G/PM Files, Lot 68 D 3491

Draft Payer by Mr. Carlton Savage, Member of the Policy Planning Staff



To formulate a U.S. position on the limitation and reduction of armaments and armed forces.


Since the first World War the United States has taken a leading part in the move to reduce world armaments. One of President Wilson’s 14 points of January 8, 19182 was “adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety.” The United States called the Washington Conference of 19223 which established by treaty the principle of limitation for ships of the five largest naval powers, and participated in the London Naval Conference of 19304 which extended this principle to other types of warships of the United States, Great Britain, and Japan. We participated in the general conference for the limitation and reduction of armaments which assembled at Geneva in 1932.5 At this Geneva Conference we advocated “the computation of the number of armed forces on the basis of the effectives necessary for the maintenance of internal order plus some suitable contingent for defense.” We held that the ultimate objective of the disarmament conference must be “the complete elimination of all offensive weapons”, such as tanks and heavy mobile artillery. We advocated the total abolition of submarines, and of lethal gases and bacteriological warfare. Finally, we were “prepared to consider a limitation of expenditures on material as a complementary method of direct limitation.” Although the Geneva Conference, attended by representatives of half a hundred nations, did not result in the limitation of one man or one gun, we took a leading part in endeavoring to reach a satisfactory arms limitation agreement. The Conference failed largely because the nations felt that they must have security before they could limit armaments.

Two years after the beginning of the second World War President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill declared in the Atlantic [Page 451]Charter6 that the nations of the world must come to the abandonment of the use of force, and stated that they would aid and encourage all practicable measures which would lighten “the crushing burden of armaments”. Four years later in the United Nations Charter,7 it was stated in Article 26 that in order to promote the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security with the least diversion for armaments of the human and economic resources, the Security Council should be responsible for formulating plans “for the establishment of a system for the regulation of armaments”. In Article 11 it was stated that the General Assembly may consider “the principles governing disarmament and the regulation of armaments.”

After the United Nations came into operation two commissions were set up to deal with arms limitation. One, the Atomic Energy Commission, considered a U.S. proposal for the international control of atomic energy which was modified and eventually accepted by the overwhelming majority of the members of the General Assembly. The other, the Conventional Armaments Commission, considered the question of safeguards under any arms limitation agreement which might eventually be concluded but has never considered any specific plan for the limitation and reduction of armaments. In fact, no such proposal has ever been put before the commission; the Soviet proposal for ⅓ reduction of existing armaments was never formally presented to that body. In this Conventional Armaments Commission we agreed to a census and verification of existing armaments, other than atomic weapons, but nothing materialized because of Soviet opposition.

President Truman, in his address to the General Assembly on October 24, 1950,8 attempted to inject new life into the disarmament deliberations of the U.N., as a practical way of revitalizing the work. He asked consideration of the possibility that the work of the two disarmament commissions might be revitalized if carried forward through a new and consolidated commission. As a consequence of the President’s suggestion, the General Assembly established a committee of 12 to consider “ways and means whereby the work of the Atomic Energy Commission and the Commission for Conventional Armaments may be coordinated.”

There are several reasons why the United States should formulate a position on the limitation and reduction of armaments at this time. The Committee of Twelve has already started to function and is looking to the United States for concrete proposals to follow up the[Page 452]President’s address of October 24. The armaments question almost certainly will be considered at the contemplated CFM meeting in April or May. The Soviet Union is thumping for its ⅓ reduction plan and is gaining propaganda value from it because we have formulated no plan. The people of the United States are showing increasing interest in this subject, as reflected in the moves in Congress for disarmament resolutions. They are concerned that at the time we are embarking on such a huge rearmament program there is no concurrent program looking toward eventual disarmament. The problem of disarmament is one of the most complicated ever considered by this government or by any government. The experience of the United States and other nations at the Geneva Conference beginning in 1932 indicates that the problem is almost insoluble. To endeavor to formulate the U.S. position at this time it is clear that we can state only general principles. Details could only be set forth after months and months of thorough investigation and study. It is also realized that armaments are both an effect and cause of world tension, and that therefore the problem must be considered in connection with other causes of world tension. It is further realized that any disarmament plan should first be considered by the 4 or 5 large powers before being made the subject for consideration of all the others. The unsuccessful Geneva Conference of more than 50 nations attests to the desirability of a start by the principal powers. One aspect of our policy on this subject is clear: we cannot agree to the U.N. plan for the international control of atomic energy without a concurrent plan for the limitation and reduction of conventional armaments. Another point is clear, that there cannot be any disarmament plan without its being preceded by a census and verification of existing armaments. Furthermore, to make this possible, there must be freedom of movement between countries at least to the extent necessary to meet this requirement.

One of the most important points for U.S. decision is whether we can agree to an atomic census and verification, as we have already agreed to that procedure for conventional armaments.

Generally, we must conclude that for the present any disarmament procedure we propose must be for sovereign states, as a world government able to enforce decisions is only a possibility for some time in the distant future.


The United States should put forward the following program of principles to be mutually accepted first by the large powers and later by others:

A census and verification of existing armaments and armed forces, including atomic armaments.
Military and paramilitary personnel and police forces of each nation to be limited to, for instance, not more than 1% of the population, with an absolute maximum of 1,000,000.
Not more than a stipulated percentage of the gross national product to be devoted to military purposes, for instance 5%.
Weapons particularly useful for offensive purposes, such as heavy bombers, tanks, and submarines, to be limited or prohibited.
Biological and chemical weapons to be prohibited.
Atomic weapons to be prohibited, in accordance with the U.N. plan, or any other plan equally or more effective and workable.
Each nation to submit to the others detailed programs setting forth its manpower policy, tables of organization and equipment for its divisions, the computation of its air and naval establishments, the reserves of military stocks it proposes to maintain, and the method it proposes to use in financing military expenditures.
Freedom of movement of persons among the nations sufficient to permit the operation of an effective inspection system for carrying out the above provisions.

  1. Subject files on atomic energy and space, 1950–1967, retired by the Office of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Politico-Military Affairs.
  2. For text of the address of the President of the United States delivered at a Joint Session of the two Houses of Congress, January 8, 1918, see Foreign Relations, 1918, Supp. 1, vol. i, pp. 12 17.
  3. For documentation on the Washington Conference, see ibid., 1922, vol. i, pp. 1 384.
  4. For documentation on the London Naval Conference, see ibid., 1930, vol. i, pp. 1 131.
  5. For documentation on the Geneva Conference, see ibid., 1932, vol. i, pp. 1 534.
  6. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. i p. 368.
  7. For text, see Department of State Treaty Series No. 993, or 59 Stat. (pt. 2) 1031.
  8. For text, see United Nations, Official Records of the General Assembly, Fifth Session, Plenary Meetings, pp. 245–247 (hereafter cited as GA(V), Plenary); or Department of State Bulletin, November 6, 1950, pp. 719–722.