Minutes of Meeting With the Panel of Consultants on Disarmament at the Department of State, April 28, 1952, 11:30 a.m.1

  • Present:
    • Consultants
      • Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
      • Dr. Vannevar Bush, Carnegie Institute of Washington
      • Dr. Joseph E. Johnson, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
      • Dr. John S. Dickey, Dartmouth College
      • Dr. Allen Dulles, CIA
    • State
      • Ambassador Benjamin V. Cohen
      • Mr. John D. Hickerson, UNA
      • Mr. William Sanders, UNA
      • Mr. John H. Ferguson, S/P
      • Mr. Bernhard Bechhoefer, UNP
      • Mr. Ward Allen, EUR
      • Mr. Warren Chase, UNA/P
      • Mr. Howard Meyers, UNP
      • Mr. James W. Barco, UNP
      • Mr. Robert Warren, S/S–S, Secretary
    • Defense
      • Col. A. B. Swann, OSD
      • Capt. H. Page Smith, OSD
    • AEC
      • Dr. H. D. Smythe

1. The new Panel of Consultants met with the Secretary at 11:30 and discussed the background of the present situation in the field of disarmament.2 After the meeting with the Secretary the Panel reconvened with members of the Working Group on Preparations for the Disarmament Commission.

2. Mr. Hickerson explained that the consultants had been called together on an urgent basis to help the Government work out disarmament proposals. He stated that the current working papers submitted for the consideration of the consultants were the result of a great deal of thought and effort on the part of various U.S. agencies. He added that when the tripartite proposal was made at the Sixth Session of the General Assembly, many people had been inclined to dismiss it as a propaganda exercise. Such was definitely not true. The U.S. is inherently a nation which maintains small military forces, then is forced to build them up frantically when a crisis approaches. He cited the standing forces available at the beginning of World Wars I and II as examples. The U.S. would like to achieve the stability and security the world seeks by a great reduction in armaments and we should not be deterred by the unlikeliness of any proposal being accepted by the Russians. He stressed that any proposal for reduction of armed forces and armaments would have to provide for continual disclosure and verification to be realistic.

One U.S. working paper to be submitted to the Disarmament Commission is a three-pronged attack upon the problem. It would contain: [Page 903]

Provision for a manpower limitation upon armed forces, including security, para-military and police organizations, that would be related to the total population of the various countries of the world. It is envisaged that a figure of 1% and overall ceiling of 1,500,000 might be the starting point;
Possibly a reference to a limitation providing that no more than say, 5% of the Gross National Product of a nation might be used in building and maintaining armed forces. It was pointed out that the U.S. was currently spending 18 1/2;% and that during the peak of W.W. II the amount had been 45%. There is no comparable figure available for Russia;
A reference to the necessity for balance between the branches of armed forces within a country and to relating armaments to permitted manpower.

Mr. Oppenheimer inquired as to whether certain weapons such as guided missiles would be entirely prohibited. Mr. Hickerson stated that perhaps such things as bacteriological warfare would fall in this category, as would other weapons. However, the immediate problem was to present a simple proposition directed at reduction.

Mr. Hickerson reviewed developments within the UN Disarmament Commission describing the five stage, progressive plan that the U.S. has suggested for disclosure and verification.3 Each of the stages would be completed before any of the subsequent steps would be undertaken. Comments had been invited upon this working paper and the Russian reaction had been to regard it as an American effort to get intelligence.

Ambassador Cohen explained that the U.S. is faced with the problem of convincing the world that the disarmament discussions were more than a mere talk fest. He had found it extremely difficult to develop any proposals that were not either obviously to our advantage or equally to our disadvantage. The paper now under discussion was the only approach that seemed balanced. To push forward too vigorously in the atomic field would place the U.S. in a precarious position. The feeling was that it might thus be well initially to undertake a limited approach to disarmament, starting with actual manpower limitations. The figure of 1% and the ceiling of 1,500,000 were not absolutes. There would have to be variations possible to prevent disequilibriums dangerous to peace.

Some of the difficulties of this arrangement were discussed. The question of what to do about the satellites was considered as well as the fact that the vast population of China in the Soviet bloc might well be countered by the inclusion of India in the free world. Mr. Cohen pointed to the effect that the proposal would have upon [Page 904] the European defense community. Mr. Oppenheimer raised the question of controlling the training of reserves, pointing out that an active reserve training program might be able to circumvent the controls. Mr. Ferguson suggested that the 5% gross national product limitation might prevent this method of evasion. However, it was pointed out that this safeguard was not present if the manpower proposal was presented as a single approach. Mr. Cohen agreed that the manpower facet of the problem was meant only as a starter. Mr. Dulles asked if inspection and control was not assumed and was told that it was. Mr. Meyers raised the possibility of handling the reserve problem through a procedure of counting only “average daily effectives” and of controlling the supply of supporting weapons which any modern force would require. Mr. Oppenheimer described his feeling that the whole issue was so complicated that for the U.S. to continually refer to this series of undefined problems made us appear insincere. He felt that it would be better to institute a very concrete suggestion. Mr. Cohen concurred and Mr. Ferguson suggested that since the Secretary had already used the figures one million and 1% this country might stick to that figure leaving it to our allies to suggest any change.

Mr. Oppenheimer inquired as to the military’s position on the one million–1% formula and was told that it had been approved last summer but it had not been considered in conjunction with the present proposal. The formula has never been specifically mentioned in any public U.S. proposals.

Mr. Dickey expressed grave misgiving as to whether the disarmament program was starting from the right point. The American public is extremely skeptical now about disarmament discussions when we are rearming, and if the public feels that the American proposal is contradictory, they will not support it. He pointed out that the manpower problem of the build-up was just beginning to get acute. Ambassador Cohen stated that the manpower problems of the build-up were not directly related to the disarmament proposal, since the numerical limitation plan outlined what we would do only if assured that the Soviets were willing to provide systematic and orderly safeguards. At this point Mr. Dickey raised the problem of when this nation can begin to slacken off in its defense build-up. He felt world opinion would take more seriously a disarmament proposal that had a definite relationship to Korea and possibilities of a standstill arrangement. Mr. Bush felt that this consideration might be taken care of in the scheduling of the paper in the UN, to which Mr. Dickey replied that his main preoccupation was that the question be given high level consideration. Mr. Oppenheimer felt that any proposal advanced by the U.S. should follow 3 criteria: (1) it should seize the initiative, (2) it should cause us to [Page 905] take action if accepted, (3) it should not be hedged about by many qualifying phrases as to the years required for implementing it. He believed that the public was too familiar with proposals of the latter type. Ambassador Cohen agreed that the current proposal had to be concrete and positive but it must be remembered that offsetting any real disarmament has to be a long process. Mr. Dulles inquired as to the possibilities of asking the Soviet delegates what disarmament terms they would accept. The sense of the group was that this was not advisable. Mr. Cohen pointed out that an immediate standstill arrangement might come close to Soviet wishes but would probably be unacceptable to us.

Mr. Sanders pointed up the basic inconsistency between simultaneous armament and discussion of disarmament. Any percentages limiting manpower would spotlight this inconsistency. He thought there was a tremendous need for education in the field. Ambassador Cohen suggested that, in order to make it clear that the U.S. was not abandoning its interest in disarmament, it might be desirable to use General Eisenhower’s statement as a starting point.

Mr. Oppenheimer asked Ambassador Cohen to review the advantages of submitting the numerical limitation working paper. (DAC D–8).4 Ambassador Cohen urged that the Working Group should find one or two specific items to highlight the disarmament question in the forthcoming General Assembly. He reported that, despite our initiative in Paris, there was much world feeling that the whole disarmament question was a mere recital of the same old platitudes.

Mr. Dulles inquired whether the U.S. ought not have one of its allies present a proposal and then have it accepted by the U.S. Ambassador Cohen thought our predominant position required us to put forward the major proposals. Mr. Hickerson stressed the point that the proposal should be made as simple as possible and should stress that the U.S. was anxious to implement any agreement immediately. Mr. Oppenheimer believed that since the proposal, as presented, would result in something we wanted, i.e., less Russian troops, it would be judged a purely propaganda maneuver without any chance of success. He asked whether our past proposals in the Disarmament Commission were ever accepted seriously. If not, our main preoccupation should be with the effect of our suggestion upon world opinion. Mr. Johnson did not believe that it was necessary to raise the question at this point. He thought the U.S. might do as well to follow through on the disclosure and verification plan. [Page 906] Ambassador Cohen replied that there was no intention of dropping this plan, but that in order to maintain the initiative we had to have something concrete in limitation. Mr. Bush agreed with this thesis but stated that, like Mr. Dickey, he was concerned with the point at which the arms race would be concluded.

The session adjourned for lunch with the Secretary after agreeing to reconvene at 2:00 p.m.

Afternoon Session

After the general discussion of the luncheon period, Ambassador Cohen reopened formal consideration by stating that even the Disclosure and Verification Paper was not one that our allies will consider as very positive since it does not touch on limitation and reduction and, hence, does not answer the constant Soviet charges. What we lack is a concrete proposal in this field. Mr. Oppenheimer asked if a prudent unilateral disclosure of certain less sensitive information by the U.S. might be the answer. It was pointed out that the Soviets would think that any American disclosures would be only such as were already well known and would be interpreted as an attempt to gain intelligence on Russian forces. Ambassador Cohen felt that unilateral action would only involve the U.S. in deeper trouble. He stated that our allies do not consider us reticent on Disclosure and Verification but rather feel that we are not positive enough on limitation and reduction.

Mr. Johnson raised the question of whether the British, who were particularly sensitive to the publication of troop data in 1946, would feel the same at this time. Mr. Hickerson stated that there was an indication to this effect when Mr. Hohler of the Foreign Office was over here in October.

Mr. Dulles asked whether there were any comprehensive United Nations figures on the status of the world’s various armed forces. He was told that present UN documents were limited to synthesizing the past efforts of the League of Nations in the field of disarmament and that there were no good UN figures, particularly with reference to the Soviet Union. The Russians have even refused to provide accurate general population figures for the recent United Nations World Population Survey.

Ambassador Cohen was requested by Mr. Oppenheimer to indicate what he thought were the greatest problems faced in presenting the proposed working paper. The Ambassador replied that he believed the free world reaction in the General Assembly was crucial, and that there was also the problem of dealing with the various counter-proposals that might come from other member states. The French have been particularly restive about the lack of American positive action. The Soviet delegate had attacked our disclosure [Page 907] and verification proposal as only diversionary and insisted that what was needed was a basic decision to reduce conventional arms and to prohibit atomic weapons.

Mr. Sanders asked the consultants if they, on the basis of their wide experience in the various fields of governmental research, might have any general information that would be helpful in the implementation of the present proposal. He was particularly concerned with what safeguards in the industrial field should be made the subject of further research between now and June 1, while a simultaneous examination of the basic principles was taking place. The old RAC paper on the Soviet disarmament positions was mentioned, and it was agreed that this would be obtained. Mr. Johnson also presented the possibility of using the research that Mr. Gordon and General Strong had done in preparation for the San Francisco conference.

Mr. Oppenheimer thought there were two problem areas that might well be studied further: (1) the industrial control approach to disarmament preparation, particularly the question of the petroleum industry; (2) a basic consideration of procedure. The problem of disarmament should become simpler as the approach taken becomes broader but this does not actually happen. He suggested that the Working Group might attempt to thin the question out so that it was not necessary to be faced with such a mass of detailed factors.

Ambassador Cohen stated that his proposal was one attempt at this problem, but that Mr. Oppenheimer’s analysis of the problem really went further. As the consultative panel began functioning the whole question of disarmament might well be considered and then we would be in a position to present the concrete proposals needed, both as to a simple non-atomic control plan and a workable approach to atomic limitation.

Mr. Bush asked whether, in addition to the approaches that would limit manpower and the use of more than five percent of the Gross National Product for armed forces, a third approach might be that of basic raw materials control. Such a study would certainly be easier than the complete industrial survey being discussed. The question of limiting industrial power as such was raised but discarded when Mr. Bush pointed out that the United States uses a great deal more power to produce a product than the Soviet Union requires for the production of a comparable article. Nonetheless, it was felt that power consumption was a very good index by which to detect a change of policy on the part of a potential aggressor.

Mr. Johnson inquired what other disarmament proposals had been considered and rejected before the presentation of the present paper. Ambassador Cohen replied that the problem had not been [Page 908] one of choosing alternatives, but rather of finding any formula that would permit separating the question of atomic and conventional disarmament without prejudice to our interests. The present working paper had resulted from a review of principles adopted in the past.

Mr. Dulles recommended aircraft and aircraft armaments control as an area in which Disclosure and Verification was relatively simple.

Mr. Oppenheimer observed that making the approach on the basis of one item had all the disadvantages of the Disclosure and Verification Paper and none of the advantages of a general approach.

Mr. Oppenheimer stated that while there was certainly some uneasiness in the minds of the consultants, they were perfectly aware that the proposal was drafted only after thorough consideration of the possibilities and that they ought to support the concept that a simple proposal of this nature was needed. Mr. Bush said his position would be that, before we withdraw entirely from any effort to reach agreement in the atomic weapons field, we ought to reconsider the UN plan for atomic energy control, and that while any such study would not be ready before June 1, we might be able to discover an opportunity for definite action later. We will have recommendations on this point at the next Panel meeting.

Mr. Hickerson asked Ambassador Cohen for the time table on the working paper, and inquired whether a decision might not be withheld until the next consultants’ meeting. The Ambassador stressed the fact that the US delegates were greatly hampered by not having something positive to submit. He felt that to merely submit the numerical limitation proposal as a topic to be discussed was not concrete enough and that it would be suggesting something that we were unprepared to follow-up. Disarmament Commission hearings began over a month ago and the American proposal should have been ready in final form then. Mr. Dulles inquired whether the Soviets had produced any proposals of their own at this session and was told that Soviet ideas all called for immediate decisions for prohibition of atomic weapons and general reduction without safeguards. Mr. Dulles further inquired whether there was any way by which a proposal could be introduced by the French and British with the U.S. playing a supporting role. The Ambassador replied that the French had submitted a proposal of their own on the atomic prohibition question, but that it had not as yet received French governmental approval. This proposal would compress the five stages into three with atomic weapon prohibitions taking effect at the end of the first stage. With respect to the Canadians, he pointed out that there was a tendency to want to move [Page 909] faster than the United States was willing to; that to push them might result in embarrassment to us. Mr. Hickerson said that it was expected that the British would balk at some features of the U.S. disclosure and verification proposals.

Summarizing his objections, Mr. Dickey conceded that there was definitely a need for positive initiative, but that there was the problem of acceptance by the American people; that any proposition aimed at getting agreement to limit armed forces some years in the future was almost irrelevant in the popular mind today. He felt that the government had to consider at some point just where the present buildup would reach its optimum point and stop. The public believes that this question is being considered in government councils, yet such is not true. For the proposed disarmament program to carry any conviction, it would be necessary to indicate on what terms, and when, we would accept a standstill arrangement. All of this was contingent, of course, upon a satisfactory outcome in Korea. This standstill point, for the realization of our policy, was not a matter for the consultants’ decision but rather the concern of the State and Defense Departments; but to pose the disarmament proposal without this decision would result in seriously crippling the rearmament program.

Ambassador Cohen felt that the United States would accept a standstill arrangement the moment any satisfactory treaty was signed, but that he could not accept Mr. Dickey’s thesis that a 50% decline in our own armed strength would not get serious consideration in public opinion. Soviet agreement would be the sine qua non in the picture. The U.S. would consider this point as a beginning rather than an end. Clarification of armed forces strength should enable us to develop agreements in the atomic field.

Mr. Meyers asked whether Mr. Dickey’s position was not actually a case of developing a suitable time table for reduction of armed forces and armaments and deciding when the specific reductions should take place. Mr. Dickey thought that the sine qua non of being taken seriously was not Soviet agreement, but rather some consideration of when the present buildup could end. Ambassador Cohen believed that if such was true, the U.S. had made a mistake at the Paris meeting in introducing the disarmament proposals. What Mr. Dickey proposed went much further than an arms reduction. He thought that unless the U.S. was to lose ground between now and the convening of the General Assembly, it would be necessary to have some specific proposal in the disarmament field; that he had been driven to supporting the numerical limitation proposal for lack of anything better. However, if some equally effective program could be formulated, he would be only too happy to present it. Mr. Chase suggested that if it was important to talk to the Soviets [Page 910] about some standstill agreement, the UN was not the proper forum. To this, Mr. Dickey replied that if such was the case the consultants ought to be so informed.

Mr. Hickerson closed the meeting by stating that some type of standstill agreement was implicit in the implementing of a disarmament proposal; that there was small hope of any working paper being adopted by all members of the Disarmament Commission; but that a firm decision regarding clearance of a paper for submission in the Commission should be made in the very near future.


Suggestions re Problems To Be Considered in Connection With Elaboration of Comprehensive Plan for Regulation, Limitation and Balanced Reduction of All Armed Forces and Armaments (Reference: RAC (NS) D–1a)5

i—armed forces and non-atomic armaments

A. Types of forces, armaments and materials:

Armed forces—inclusion of para-military, security and police forces, trained reserves, definition of mass armies;
Definition or list of standard armaments;
Definition or list of other weapons;
Definition or lists of basic materials useable exclusively, primarily or substantially for the manufacture of armaments.

B. Limitation and Allocation of Armed Forces and Armaments:

Determination of maximum permitted levels of national armed forces: (Reference: DAC D–6)6
Criteria and factors to be considered and relative weight to be given them:
Factors relating to the country—population, size, geographical features, etc.;
Relationship of country to regional and other political groupings;
Defense by metropolitan powers of their non-self-governing and trust territories;
Methods of adjustment of permitted levels to reflect changes in conditions.
Determination of maximum permitted levels and kinds of armaments (Reference: DAC D–6)
Criteria for determining maximum permitted levels of standard armaments—relationship to permitted levels of armed forces;
Criteria for determining maximum permitted production of standard armaments—relationship to gross national product—adjustment for production for permitted export to other countries;
Limitation of army, naval and air bases, facilities and installations.
Allocation of armed forces and armaments within permitted national levels.
Treatment of non-atomic weapons other than permitted standard weapons.

C. Balanced Reduction of Armed Forces and Armaments:

Determination and synchronization of stages to reach permitted levels.

D. Controls and Safeguards and Enforcement Machinery:

Disclosure and verification (both a safeguard and a partial precondition to the institution of a control system); (Ref: DC/C.2/1)7
Nature of other controls—supervision, management, ownership, destruction;
Points in the economy at which controls must be applied—stages in the processing of essential basic materials and stages in the manufacture of armaments;
Controls over international commerce in armaments and in materials used exclusively, primarily or substantially for armaments;
International organs for implementation—nature, composition, size of personnel, location, financing, methods of reaching decisions, relationship to existing US organs; (Ref: DAC–D3a)8
Determination of what constitutes minor and major violations; methods of reaching decision on violations and punishment; types of punishment to be imposed.
[Page 912]

ii. atomic energy

Reappraisal of UN atomic energy plan to determine possible improvements and degree of flexibility in details. (First, Second and Third Reports of UNAEC).

iii. general questions

What further information and research is necessary to provide adequate basis for intelligent resolution of the above problems?
How should the elements of the disclosure and verification system, the UN atomic energy plan, and plans for limitation and control in the non-atomic field be synchronized, i.e., what is the desirable time-table and what flexibility is possible in the sequential relationships? (Ref: DAC–7)9
What segments (if any) of a comprehensive plan can be segregated and put forward in the Disarmament Commission separately at least in general terms in the immediate future? (Ref: DAC D–8)
  1. Present at this meeting were members of the interagency Working Group on Preparations for the Disarmament Commission.
  2. See the minutes of the meeting with the Secretary, supra.
  3. See footnote 2, p. 883.
  4. Reference is to the paper prepared by the interagency Working Group on Preparations for the Disarmament Commission entitled “Proposals for Numerical Limitation of Armed Forces”, Apr. 24, 1952, not printed. (Disarmament files, lot 58 D 133, “DAC”)
  5. RAC (NS) D–1a of Apr. 11, 1952 is entitled “General Views of the U.S. Concerning Regulation, Limitation and Balanced Reduction of Armed Forces and Armaments”. It is one of the first papers drafted by the reconstituted Executive Committee on Regulation of Armaments. (See the paper approved by the Secretaries of State and Defense and the Chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, Mar. 8, p. 876.) This paper was also known under the designation DAC D–4a (see footnote 1, p. 872) and a copy is in the Disarmament files, lot 58 D 133, “Executive Committee on Regulation of Armaments; Documents April 1952–February 1955”.
  6. Interagency Working Group on Preparations for the Disarmament Commission Draft Paper entitled “General Views of the U.S. Concerning Determination of Overall Limits and Restrictions on all Armed Forces and all Armaments, including Atomic Weapons”, Apr. 14, 1952, not printed. (Disarmament files, lot 58 D 133, “DAC”)
  7. See footnote 2, p. 883.
  8. Interagency Working Group on Preparations for the Disarmament Commission Paper entitled “Methods of Implementing and Enforcing the Disarmament Program”, Apr. 15, 1952, not printed. (Disarmament files, lot 58 D 133, “DAC”)
  9. “U.S. Position on Procedure and Timetable for Giving Effect to Disarmament Program”, Apr. 18, 1952, not printed. (Disarmament files, lot 58 D 133, “DAC”)