133. Memorandum for the Record1

Conversation with the President, July 9 (45 minutes)

[Here follows 4 paragraphs unrelated to desalination.]

I briefed him on the desalting situation along the lines of my memorandum,2 emphasizing that we were building up a climate of expectation in the world without a matching program to achieve it. Following my memorandum, he directed that I get together with Kermit Gordon to draw up a directive to be signed either by him or Gordon instructing the AEC and the Department of the Interior to draw up a bold and imaginative plan for a development program leading to large-scale desalting units immediately and for inclusion in the fall budget.3 He was appalled at the small budget at the present time and suggested that if more could be done right away that I discuss with Gordon the possibility of diverting some AID money to the desalting program. He suggested that if there was a problem in coordinating AEC and Interior that we might assume that responsibility. I said that Gordon and I would discuss the organizational questions.
He agreed that in view of the magnitude of the expectations and commitments we made that numbers like 50 or 100 million dollars were not out of the question. He said that this is just as important as space, and we should be prepared to do whatever is necessary.
As regards the Russian discussions,4 he expressed dismay that we might have nothing to offer; I assured him that despite my worries about our pace, we probably were more advanced than the Russians but that in fact we knew very little about their position. I inquired about his general attitude, and he said he wanted to go all out for [Page 240]cooperation and maximum progress on behalf of the whole world. I should make every effort to reach an understanding with them and get a program moving. Subsequent to our meeting, he called me back and we had a brief discussion with Kermit Gordon at which he repeated the points about AEC and Interior and asked Gordon to get together with me to implement this as soon as possible. He then called in Walter Heller and we talked briefly about the Energy Study and he volunteered to help us get MacDonald from Texas if necessary.
Donald F. Hornig 5
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 359, Office of Science and Technology, OST Administrative History, Volume II-Documentary Supplement, E—Water Resources, Box 5. No classification marking.
  2. Document 132.
  3. A copy of the July 15 letter, signed by Gordon, is in the Department of Energy, Archives, Records of the Atomic Energy Commission, Secretariat Files, Box 1416, Folder 1. Seaborg and Udall submitted their final report to the President on September 22. It included: “The program is designed to advance the technology of water desalting so that within the next decade this developing technique will be a significant factor in meeting municipal and industrial requirements for high-quality water on a local and regional basis, both in the United States and abroad.” (Ibid.)
  4. Negotiations with the Soviet Union were scheduled for July 14–16. A later history of the Office of Science and Technology noted that talks paved the way for a formal intergovernmental agreement for cooperation. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 359, Office of Science and Technology, OST Administrative History, E—Water Resources and F—Water Desalting)
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.