27. Memorandum of Conference with the President1

[Facsimile Page 1]


  • Secretary McElroy
  • Mr. Coolidge
  • General Randall
  • General Persons
  • Mr. Harlow
  • General Goodpaster

Mr. McElroy began by saying that his group, although initially divided on the matter, has now come to believe that the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff should not also serve as Chiefs of their respective Services. The President said that a problem arises from this solution—to be sure that the Joint Chiefs of Staff member is recognized as having the highest position and authority in his Service. Control of “patronage,” i.e. promotion and assignment gives the Service Chief tremendous power; amenities of office at his command add to this. The President thought it might be well to reserve to the member of the Joint Chiefs a few specified powers of highest type, e.g. selection of individuals for top commands, and recommendation of individuals for the post of Chief of Service.

The next point raised by Mr. McElroy related to the manner in which the command line ran from the Secretary of Defense to the operating commands. The President thought that, legally, the line ran directly from the Secretary of Defense to the commands, but functionally it would go through the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The President spoke at considerable length on the matter of research. He thought that basic research on space activities should be put into NASA, and that DOD research should be limited to the applied phase—this to be centralized in ARPA. He thought there were great gains to be made from centralizing the basic research on space activities. Mr. McElroy agreed. He said he thinks that these questions are largely extraneous to the Defense Department, which has plenty to do to handle its own tasks properly. Both he and the President recognized [Typeset Page 94] that there are certain military applications of outer space activities, such as reconnaissance and communications.

[Facsimile Page 2]

The President went on to question any action to put the Minuteman project in the Air Force. He thought that there is developing more and more reason to have a separate long-range missile force. Mr. McElroy saw certain logic in having this project in the Air Force, because of the close operational tie to other strategic bombardment activity. He said he, too, felt that the trend is toward a single strategic attack force, which would include non-Air Force elements such as POLARIS.

Mr. McElroy next asked as to the title for the civilian head of the Service—whether he should be called a Secretary of the Service, or an Under Secretary of Defense for the Service. The President thought that if his duty can be tightly defined, it would be well to make him a Secretary. However, if Congress tries to pull authority away from the Secretary of Defense, then in order to make clear his control, it would be preferable to make these individuals Under Secretaries. Mr. McElroy said that the group thinking is exactly in line with the President’s suggestion on this matter. He thought that by having them as Secretaries they could take a great deal of the burden off his shoulders, for example, in testifying before Congress.

In discussion of the further steps to be taken, the President asked for a brief statement to be prepared of the reasons why reform of the organization is required. This should bring out the things that must be eliminated. There should then be a statement of objectives and of principles. It should also be stated that we are not prepared to write a bill in its entirety on all phases of the matter, but that we are ready to start hearings at an early date. The President stressed that the message should bring out with great clarity the necessity of organizing for top efficiency—for getting maximum results from the tremendous resources that are being put into our military establishment.

A.J. Goodpaster
Brigadier General, USA
  1. Source: Department of Defense reorganization and control of missile programs. Confidential. 2 pp. Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, DDE Diaries.