The inscription on the wall is NACA's mission statement: "...It shall be the duty of the advisory committee for aeronautics to supervise and direct the scientific study of the problems of flight with a view to their practical solution..." By an Act of Congress Approved March 3, 1915
NACA was established by the federal government through enabling legislation as an emergency measure during World War I to promote industry, academic, and government coordination on war-related projects. It was modeled on similar national agencies found in Europe: the French L’Etablissement Central de l’Aérostation Militaire in Meudon (now Office National d'Etudes et de Recherches Aerospatiales), the German Aerodynamic Laboratory of the University of Göttingen, and the Russian Aerodynamic Institute of Koutchino (replaced in 1918 with the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute (TsAGI), which is still in existence). The most influential agency upon which the NACA was based was the British Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.
In December 1912, President William Howard Taft had appointed a National Aerodynamical Laboratory Commission chaired by Robert S. Woodward, president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Legislation was introduced in both houses of Congress early in January 1913 to approve the commission, but when it came to a vote, the legislation was defeated.
The first meeting of the NACA in 1915
Charles D. Walcott, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution from 1907 to 1927, took up the effort, and in January 1915, Senator Benjamin R. Tillman, and Representative Ernest W. Roberts introduced identical resolutions recommending the creation of an advisory committee as outlined by Walcott. The purpose of the committee was "to supervise and direct the scientific study of the problems of flight with a view to their practical solution, and to determine the problems which should be experimentally attacked and to discuss their solution and their application to practical questions." Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote that he "heartily [endorsed] the principle" on which the legislation was based. Walcott suggested the tactic of adding the resolution to the Naval Appropriations Bill.
According to one source, "The enabling legislation for the NACA slipped through almost unnoticed as a rider attached to the Naval Appropriation Bill, on March 3, 1915." The committee of 12 people, all unpaid, were allocated a budget of $5,000 per year.
President Woodrow Wilson signed it into law the same day, thus formally creating the Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, as it was called in the legislation, on the last day of the 63rd Congress.
The act of Congress creating NACA, approved March 3, 1915, reads, "...It shall be the duty of the advisory committee for aeronautics to supervise and direct the scientific study of the problems of flight with a view to their practical solution...."