriations as issued, it is because such purpose is to be inferred from the action of Congress in placing such stores in one account, rather than from anything it has said on the subject, although the provision authorizing the Secretary to transfer certain materials to specific appropriations before they are issued for use and consumption, and the fact that specific annual appropriations were to be credited with material and stores turned in, suggest the inference that all stores charged to the naval supply account should be debited to specific appropriations when issued, from whatever source such stores may have been derived.
The condition of the law down to the act of June 25, 1910, is set forth in my opinion of February 28, 1910 (28 Op. 634), in regard to the illegal increase of the naval supply fund. That fund had been established by the act of March 3, 1893 (27 Stat. 723), for the purchase of ordinary commercial supplies, and the amount thereof had been increased thereafter until it amounted legally to $2,700,000; but, as will be seen from my opinion of February 28, 1910, this fund had been augmented by the addition of stores purchased from time to time out of specific appropriations, so that in 1909 its worth was given at nearly eleven millions of dollars and the stock on hand was valued at over thirteen millions. The condition result
ing from my ruling that this increase of the naval supply fund was illegal seems to have led to the passage of the act of June 25, 1910.
I understand that there were many millions of dollars' worth of general stores on hand July 1, 1910, which, under the act of June 25, 1910, were to be charged to the naval supply account. Several millions of these, it is to be inferred, had been purchased out of the naval supply fund, the law creating which in terms required it to “be reimbursed from the proper naval appropriations whenever the supplies purchased under said fund are issued for use.” The rest, amounting also to many millions, were apparently the accumulation of years of purchases out of specific appropriations. Some of them were also, in all probability, stores turned in from ships when going out of commission, such as referred to in the inquiry now presented. All of these stores apparently were required by the act of June 25, 1910, to be charged to the naval supply account. Did or did not Congress intend all or any of such stores to be charged again against specific appropriations when issued for use or consumption ?
It is to be observed that the law, as it stood prior to the act of June 25, 1910, apparently did not require general stores on hand theretofore purchased out of specific appropriations to be recharged to such appropriations when issued for use or consumption, either to the bureaus under whose appropriation they were purchased or to another bureau. (See act of Mar. 2, 1889, 25 Stat. 817, 818, and act of June 30, 1890, as amended by the act of Mar. 2, 1891, 26 Stat. 807, referred to in my opinion of Feb. 28, 1910.) But, as stated, stores purchased out of the naval supply fund, as well as stores purchased out of general account of advances, were expressly required to be charged to specific appropriations.
It appears that your department (which presumably best knew what was intended by the act of June 25, 1910, as that act appears, from the papers transmitted to me, to have been drawn for you by some expert accountants in the language in which it was enacted) from the first interpreted the law as requiring all stores on hand July
1, 1910, to be charged against specific appropriations as issued, from whatever source they were derived; and it seems fair to assume from the facts hereafter mentioned that the act of March 4, 1911, abolishing the naval supply fund and making permanent the naval supply account, was passed by Congress in the light of the interpretation that had been placed upon the former act. Thus it appears from the published reports of the hearings before the House Committee on Naval Affairs (No. 13, pp. 452-453) that on January 16, 1911, you made the following statement as to the practice under the act of June 25, 1910, in your efforts to have the naval supply fund abolished and the naval supply account created made permanent:
Secretary MEYER. The system is this: All stores were put into one property account. Hereafter no stores go to any bureau or division until they are required, and when they require them they have to pay for them out of the appropriation. Then whatever is left of an appropriation at the end of the year goes right into the Treasury.
“Mr. PADGETT. And you do not have any general stores after this?
· Secretary MEYER. No. All stores on the 1st of July were turned into one property account.
“Mr. PADGETT. But what I wanted to get at was this: Those unused stores on the 1st of July go into one property account?
“ Secretary MEYER. And there they remain.
“Mr. PADGETT. Now, if they go into that, will not that general property account be increased from year to year?
Secretary MEYER. No; it can not be now, because no money can be used from any appropriation until they actually need the stores, and then they pay for them; and by law now the appropriations in each bureau at the end of the year are turned into the Treasury; before, they used them to buy stores whether they needed them or not. I do not mean that as a reflection, but it had become a custom.”
Later on, at the same hearing, you made the following statement (ib., p. 456):
“ Secretary MEYER. I would like to say in conclusion regarding the naval supply account that in consequence of approved methods established on ships in commission it enables the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts more promptly and accurately than was possible before to inform the Navy Department and its bureaus of the amounts expended against the various appropriations for stores and for labor and for clerical rolls, etc.
“ To conclude:
“ “ It will be seen that by means of a complete system appropriate records of all the activities of the Naval Establishment so far as concerns property and money find accurate lodgment in the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts. Hence the data provided for the information of Congress will have a scope and authority not possible heretofore.?"
The statement quoted by you appears to be from an opinion rendered you by the Comptroller of the Treasury in regard to the effect of abolishing the naval supply fund.
Whatever doubt might otherwise exist as to the necessity, under the act of June 25, 1910, for charging against specific appropriations all stores drawn from the naval supply account, whether previously purchased and paid for out of specific appropriations or not, would seem to be removed by the fact that Congress, when it passed the act of March 4, 1911, abolishing the naval supply fund and making the naval supply account govern the charging, crediting, etc., of all stores for the Naval Establishment, with the specific exceptions named, did so presumably in the light of the practical construction of the former act as stated by you in the hearings before the House Committee on Naval Affairs. At any rate, I do not feel justified now in expressing a different opinion.
Some question is also made as to whether non-consumable supplies, such as the ships' equipage, to which the present inquiry refers, were properly included in the naval supply account. The argument in this connection is that it was only intended to include in that account supplies common to more than one bureau or service, and these, necessarily, would be consumable supplies, and by con
sumable is meant stores that would be consumed with their use, such as paints, oils, and lumber.
Neither the history nor the language of the act of June 25, 1910, seems to sustain this view. It will be observed that the act of March 3, 1893 (27 Stat. 723), creating the naval supply fund—and which was superseded by the legislation establishing the naval supply account-provided for the purchase of “ ordinary commercial supplies” for the naval service. At a hearing before the Senate Committee on Naval Affairs—which took place on April 25, 1910, shortly prior to the passage of the act of June 25, 1910, and subsequent to the rendition of my opinion of February 28, 1910, in regard to the illegal increase of the naval supply fund, and at which the whole subject of supplies for the Navy was under consideration—the following occurred (Hearings, Committee on Naval Affairs, United States Senate, No. 1, pp. 9–10):
“ The CHAIRMAN. What do you define as commercial supplies
“ Paymaster General ROGERS. Paints, metals, textiles, lumber—everything of that kind, which is not made especially for the Navy. There is also included in that calculation the equipage of ships—anchors, chains, boats, navigational instruments, and articles of that character.”
The language of the act of June 25, 1910, also indicates that nonconsumable as well as consumable stores were referred to, as it mentions“ manufactured or repaired articles for stock," and, in the proviso thereof, authorizing the Secretary to transfer certain materials, it says
“ before such materials are issued for use or consumption.
The statement of the present Paymaster General before the House Committee on Naval Affairs, made December 12, 1910 (No. 5, pp. 160–161), shows that under the act of June 25, 1910, all stores of every description, consumable as well as nonconsumable, had been included in the general supply account, and at the hearing before the House Committee on Naval Affairs (No. 13, p. 454), January 16, 1911, above referred to, you made the following statement, speaking with reference to the advisability of making the naval supply account permanent: