Eisenhower Library, White House Office, “Office of Staff Secretary records, 1952–61”

Notes by the Assistant Staff Secretary to the President (Minnich) on the Legislative Leadership Meeting, December 14, 19541

[Extract]

confidential

The following were present:

  • President Eisenhower
  • Vice President Nixon
  • Sen. Knowland
  • Sen. Bridges
  • Sen. Millikin
  • Sen. Saltonstall
  • Sen. Ferguson
  • Sen. Wiley
  • Speaker Martin
  • Rep. Halleck
  • Rep. Arends
  • Rep. Leo Allen
  • Rep. Chiperfield
  • Rep. Taber
  • Rep. Dewey Short
  • Sec. Dulles
  • Asst. Sec. Thruston Morton, State
  • Sec. Humphrey
  • Sec. Wilson, and Asst. Secs. Seaton, Burgess, McNeil, Struve Hensel
  • Gov. Stassen, FOA
  • Director Hughes and Mr. Brundage
  • Sen. Lyndon Johnson
  • Sen. Clements
  • Sen. Hayden
  • Sen. Russell
  • Sen. George
  • Rep. Sam Rayburn
  • Rep. McCormack
  • Rep. Cannon
  • Rep. James P. Richards
  • Rep. Carl Vinson
  • Gov. Adams
  • Gen. Persons
  • Mr. Shanley
  • Mr. Hagerty
  • Mr. Snyder
  • Mr. Harlow
  • Mr. Morgan
  • Mr. Jack Martin
  • Mr. Gruenther
  • Gen. Goodpaster
  • Mr. Milton Eisenhower
  • Dr. Hauge
  • Mr. Randall
  • Mr. Minnich

. . . . . . .

National Defense—The President, speaking as Commander-in-Chief, described the basic change in the military picture of our times in terms of a “fear” having appeared for the first time in the United States, since it was no longer immune from attack. By virtue of the weakness of Germany and Japan, the traditional checks upon Russia had been weakened and the United States now had a definite interest beyond its own shores in the security of the industrial complexes of those two countries. Also, the development of atomic weapons had put us on the front line. As a result the United States needed economic programs that would help restore Japan and Germany as strong defenders against Russia, allowing [Page 826]the United States to be a central “keep”; also, the United States must have an effective deterring military force and a strong civilian defense that could blunt any blow directed against us.

The President then emphasized that security could not be measured in dollars, rather the most important thing was maintaining a long and steady course. This could be done through a well chosen, adequate and constantly modernized defense organization, backed by the Reserve establishment and a strong domestic economy. He believed that the possession of a strong retaliatory power was the greatest service the United States could render even to Great Britain and Western Europe.

The President set forth his belief in the need for increasing combat air up to the level desired, having a carrier force to provide air power to meet unexpected developments in any corner of the globe; and as a corollary to cut back on manpower in the effort to achieve maximum security per dollar expenditure. He stated that past requirements for US forces in Korea, Japan and Europe left us now with larger contingents there than necessary.2

The improved Reserve would be needed as a well disciplined domestic force.

While recognizing that a primary objective must be one of blunting the force of an enemy attack during the first fifteen days so as to gain time for American industrial superiority to have its effect, the President attached great importance to having proper military strength to keep an enemy from ever starting a war against us, knowing the destructiveness of modern weapons.

The President said that responsible leaders ought to be examining among themselves every possible way to cut back manpower in the Services in places other than air, Navy air, and submarine forces. The President stated that he had worked on this problem before any other single thing, especially since becoming President. He recognized that every Service could find good reason for having increases in strength but he urged the need for getting the least possible burden on the American people in a way that would not expose the country.

Mr. Rayburn was the first to comment by making the same statement he recalled making a year ago—a hope that “that big” is big enough. The President replied that there is a progression from [Page 827]things critically needed, to those highly desirable, and then to those probably helpful—each with decreasing returns.

Mr. Halleck interpreted the President’s comments to mean simply having the proper balance in our Armed Forces, plus a strong economy, a middle way between all-out mobilization and weakness. The President added a comment that in some activities all the gold in Fort Knox could take us no further ahead. He assured the group that he would never be guilty consciously of exposing the United States unnecessarily. Rather, he would always stand ready to discuss these matters seriously since he did not profess to be any absolute authority.

(The President left the meeting during the following presentation.)

The new Reserve program was then presented, complete with charts, by Mr. Burgess. On completion, Sen. Saltonstall ascertained that this program, with its six-months training feature, did not in any way constitute universal military training. Messrs. Halleck, Knowland, Arends and Allen3 asked a series of questions on detail, primarily as regards saving war veterans from frequent recall to service.

Sen. Russell felt there would be no difficulty in getting sufficient people to volunteer for the six-months program to fill the quota of 100, 000 set for the first year. Mr. Burgess answered several questions on the mechanics of the program for Sen. Russell4 and Rep. Taber. Mr. Burgess then presented the proposed Career Incentive Program (as on the preceding day). Sen. Hayden5 was interested in the total cost of the pay increases, Sen. Bridges was concerned with resignations of Naval Academy personnel, as was also Sen. Saltonstall. The details of the military pay increase were then presented.

Mr. McNeil then went over the expenditures programmed for FY 1956, which would total about the same as for 1955 but would be devoted more to ships, planes and weapons, and less to construction of facilities and housekeeping. Sen. Wiley asked several questions on stockpiling and acquisition of critical materials which were in the realm of GSA and FOA.

. . . . . . .

  1. The source text indicates that this White House meeting was held from 8:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. President Eisenhower opened the meeting by stressing the wideranging character of the agenda, and he invited members of the meeting to raise fresh issues. For the portion of this meeting dealing with mutual security matters, see vol. i, Part 1, p. 811.
  2. At a press conference on Dec. 20, Secretary of Defense Wilson “announced stepped-up manpower cuts …to reduce the Armed Forces from 3,218,000 men to 2,815,000 by mid-1956” rather than by mid-1957 as had earlier been announced. At the same time, Secretary Wilson announced that the First Marine Division in Korea was being returned to the West Coast and would be replaced by one of the Army divisions then in Japan. (New York Times, Dec. 21, 1954, p. 1) Subsequent force movements were announced later in the month for Japan and the Pacific area. For information on these moves, see volume xiv .
  3. Rep. Leo E. Allen (R., Ill.).
  4. Sen. Richard Russell (D., Ga.).
  5. Sen. Carl Hayden (D., Ariz.).