1. Minutes of Cabinet Meeting1

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The following were present:

    • President Eisenhower
    • Vice President Nixon
    • Sec. Dulles
    • Sec. Anderson
    • Sec. McElroy
    • Mr. Rogers
    • Mr. Summerfield
    • Sec. Seaton
    • Sec. Benson
    • Sec. Weeks
    • Sec. Mitchell
    • Sec. Folsom
    • Director Brundage
    • Mr. Gordan Gray
    • Dr. Saulnier
    • Under Sec. of Defense Quarles
    • Asst. Sec. McNeil—in part
    • Judge Walsh, Deputy AG—in part
    • Mr. Stans, Budget
    • Mr. Cole, MHFA—in part
    • Mr. Whittier, VA—in part
    • Mr. Tootell, Farm Credit
    • Mr. Robertson, Federal Home
    • Loan Bank Board
    • Gov. Adams
    • Gen. Persons
    • Mr. Rabb
    • Gov. Stassen
    • Dr. Killian—in part
    • Adm. Strauss—in part
    • Mr. Randall—in part
    • Mr. Siciliane—in part
    • Gen. Cutler
    • Mr. Hagerty—in part
    • Mr. Morgan—in part
    • Dr. Hauge
    • Mr. Larson
    • Mrs. Wheaton
    • Gov. Pyle
    • Mr. Harlow
    • Gen. Goodpaster
    • Mr. McCabe
    • Mr. Patterson
    • Mr. Martin
    • Mr. Minnich
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State of the Union Message (CP 58–76)—The Cabinet discussed in great detail the content and wording of the message, each Cabinet member having full opportunity to suggest changes so as to achieve precisely the right tone and shade of meaning.

Some of the more significant comments follow:

The President stressed the desire to talk common sense, because so vast a part of America is common sense-minded and have made it evident by newspapers other than in New York and Washington.

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Sec. Dulles believed that care should be taken to avoid emphasis on military “superiority”, a concept that could only result in invidious comparisons. He preferred to stand on the concept of having sufficient military power to deter aggression.

Sec. Dulles favored giving attention to the fact that new hazards result from the advent of any new weapons but that the destructive potential of missiles is not greatly different in character or scope than what could be delivered by the bombers against which we have made our preparations.

The President felt that, although he needed to refer to the increased rate of missile development in recent years, he ought not try to pin precisely the party responsibilities involved, especially since his major effort must be directed to constructive accomplishment while others would have opportunity to establish any other pertinent facts.

The President recounted for the Cabinet how the Administration set out at the beginning to take a new look at national security, particularly with regard to modern weapons, and how the Killian Committee was set up in 1954 to make some necessary studies which were reported to the NSC in 1955.

Dr. Killian pointed to the need for discussion by the military experts of the paragraph relating to the retaliatory power of the Strategic Air Command, which might be actually too categorical. Sec. Dulles reiterated his point that only the means of delivery had been changed, then added that the major need was for something to provide greater warning. The President commented that the possibility of the Russians having intercontinental missiles before we do was not catastrophic since that by no means removed the power of our bombers.

Sec. Folsom stressed the need for sacrifice by the American people by way of eliminating luxury items so as to allow not only for security planning but also for other necessities such as schools and hospitals. The President agreed that the country is capable of making all necessary sacrifices at a time when we must concentrate on essentials rather than non-essentials.

Sec. Dulles saw some possibility that the message would be criticized as being on the complacent side and he called attention to the [Typeset Page 3] various forms of the Russian threat, especially economic warfare. Yet he believed the resourcefulness of a free society would always overcome the rigidity of a bureaucracy.

At the President’s request, Mr. McElroy read the current draft of the section on Defense Reorganization in which the President would outline the governing principles without yet stating specific changes. This led [Facsimile Page 3] the President to recall his long interest in the matter. In reply to a comment on the apparent absence of administration activity in this field, the President quickly cited the earlier effort which had produced only a “useless thing”. He emphasized the control now possessed by the three services by virtue of direct appropriations to them, and he commented that the handling of missiles programs had been hurt by self-styled experts at Congressional hearings. He felt that interpretations like Rep. Vinson’s (‘this is just long range artillery’) consisted of taking something that is wrong to start with and trying to build on it. He explained his feeling that it would be best for the study to be made by others than himself since he had had such positive convictions for so long a time.

The Vice President hoped the message would contain at least a sentence on the great increase in Russian economic efforts.

Sec. Mitchell felt that the message ought to be more explicit as to the purpose of our mission and he asked if it were not mainly to fight Communism. The President commented that he know of no great problem today but what it is tied to the Communist threat.

In discussing the Education Section of the State of the Union message, the President noted Dr. Milton Eisenhower’s apprehensions especially as to singling out the pay of science teachers for improvement. The President felt that the Administration program should stay away from salaries.

Regarding the section on sacrifices, the President said that somehow the United States had to put on hair shirt and sackcloth yet avoid scaring people.

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Defense Department Program—For the benefit of Cabinet members who could remain and who had not heard this at the NSC meeting, Asst. Sec. McNeil gave an extensive briefing on the FY 1959 Defense budget. He reviewed the procedure used in developing the budget which now reached slightly over $39 billion in NOA and nearly $40 billion in expenditures. He pointed out that provision had been made over and beyond the original $38 billion concept for (1) Cordiner implementation, (2) SAC Alert and Dispersal, (3) Ballistic Missile Detection, (4) Ballistic Missile Acceleration, (5) Satellite and Outer Space Programs, (6) Anti-sub Warfare Capabilities, (7) Increased Research and Development, (8) Modernization of Pentomic Divisions, and (9) Force Levels.

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Mr. McNeil also stressed that the decision had been made to go ahead with both Thor and Jupiter, to put Polaris into production, and to increase the pace of work on Atlas.

He stressed that the services would be numerically smaller but more powerful and better equipped. He noted also that over 75% of $15 billion procurement money would be spent for items that were not even on the market in 1955.

L. A. Minnich, Jr.

Copies to:

Mrs. Whitman (2)

Mr. Rabb

Mr. Minnich

  1. Source: State of the Union message; Department of Defense budget. Confidential. Extracts—5 pp. Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, DDE Diaries.