208. Memorandum for the Record1


  • Discussion on NRO matters on Thursday, July 9, 1964, between McGeorge Bundy, Secretary Vance and McCone

The meeting was called at Bundy’s suggestion to dispose of the PFIAB report on NRO.2 The meeting was very brief because of the lateness of the hour and my departure for Europe.


Secretary Vance stated that he and McNamara had read the President’s Board report and had concurred in it as they thought it was representative of what the President wanted to do and they had no alternative except to go along. Furthermore he said he thought that the procedure outlined in the Board’s report was thoroughly practical and would resolve the problems in the NRO.

Bundy stated he could not go along with this. That he thought the Board’s recommendations would seriously reduce the role of CIA and he questioned whether this was in the national interest. He furthermore corrected Vance with respect to the authoritativeness of the report stating the President had not accepted it and that he, Bundy, was not inclined to ask him to “sign off” on it because he felt there was considerable validity in the views I had expressed.

[Page 461]

I stated that the recommendations of the Board’s report were unsatisfactory to me for the reasons expressed in my letters to Bundy3 and my proposed changes outlined in a letter to McNamara,4 that I could add very little to what was said in those two letters which I had written myself and which were representative of my personal views as well as the CIA organization.

Vance said that my proposed changes would create some serious “managerial problems” within NRO and the Department of Defense and therefore they were unsatisfactory to McNamara and himself. He did not go into detail.


The following matters arose.

In discussing [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] Vance made the point they were duplicative and that we therefore were working on “two tracks to accomplish the same end”. I expressed surprise, quoting Dr. McMillan’s statement to Dr. Land that the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] system was in no way duplicative of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] anything else that NRO contemplated and that Land had exacted this kind of a statement from McMillan prior to examining [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. Vance said that very possibly the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] project had been expanded in its scope after the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] briefing. I countered by saying that this was a very good reason why we should keep at least two organizations in this very important business.
I reviewed a few of my personal complaints against McMillan’s operations, details of which are well-known and are recorded in other memoranda, but involved failure to inform me of developments, failure to work cooperatively with COMOR, failure to present budget figures for review and study, failure to brief on [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] other programs, continual changes of schedules and postponement of events without consent of USIB, etc., etc. Vance said all of these were inexcusable and they would see that McMillan sent budget papers and other information over to me forthwith.

Bundy then said that he felt that probably the seat of the problem was the parochial ambitions of the Air Force and perhaps the whole situation would be ironed out if the NRO was located in the SecDef’s office and not in the Air Force. Vance concurred with this view, stating that this was a matter which he and McNamara had under serious consideration but they did not wish to move on it until after the election because there would be some consequences, a possible flare-up by Zuckert and Gen. LeMay which would be somewhat embarrassing, and [Page 462] furthermore McMillan would quit. Bundy recognized that all of these things should be avoided but repeated his feeling that he preferred the SecDef arrangement. Vance left me with the impression that such a change is definitely in the Defense Department program but will not take place immediately.

Bundy stated that what is clearly needed is a Director of NRO who is acceptable to both SecDef and DCI and is anxious to utilize the resources, ingenuity, etc., of both the Air Force and the CIA. He said that a man of Dick Bissell’s type would be ideal because he had that breadth of vision. I said if such a man were in charge of NRO and equipped with a staff which reflected the same philosophy, the April 13, 1963 agreement5 would work without a change of a single word. Complications were due to the parochial ambitions of the Air Force, the fact that McMillan could not help but be to some extent, witting or unwitting, a captive of such ambitions, and the interpretation of words, meaning and intents in the light of this conflicting definition of purpose.

It was left that the subject would be placed high on the agenda after Vance returns from his leave on July 17th. The first order of business would be the review of the budget and the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] briefing scheduled for that afternoon.

After the meeting Bundy and I had a brief talk alone. He said he thought we had made some progress in “moving the Defense Department over a little and getting them to take a more reasonable viewpoint”. He seemed personally committed to keeping both organizations in the business and finding a solution to the existing problems, deliberately and carefully, and to avoid at all costs emotionalism and personalities.

During the discussion with Bundy and Vance and also in a later discussion with Bundy, the question of the introduction of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] in the Corona project was briefly commented upon. I stated that it seemed to me this was a very questionable move because the project had been going along for several years under Lockheed management and the introduction of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] who, while competent, were unfamiliar with the project, its background, problems, etc., would probably involve more confusion than help and might be counter productive. I pointed out that the SAMOS project had suffered from just this kind of an arrangement and that the idea of a direct relationship between Lockheed (the producer) and the responsible authorities (CIA for the payload and Air Force for the boosters) was developed in order to avoid the managerial problems that developed in the SAMOS project. There was no final conclusion. [Page 463]

Note: The SAMOS management was explained to me in detail by Kelly Johnson6 who attributed much of the delays and difficulties to the presence of an independent systems engineer company which contributed nothing of a constructive nature.

I would like verification of these facts.

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (McCone) Files, Job 80–B01285A, NRO File, 06 Sept 1961–30 March 1965, Box 8. Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by McCone on July 12.
  2. See Document 201.
  3. Presumably reference is to McCone’s letters to Bundy of June 11 (Document 206) and June 19. (Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (McCone) Files, Job 80–B01285A, DCI McCone-Department of Defense)
  4. Presumably reference is to McCone’s June 19 letter to McNamara. (Ibid.)
  5. The text of the March (not April) 13, 1963, CIA-DOD agreement on the management of NRO is ibid., NRO File, 06 Sept 1961–30 March 1965, Box 8.
  6. Clarence L. Johnson, vice president of advanced development projects, Lockheed Aircraft Corporation.