The Secretary of War ( Patterson ) and the Secretary of the Navy ( Forrestal ) to the Secretary of State
My Dear Mr. Secretary: We have considered the paper enclosed with your letter of 8 January 1947 on the position to be taken by the United States Representative in the Security Council regarding the Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 14 December 1946, on the subject of “Principles governing the General Regulation and Reduction of Armaments.”1 We have also obtained the views of the [Page 363] Joint Chiefs of Staff on the same paper, as requested by you, and forward herewith the statement prepared by them. The War and Navy Departments are in general agreement with the position indicated in the paper prepared by the State Department, as well as with the views expressed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff thereon. It will be apparent that the Joint Chiefs of Staff have taken into account the recent discussion in the Security Council which may affect the present position of the United States.
The War and Navy Departments are aware that it may not be possible to postpone all general discussion of the regulation of armaments until after broad agreement has been reached on the international control of atomic energy. We believe, however, that it is greatly in the interest of United States security that this be done.
We note that the Joint Chiefs of Staff have suggested that priority should be given, in any discussion of the regulation of armaments which might be forced upon the United States, to “discussion of practical and effective safeguards against the hazards of violations and evasions, to the exclusion of discussion of other elements of the general problem until this matter has been settled to the satisfaction of the United States.” We agree that when the substance of a regulation of armaments program is under discussion, primary emphasis should be placed by the United States upon practical and effective safeguards. We believe, however, that two other matters must be dealt with prior to initiating any substantive discussion of the regulation of armaments:
- The terms of reference for any commission or committee which may be set up by the Security Council to discuss the regulation of armaments and armed forces must, presumably, exclude those functions already allotted by the General Assembly to the Atomic Energy Commission. One of these functions is to make specific proposals “for the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction.” There has thus far been no definition, except in the case of atomic weapons, of weapons adaptable to mass destruction, nor has there been any agreement as to which agency or agencies are responsible for reaching such a definition. It would seem clear that the Atomic Energy Commission itself should be asked for its views on what these other major weapons are, not only because of its terms of reference but also because its experience in dealing with atomic energy makes it peculiarly aware of the great technical problems involved in dealing with other such weapons. But the Atomic Energy Commission still faces an enormous task before the international control of atomic energy has been achieved, a task which takes priority over the consideration of other major weapons.
- The Joint Chiefs of Staff have pointed out that a system for the regulation of armaments can hardly be established prior to, or independently of, the solution of other problems affecting the peace and security of the United States. Such problems are the conclusion of the [Page 364] peace treaties, the termination of the occupation of ex-enemy countries, the determination of measures which will be required to prevent German or Japanese aggression in the future, and the allocation of forces to the Security Council under the United Nations Charter. We note, for example, the special responsibilities which the five principal powers now have under Article 106 of the Charter to act for the United Nations to maintain the peace, pending the establishment of the security system envisaged in Articles 42 and 43 of the Charter.
The War and Navy Departments believe that the proposed United States position presents a logical and practical approach and one which is most likely to bring about the most satisfactory establishment of a system for the regulation of armaments and armed forces with due regard for the continuing maintenance of international peace.
Secretary of the Navy
Secretary of War