OSI at 75: SECAF Speech at FBI Graduation in 1948

  • Published
  • By Robert Vanderpool
  • OSI Command Historian

On June 25, 1948, the featured speaker at the graduation ceremonies of the FBI National Academy was the Honorable W. Stuart Symington, Secretary of the Air Force.

Secretary Symington was the first Secretary of the Air Force, having assumed that position on September 18, 1947, the day the Air Force was activated as a separate service of the United States military establishment.

One of the topics he spoke about at that event was the upcoming activation of the Office of Special Investigations, which would formally occur just five weeks later on August 1, 1948.

The excerpt of Secretary Symington’s speech relating to OSI follows:

“During war production most Government agencies involved built up their own intelligence services, thrown together rapidly as a part of rapid production expansion. It is no criticism of various Government departments that this was reflected in the approach taken by their representatives.

“One of the worst of our problems resulted from a relatively high investigating officer in one of the services, lighting flames, through over-zealousness, to a situation he should have promptly put out. An examination of his record prior to his taking that job showed he had been a fairly successful soft-drink salesman.

“As against that type of background for this kind of work, it is obvious what the trained "voice of experience" of an FBI agent meant in these matters, not only to our own organization, but also to the very security of the country. In our plants, it came to the point where, as soon as one of the other departments brought up a matter involving possible conspiracy, or fraud, or espionage, we would immediately do our best to have the Federal Bureau of Investigation take over; and in any case we invariably talked things over with them informally, to receive the benefit of their inevitably steadying and experienced advice.

“Today, as America enters further into the so-called atomic era, we recognize the increasing danger of some form of instant serious sabotage, if not actual destruction, of our country through covert action. As a result of the ability to concentrate mass destruction in a manner never before dreamed of, it is but logic to weld the structure and function of the FBI ever more closely to the military organizations.

“Future security may, someday, be identified with what is in a merchant ship, or an apartment, or a suitcase. Because these were our opinions, when the newly established Department of the Air Force was faced with the problem of setting up machinery to ensure its integrity and security, it was only natural that we should turn to Attorney General Tom Clark and Mr. Hoover for advice and assistance. We were not disappointed. They at once placed the facilities of the Bureau at our disposal. Air Force and Bureau personnel studied our problem and arrived at a solution.

“On December 20 last, the Air Force announced the appointment of one of the Federal Bureau's men, then Mr.-now Brig. Gen.-Joseph Carroll to the key post of head of the Office of Special Investigations under the Inspector General. The reliance which the Air Force places on the FBI in the fields described earlier is a sound administrative practice. It is typical of American business methods which call for the use of a few experts, instead of many amateurs, in doing a particular job. It is characteristic of the desire of the President to apply sound American business principles to Government operations.

“In the past the Air Force had three separate investigation units-the Criminal Investigation Division, the Counterintelligence Corps, and the Investigations Division of the Air Inspector's Office. In certain cases, each might be inquiring into separate aspects of a problem, and that vital coordination so necessary in such circumstances might be lacking. Such a situation is no longer possible.

“The Office of Special Investigations combines the powers of the units concerned and eliminates their duplicating functions. General Carroll heads a centrally directed agency furnishing a single investigative service to all commands within the Air Force. He effects close liaison and coordination with other law enforcement agencies and ensures competent investigation of matters arising within the Air Force, or brought to its attention by other organizations or individuals.

“With the full approval of the Air Force, General Carroll has the right, at all times, to lay his problems before the Secretary of the Air Force, or before the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

Editor’s Note: OSI at 75 is an installment of OSI’s year-long commemoration of its 75th Anniversary Year based on the theme: “Inspired By Our Past – OSI’s Future Starts Today.”