National Resources Planning Board (NRPB)

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Between 1933 and 1943, the National Resources Planning Board (NRPB) served as the only national planning agency in U.S. history. Created in July 1933, the NRPB had consistent leadership from planner Frederic A. Delano, political scientist Charles E. Merriam, and economist Wesley Clair Mitchell. In 1936, business leaders Henry S. Dennison and Beardsley Ruml replaced Mitchell. The board evolved from public works planning to broader social and economic planning.

NRPB advisory national planning became a policy process bringing together social scientists, executive and legislative branches, and private and public institutions. A small staff of experts, temporary consultants, and field branches conducted studies of land use, multi-use water planning, natural resources, population, industrial structure, transportation, science, and technology that provided the first national inventories of significant American resources. Regional planning groups were created in New England and the Pacific Northwest. Most states established planning agencies, while planning boards emerged in many cities.

The NRPB responded to key national needs: new policy in reaction to the recession of 1937 to 1938, reorganization of the executive branch (the Reorganization Act of 1939), industrial site location studies in wartime, and postwar planning. Funded with emergency monies until 1939, the NRPB worked under the direction of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Rising tensions between Congress and the president led to controversy over wartime and postwar planning that culminated in a 1943 abolition of the board.

Drawing on a social science research network built in the 1900 to 1933 period, the NRPB's planning vision reflected the evolution of a new political economy centered on interest-group competition, cooperation, and conflict. NRPB legacies included compensatory spending policy, executive reorganization, wartime and postwar planning, an early version of the G.I. Bill of Rights, the Second (Economic) Bill of Rights (a manifesto for postwar liberalism), and an institutionalized policy planning process via the Council of Economic Advisers and the annual federal budget process established by the Employment Act of 1946.



Clawson, Marion. New Deal Planning: The National Resources Planning Board. 1981.

Lepawsky, Albert. "Style and Substance in Contemporary Planning: The American New Deal's National Resources Planning Board as a Model." Plan Canada 18 (September/December 1978): 153–187.

Reagan, Patrick D. Designing a New America: The Origins of New Deal Planning, 1890–1943. 2000.

Warken, Philip W. A History of the National Resources Planning Board, 1933–1943. 1979.

Patrick D. Reagan

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National Resources Planning Board (NRPB)

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National Resources Planning Board (NRPB)