29. Briefing Note for the 359th NSC Meeting1

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The Council’s attention today is again directed to the question of providing shelter for the population against the hazard of radioactive fallout. This matter will be considered at two successive Council meetings. Today we shall first hear a factual presentation by FCDA on radioactive fallout and on types of protective measures against it. Following that, the Director of Central Intelligence will present a new estimate of the Soviet civil defense program, including shelter construction. Then at next week’s meeting, we shall discuss the excellent report by the Interdepartmental Committee on “Measures to Carry Out the Concept of Shelter” (circulated on March 14).

A brief word on the history of civilian shelter as it has been discussed by the Council.

You will recall that on December 21, 1956, in the Indian Treaty Room, Governor Peterson presented a proposed nation-wide shelter program which would have cost $32 billion over an 8-year period. As an outgrowth of that proposal, in April 1957 the Council called for four studies on various aspects of shelter which culminated in the Gaither Report last November 7. The Gaither Panel, although placing shelter in a second priority, nevertheless recommended a nation-wide fallout shelter program estimated to cost $22.5 billion over a 5-year period. At its meeting on January 16, 1958, the Council agreed that existing civil defense policy should be modified to incorporate the concept of fallout shelter, but that the U.S. should not initiate a nation-wide fallout shelter program of the type recommended by the Gaither Panel, and that implementation of the shelter concept should be deferred pending Council consideration of the Interdepartmental Committee report, which we shall take up next week.

First, then, let us hear the factual presentation.



We shall now hear the intelligence estimate of what the Soviets are doing in the way of civil defense and the extent to which they are believed to have shelters for the civil population.

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1. Each year, as you know, the Planning Board undertakes to review our Basic National Security Policy. Last winter’s review, based on a series of discussion papers, extended from February into May; our current Basic Policy (NSC 5707/8) having been finally adopted on June 3, 1957. Whereas it is not proposed, this year to undertake such an arduous review procedure the Planning Board has already spent five meetings in ground work for the annual review.

2. This work has been based upon the new “Estimate of the World Situation”, produced by the Intelligence Community on February 26, 1958. We consider this National Intelligence Estimate most significant and serious; and the Director of Central Intelligence deserves great credit for the superior job done. Each Council Member will find its contents necessary background information to the basic policy review before us. I personally feel that it is a part of my duty to assure that so basic an intelligence appraisal is studied by the Council Members.

3. The Planning Board’s consideration of this Estimate has been stimulated by a novel procedure. During the last two weeks, we have asked men outside of Government, who have very broad experience and high intelligence, to read the Estimate and sit down for an afternoon of discussion with the Planning Board on major problems affecting our national security. These men included General Gruenther, former Assistant Secretary Bowie, former Under Secretary of the Army Bendetsen, former High Commissioner McCloy, and former Chairman of the CEA Arthur Burns.

4. I am going to ask Mr. Dulles first to express in his own words what he considers the most significant changes between this Estimate and the “Estimate of the World Situation” made last year, and also to call attention to any other significant part of the Estimate that occurs to him.


5. The Planning Board has developed, in the course of its consideration of the Estimate during the last month, a great many significant points. On the blue sheets which are before you we have picked out five of these points for discussion today. I will read each of these points, and ask for comments. It will be of great help to the Planning Board in drafting the revision of our existing Basic National Security Policy (which we hope to be able to present to you about May 1st) to have the benefit of your views on the current World Estimate, whether or not they coincide with it.

cc: Messrs. Lay



  1. Source: Civil defense and civilian fallout shelters. Top Secret. 1 p. Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records.