74. Editorial Note

On September 26, 1961, President Kennedy signed H.R. 9118, creating the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA). As enacted, H.R. 9118 was Public Law 87–297. (85 Stat. 631) The new agency was to be responsible for the conduct, support, and coordination of research for arms control and disarmament policy formulation; the preparation and management of participation in international negotiations in the arms control and disarmament field; the dissemination and coordination of public information concerning arms control and disarmament; and the preparation for, operation of, or, as appropriate, direction of U.S. participation in such international control systems as might under treaty arrangements become part of U.S. arms control and disarmament activities.

The agency was to be headed by a Director, appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Director was also to function as the principal Adviser to the President and Secretary of State on arms control and disarmament matters and, under the direction of the Secretary, have primary responsibility within the government for such matters. The Agency’s program responsibilities would be primarily discharged through four bureaus: International Relations Bureau, Weapons Evaluation and Control Bureau, Science and Technology Bureau, and Economics Bureau.

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At the signing ceremony in New York City on September 26, the President emphasized the importance the United States placed on arms control and disarmament in its foreign policy. The ultimate goal was a “world free from war and free from the dangers and burdens of armaments in which the use of force is subordinated to the rule of law and in which international adjustments to a changing world are achieved peacefully. It is a complex and difficult task to reconcile through negotiation the many security interests of all nations to achieve disarmament, but the establishment of this agency will provide new and better tools for this effort.” The President announced that William C. Foster, who had been a consultant to John J. McCloy, the President’s Adviser on Disarmament, would be Director of the new agency. (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1961, pages 626–627)

Transferred to the new agency was the former U.S. Disarmament Administration, which had been established within the Department of State on September 9, 1960. (Department of State Circular No. 370, October 12, 1960; copy in Eisenhower Library, President’s Office Files, ACDA) During the course of 1961, there had been considerable discussion concerning the location and functions of a new disarmament agency. Presidential transition adviser Richard E. Neustadt in a memorandum to Rusk on January 2, 1961, indicated that President-elect Kennedy had a “‘superficial preference’ for locating the work of policy development and attendant research on ‘disarmament’ or ‘arms control’ in the Executive Office of the President, rather than in the Department of State.” In a memorandum of January 4 to Kennedy, Neustadt stated his own view “that an Executive Office unit should be avoided if possible and that a try should be made with an autonomous unit under the Secretary of State but with access to you insofar as you want it. McCloy’s presence makes this easier to work than might otherwise be the case.” (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Staff Memos, Richard E. Neustadt, 10/60–11/63)

In a letter of January 27 appointing McCloy as his Adviser on Disarmament, Kennedy asked McCloy to make recommendations concerning the organization of the U.S. Disarmament Administration and related activities. (Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, volume VII, Document 2) After studying the question, McCloy concluded that the agency should be established by statute “at an authoritative level in the Government with the exceptionally broad competence, functions and resources required to work on the problems of arms control and disarmament, including the conduct of the research so essential to progress in this field. I was also of the opinion that those conducting this research should be in the same organization as those charged with actually carrying out negotiations in the field and that the organization should be subject to the direction of the Secretary of State, although distinct from the Department of State. The Director of the new Agency would have to deal with and coordinate the [Page 137] activities of many other agencies of government which have direct access to the President. The Director, therefore, should serve as the principal adviser to the President in the disarmament field, with direct access to the President upon notification to the Secretary of State.”

McCloy prepared a draft bill to establish the proposed new agency and transmitted it to the President under cover of a letter of May 9. After a government-wide clearance process, McCloy sent a slightly revised draft bill to the President on June 23. The President transmitted this draft bill to Congress by letter of June 29. In the Senate it was introduced by Senator Hubert H. Humphrey as S. 2180. About 70 other similar or identical bills were introduced in the House of Representatives, many of them calling for the proposed entity to be named the “Peace Agency.” (Letter from McCloy to Kennedy, May 9 and June 23, 1961, and related documents; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 383, ACDA/DD Files: FRC 77 A 17, Chron File, April–June 1961; draft letter from McCloy to President, September 29, 1961, ibid., July–September 1961)