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Memorandum of Discussion at the 149th Meeting of the National Security Council, Tuesday, June 9, 1953 1


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Present at the 149th meeting of the Council were the President of the United States, presiding; the Vice President of the United States; the Secretary of State; the Deputy Secretary of Defense; and the Director for Mutual Security. Also present were the Secretary of the Treasury; the Director of Defense Mobilization; the Director, Bureau of the Budget; the Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission (Item 1); the Federal Civil Defense Administrator (Item 1); the Chairman, Federal Communications Commission (Item 2); the Telecommunications Adviser to the President (Item 2); General Collins for the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Director of Central Intelligence; Robert Cutler, Special Assistant to the President; Lewis L. Strauss, Special Assistant to the President; C. D. Jackson, Special Assistant to the President; the Military Liaison Officer; Ralph Clark and J. J. Hitchcock, Central Intelligence Agency (Item 2); the Acting Executive Secretary, NSC; and Hugh D. Farley, NSC Special Staff Member.

There follows a summary of the discussion and the chief points taken at the meeting.

1. Restatement of Basic National Security Policy (NSC 153;2 NSC Action No. 776–b;3 memo for NSC from Acting Executive Secretary, same subject, dated June 8, 19534)

Mr. Cutler traced the development of NSC 153 and earlier Council actions on this subject. He noted that, if adopted, NSC 153 [Page 374]would supersede all the earlier policy statements on this subject since the year 1948 and including NSC 149/2. However, he called the Council’s attention to the fact that the present report contained an Annex listing United States objectives in the event of war with the Soviet Union, which had been taken from NSC 20/4. These objectives would accordingly remain valid, and the Planning Board had undertaken a reconsideration of them.

Mr. Cutler then read aloud to the members of the Council the General Considerations and General Objectives set forth in NSC 153, in the course of which he explained the difference of views with respect to paragraph 8–e. He noted that this split had been discussed with the President by himself and Mr. Gleason when they had briefed the President in preparation for this meeting. At that time the President had suggested the wording “to prevent significant forcible expansion of Soviet bloc power even at the grave risk of general war.” The Planning Board had adopted the use of the word “significant”, but were reluctant to accept the word “forcible”, since the Planning Board believed that the addition of this word seriously weakened the objective because it might permit Soviet expansion in key areas through internal subversion as opposed to external aggression.

At this point, the President interposed to explain to the Council his reasons for suggesting the inclusion of the term “forcible”. The point he was making, said the President, was that if some free world country, such as Italy, were actually to elect a Communist government, he did not see how we could do anything to prevent its exercise of power.

. . . . . . .

Secretary Humphrey expressed his agreement with the President’s view that if by a free election a country went Communist, the United States could not start a war.

Mr. Cutler, in reply, agreed with Secretary Humphrey’s point, but insisted that in the contingency he was talking about, the United States might very well take certain measures which would involve serious risk of general war.

Secretary Dulles said that as he understood the objective set forth in paragraph 8–e, it meant that the United States would undertake certain efforts to prevent further significant expansion of Soviet power, even at the risk of war. This would not mean, however, that we would necessarily go to war, but rather that we would take actions which the Soviets, if they chose, could consider a casus belli. Secretary Dulles emphasized the great irritation which the Soviets had evinced when the NATO alliance was formed and when the Japanese Peace Treaty was signed. Despite their anger they had not, however, gone to war, and Secretary Dulles thought [Page 375]that the present paragraph should at least make it clear that the United States is not going to refrain from doing what it ought to do simply because certain of its actions might serve the Soviets as a pretext for war.

After further discussion and suggestions for rephrasing paragraph 8–e, Secretary Dulles read to the Council a version which he had written and which the President and the other members of the Council agreed to accept.

The President closed this phase of the discussion with a warning that the United States should not permit itself to be frozen to certain positions in advance of events. With respect to the contingencies involved in paragraph 8–e, the United States would have to decide its position in the light of the situation existing at the time.

After various other verbal changes had been made by the Council, Secretary Kyes said that he was unhappy about the phrasing of paragraph 11 as it applied to the development of an early warning system. It was not accurate to state that we should “accelerate” an early warning system, since the Defense Department had not yet reached firm conclusions as to the feasibility of an early warning system and the report of the Kelly Committee had indicated difficulties and delays in the creation of such a system. It was accordingly agreed to fall back on the language of NSC 149 and to substitute “emphasize” instead of “accelerate”.

Governor Peterson then inquired of Secretary Kyes whether his comments on the Kelly Report must lead us to assume that it was impossible to achieve an effective early warning system.

Secretary Kyes replied in the negative, but again pointed out the unresolved problems in this area and his conviction that one could not accelerate something which had not yet come into existence. Secretary Kyes stated that the Defense Department strongly favored the creation of a sound system of early warning, but that he was very anxious that the new Joint Chiefs of Staff should review the whole problem of continental defense before the Defense Department went ahead with any specific program to achieve a given interval of early warning. There was still grave doubt in his mind as to whether it was right to single out and go ahead on the early warning component of continental defense, without synchronizing this with the remaining parts of a continental defense program.

Governor Peterson then turned to paragraph 12, dealing with non-military measures to strengthen the defense position of the United States, and read a suggested change in the wording of the paragraph. He felt it was not timely merely to go forward with preparations for reducing urban vulnerability, but that the time was at hand for a policy statement directing measures to reduce urban vulnerability. What he had in mind, said Governor Peterson, [Page 376]did not involve expenditures of Federal funds to disperse installations and lessen their vulnerability, but rather use by the Government of its very considerable financial power to gain compliance by the companies in reasonable dispersal of critical facilities. In short, if the owners of these facilities refused to cooperate with the Government, we could, for example, withhold defense contracts from them.

Reminding the Council of his considerable experience at the local level with problems like this, Secretary Kyes stressed his conviction that it would be a very dangerous policy to refuse defense contracts to companies who, for one reason or another, did not comply with this vulnerability policy. It was often impractical and wasteful to scatter the various component parts of an organization which produced defense products. A promotion campaign to stress the desirability, when practical, of dispersion was, in Secretary Kyes’ mind, a far better means of reducing urban vulnerability than Governor Peterson’s suggestion.

Governor Peterson replied that he was far from desiring to impose any impractical solution of this problem, but it seemed to him clear that we could no longer continue to pile up factories and populations in congested and exposed areas, and that there accordingly must be more dispersion.

Secretary Kyes replied that he certainly was a believer in dispersion, but at the same time was strongly opposed to dissipation. In the name of dispersion we have often set up facilities in remote areas which resulted in poor production and very high costs.

The President reminded Secretary Kyes that in the present situation it was unfortunately necessary to give up maximum efficiency of operation in order to obtain maximum security. This was a many-sided problem, and we must not oversimplify it. What we required in this paragraph was language which would show that in all facets of our life we are proposing to use the power of the Federal Government to get people to do the sensible thing. As the President understood it, this was what Governor Peterson wanted.

Secretary Kyes replied that he simply did not like the force idea with respect to defense contracts. He stated that the Defense Department would cooperate to the hilt with Governor Peterson to achieve a more positive approach to the problem of reducing urban vulnerability.

In turn, Governor Peterson expressed understanding of the difficulties which Secretary Kyes foresaw, and emphasized that what he sought in paragraph 12 was not a specific program of implementation, but merely a general policy statement as a guide. Once this policy statement had been made, he would do his best to implement it in a sound and sensible way.

[Page 377]

After further discussion, Governor Stassen suggested the adoption of the statement proposed by Governor Peterson, subject to the inclusion of the word “feasible”. The President and the Council agreed with this amendment.

Governor Stassen then suggested the inclusion of a new paragraph 31, which would give the necessary emphasis to the Secretary of State’s desire to extend the good offices of the United States in helping to smooth the difficult relationships between some of our allies and their colonial or semi-colonial dependents.

Secretary Dulles pointed out that the United States must assert itself in order to assure an orderly evolution toward freedom for such peoples, and not appear to contradict its own traditions as a supporter of the status quo.

The President and the Council expressed approval of the idea advanced by Governor Stassen, and suggested that his draft language be checked with the Secretary of State and thereafter be included as a new paragraph 31.

The National Security Council: 5

a. Adopted NSC 153 subject to the following amendments:

Page 4, paragraph 6, line 5: Delete the word “national”.
Page 6, paragraph 8–e: Change to read as follows: “To prevent significant expansion of Soviet bloc power, even though in certain cases measures to this end may be used by the Soviet bloc as a pretext for war.”
Page 7, paragraph 10: Delete the phrase “under all foreseeable conditions”.
Page 7, paragraph 11: Change the first word, “accelerate”, to “emphasize”.
Page 7, paragraph 12: Change to read as follows: “Strengthen the defense position of the United States by non-military measures, including development of a stronger civil defense, feasible reduction of urban vulnerability, and preparations to assure the continuity of government and essential production.”
Page 10: Insert a new paragraph 31 as follows and renumber the subsequent paragraphs accordingly: “Extend good offices where appropriate in resolving controversies between nations of the free world, in helping to adjust colonial and quasi-colonial relationships, and in moderating extreme nationalism, with a view to aiding the orderly self-development of the peoples of the free world rather than to preserving the status quo.”

[Page 378]

Note: NSC 153 as amended subsequently approved by the President and circulated as NSC 153/1.6

. . . . . . .

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Drafted by Deputy Executive Secretary Gleason on June 11.
  2. See the memorandum from Bowie to the Secretary of State, June 8, p. 370.
  3. For NSC Action No. 776–b, see footnote 6, p. 304.
  4. Supra.
  5. Paragraph a and its subparagraphs constitute NSC Action No. 811. (S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) files, lot 66 D 95, “NSC Records of Action”)
  6. NSC 153/1 is printed infra.