Jack S. Futterman Oral History
Part IV- Back To Candler & New Duties
Q: One thing I noticed, when you first came back from the war, before you took that job as chief of the Control Branch, they had you in another job for about three months called Procedural Consultant, and I was wondering what that was?
Oh yes, I had forgotten about that. As I said, during the war and before we went away, we were assured by Tom McDonald-- he used to write me occasionally when I was in the service-- that the personnel office and the top staff had worked out this promotion in absentia policy. The theory was that individuals wouldn't suffer because of their service. They would be considered in the same way as if they had been here. And so it turned out that George Leibowitz, who had always been my assistant when I went up and down, took my place. He didn't go into the service, he was married and they had children. Anyway, he took my job. And then when Lou Baker was moved up to Procedures, he took Lou Baker's spot; I wasn't there. But he took it on a permanent basis. When I got back, they did not have an appropriate slot, so they temporarily had me in Procedures. I wrote procedures. I was very specific in the procedures. I would say, pick up your pen with your left hand so that you make sure there's ink in it and then the right hand for a while. Do it just like you spell out a program for a computer so that the computer knows what it's supposed to do as a result of these series of actions and there are no questions that the computer has to deal with.
Then I got this job and it was kind of interesting. The Production and Control Branch, as I said, had been maintained by a fellow named Ed Whitney. I knew him, but I didn't know much about him because he was that kind of a guy. He seemed to be an intellectual type, not our kind, exactly. He was an Englishman. I knew he lived for a long time in England. He was a stick-in-the-mud. Anyway, he resided in this office and he had to submit whatever budget was required. He had no interest in anybody else. Joe Kreps used to say, "he made our budget, but he didn't want to ask me about what we needed." He did not want to contaminate it. I visualized him with a slide rule. Just sitting at his desk working with a slide rule and figuring all kinds of figures. This was before adding machines and computers and all that. He delivered the DAO's budget to the financial office, of which I later became the head. But he left in 1941.
When I got there, it was a dormant organization. The only function that it had was a nominal office of Production and Control, which was that simple making out a dozen cards for each block, and they used to take the card out each time they completed that operation and send it up so that it could be reported on the Production Report that showed so many blocks through operations, three, four, five, etc. This was the production report and that was the sole function of that unit as far as I know.
So it was a dormant unit and whatever needed to be done in the way of necessary paperwork for budgeting purposes was handled in the way Whitney handled it. Without regard to the actual productivity record, etc. Now I'm overstating that a little. Because when I got there, they had a rudimentary approach to the production control system in which we would get production reports on the operations which could be reported. I forget what they were, but all the manual operations. We had assigned workloads that reflected each step in the manual process of handling the work that was controlled by the system. You know, how many hours and minutes for the total production and how many people and how many hours and minutes for this step and that step. So we had a long list of operations on which we ostensibly knew how many people worked on it and what they produced so we could develop a relationship between the workload and the manpower.
Q: Is that something you introduced then, basically?
I don't recall my introducing it, particularly. What I do take credit for is greatly improving it, I greatly improved it--orders of magnitude. It became a real diagnostic tool of our requirements. So much so that Mr. Kreps did not have the occasion to complain about not being able to make reports. But he would come and argue with me about whether the data truly reflected the workloads. We did not have any basic problem in that. It became the basis for our production report for our budget. But much more than that, it became an analytical way of seeing where problems existed and seeing where methods and opportunities were to get greater utilization of our manpower.
Q: You began to use it as a workload management tool?
Yes, and to tie in with methods, the input of management was where I began to feel I made a contribution.
I was a specialist in taking over jobs that had been vacant for a while. This is a job that technically was occupied by Charlie Erisman who I mentioned earlier in the example of replacing McElvain who was then on leave to SSA. Roy Wynkoop, was sort of an Executive Officer to Arthur Altmeyer and Bill Mitchell and the Commissioner's Office. They had very little staff. Roy was way up, overseeing BOASI, and he practically was the staff for Welfare and for the Children's Bureau and Public Assistance, which were the other parts of SSA at that time. Wynkoop was seriously ill several times and he was out for an extended period of time, several years. Erisman took over that job. When he came back from this, he went to DAO, which was the first time he had ever been in DAO. He was an accountant, a lawyer and an operator.
Q: Was this kind of like workload reporting?
No, no, it wasn't. I did establish the workload reporting myself. This was to establish the controls to balance the work as it went through.
The way you did it was, let's say you had a section of General Motors reports, you would take General Motors' total on the block and you would punch up a card which would indicate how many items were in that block and what the total of wages should be. As you processed that work after punching and verifying into tabulating, you were testing whether the punch cards actually added up to the same totals. If they did not add to the same totals, then their function was to find out which cards were wrong. If the total of that employer was out of wack, you offset it and would try to identify it or you would correct it. They identified which card, if it was only one card, you would look to see whether the Production Control operator miskeyed it, or the punch card operator and the verifier had read it wrong. You set those things up for correction. And so you went through the block, established a new total, made your corrections and ran them again.
That was Production Control. They ran a daily report for the front office. And Sol Kreps would read it. The report would merely show how many blocks were sent in to process. They knew what operation they were at because after each operation the Production Control card was sent back up to this unit. They could tell you at what operation the block was, and they would also have a record of the production control report from their control files, which would show how many millions of dollars of earnings had been processed so far for the same quarter or whatever.
As I said, they would make subtractions to show how much was in suspense. And so theoretically, they knew over the years how many billions of dollars of earnings had been reported, processed and posted, and what percentage and what amount of the dollars were in suspense. Because at one time they were making all kinds of misinformation and distortions about suspensions. Obviously at the beginning there were a lot wrong numbers, reporting with wrong numbers and wrong names. And so we had a lot of blanks, we called them John Doe's, and the rejects were reported under a name or number that didn't match, that was the distinction. We knew what percent and it usually was a small percent, especially after we had processed it. We would make sure that we had what the employer reported. If that was not enough, we went back to the employer with the information and we asked them for whatever information they had. It took a long time for this process to work itself out. But Social Security was attacked because of errors in these old records. It was without regard to the real effect it would have on someone's benefits. A small error in the amount of earnings for any given year normally would have very little effect on the benefit when you did calculations over a number of years. That kind of attack came on in later years.
So I think that we made a lot of progress in terms of beginning to establish our recordkeeping; to make more rational the procedures that came out of the Methods Branch, which I'm not sure I mentioned before. Although remember I did say Warren Ives became the head, the first head of the Methods Branch. You did ask me about that little thing in my record that showed that I spent a couple of months in the Methods Branch.
The Methods Branch, in effect, was for spelling out the procedures; because, you know we wanted uniformity. Not so much uniformity that they picked things up with their left hand, but precisely what to enter on each line so that whoever did the entry was not using subjective judgment when objective judgments were required.
Q: You want to talk about your work in the Control Branch?
We did go through the early days and in the process of trying to name names that you may or may not have benchmarks on or have heard of before, and it may open that which you may want to explore.
I had mentioned to you my early days in Social Security, 1936, when I came as a Grade 2 Statistical Clerk. How I became an acting Group Leader at Grade 4, but actually Grade 2. And how I became acting Grade 5 as a supervisor after five weeks, and how I became a Grade 9 or acting Grade 9, or a Grade 11 in establishing the first Region, with Leo Synder as the Chief and I was the Assistant Chief. And how I had to move back to Review when in 1938 Sol Kreps, whose name I mentioned, who later became head of the mechanical sections in the Division of Accounting Operations, and a fellow by the name of George Smith, came in.
Now, Sol Kreps was a member of a group that included Joe Fay, Tom McDonald and others high in DAO at that time. George Smith was not. He was sort of a bookkeeper type, and he did not make any great mark that I recollect. He was a efficient, decent person. Tried to do his job, but I don't think he ever became intimately involved with this so-called group at the top, which was Joe Fay, Tom McDonald, Lew Sheild, Glen Duey, Warren Irons, Lou Baker, George Moriarity and Barney Nolan. That's what I've covered so far.
And I was sort of bumped down to the chief of the Review and Adjustment of the General Files, which was sort of the major unit within Region II, which also had a machine unit, and a receiving and control unit. And under Adjustments, were the files, correspondence, all kinds of adjustments, and everything in fact, but the purely receiving function of receiving returns, wage returns, and establishing controls, and the machine section, which was then IBM tabulating equipment. There were punchers, verifiers, and tabulators and the earliest collator that existed.
Q: That was really a Grade 9 job wasn't it?
A nine or eleven I think it was. An eleven. And by this time they brought in Joe Kreps in 1938 and another guy named Schmitts, who was from that kind of background, but not from this group that had been together in prior government service.
So I had two assistants to Leo Synder and, I'm a little hazy about how Leo Synder left, he got out of the picture, but I know Kreps came in and I was superseded. I was pushed down from this position and I moved into the next important job, which was Chief of Review, Adjustment and General Files. So I had all of the uncharted areas. What remained in the regions was receiving. They would get the mail and get the applications. Punching and tabulating was the Machine Unit. I had Review, Adjustment and General Files. I had the Correspondence Unit. I had all of the adjustments that needed to be made. And the review functions really was the heart of the regional operations.
I can only describe this in terms of what happened to me. I became kind of well-known in a growing organization, not because I was that prominent, because there are people hidden in organizations like that who either by designation or otherwise take it upon themselves to seek "comers."
Anyway we did adopt the 12 regions. And then they abandoned that concept. Who I don't know, Joe Fay and above. And they established a simplified system. Lou Baker was the Chief of the Review and Adjustment Section. He had essentially the functions of the combined regions that I had in the region. He had general files, review and adjustments, which included running down suspensions and rejections and all of that stuff and also writing manuals and handling correspondence. And that was one of the major groupings of the new records division for DAO. The next one was Machine Section. The Machine Section was the one that punched up the cards, tabulated the earnings records, and balanced the blocks of earnings records. And they had the Registration Section. Lou Baker was the head of all the review adjustments and there were problems with it.
Promotion In Absentia During The War
Q: There was the issue about the policy being that while you were away in the service, you would be eligible for regular promotions and you would come back to the job that you were due to have. But that didn't happen. The policy didn't get followed. I want you to tell me that story.
Well, I think early in the War even before I entered it, I could be wrong about that part of it, in DAO we established a promotion policy that was in a sense idealistic. It was one that the longer it went on, the more impractical it became. Give them credit, the intentions were right. I don't know whether they, they being whoever was the one who could make the decisions in these promotional matters, was confident that if there was a need for deviation, they'd find a basis for it. After all, there was no hard and fast rules that would govern who you would select, but in general it was known as the "promotion in absentia process." The obvious thing was they were trying to assure the veterans, those who went into service, that they would not lose anything. There was not a great deal of discussion about it except within the group that had to put it out in words when describing the policy. That was widely distributed in terms of knowledge to all people at all levels.
Now you are referring to some remarks that I made, that when I got back, it was invoked at times, but very erratically. I think my service terminated December 31, 1945. My last actual service date with was the end of November. I think it was the last bit of my service at Fort Skyler, which was where I went to from overseas. This was part of the procedure, at least for the officers. They got 30 days paid leave at the end of their actual discharge. Then add 30 days and that was the date your service ended. During that period of December, or maybe in the last part of November, I just dropped by to talk to Tom McDonald. He told me: "Why of course, you will get this job." The job in question was the one I had set up with Lou Baker after the reorganization of about 1939. I had set up the Wage Records Branch.
In that reorganization we went functional. The Machine Division where the cards were punched and tabulated and all the machine operations, were one in the Machine Division. All the higher-grade major clerical and correspondence and that kind of thing was in the Wage Records Branch. Then there was a minor operating function connected with the Control Branch, which I later headed. All the clerical operations: filing, scouting, resolving issues, making adjustments, handling John Doe's, and answering all the correspondence, was in the Wage Records Branch. I set that up with Lou Baker. Lou Baker was the chief. I was the Assistant Chief, and each of us had two assistant chiefs. They worked on days and I, technically, was on nights, and I had two assistant chiefs. One was for Files, and the other one was for Adjustments. In that setup, I can't give you all four now, but my former assistant, George Leibowitz, who was a lifelong friend from then, and died earlier this year, who had all along been in my . . .
Not my shadow.
Q: One step behind you.
Yes, just one step behind me. George Leibowitz, was Assistant Chief for Adjustments, not for Review Adjustment and General Files, but just for Adjustments, under Baker in the morning, but under both of us. I don't know who was filling it at this time; I'm confused about the time. Well the job which I would have gotten, because I was the Assistant, the job in Review Adjustment and General Files, opened while I was in the service and he got it.
Q: Leibowitz got it?
Yes. When I came back, I was told I would get that job because Leibowitz had left to get a promotion, I guess it was a promotion, with Alvin David in Program Analysis. I was told when I checked in November with McDonald: "Of course, you get that job." I should have gotten it immediately when I came back, but I didn't. As a matter of fact, I know why. As I told you, Lew Sheild, who was in the service too, came back and he wanted that job after I had . . .
Q: Talked to McDonald about it?
Yes, and I was assured: "Sure, you get that." He told me later that Lew Sheild came in and talked to Joe Fay who knew Sheild from way back as they were brought in together. Sheild was not a strong man by any means. I'm not being unfair. So he got it. They had installed him when I came back, without telling me.
Then they opened this job which had been dormant for three years. There was no job there, head of the Control Branch. That wasn't the prime consideration to promotion in absentia. If you are going to truly have this, you document it. Even though it's a phantom body, you now say when this job became vacant, this is where it theoretically is. If you want to move him out of there, you have to put him someplace else to free that up. It wasn't that kind of thing, and I think they made sort of an effort. If I was in on any debate on this thing, I certainly would have supported the idea. I hope I would have indicated that this kind of arrangement could only stand for a very short period, because you then begin to erect an edifice on top of a lot of conjectures which gets you in the land of never-never before very long because you're moving phantom bodies around and you just never can merely do it. Besides, think of the kind of problem one would have with somebody who did not get into the service, like George Leibowitz, who moved up into places I would have been, including the Alvin David job, incidentally, compared to Lew Sheild who was in the service. It's all well and good to promise people who went into the service that they would get the promotions they would have gotten, but then how do you make these decisions? At some point you're letting your heart get in the way of your brain. Obviously after three or four years this becomes hard to do when Leibowitz who has been on the job, he was a competent, able person, has been functioning and getting all of this experience. Then you're taking somebody who theoretically four years earlier was capable of a certain job, who is not particularly able, but moves ahead basically on seniority and so forth. After a while knowledge becomes important and basic ability which is not always apparent early on.
I know that's not what you asked me. So I would grade it this way. I would say A for ideals, C-minus for follow-through to really understand the kind of commitment they made in terms of designing a system, and probably D for actually doing it at individual levels. In mass levels maybe. I don't recollect myself how it worked out on just ordinary Joe's who went into the service and came back as a 2 and when they came back whether they got a 3 or not or 4 or whatever. I suspect that it was more effective at that level where one could make that commitment. And probably if one thinks about it and one realizes that such a system cannot be perfect, that's the place where you would want it to be at least better. I think on the whole, it was a desirable thing to announce one's intentions and to really put yourself in the position where if somebody felt that you did not do that, he could come back and say: "you promised, you promised." It's not going to happen too often at the higher levels. It happened with Lew Sheild, but that was his lifestyle. I hate to speak about the dead. In a way I'm not praising him, but I'm really running him down a little.
Lou Baker became the Methods Chief during that time. He had moved up to the chief of the Wage Records Branch, or section, or whatever, and that was one of the three major organizations in the Division of Accounting Operations, the operating sector. The Methods Section was located next to the offices of Tom McDonald and Joe Fay, the heads of the organization. I told you about Lew Sheild who got it.
But about the time I came back, I think George Leibowitz, my deputy, was occupying that job. Up to the point when I went in the service, he had gone in my wake. And when I came back, he was sitting in that job. And they had a problem where to put me. And they put me in the job that had existed for a certain guy (I forget his name now); it will come to me. But he was the control officer for the Division of Accounting Operations, called the Control Branch. It was empty; they hadn't filled it for 4 years, indicating their assessment of it. But it had a higher grade, I think a GS-12, or something like that.
Q: So you moved into that job?
Yes. But I would have rather had the other job, the Wage Records Branch was several thousand people. And I was both a good supervisor and administrative type, in terms of operating, but also a first-rate staff person. And I liked both. Anyway, I made quite a bit out of this. And we became sort of a model organization. Not widely known thoughout the Government, but whenever it was exposed to people, their eyes really popped.
Q: The control thing?
The control thing. You know, the way we priced out budgets, and the background. We had a production-control system, and we had a unit-price system.
Q: Which were innovations, in many ways?
Well, there was a movement toward budgeting in a certain way. A functional budget.
Q: So you introduced it at DAO?
I applied it. It was there in a very broad way in SSA's budget. But we had it down so that it could be done today, calculated today; almost wholly the method that I used could have been put right on the computer today. Because we established unit costs from prior years experience. We defined what the elements were; we got reporting on how many hours went into that element, and we had the grades of the people involved, not only the hours, but the elements of pay. And so we could put a unit cost on it, and then made a subjective judgment about whether it was going to be less or more for the current year, defining the elements that would make for a difference, and always projecting in it some element of improved efficiency and lower cost. But offsetting sometimes a higher cost because of certain other factors.
That job had been vacant, we're talking about the budget job at SSA, and it had been operated by a committee that operated by either consensus or by individual action. There were three people there under Charlie Erisman who was responsible for parts of the SSA budget. One was Hank Brooks who was responsible for the field offices, making out the budget for them, drafting it. Lou Jones was responsible for the DAO. Cliff Gross was responsible for the area offices. Although we had an integrated budget, we certainly did not have an integrated budget operation. These were three very unlike characters. Only one of them is still alive, Cliff Gross. And I won't go into that, but they operated as a triumvirate, in effect dividing the territory into three and they operated as if the budget was for three different organizations. I'm exaggerating, but sometimes to make a point, he carried it to its extreme. And Charlie Erisman was the one who would have, I assume, when he was there, brought things together and decided on the unified total.
Although I was no accountant, I could keep my own books if I had to. I was well acquainted with the law in general. I sure did not have technical understanding of the claims process, or the technical aspects of the law and all the inside stuff one would acquire in translating the requirements into a budget. I operated from the first day simply by listening. I listened and made them explain it. None of it was ever that hard, I was not too dumb to know it.
I became known, I think, as one of the very best budget analysts in government, and for budgets based on production figures. But the field also had a production record that was maintained by how many cases we turned in and how many employees, etc. The area offices were an easy candidate for the major requirements of the staff, and we had what we called the workload budget. It was all built up on this time series so that one could make the case for the workload. We had composite workload figures, and we would simplify things for the Congress. We calculated workload increases, manpower requirements, productivity increases, etc.
And we had a lickety-split operation that pretty soon became very useful to people making public policy. At least 90 percent had come to me and wanted me to help them through a provision to put such and such a requirement upon the agency. And increasingly, very slowly, we would be involved in getting a feeling for what they were leaning to in the way of provisions.