7. Record of Legislative Leadership Meeting1

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Postal Rates and Salary Increases—As a preface to this discussion, Mr. Hallock joked that Mr. Summerfield should be made to pay an initiation fee since he would be meeting so often with the Leaders in the weeks to come.

Mr. Summerfield made a lengthy presentation of the situation in Congress on these matters, and an extensive discussion of tactics ensued. The entire item required about an hour, with decisions reached as stated in the letter to Mr. Brundage.

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Defense Reorganization—The President recounted to the Leadership the developments in regard to Defense reorganization.

He said it seemed clear to him, though he might be speculating a bit, that the majority of the people over in the Pentagon desired to avoid any radical change since they felt the best chance of securing some improvement rested on a cautious approach to a number of relatively small things.

The President said that Secretary McElroy appeared to be adamant on his right to establish new agencies within DoD as required for new developments. It also seemed clear that he hoped to get a greater degree of flexibility in the use of funds for new developments. He added that Bill Foster was strong for a tightening up of Defense organization all along the line.

The President then said that he had listened to their plans for two and a half hours the preceding Saturday morning at the Pentagon and everything seemed to be in terms of “little improvements,” whereupon he challenged them to say how they were going to do something real instead of glossing over the problem.

The President asserted to the Leadership that if something good did not come out of the Pentagon study, he would have to take the bull by the horns, otherwise he would lose his own self respect after having been into this business for eleven years. Presently, however, he very much wanted those in the Pentagon to develop an effective plan if they could so that subsequently they would be able to go to Congress and support the plan enthusiastically. Failing in this, the President continued, he would only be able to call in the Leadership, including Democrats, in an effort to try to get direct Congressional support. He then restated his hope that it would not become a situation where the Defense people would be going to Congress opposed to what he thought we needed.

Asked by Senator Knowland how much could be done under administrative authority, the President pointed out that administrative action was [Facsimile Page 2] sharply limited ever since Congress passed the law (National Security Act of 1947) and the President at that time signed it.

The President then stated emphatically that at the very least Congress ought to repeal some of the restrictions on the Executive’s ability to shape organization. He strongly desired to see that all the strategic planning and the power to organize and direct the several unified commands would be vested right in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He asserted also that it was necessary to establish the authority of a unified commander to be the disciplinary director, as well as the policy director, of all Services in his command rather than continuing the present situation whereby the head of a unified command has to report the improper conduct to others and ask that they do something about it.

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As a third point, the President said that the Secretary of Defense had to have more freedom in regard to research and development and any other new situations such as “space operations,” all of which ought to be under a scientific czar, with the Secretary having the power of decision as to where any particular activity will be carried on, and with the Secretary being the one to whom appropriations are made by the Congress.

The President stated that he did not expect to propose doing anything more now regarding budgetary aspects beyond the already requested $500 million contingency funds and the authority to transfer up to $2 billion to take care of new developments.

Subsequently, the President amplified his remarks on the need for establishing an effective staff immediately under the Secretary by pointing out that the lack of such had been one of the reasons that Mr. Wilson had had to request authority for many Assistant Secretaries—he had to rely chiefly on having an “expert” here and another there, and they had to have the rank of Assistant Secretaries.

L.A. Minnich, Jr.

Copy to:

Mrs. Whitman (2)

Mr. Minnich

  1. Source: Defense reorganization. Confidential. 2 pp. Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, DDE Diaries.