Foreign Economic Administration
In the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Foreign Economic Administration was formed to relieve friction between US agencies operating abroad. As described by the biographer of the FEA's chief, Leo Crowley, the agency was designed and run by "The Nation's #1 Pinch-hitter". S. L. Weiss  describes Crowley's management style as follows: “Based on his own success in Washington, he had concluded that sound administration meant clearly demarcating lines of authority between agencies and, within each, finding the right staff and giving it only the most basic guidance and coordination”(p. 162).
Weiss’ evidence for Crowley’s design is a memo Crowley sent to James Byrnes on September 21, 1943, of “his assessment of the conflict and confusion among the economic agencies operating abroad. His lengthy memorandum argued that the major culprit was the State Department, which interfered with (or micromanaged) the execution of policy when it should only formulate and coordinate it. That led to problems in the field, ranging from wasteful duplication or the more critical problems of needless delays and confusion” (p. 162).
Weiss details these problems: “The British … were complaining of difficulty in dealing with ‘conflicting jurisdictions’ in North Africa; and the New York Times was emphasizing ‘uncertainty regarding the representative spheres of OEW(Office of Economic Warfare), Lend-Lease, and OFRRO (Office of Foreign Relief and Rehabilitation Operations) … friction between OEW and the War Food Administration as regards foreign food purchases” (p. 161).
According to the New York Times, September 26, 1943, Roosevelt said on the occasion of the establishment of the FEA: [Crowley is] “one of the best administrators in or out of government, [whom] I find great satisfaction in promoting … to a position which will centralize all foreign economic operations in one operating agency” (p. 163)
When the war was over, Harry Truman wound up the FEA. As he reports in his Memoirs, "When the FEA had been formed in 1943 as a wartime agency, the move involved a merger of all or parts of forty-three different agencies. The functions and services with which it had been charged were such that it could not be stopped suddenly. ... I issued an Executive Order on September 27 terminating the FEA ... not later than December 31, 1945"
In 2007 martin Lorenz-Meyer published a book that investigated one of FEA’s public programs. Naturally the author sketches the career of administrator Leo Crowley (p. 22,25,26) and his organization of the FEA:
- Crowley quickly got to work streamlining his new realm of 4,009 employees at home and abroad. He merged fourteen agencies combined into FEA into four and created two bureaus, the Bureau of Areas and the Bureau of Supplies. In general the Bureau of Areas was in charge of determining the needs of the various regions of the world, while the supply side was then responsible for fulfilling those requirements …
- … the FEA was in charge of a dazzling array of functions…
- The global dimension of the FEA is demonstrated by the fact that in 1944 it had forty-three offices total, with some on every continent except Antarctica. (p. 27)
In 1955 Harry Truman recounted in detail in his Memoirs an early incident in the breakdown in the alliance with Russia after the war:
- I had my first bad experience in the problem of delegating authority. Leo Crowley, Foreign Economic Administrator, and Joseph C. Grew, Acting Secretary of State, came into my office after the Cabinet meeting on May 8 and said they had an important order in connection with Lend-Lease which President Roosevelt had approved but not signed. It was an order authorizing the FEA and the State Department to take joint action to cut back the volume of Lend-Lease supplies when Germany surrendered. What they told me made good sense to me; with Germany out of the war, Lend-Lease should be reduced. They asked me to sign it, I reached for my pen and, without reading the document, I signed it.
- The storm broke almost at once. The manner in which the order was executed was unfortunate. Crowley interpreted the order literally and placed an embargo on all shipments to Russia and to other European nations, even to the extent of having some ships turned around and brought back to American ports for unloading. The British were hardest hit, but the Russians interpreted the move as especially aimed at them. Because we were furnishing Russia with immense quantities of food, clothing, arms and ammunition, this sudden and abrupt interruption of Lend-Lease aid stirred up a hornets’ nest in that country. The Russians complained about our unfriendly attitude. We had unwittingly given Stalin a point of contention which he would undoubtedly bring up every chance he had.
The Office of Arms and Munitions Control established in the Department of State to administer provisions of Joint Resolution 67 (49 Stat. 1081), August 31, 1935, which established a National Munitions Control Board to consist of the Secretaries of State, War, the Treasury, the Navy, and Commerce, and imposed registration and licensing requirements on arms and munitions importers and exporters. Redesignated as the Division of Controls, November 22, 1938, pursuant to an act of June 8, 1938 (52 Stat. 631), which provided for registration of foreign agents in the United States. The FES Issued licenses, in accordance with directives from the Office of the Administrator of Export Control, to exporters of such defense materials as had been subjected to export control by Presidential Proclamation 2413, July 2, 1940, pursuant to the Export Control Act (54 Stat. 714), July 2, 1940. Licensing function was transferred to the Economic Defense Board, September 15, 1941. Division of Controls abolished, October 8, 1941, with residual functions, except registration of foreign agents, to Board of Economic Operations, established by departmental order, October 7, 1941, with responsibility for State Department functions relating to foreign economic affairs. Board abolished by departmental order, June 24, 1943, with functions to newly established Office of Foreign Economic Coordination. Office abolished by departmental order, November 6, 1943, pursuant to EO 9380, which consolidated its functions and personnel with those of Office of Lend-Lease Administration (SEE 169.3), Office of Economic Warfare (SEE 169.4), and Office of Foreign Relief and Rehabilitation Operations (SEE 169.5), to create FEA. SEE 169.1.
- Stuart L. Weiss (1996) The President’s Man: Leo Crowley and Franklin Roosevelt in Peace and War, Southern Illinois University Press.
- Truman, Harry S (1955) Memoirs, volume 1, p.477
- Martin Lorenz-Meyer (2007) Safehaven: the Allied Pursuit of Nazi Assets Abroad, University of Missouri Press, ISBN 978-0-8262-1719-6
- Truman, p.227,8
- History of the FEA, Box 855, Record Group 34, National Archives.