44. Letter From the Director of the White House Office of Emergency Planning (McDermott) to Secretary of Defense McNamara 1

Dear Mr. Secretary:

The Emergency Planning Committee, appointed by the President on February 14, 1962,2 and composed of representatives of the Department of Defense, the Bureau of the Budget, and the Office of Emergency Planning, has been engaged in a review of various aspects of nonmilitary emergency preparedness planning. I have previously reported to you on the operations of this Committee (July 19, 1962, and March 11, 1963).3

A major area of concern to the Committee has been the lack of a clearly defined system for the central management of resources under emergency conditions, including nuclear attack. The Office of Emergency Planning was directed by President Kennedy to prepare a plan for such a system in order to assure that, in an emergency, resources would be used with maximum effectiveness in the national interest. Recommendations on this matter were incorporated in a report which was approved by the Committee and submitted to President Johnson for approval. A copy of the report is enclosed.4

I have received a memorandum from President Johnson, dated June 30, 1964, in which he states that:

“The report on the management of resources under emergency conditions, approved by the Emergency Planning Committee, deals with an extremely critical area of our total preparedness effort. I am pleased to note the progress being made in this field.

“The concept of an Office of Defense Resources, to be activated by the President in an emergency, is approved. This is a key element in further progress in this area of preparedness and I believe you should proceed with the development of the measures necessary to bring this, and any related programs, into an early state of standby readiness.”5

[Page 143]

The proposed organizational structure for the postattack central management of resources for mobilization and recovery will be developed with two primary considerations in mind: (1) the need for a central policy and coordinating organization reporting to, and acting on behalf of, the President; and (2) the need to make maximum use of the departments and agencies with emergency preparedness assignments under Executive Orders. Future work in this area of emergency preparedness will take full advantage of the capabilities of existing agencies.

The Department of Defense has an important role in this undertaking. It is counted upon to provide the leadership in the fields of civil defense, and military requirements. It will also contribute substantially to program development in other fields such as manpower, material resources, and communications.

I am calling a meeting on August 31, at 10:00 a.m., in Room 474, Executive Office Building, at which the basic concept and approach involved in central resources management will be presented to all agencies with mobilization responsibilities. After that meeting, there will be a period of active interagency staff work directed toward the early development of programs that can be made operational as quickly as possible in an emergency.

I will appreciate a letter designating someone qualified to speak for your Department to represent you at the August 31 meeting.6


  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330 70 A 4443, 381 National Resources (Jan-May) 1966. No classification marking.
  2. Not further identified.
  3. Neither identified.
  4. The 11-page report (plus 1-page organizational chart), entitled “Central Management of Resources After Nuclear Attack,” undated, is not printed.
  5. This 3-paragraph memorandum is in the Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330 70 A 4443, 381 National Resources (Jan-May) 1966. The final paragraph reads: “I also agree with the advisability of selecting an Emergency Designee to head the Office of Defense Resources, when and if it is activated. Your recommendations regarding qualified persons who might be considered for this important emergency assignment will be appreciated.”
  6. An August 21 letter from Vance to McDermott designated Solis Horwitz as the Defense representative. (Ibid.) An undated, handwritten note by Vance on the letter printed here requested Horwitz to draft such a letter to McNamara.