34. Notes of Meeting1

At 12:10 p.m. Commissioners Gerald Tape, John Palfrey, and I attended the meeting of the National Security Council held in the Cabinet Room of the White House. Those present included President Johnson, McGeorge Bundy, Rusk, McNamara, Alexis Johnson, Vance, Taylor, Harold Brown, Charles Johnson, Wilson, Gordon, Carter, McDermott, Hornig, McCormack, Crowson, Kelly, Howard, General Donnelly, Keeny, Clifton, Reedy, and Valenti. This meeting was to be devoted to consideration of the FY 1965 underground test series—the Whetstone series. President Johnson called upon me to make the introductory remarks.

I gave a description of our FY 1965 underground test program (Whetstone). In particular, I noted that the Commission was caught in the position that it must not violate either the safeguards or the test ban treaty and, thus, it has to walk a rather tenuous middle course. I said that there could be no guarantee against venting, although we think the probability of venting is very small. I described the number of tests planned, in the development category to be carried on by the AEC; in the Plowshare category to be carried on by the AEC; and in the weapons effects and detection category to be carried on by the Department of Defense in collaboration with the AEC.

I then called upon General Crowson, who made a presentation of the AEC development tests, with charts. There being no questions on this, I then called upon General Donnelly, who made a presentation covering the weapons effects and weapons detection tests, using charts.

Secretary Rusk asked whether the Long Shot device (to be detonated at Amchitka Island in the Aleutians) to give data on the detection of underground nuclear explosions would be an old reliable device or an advanced type. I said that it would be an old reliable device because we needed to be sure of its operation and of its yield. Secretary Rusk asked if we could invite the Russians to be involved in some way in this test, and I said I thought that we could. Bundy mentioned the problem of the effect of this test in Alaska; a problem which is probably psychological but nevertheless very real. I then called upon John Kelly, who described the Plowshare tests, with the help of charts.

At the end of this presentation, President Johnson asked me how many tests there had been this last year; and, when I told him, he asked why there are so many planned for this year. I explained that the AEC [Page 73]had refrained from testing during the summer months last year during the sensitive period of test ban negotiations and, thus, due to the fact that the testing last year was for a shorter period, the rate of testing this year will not be much greater. I also indicated that it might not be possible to make as many tests as are being requested, but that it is important to have the flexibility in preparing for the entire number. Then, if some of the tests turn out to be unexpectedly difficult or to yield unexpected results, it might be that it will not be possible or desirable to carry out every test in the series; on the other hand, it might be desirable to add some as yet not foreseen tests to the series. Secretary McNamara added that the DOD program included more tests this year, which adds considerably to the increase; the reason for this is that it took some time to get ready for the complex tests in their series. McNamara went on to say that he thinks it is a good series and that the entire number should be approved. He also mentioned a couple of tests in 1962 in the low kiloton range. He said he feels that we can detect tests down to the low kiloton level. President Johnson commented on the comparison in the numbers between the U.S. and Soviet underground tests and asked why the Soviets had such a small number.

Bundy replied that the Soviets used to say that they couldn’t afford an underground testing program. He also said that he feels that their program is consistent with the rather restrained rocket program that they apparently are engaged in. Bundy went on to say that he is not persuaded that we should develop high yield weapons just in order to test the effects of such weapons, and he asked Harold Brown to comment on this. Brown said that there is no approved program for high yield tests, but he said that tests in the Whetstone program will help us be ready to test weapons in the 100-megaton range should that become desirable. Secretary McNamara said that this aspect of the program is not very expensive, and he thinks that work along this line should continue.

President Johnson then asked me whether this program can be carried out within our budget without asking for an increase. I replied that I think it can. We had approximately $117 million in our budget for this purpose and we will need to augment it by about $13 million, which can be done by transferring funds from production. Bundy suggested that the matter of approval be handled as in the past; thus, it might be proper to authorize only the first quarter of the series, i.e., Whetstone I, at this time. I pointed out that we had been working under rather flexible authorization in the past. Secretary Rusk said that he wouldn’t recommend any reduction. He pointed out that we don’t know what Soviet plans are, and they might resume testing. Another possibility might be that we would move toward a comprehensive test ban. Thus, he said that all in all, from a foreign policy point of view, he feels we should carry on a vigorous underground program at about the level for which approval is [Page 74]being sought. The implication is that we will hear from the White House soon regarding the approval for Whetstone I.

[Here follow notes of an AEC-NASA luncheon, a telephone call about Congressman Holifield, meetings with Potomac Electric Power Company officials and the Committee of Principals.]

  1. Source: Seaborg, Journal, Vol. 8, pp. 565-566. No classification marking.