38 A.B.A. J. 213 (1952)
Naval Procurement during World War II: Its Legal Aspects

handle is hein.journals/abaj38 and id is 213 raw text is: Naval Procurement During World War II:
Its Legal Aspects
by J. Henry Neale • of the New York Bar (Scarsdale)

* This article is a report prepared for the Survey of the Legal Profession.
The Survey is securing much of its material by asking competent persons to write
reports in connection with various parts and aspects of the whole study.
Reports are released for publication in legal periodicals, law reviews, magazines
and other media as soon as they have been approved by the Survey Council's Com-
mittee on Publications.
Thus the information contained in Survey reports is given promptly to the Bar
and to the public. Such publication also affords opportunities for criticisms, correc-
tions and suggestions.
When this Survey has been completed, the Council plans to issue a final compre-
hensive report containing its findings, conclusions and recommendations.

s Prior to the mobilization and de-
fense efforts preceding World War
II, the only legal office in the Navy
Department was the Office of the
Judge Advocate General. It had
cognizance of all legal matters, both
civil and military. The JAG's office,
as it was called, was manned tradi-
tionally in the same way as the vari-
ous Navy bureaus. Naval and civil-
ian personnel were mixed together,
but the civilian lawyers in the office
were largely long-time government
civil service employees in the lower
grades, with little or no experience
in the private practice of law. The
most important posts were filled by
Naval officers.
The practice for some years had
been to have a certain number of
young regular officers of the Navy
attend a civilian law school during
one of their stretches of shore duty.
After graduation from law school
they would alternate between regu-
lar line billets afloat and positions in

the Office of the Judge Advocate
General in the Navy Department in
Washington    or comparable legal
duties elsewhere. Generally speaking,
JAG officers served long terms of
regular line duty followed by short
legal assignments. In the words of a
student of the workings of the Navy
Department prior to and during
World War II, It was assumed that
it was much more important for the
Judge Advocate General to know
the bow from the stern of a ship and
to have a 'feel' for the problems of
Naval discipline, than it was for him
to be skilled in the intricacies of
contract or civilian law.1
Peacetime Naval Procurement
Presented Few Legal Problems
As a practical matter, there was not
much need for highly skilled and ex-
perienced attorneys for there were
few civil or commercial legal prob-
lems. Peacetime government pro-
curement was to a great extent a

mechanical process. With very few
exceptions, contracts were awarded
after competitive bidding, and were
formalized by contracts of standard
form. Under such a system there was
no negotiation or bargaining over
contract terms. Except for the prepa-
ration  of   specifications, contract
writing was largely a matter of fill-
ing in blanks. Lawyers were needed
only for the most general advice.
The practice became established that
if a contracting bureau wished legal
advice, it could submit a request to
the JAG's office. The specific ques-
tion would be answered in due
course after both request and answer
had   pursued   their tortuous way
through channels. No unsolicited
advice or legal guidance was offered
and a problem would be dealt with
only when a specific question was
After the fall of the Low Coun-
tries and the collapse of France in
mid-1940, the tempo of mobilization
for defense in this country speeded
up. Congress passed two statutes that
made a change in the legal set-up of
the Navy imperative. Constructive
measures to meet the new situation,
however, were taken only after a
long period of time and much tra-
vail. The first of these new statutes
was the Act of June 28, 1940,2 which
1. Robert H. Cannery, The Navy and the In-
dustrial Mobilization in World War II, Princeton
University Press (19511, pages 68, 69.
2. Public Law 671, 76th Congress.

March, 1952 * Vol. 38 213

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