Policy Planning Staff Files

Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs (Barrett) to the Secretary of State 1

top secret

Subject: State–Defense Study Group Papers

I consider this a magnificent job of analyzing the problem. I have a number of minor suggestions regarding phraseology, which I either have passed along or am passing along to Paul Nitze’s staff.

Regarding the organization of the paper, the real conclusions seem to me to be at the last of Section 9. If it is anticipated that some of those dealing with this paper will have to read it rather hastily, I suggest that these should be more clearly labeled as the real conclusions, whether by putting them at the end of the paper, or by referring to them more definitely and precisely in Section 10.

My most important point: the whole paper seems to me to point to a gigantic armament race, a huge buildup of conventional arms that quickly become obsolescent, a greatly expanded military establishment in being. I think that, however much we whip up sentiment, we are going to run into vast opposition among informed people to a huge arms race. We will be warned that we are heading toward a “garrison state”. Moreover, even if we should sell the idea, I fear that the U.S. public would rapidly tire of such an effort. In the absence of real and continuing crises, a dictatorship can unquestionably out-last a democracy in a conventional armament race.

On the other hand, I believe the American public can be sold on programs to build up our strength in those fields in which we have natural superiority. These are:

Economic and technical—as reflected in Point IV and a continuing ECA program;
Psychological, as could be reflected in an information and psychological warfare offensive;2
(and most important) Scientific and technical know-how in the armament field—which should be reflected in a gigantic mobilization of the nation’s scientific brains to launch the greatest new weapons and research program in history.

Only a small portion of the current thirteen billion dollar Defense budget is going into new weapons and research of the type that Vannevar Bush emphasizes in his book.3 Scientists have left the Government since the war and are still leaving the Government. I feel confident that the American people could be sold and be kept sold on a massive program of developing new weapons and the relatively small technical crews needed to man them. Examples are super anti-tank weapons and anti-aircraft guided missiles. I believe a few billion dollars spent in this direction would give the reassurance the rest of the free world needs and would have continuing popular support in this country.

How this can be embodied in the present paper, I am not sure. I would suggest at least some rephrasing of chapters 9 and 10, to put much more emphasis on these points. I would add that this idea should be given thorough study in connection with the papers which are to follow the current ones.

This whole plan underscores again the wisdom of the current proposal for a cold war headquarters, probably attached directly to the White House.

If and when this whole project is approved by the President, the public education campaign must obviously receive the most careful study. I will forward within the next few days some detailed recommendations for this campaign. In the meantime, I would like to point out the following: The first step in the campaign is obviously building up a full public awareness of the problem. This might take three months or it might require no more than ten days. My hunch is that it will be nearer ten days. We must be sure that the Government is in a position to come forward with positive steps to be taken just as soon as the atmosphere is right. It is imperative, for both domestic and overseas reasons, that there should not be too much of a time lag between the creation of a public awareness of the problem and the setting forth of a positive Government program to solve that problem.

In other words, we should have at least the broad proposals for action well in hand before the psychological “scare campaign” is started.

  1. Transmitted through Under Secretary of State Webb.
  2. Documentation on the United States foreign information program is scheduled for publication in volume iv.
  3. Vannevar Bush, Modern Arms and Free Men: A Discussion of the Role of Science in Preserving Democracy (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1949).