17. Memorandum of Discussion at the 241st Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, March 17, 19551
A list of attendants at this meeting is attached hereto. There follows a summary of the discussion at the meeting and the main points taken.
Report to the President by the Technological Capabilities Panel2
Before the regular NSC meeting of March 17, a special presentation was made on intelligence and covert activities in the President’s office, with the following individuals in attendance:
- The President of the United States
- Herbert Hoover, Jr., Acting Secretary of State
- Charles E. Wilson, Secretary of Defense
- Robert B. Anderson, Deputy Secretary of Defense
- Arthur S. Flemming, Director, Office of Defense Mobilization
- Lewis L. Strauss, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission
- Admiral Arthur W. Radford, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
- Allen W. Dulles, Director of Central Intelligence
- Lt. Gen. R. J. Canine, Director, National Security Agency
- Nelson A. Rockefeller, Special Assistant to the President
- Robert Cutler, Special Assistant to the President
- Colonel Andrew J. Goodpaster, White House Staff Secretary
- James S. Lay, Jr., Executive Secretary, NSC
- J. R. Killian, Jr., Director, Killian Committee
- E. H. Land, Member, Killian Committee
At the regular NSC meeting, which began at 9:45 a.m. and which was held in the Broadcast Room of The White House, Dr.Flemming made the following introductory remarks: He recalled that the Science Advisory Committee of ODM met in the President’s office some months ago, at which time the President mentioned technological aspects of our defense program which he desired to be further explored. As a result, a highly competent panel of the Science Advisory Committee was established under Dr. Killian. Dr. Flemming said the panel had undertaken its task enthusiastically; that over forty key scientists participated in the work of the panel, with a considerable amount of sacrifice and effort on their part. He expressed appreciation to the members of the panel, and particularly to Dr. Killian, for giving unstintingly of both time and effort. He then introduced Dr. Killian.
Dr. Killian advised that the work of his panel had not been fruitless. He commented on the cooperation and support received from every agency, stating it was generous and complete. He mentioned the high quality of most of the personnel in the several agencies who deal [Page 64]with problems involving the subject of his report. He mentioned that his panel submitted its report in a desire to be helpful; that the panel did not express superior judgment in any sense; and that the panel was acutely aware of the many practical difficulties in the way of fulfilling some of the recommendations in the report. He said his panel had sought to assist, to the extent of its abilities, by recommending the best conceivable defense. He noted that he and his associates in this work had the responsibility of preserving the amenities and the confidential character of the relationship which they had enjoyed as regards highly classified areas of Governmental business by virtue of their work on the panel.
The following individuals then briefed the Council on the highlights of the report, covering the Preface and pages 3 through 33 of the report: Messrs. Killian, Fisk, DuBridge, Sprague and Land.
At the conclusion of this briefing, Mr. Cutler advised the Council that there had been circulated, prior to the meeting, a draft Council action on the recommendations of the report. He summarized its content and indicated that the Departments concerned would have an opportunity to study it further before final action was taken thereon.
Mr. Smith, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Air, noted that in his portion of the briefing Dr. DuBridge spoke in terms of SAC being based ultimately in the United States. Mr. Smith asked if such a policy would be consistent with what we are doing now. Dr. DuBridge replied in the affirmative, stating that we do not recommend replacing, displacing, or obliterating our present foreign bases. Dr. DuBridge said that, looking to the future, this recommendation regarding SAC was aimed at the time when the United States would have a better long-range intercontinental bombing force which for security purposes would be based in the United States without adversely affecting the accomplishment of its operational objectives. Mr. Smith then inquired why the briefing did not emphasize the refueling problem, and Dr. Killian replied that refueling was covered in detail in the body of the report.
The President referred to that portion of the briefing which indicated that the United States was approaching attainment of maximum yields from nuclear weapons, whereas the Russians were not. He then made reference to the proposal which has been made that the United States declare a moratorium on the testing of nuclear weapons of certain sizes or yields, and queried whether it wouldn’t be a good idea to endorse such a moratorium proposal, particularly since we were so far ahead of the Russians in this area. Dr. Fisk replied that a moratorium which would restrict nuclear tests on the part of the United States wouldn’t be a good idea in terms of what the United States still needs to do. He said he was speaking not in terms of achieving greater explosive yields, but rather in terms of tests which would enable the [Page 65]United States to tailor nuclear weapons to a variety of military needs. Dr. Fisk added that we could not be assured that the Russians have not tailored their atomic weapons to their military needs. The President asked whether it would be practical for the United States, in a moratorium-type approach to the problem, to cut off at 100 k.t. on the grounds that if the Russians detonated nuclear devices of greater yields we would be able to discover that fact and turn it against them psychologically.
Mr. Holloway stated that if the United States restricted its nuclear tests, this wouldn’t give us any guarantee that the Russians would restrict theirs. The President questioned whether the Soviets might stockpile thermonuclear bombs based on intelligence obtained about our bomb tests without an actual Soviet full-scale test. Mr. Holloway expressed his firm belief that such a step would require an exceptional amount of courage on the part of the Soviet scientists to be sure their designs would actually work.
At this point, the President spoke in terms of having a continuing panel (with the scientists well represented) which could perform a very helpful advisory role on the kind of information that could be given to the public with respect to this general subject. He said that he did not believe there was any agency in Government which was looking at this problem from this standpoint on a continuing basis, and he said he thought that the scientists could effectively cooperate with the Government in this area.
Turning to another aspect of the subject, the President inquired of Dr. Killian whether his panel found an unsatisfactory situation in respect to the present disposition of atomic weapons, which arrangement he had approved for the military. Dr. Killian replied that he and one other member of the panel had been primarily responsible for looking into this aspect of the subject; that they had done so; and that they had found the present arrangements for the deployment of atomic weapons to be first-rate.
The President concluded the discussion with pertinent comments concerning several aspects of the general subject, and he expressed his deep appreciation to Dr. Killian, members of the Killian Committee, and other scientists who had given much of their time and efforts to the study on which the Council was briefed today by the Killian Committee.[Page 66]
The National Security Council:3
- Noted and discussed the report to the President by the Technological Capabilities Panel of the Science Advisory Committee of ODM, dated February 14, 1955.
- Referred the Recommendations, in pages 37–46 of the
above-mentioned Report, to the below-mentioned departments and
agencies of the Executive Branch (in appropriate coordination in
each case with the other interested departments and agencies
indicated in parentheses) for study, report, and recommendation on
or about May 15, 1955 to the National Security Council4
(such studies to include estimates of the general magnitude of net
added or reduced costs to the Government of implementation):
- Department of State: General Recommendations 7 and 9 (Defense, Treasury, and Justice); Specific Recommendations B12 a (Defense), B12 b (Defense, Treasury, and Justice).
- Department of Defense: General Recommendations 2, 3, 8 (State), 11 (State, CIA); Specific Recommendations A1 (AEC), A2 (AEC), A3 (ODM), A4 (ODM), A6, A7 (State), A8, A9 (CIA, ODM, FCDA), A14 (State, AEC), B1 (State), B2, B3 (State, AEC), B4 (AEC), B5, B6, B8, B9 a, B9 b (State), B9 c, B9 d, B10, B11 a (Treasury), B11 b (State), B12 c (CIA), B12 d and e, B13, B14, C1 (CIA), C2, C5 (CIA), C6 (CIA), C6 (CIA), C8 (State and CIA), E1 through E6 (all with ODM).
- Central Intelligence Agency: General Recommendation 6 (Defense); Specific Recommendations C3 (Defense), C4, C7 (Defense), C9, C10.
- Office of Defense Mobilization: General Recommendation 10, Telecommunications Adviser (Defense); Specific Recommendations B7 d (Defense, FCDA), B7 f (IIC, ICIS, FCDA), D1 through D17, Telecommunications Adviser (Defense to prepare initial report on D5, D6, D10, D11, D13 and D14 for coordination by ODM).
- Atomic Energy Commission: Specific Recommendations A5 (Defense), A10 (Defense), All (Defense), A13 (State, Defense, FCDA).
- Federal Civil Defense Administration: Specific Recommendations B7 a (Defense, ODM,AEC), B7 b (AEC), B7 c (AEC).
- Bureau of the Budget: Specific Recommendation B7 e (FCDA).
- NSC Planning Board: General Recommendations 1, 4 and 12.
- Interdepartmental Intelligence Conference-Interdepartmental Committee on Internal Security: Specific Recommendation A12 (AEC).
- The Special Committee of the NSC Established to Coordinate the Implementation of NSC 5513/1: General Recommendation 5.
Note: The action in b above, as approved by the President, subsequently referred to the respective departments and agencies mentioned therein.
- Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Prepared by Coyne on March 18.↩
- For extracts from this report, see Document 9.↩
- Paragraphs a–b and the Note that follow constitute NSC Action No. 1355. (Department of State, S/S–NSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)↩
- See Document 25.↩