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He calls attention to the hardship upon officers at remote stations, caused by the deduction of one-half their pay during that part of a leave which is in excess of thirty days in any one year, remarking that most of them desire to come to the Eastern States, and that the great loss of time and the expenses of travel place them at a disadvantage; and recommends a repeal of the laws on the subject, the first of which was passed in 1863.
He asks for two additional clerks, and recommends that paymasters' clerks shall be classed and paid as other clerks.
He again urges the necessity of consolidating the appropriations for pay of the Army, mileage, and general expenses under one title.
The amounts to be disbursed under the above titles are, with two or three exceptions, limited by statute law. If the appropriation is in excess of these demands, the excess cannot be disbursed, but will be carried by operation of law to the surplus fund; but if the appropriation is not sufficient to meet the demands, the excess becomes a valid claim against the United States, and the subject of a deficiency estimate, thus forcing a very worthy class of claimants to a delay that is oftentimes very embarrassing. Many of the items are estimated upon expenditures of prior years, the best data obtainable. This estimate may be in some cases excessive and in others not sufficient, but in the aggregate the amount appropriated will be sufficient to meet all demands if the excess in one of them can be used to supply the deficiency in another. Again, the division of the appropriations into three heads, for each year, makes it necessary to keep in the hands of each disbursing officer a balance of funds much larger than if there were but one appropriation for each year, as he is obliged to carry a working balance under each appropriation. This, in case of a limited appropriation, makes it very difficult to properly distribute the funds over so scattered a field as that occupied by paymasters.
I invite especial attention to that part of the report of the Chief of Engineers which refers to our sea-coast defenses. For many years, during which no work whatever has been done upon these defenses except for their preservation and repair, under small appropriations confined to these purposes by law, the Chief of Engineers has called attention in his annual reports to the very great danger which results from leaving our fortifications in their present condition.
The casemated works, which necessarily form a large part of our sea-coast defenses, were built before the invention of modern armor, and before the introduction of rifled guns into maritime warfare. They are built of masonry, unprotected by armor, and although in their day they were equal to any in the world, they are utterly unfitted to withstand the assaults of modern ships of war.
The Chief of Engineers shows that a defense by fortifications and torpedoes is the only one which is at all practicable for coasts as ex. tended as ours, comprising so many rich maritime cities, extensive navy. yards, and depots of supply; that any attempt at any other mode of defense would be enormously expensive both for first cost and cost of maintenance, and that it is the only mode adopted by maritime nations.
Experience shows that modern wars come on suddenly; that serious international disputes occur between nations the relations of which are apparently the most unlikely to be other than friendly, and that a condition of readiness for defense and an attitude of belligerency are sometimes the best preventives of actual war. We know that the necessary new works and the proper modifications of our old works will require many years for their completion, and it seems simply a matter of common prudence that we commence without delay, and under liberal appropriations, to put our coasts in an efficient condition of defense.
I also commend attention to that part of the report of the Chief of Engineers which speaks of the needs of our torpedo system, and the importance of increasing the strength of the Engineer Battalion to 520 men, the minimum number consistent with reasonable efficiency. The work of engineer troops is more technical than is required in any other part of the Army, and while this is so, they are regular soldiers, thoroughly instructed in infantry tactics, and are as available in an emergency as any other troops of the line for any duty that may be required of soldiers. On our torpedo service much will depend in future wars, and 520 men in training for that service, for all our coasts and all our harbors, seems but a small number, and the desire of the Chief of Engineers for an increase of 320 men above the 200 to which the battalion is limited by orders, under the reduction of the Army to 25,000 men, is a reasonable one, and should be granted. No increase of officers is necessary, simply a provision of law authorizing the recruitment of the Engineer Battalion by the number necessary to raise its strength to 520 enlisted men, this number to be in addition to the 25,000 men who now constitute the entire Army, if my recommendation for a repeal of recent restrictions as to the enlisted force of the Army is not concurred in. The maximum strength of the bat. talion, as authorized by existing law, is 752, or 232 more than the strength recommended.
The funds applied to the improvement of rivers and harbors during the past fiscal year were derived from the appropriation of June 14, 1880, and balances remaining unexpended of previous appropriations, the total amount available for expenditure on July 1, 1880, being $13,549,455.41. To the above should be added certain small amounts from the appropriation of March 3, 1881, which were made available before the commencement of the present fiscal year. Operations have been carried on under approved projects for the improvements to which they relate, with results which have been generally satisfactory.
Detailed information in regard to the various works in progress during the year will be found in the report of the Chief of Engineers.
The preliminary arrangements which were in progress at the date of last annual report for making a practical test of the flume invented by Mr. M. J. Adams for increasing the depth of water in the Mississippi River, for which the suin of $20,000 was provided by act of March 3, 1879, have been continued during the fiscal year, under the direction and supervision of the inventor.
The surveys and examinations of rivers and harbors, called for by the act of March 3, 1881, are in process of execution, and it is expected that the reports and maps will be ready for transmission to Congress in the early part of the session.
The Mississippi River Commission has been engaged in the further prosecution of surveys of the river and its tributaries, and in considering plans for the improvement of the main river, and in making the necessary arrangements for the application of the appropriation of $1,000,000 in the river and harbor act of March 3, 1881, for the improvement of the river below Cairo. Reports from the commission will be found appended to the report of the Chief of Engineers.
On the survey of the northern and northwestern lakes, a new chart of the west end of Lake Erie has been completed and published. The final report of this survey is now in course of preparation.
In the survey of the territory of the United States west of the one hundredth meridian work has been confined to the reduction of notes and the construction of maps. Six atlas sheets have been completed.
Volume VII, the last of the quarto reports of the fortieth parallel survey, has been published.
Eight officers of the Corps of Engineers have been on duty at the headquarters of the military divisions and departments, and have been engaged in making such surveys and preparing such maps as are required for the use of the Army. The maps prepared by these officers are of great value in the movement of troops, and the establishment of posts for controlling the Indians and protecting settlers. There is a great demand for the maps from citizens for use in the location of railroads, mines, and valuable lands. The small appropriation asked for the next fiscal year for continuing these surveys and for publication of maps required for military purposes is earnestly recommended.
The report of the Chief of Ordnance shows that on July 1 we had in store only 37,526 small-arms. This is but little more than the annual consumption, and I concur in his opinion that increased appropriations for accumulating a large reserve are of great necessity.
The Chief of Ordnance recommends that the standing annual appro. priation of $200,000, made in 1808, for arming the militia, should be largely increased. My opinion, derived from an examination of the debits and credits of the States, as they now stand under that law, is that it would be at least advisable to give legislative authority to the Secretary of War to give, after a specified time in each year, the allotments of States not called for to such States as make requisition there. for to arm their militia. Under the practical working of the present system, advances of arms strictly unlawful are made to those States which have a large force of organized militia, and a credit is left stand. ing on the record to States which take no such steps for the public protection.
The “act making appropriations for fortifications and other works of defense, and for the armament thereof for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1882, and for other purposes," approved March 3, 1881, provides:
And the President is authorized to select a board, to consist of one engineer officer, two ordnance officers, and two officers of artillory, whose duty it shall be to make examinations of all inventions of heavy ordnance and improvements of heavy ordnance and projectiles that may be presented to them, including guns now being constructed or converted under direction of the Ordnance Bureau; and said board shall make detailed report to the Secretary of War, for transmission to Congress, of such examination, with recommendation as to what inventions are worthy of actual test, and the estimated cost of such test; and the sum of twenty-five thousand dollars, or 80 much thereof as may be necessary, is hereby appropriated for such purpose.
In conformity with the foregoing act, a board of officers has been appointed and is now in session for the purpose of making examinations of all inventions referred to in the law, and making a detailed report of such examinations, with recommendation as to what inventions are worthy of actual test, and the estimated cost of such test. Its report will undoubtedly be made and transmitted to Congress early the next session.
A special report from the Chief of Ordnance shows that under the act of March 3, 1881, there was sold, prior to July 1, 1881, 29,500 pounds of unserviceable and unsuitable powder, at 8 cepts per pound, and that on June 24, 1881, a contract was made for the procurement of 500,000 pounds of hexagonal powder, at 25.4 cents per pound.
Congress at its last session provided for convening a board of officers to examine magazine guns, with a view to the selection of some of the best for trial in service. The board is now in session.
REPORT OF THE CHIEF SIGNAL OFFICER.
Eight officers are, under present regulations, annually detailed for instruction in military signaling at Fort Myer, and, during the past year, an average number of seventy-nine enlisted men have been present subject to instruction in signaling and in the duties of observers at weather stations.
Six hundred and ten miles of sea-coast telegraph lines are operated by the Chief Signal Officer for the use of the Weather Bureau.
Five thousand and seventy-seven miles of frontier telegraph lines are also operated by him, and are of indispensable value to the military service.
A very brief summary of the work of the Chief Signal Officer includes the preparation of new instructions for observers; the preparation of new and improved forms for the recording and preservation of meteorological data ; the preparation of special bulletins for the press, containing weather information of public interest; the forecasts of weather, of hot or cold waves for periods exceeding twenty-four hours; the forecasts of "northers" for the interior plateau; the adoption of a new
storm signal (the Cautionary Northwest) for the interior lakes; the arrangement for increase of river service, and wider publication of warnings of floods or ice gorges; the changes and improvements in the publication of the International Bulletin, and the Monthly Weather Review, with their accompanying charts; the increased information added to the Farmers'and to the Railway Bulletins; the organization of a service for the special benefit of the cotton interests of the South; the extension of the special frost warning to the fruit interests of the country; the investigations into thermometric standards, and into barometric standards; the preparation of new hygrometric tables containing correction for altitude; the revised determinations of the altitudes of Sig. nal Service stations; the computation of monthly constants for the reduction of observed barometric pressues to sea-level; the arrangements for original investigation in atmospheric electricity, in anemometry and in actinometry, and, in the last subject, especially with reference to the importance of solar radiation in agriculture and the absorption of the sun's heat by the atmosphere; the co-operation in an expedition to the summit of Mount Whitney, California, for the determination of problems in solar physics; in meteorology, the preparation of conversion tables for the English and metric systems; the co-operation in the dropping of time balls at Signal Service stations; the publication in quarto form of special professional papers; the offering of prizes for essays of great meriton meteorological subjects; the organization of State weather services; the new investigation of danger lines on western rivers; the organization and equipment of two expeditions for meteorological observation and research in the Arctic regions of America, one to be stationed at Lady Franklin Bay, the other at Point Barrow, Alaska, both co-operating in this work with a system of stations established in the Polar region by international conference; the establishment of a system of stations of observation in Alaska; the arrangements for organizing a Pacific Coast Weather Service; the display at the Paris Electrical Exposition; the experiments for improving newspaper weather charts; the increase since June 1 of telegraphic weather service, exceeding in value $34,000 per annum, without additional expenses to the United States, and the extension and construction of military telegraph lines.
Full details of these operations will be found in the report.
The total number of stations of observation was, on June 30, two hundred and ninety-six, in the management of which the enlisted force of five hundred men (excepting those under instruction) is constantly employed.