28. Memorandum From Lay to the NSC1

NSC 5807
[Facsimile Page 1]



  • A. NSC 5724; NSC 5724/1
  • B. NSC Actions Nos. 1841 and 1842
  • C. NSC 5802/1

The enclosed report on the subject, prepared by the Interdepartmental Committee established for the purpose by NSC Action No. 1842–e, is transmitted herewith for consideration by the National Security Council.

The enclosed report will be considered by the Council at its meeting on Thursday, March 27, 1958, in the light of discussion of an oral briefing on the subject by the Federal Civil Defense Administration and the Atomic Energy Commission, and of a presentation on Soviet Civil Defense and Air Raid Construction by the Director of Central Intelligence, at the NSC meeting on March 20, 1958.

James S. Lay, Jr.
Executive Secretary

cc: The Secretary of the Treasury

The Attorney General

The Director, Bureau of the Budget

The Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission

The Federal Civil Defense Administrator

The Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers

The Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

The Director of Central Intelligence

The Special Assistant to the President for Public Works Planning


Memorandum From the Chairman of the NSC Special Interdepartmental Committee on Shelters (Berry) to the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council (Lay)

[Facsimile Page 2]

Transmitted herewith is the report of the Special Committee on measures to carry out the concept of shelter, established pursuant to NSC Action No. 1842.

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Except as specifically noted, the report carries the full endorsement of the Committee, which was composed of myself as chairman; Mr. William E. Carey, Bureau of the Budget; Mr. Vincent Rock, Office of Defense Mobilization; Col. James E. McHugh, Department of Defense; and Dr. Robert L. Corsbie, Atomic Energy Commission.

In the course of preparing the report, the Committee consulted with representatives of the Department of State, the Department of the Treasury, and the Special Assistants to the President for Science and Technology and Public Works Planning as suggested by the Council. However, the Committee has not requested the representatives of these agencies to express their views on the final report.

/s/ Lewis E. Berry


Memorandum Prepared for the National Security Council

[Facsimile Page 3]


  • Measures to Carry Out the Concept of Shelter


  • A. NSC Action No. 1814
  • B. NSC 5724; NSC 5724/1
  • C. NSC Actions Nos. 1841 and 1842
  • D. Memorandum for the NSC dated Jan. 22, 1958
  • E. NSC 5802/1


Your Committee has adopted the following frame of reference for its task:

That shelter from radioactive fallout is required to limit expected casualties from a nuclear attack to a level which would permit the United States to survive as a nation. The concept of fallout shelter is to be incorporated into the national Civil Defense program for protection of the civil population.
That measures taken to incorporate fallout shelter construction must avoid so far as possible adverse psychological effects upon the United States and allied nations as well, and must not detract from support of retaliatory and active defense capabilities.
That measures taken must rely primarily upon private and local Governmental initiative, stimulated by Federal leadership, including Federal example.
That effective Federal leadership will require a skillful and expanded program of public education with emphasis upon weapons’ effects and ways in which citizens can protect themselves.
That measures adopted must not be inconsistent with the possibility that the Government may wish at some future time to initiate a program of the type recommended by the Security Resources Panel, possibly upon a compressed time schedule. However, measures undertaken at this time should not be based upon the assumption that there will be a nationwide Federal construction program; rather the effort should be designed to preclude the necessity of such direct measures if possible.

Proposed Measures2

The Committee recommends adoption of the following measures:

1. Research and Development, including prototype construction (exploiting multiple-use principle to the maximum)

$ Millions
$6.5 (annual rate)

a. Research

Although sufficient knowledge of weapons’ effects and of shelter design now exists to permit proceeding with a complete and effective fallout shelter program if this were deemed desirable, expanded research is necessary to refine our knowledge, particularly of blast shelter, and develop more economical and efficient shelter models. In a program of this magnitude, well considered research should save many times its initial cost.

The following program of research is already identified and can be undertaken as rapidly as funds are made available.

(1) The field testing, with nuclear weapons, of shelters, other structures, and shelter equipment; provision for development and execution of radiological defense measures; exposure of animals to weapons’ effects; and the instrumentation necessary to evaluate results obtained.

----- $2.0 Millions

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(2) The design of various prototype shelters, the development of shelter programs, and development and laboratory testing of structures, facilities, equipment and materials not requiring nuclear field tests.

----- $1.0 Million

(3) Studies dealing with psychological, emotional, educational and morale problems and determinations of tolerance limits under emergency conditions; medical, food, and water requirements in shelter habitation; and sanitary controls to permit tolerable occupation.

----- $1.5 Millions

(4) Development of architectural designs and specifications for new types of multiple-use shelters which will be attractive as well as practical. The Committee believes that attention should be given to the use of grants to schools of architecture and engineering which would stimulate curriculum development, training of new students, and new concepts of shelter design.

----- $2.0 Millions

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

While the above program will be of highest importance in improving our capabilities to develop a comprehensive shelter system, there are serious unsolved problems relating to effects of nuclear attack on humans, including the immediate and long-range effects of radiation, and to the development of measures to provide protection against or mitigate those effects. The Committee feels that a special assessment is required to determine whether present research efforts in this field by the several agencies of Government are reasonably adequate or whether further coordination or acceleration is indicated. It is therefore recommended that a suitable group be designated to evaluate the present efforts and to report on their adequacy, including recommendations for improvement of the total national effort, if such is warranted.

b. Prototypes

$55.4 (3 year program)

This program combines (1) engineering development of multiple use shelter types, (2) exercise of Federal leadership and (3) public education. Each prototype will be one-of-a-kind, multiple-use where possible. Experience will be gained not [Facsimile Page 6] only in design and construction, but in administration. Prototype structures will be erected on Government-owned land where necessary and desirable. Costs are based on estimated cost of the shelter features only, except in the case of garages and new school prototypes, where the entire cost of the structure is included. The Federal Government will recover as much of the beneficial-use value of underground garages as possible.

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The Committee recommends the following types (including in each group both blast and fallout prototype designs):

(1) Underground parking garages

10 prototypes of variable size, ranging from 100–1000 car garages

-----$31.9 Millions

(2) Understreet shelters

4 prototypes ranging in size from 1000–3000 shelter spaces

-----$2.1 Millions

(3) Subway shelters

4 prototypes, ranging in size from 1000–5000 shelter spaces

-----$1.5 Millions

(4) Shelters under new highways

16 prototypes, ranging in size from 500–5000 spaces

-----$4.6 Millions

(5) Shelters as additions to existing schools

8 prototypes, varying designs to include classrooms, cafeterias, and assembly space, and groups of 4 classrooms

-----$1.9 Millions

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(6) New schools, incorporating shelters

4 prototypes, ranging in size from 200–500 pupils, each sheltering twice the normal school population

-----$1.6 Millions

(7) Shelters as additions to existing hospitals

6 prototypes of needed hospital additions, including cafeterias, visitors’ and convalescent rooms, and reserve areas. Will vary from 500–2000 person shelters.

-----$1.1 Millions

(8) Multiple-use shelters for incorporation in new hospitals

6 prototype multiple-use shelters ranging in size from 300–2500 shelter spaces

-----$1.6 Millions

(9) Shelters for industrial plants

15 prototypes, ranging in size from 500–5000 spaces, including special decontamination features

-----$6.0 Millions

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(10) Shelters for commercial buildings

6 prototypes, ranging in size from 1000–5000 person shelters

-----$2.3 Millions

(11) Single and multi-family residence adaptations to provide shelter

16 prototypes, including bathroom shelters, basement recreation areas, farm storage areas, basement work areas, and enlarged basements under porches for storage, and larger shelters for multi-family use.

-----$0.8 Million

$75 (3 year program)

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2. Surveys and Pilot Studies

a. Development of estimated availability of existing shelter on a sampling basis

As a basis for national planning, definitive information is needed regarding the capability of existing structures to provide fallout shelter, particularly in large cities. The Committee recommends that a survey of existing structures be conducted on a sampling basis to yield such information. This would be handled through direct Federal contract, and would be completed in one year.

-----$2.0 Millions

3b. Survey of Existing Shelter

The Committee recommends that priority attention be given to a systematic survey of the potential of existing buildings and other structures such as mines and subways to provide fallout shelter with little or no modification. Such areas should be identified for immediate use. Property owners should be urged to modify their buildings to provide fallout shelters where feasible, and assisted in plans and designs incident thereto.

The survey would require approximately two years for completion and would start after completion of the sample survey of existing structures. It would be conducted as an extension of the survival planning program through Federal contracts with States and cities, with the Federal Government providing the money. Costs are estimated as [Typeset Page 101] follows: 100 largest cities at an average of $200,000 per city, $20 million dollars; the next 400 cities in order of size, an average of $50,000 each, or $20 million; remaining areas (predominantly rural), $8 million. Surveys would take full advantage of data already collected by survival plans.

-----$48 Millions (2 year program)

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4c. Pilot Studies

The Committee believes that the nationwide survey of existing shelters should be supplemented by an intensive study of the total range and nature of problems which might arise in conjunction with a shelter program. This would be done by intensive study of selected metropolitan areas on a pilot basis. The studies would extend to the development of complete engineering plans and specifications; problems of zoning, condemnation, local organization and administration; detailed site studies, and plans for maintenance and operation.

Studies of the type proposed would cost approximately $5 million for a major metropolitan area. It is proposed that 5 representative cities be included in the pilot study program, with all studies to be completed within two years. Studies would require State and local participation, but the major part of the work would be done through research-contract financed by the Federal Government.

-----$25 Millions (2 year program)


3. Public Education $12.5 (first year)

25.0 (annually thereafter)

The Committee agrees that greatly increased public understanding of bomb phenomenology, especially the nature of gamma radiation, is required if Federal urging of fallout [Facsimile Page 10] shelter construction is to be effective. There must also be increased awareness of the probable extent of the fallout hazard resulting from all-out nuclear war, and the public must be convinced that the problem is not hopeless, but can be dealt with effectively through provision of fallout shelters.

The program recommended would be conducted in a low key of gradually increasing intensity in three parts:

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a. A nationally conducted program, using all available communications media, and working through all agencies of the Federal Government (the Agricultural Extension Service, etc.) is proposed. In addition to general information on nuclear effects, the program would urge that citizens provide themselves with fallout shelters; would provide wide dissemination of information and methods by which private citizens may provide in their homes fallout-protection for themselves and their families (1) by adapting existing cellars or other structures or (2) by incorporation of family shelter in new residential construction; and would publicize the Government’s own program of incorporation of shelters in public buildings, prototype construction, etc.

-----$6 Millions (annually)

b. Working primarily through adult education programs of the States, provide courses in “Problems of Living in the Nuclear Age.” These would be designed to reach at least one person in every family in America. Generalized courses would be accompanied by personalized technical advice in planning fallout construction for those who wish it.

-----$3.5 Millions (first year)

-----$13 Millions (annually thereafter)

c. On a pilot area basis, find and support local leadership in neighborhood groups. Leadership would be provided with sufficient professional and other support to organize a community shelter effort. This program is [Facsimile Page 11] regarded as a complement to the research program in that it would yield data on the extent to which local participation can be stimulated by this means. It is also regarded as a complement to the intensive pilot study program of five representative cities.

-----$3 Millions (first year)

-----$6 Millions (annually thereafter)


4. Elements of a Base for Rapid Acceleration $1.5 (annually)

The measures proposed above are designed to promote shelter construction without extensive financial participation by the Federal Government. The Committee recognizes, however, the possibility that these measures may be ineffective and that the Government might later wish to initiate a shelter program on an accelerated basis. Many of the other recommended measures will assist in preparing a base for rapid expansion, but in addition it is believed that specific attention should be given to the preparation of a “shelf” of plans and information which might save months of delay in an emergency.

Specific items proposed are:

(1) Identification of materials, equipment and manpower

-----$1 Million (annually)

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(2) Preparation and maintenance of standby orders and organization

-----$0.5 Million (annually)

5. Incorporation of shelter in civilian Federal buildings

The Committee agrees that Federal example is an indispensable element in any combination of measures designed to stimulate State, local government, and private spending for fallout shelters.


a. New Construction $6.5 (annually)

Projections of new Federal construction activity (including the Post Office construction program, but excluding military construction) indicate a potential level of about 125,000 shelter spaces annually at an average cost of $52 per shelter space. This assumes utilization of new buildings for community shelter [Facsimile Page 12] where practicable, thereby setting an example to local Government and business, and avoiding charges of favored treatment for Federal employees.


b. Modification of Existing Federal Buildings $90.6 (3 year program)

$30.2 (annually)

Federal example is as important in providing shelters in existing buildings as in construction of new buildings, since it is hoped that a large part of all fallout shelter can be provided through renovation and alteration of existing structures.

The program proposed at this time is limited to provision of community fallout shelter in existing Post Offices on a 3-year schedule. Based on an average of 2 shelter spaces for every full time postal employee, and an average weighted cost of $113 per shelter space, the total program would cost approximately $90.6 million. Annual rate, $30.2 million for 3 years.

6. Incorporation of Fallout Shelters in Military Construction5

The Committee believes that an effective Federal program must include selective shelter construction at military installations. In the absence of such action it is very unlikely that private individuals, corporations and local governments could be induced to finance their own shelter construction. Emphasis in the programs proposed is on military facilities whose location and function is such as to make them most effective as an example to the general public. However, the proposed [Typeset Page 104] programs have also been designed to contribute to meeting military operational needs.

Selective incorporation of fallout shelter in military construction is proposed to include: public access buildings such as headquarters, new public quarters and hospitals; other facilities such as air defense and communications facilities and [Facsimile Page 13] emergency relocation sites selected according to operational importance, estimated hazard, and effectiveness in demonstrating Federal example to the civil population.

a. New Federal military construction $20 (annual rate)
b. Modification of existing military facilities $100 (5 year program)
$20 (annual rate)
Summary of Costs by Fiscal Year*
1959 1960 1961
1. a. Research and development $6.5 $6.5 $6.5
b. Prototype construction 18.5 18.5 18.5
2. a. Nationwide survey, sampling basis 2.0
b. Nationwide survey 24.0 24.0
c. Pilot studies 12.5 12.5
3. Public education 12.5 25.0 25.0
4. A base for rapid acceleration 1.5 1.5 1.5
5. a. Shelter in new civilian Federal buildings 6.5 6.5 6.5
b. Shelter in existing civilian Federal buildings 30.2 30.2 30.2
6. a. Shelter in new military facilities 20.0 20.0 20.0
b. Shelter in existing military facilities 20.0 20.0 20.0
TOTALS 130.2 164.7 152.2
* The Bureau of the Budget believes the scope of the financial outlay proposed is too broad, and that the total three year program should be restricted to $100 million.
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Adequate authority is currently contained in the Federal Civil Defense Act to undertake all measures recommended except the incorporation of shelters in Federal buildings, whether new or existing.

The incorporation of shelter in new Federal buildings would require only that express language be contained in the applicable [Typeset Page 105] appropriation acts indicating that the inclusion of protective construction was contemplated. Modifications of most buildings owned by the Federal Government could be accomplished in the same manner. Incorporation of shelter in existing buildings leased by the Federal Government would, in many cases, require legislative modification specifically to exempt such expenditures from the provisions of the Economy Act.


The Committee is agreed that responsibility for preparing detailed budgetary estimates to support the measures proposed should rest initially with the Federal Civil Defense Administration, except in the case of new Federal construction or modification of existing Federal buildings (Measures No. 5 and 6), in which cases the agency which normally budgets for construction would also budget for the additional cost of fallout shelter features. The Bureau of the Budget may later recommend that funds for certain of the detailed projects be obtained by other Federal agencies.


(1) The Committee has recommended measures to support the concept of shelter. Such measures are put forward as first or partial steps which if adopted, could provide the Federal leadership and example necessary to stimulate State and local governments and the private economy to take necessary shelter measures. Unless such stimulation is truly effective in inducing the provision of nationwide fallout shelter under local governmental and private auspices, and unless and until improvements in active defenses are brought about, estimated civilian casualties, in the event of nuclear attack on the United States, will not be limited to a level that will permit the United States to survive as a nation.

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(2) With Federal leadership and example, it is believed that the direct measures proposed can be undertaken in ways that will obtain the support and cooperation of the American people.

(3) With respect to public information and education, it is believed that the critical factor bearing on maintaining a low-key program is not the level of effort expended, but rather the manner in which the nature and imminence of the threat is handled.

(4) Since the measures point to a partial program, they cannot engender public overconfidence in shelter, nor yet create a public passive defense psychology.

(5) Because of the emphasis which will be placed upon improved active defenses, because of the low key of the public information program on shelters, and because of existing Congressional and [Typeset Page 106] public attitudes, it is not believed that the measures proposed will cause Congressional or public reaction prejudicial to higher priority national security programs; nor that the shelter proposals in and of themselves will cause a loss of support by our allies. Furthermore, it is believed that they will not present the posture of the United States as that of a nation preoccupied with preparations for war.

(6) The Committee believes that incorporation of fallout shelter in military construction on a selective basis is vital, not only for the protection of military personnel, but as an example to the civilian population.

(7) The measures recommended must be regarded frankly as experimental. If satisfactory progress in shelter construction is not achieved as a result of these measures, consideration may [Facsimile Page 16] need to be given at a later date to additional inducements which might be resorted to on a progressive scale as required. Such inducements could include: (a) requirement of shelters as a condition for Government loan guarantees under all existing programs, (b) low-interest loans for shelter construction, (c) rapid tax amortization, (d) other incentives, including matching grants by the Federal Government.

Respectfully submitted,

  • Lewis E. Berry,
    Federal Civil Defense Administration
  • William E. Carey
    Bureau of the Budget
  • Vincent P. Rock
    Office of Defense Mobilization
  • Col. James E. McHugh
    Department of Defense
  • Robert L. Corsbie
    Atomic Energy Commission
  1. Source: Transmits Interdepartmental Report on NSC 5807, “Measures To Carry Out the Concept of Shelter.” Top Secret. 16 pp. NARA, RG 59, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5807 Series.
  2. Note on Costing: The Committee has accepted without critical review the cost factors proposed by FCDA with the understanding that these cost factors are consistent with those used in the Report to the Council by the Special Committee on Shelter Programs and the Report of the Security Resources Panel, both prepared pursuant to NSC No. 1691–b. [Footnote is in the original.]
  3. The Department of Defense and Bureau of the Budget members believe that the survey and pilot studies described under 2b and 2c should require an appropriate percentage of State and/or local participation. They believe that this procedure would be more effective in stimulating locally financed shelter construction and would avoid establishing a precedent which might preclude local financial support of subsequent shelter construction. The other members believe that such a requirement would delay unduly an effort which gives promise of identifying quickly a substantial amount of effective fallout shelter at very little cost. [Footnote is in the original.]
  4. The Department of Defense and Bureau of the Budget members believe that the survey and pilot studies described under 2b and 2c should require an appropriate percentage of State and/or local participation. They believe that this procedure would be more effective in stimulating locally financed shelter construction and would avoid establishing a precedent which might preclude local financial support of subsequent shelter construction. The other members believe that such a requirement would delay unduly an effort which gives promise of identifying quickly a substantial amount of effective fallout shelter at very little cost. [Footnote is in the original.]
  5. Department of Defense support of the military programs proposed herein is contingent on NSC approval of generally parallel programs of shelter construction for the protection of the civil population. These proposals are made without prejudice to the current protective construction policy of the Department of Defense. [Footnote is in the original.]