Department of State Atomic Energy Files

Memorandum by Mr. R. Gordon Arneson to the Under Secretary of State (Webb)

top secret

Subject: Tripartite Talks with the United Kingdom and Canada

In response to the Secretary’s request I sent in to him on May 17 a series of recommendations as to timing and procedure to be applied to the conduct of negotiations with the United Kingdom and Canada on atomic energy matters.1 A copy of this paper, which hard the concurrence of Mr. Kennan, Mr. Rusk2 and Mr. Gross3 and which had taken into account the views of the Defense Establishment and the AEC, was sent you at the same time. (Copy attached as Tab A)

As the paper points out there is some need to move as quickly as possible on this problem. It is recognized, however, that certain other matters have chronological priority, as for example Congressional action on the Security Pact and consideration of MAP.

[Page 470]

The current investigation by the Joint Atomic Energy Committee of the AEC 4 seems to me to place a complete roadblock in the way of moving ahead with the suggested program of action at this time. Moreover, it is impossible to predict now how long the investigation may go on and indeed how much longer it would take the Committee to cool off.

Our British colleagues who have been following the Congressional investigation with lively interest appreciate fully that this development necessarily means delay. Sir John Cockroft5 came to see me this morning at his request to talk in general terms about the time that conversations might begin. He considered it quite unlikely that anything could be gotten under way until late this summer or early fall. In the past the British seem not to have fully appreciated the necessity on and indeed how much longer it would take the Committee to cool off. before we were in any position to enter into negotiations with them and the Canadians. The current fracas on the Hill seems to have convinced them of the necessity of appropriate Congressional clearance on our side before talks can take place.

Unless you perceive objection, therefore, I recommend that the program outlined in my paper of May 17 be held in abeyance at least until the return of the Secretary from Paris6 at which time an assessment should be made of the Congressional situation.

At the outset of the Congressional investigation, Lilienthal urged the Committee to call Secretary Acheson, Lovett,7 and Eisenhower to testify on the foreign aspects of our atomic energy program. Neither Hickenlooper nor the Committee seems disposed to do this, at least for the present. Gross and I are following this aspect of the investigation closely with Joe Volpe, General Counsel of AEC. Should the Committee subsequently show signs of wanting to go into the question of relations with the United Kingdom and Canada, we would propose to talk with Senator McMahon urging the Committee not to do so on the ground that these relations are not germane to the charge “incredible mismanagement” leveled against the AEC.

R. Gordon Arneson
  1. Arneson’s memorandum to the Secretary, May 17, is not printed.
  2. Dean Rusk, Deputy Under Secretary of State.
  3. Ernest A. Gross, Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations.
  4. Reference is to the investigation by the Joint Committee pursuant to charges of mismanagement directed at the United States Atomic Energy Commission by Senator Bourke B. Hickenlooper of Iowa, a member of the Committee. For an account of the proceedings, see Senate Report No. 1169, 81st Congress, 1st Session, Investigation into the United States Atomic Energy Commission, Report of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, October 13, 1949.
  5. Director of the British Atomic Energy Research Establishment, on visit in the United States.
  6. Secretary Acheson attended the Sixth Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers, Paris, May 23–June 20, 1949; for documentation on the conference, see vol. iii, pp. 856 ff.
  7. Robert A. Lovett, Under Secretary of State, July 1947–January 1949.