14. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for Science and Technology (Hornig) to President Johnson1
Attached is a report of the “Technological Gap Committee”2 you asked me to chair just a year ago. Your request came after the “Gap” had been raised during the visits of several Heads of State. At that time it had acquired political and emotional significance—for example, in the Fanfani suggestion of a Technological Marshall Plan.
Although the issue has subsequently been raised from time to time (e.g., by Prime Ministers Wilson and Harmel), the “low-key” strategy suggested in our preliminary report last January has paid off handsomely. The analyses carried out in OECD, NATO and EC agree with each other and with this report as to what is involved—education, management, markets, etc.—and much of the heat has come off.
For the present, the mystique has gone out of the “Gap.” But we should not be deceived into thinking the problem has gone away. Europeans now understand it, but they have yet to solve it. As they feel the hot breath of American competition, the pressure for us to “do something” will likely increase again. This view seems to be borne out by the December 13th cable from Brussels from Secretary Rusk pointing to rising concern.
Although we suggest many small steps, big steps can only be taken in Europe. However, the steps we suggest do add up to a constructive response, and I consider it important that we take such steps as are feasible at regular intervals so as to maintain a posture of concern and interest.
A very important move in that direction is a proposal on its way to you from the Bureau of the Budget that government-purchased [Page 29] computers must be compatible with internationally established standards.
I recommend that you approve the actions outlined in the Committee’s cover memorandum3 and would like an opportunity to discuss the Committee’s recommendations with you, after which I might brief the press on the outcome of this effort.