Dodge graduated from Detroit Central High School in 1908. Despite never pursuing post-secondary education, he was awarded Honorary Doctorates of Law from Wayne and Michigan Universities.
Dodge worked briefly as a glue salesmanand bank messenger, and in clerical and bookkeeping positions. From 1911 to 1916 he worked for the Michigan State Banking Department and the Michigan Securities Commission as an examiner. From 1917 to 1932, Dodge was vice-president and general manager of the Thomas J. Doyle Company, an automotive concern, and in 1933 he began a twenty-year presidency of the Detroit Bank. In 1947-1948 he was president of the American Bankers Association. In 1941 Dodge was director of a headquarters staff division of Army Service Forces.
In 1942 Dodge's government career began when he was a price adjuster for the Army Air Force's Price Adjustment Board for the Central Procurement District, making sure that the government did not pay excessive prices to private contractors. In September 1943 he became chairman of the War Department's Price Adjustment Board in Washington; and by October he was chairman of the Joint Price Adjustment Board and the War Contracts Price Adjustment Board, with broad powers to settle problems previously under the jurisdiction of six separate federal agencies.
At the end of the war, during 1945-1946, Dodge served under General Dwight D. Eisenhower as financial adviser of the Office of Military Government in Berlin and later as finance director for American forces in Germany under General Lucius D. Clay. When the Big Four foreign ministers convened for the Austrian peace treaty, they authorized establishment of an advisory commission to confront the thorny issues of reparations, frontiers, and the disposition of German assets in Austria.
In May 1947, President Harry S. Truman appointed Dodge to head the American delegation to that commission, with the rank of minister. Later that year Dodge attended a Big Four foreign ministers' meeting in London as Secretary of State George C. Marshall's deputy for Austrian affairs. He resigned this post in January 1948. From 1948 to 1951, Dodge served as a member of the advisory committee on fiscal and monetary problems of the Economic Cooperation Administration, which directed the original Marshall Plan.
In 1949, Dodge was sent to Japan as chief financial and economic adviser, with the rank of minister, to General Douglas MacArthur. In effect, Dodge became the principal American architect of the postwar industrial rehabilitation of Japan and exercised the final decision over its economic policies. His efforts to balance the Japanese budget by reducing government subsidies, by insisting that management dismiss surplus workers, and by imposing a single exchange rate for the yen aroused opposition among trade unions and liberal industrialists. But his "Dodge line" held fast against inflationary pressures, and in 1950 the Japanese Diet approved an austere budget that decreased the costs of the occupation by 18 billion yen and decreased Japanese government spending by 80 billion yen. It was the first balanced Japanese budget in almost twenty years.
In November 1952, President-elect Eisenhower asked Dodge to become director of the Bureau of the Budget, with cabinet-level status. An avowed enemy of inflation, Dodge found a deficit of almost $10 billion in the federal budget. During his fifteen months in office, the deficit was cut in half. At the outset he forbade all departments and agencies to fill any personnel vacancies unless absolutely necessary and to put off all but the most urgent construction projects. Ultimately Dodge "squeezed" more than $12 billion out of government spending programs, but he found his goal of a balanced budget hampered by several obstacles: the large national security programs: the Defense Department, the mutual security pacts, and atomic energy - accounted for nearly 70 percent of total outlays; an additional 20 percent was protected by existing legislation; and the interest on the national debt accounted for 8 percent. Still, Dodge's efforts convinced many in the business and financial community that he had recaptured control over the federal budget.
In September 1954, Dodge was back in Washington, reviewing long-range plans for American foreign economic aid programs. Three months later Eisenhower appointed him special assistant to the president and created for him a new cabinet-level post, chairman of the Council on Foreign Economic Policy. Dodge coordinated the policies of the various government entities in the field of foreign aid and analyzed the Soviet economic offensive in underdeveloped countries. In June 1956, Dodge's Detroit Bank merged with three other local financial institutions. He left government service to become chairman of the new Detroit Bank and Trust Company, the assets of which exceeded $1 billion.
Dodge died on December 2, 1964, in Detroit, Michigan.
Dodge compared being budget director to "being taken by the scruff of the neck and thrown into a basket of snakes. "
In reflecting on his term as budget director, Dodge confessed that in government he found "always an opposition either in some element of the public or in Congress, and this opposition is a highly vocal one. "
Dodge was a "complete rationalist, " who seemed never to be influenced by accident or emotion. He had a "congenital" distaste for publicity and flamboyant behavior and regularly advised banking subordinates to avoid "excessive" entertainment and "undue cordiality. " This no-nonsense attitude kept his bank operating smoothly during his frequent absences.
On June 28, 1916, Dodge married Julia Jane Jeffers. They had one son.