138. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Johnson) to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1


It looks as though AEC and Interior may press for a major program decision so that the U.S. Government may have a foreign aid “spectacular” to announce at the Desalination Symposium in October. Ramey and Holum believe that the President is somehow committed to making some sort of an announcement of a new development initiative at that time and they are talking about a possible soft loan and grant program of $300 million to assist in the construction of large-scale combination nuclear power and desalting installations abroad.

The Bureau of the Budget doubts the need for any further initiative at this time and Dr. Hornig told Keeny last week that the only directive the President has laid on Interior and AEC is to use the $200 million appropriation to develop desalting technology to the point where it is practical. Hornig feels that the present U.S. R&D program should furnish ample material for discussion at the October Symposium and believes that anything more would be premature.

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There is an element of uncertainty in the picture due to the pressure that will build up this fall to get the U.S. committed to a substantial contribution to the Israeli plant. There has even been some talk in Interior and AEC that the U.S. should make up its mind on the Israeli project in time for an announcement at the October Symposium. Such an announcement would then be considered as precedent-making in terms of U.S. willingness to underwrite similar projects in other countries.

I believe that the efforts of OST and BOB will be successful in keeping this matter under control but there is always the possibility of an end run. It seems that desalting has a mystique of its own and somehow an impression has been given around town that the President is personally committed to a major program of assistance abroad. It is for this reason that I bring the above to your attention. I will also send a copy of this memorandum to Bob Komer and will keep him filled in on the Israeli developments as they occur in the desalting community.2

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Charles E. Johnson Files, Nuclear Desalting of Water (Nuclear Power), 3 of 3. Confidential.
  2. Bundy wrote “OK” in the left margin next to this sentence.