156. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for Science and Technology (Hornig) to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1


  • Water for Peace

You should be informed of a minor catastrophe which, if we cannot find means to rectify it, will badly tarnish the President’s image abroad. You will recall that just a year ago the President announced the Water for Peace Program and called for a large international conference for that purpose to be held in Washington in the Spring of 1967. He referred to the Conference once again in early September of this year.2 Invitations have been sent world-wide with the proviso, to be sure, that this was attendant upon legislation. Nevertheless, acceptances have been coming in, abstracts of papers have been received, and planning is well under way.

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The State Department informs me that last night the Speaker of the House informed Henry Wilson that the House Leadership had decided against seeking a rule which would permit legislation authorizing the Water for Peace Conference to be held next May. The Senate had passed this legislation in July, but when it came up in the House last week it was passed over because of objection.3 In order to obtain action before adjournment, a rule would be required. Henry Wilson told the Speaker yesterday that this was part of the “must” legislation. Last night Wilson was told the legislation was dead.4

I think the notion of cancelling a conference called by the President for which many foreign nations have already made preparations and submitted papers is unfortunate, to say the least. It will certainly create a poor image abroad of the President’s relations with the Congress.

It seems important to me that the President be made aware of this development promptly so that whatever steps are needed to obtain a rule and to move it through the House can be taken in time to get action before adjournment.5

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Subject File, Water for Peace (2 of 2). No classification marking. Copies were sent to Cater and Califano. An October 15 covering memorandum from Rostow to the President reads: “I think Don Hornig is right. If you can possibly persuade the Speaker to reverse his judgment when you see him today you will be saved a quite substantial international embarrassment.”
  2. The President announced during his September 3 address that the United States would sponsor an International Conference on Water for Peace in Washington in May 1967; see footnote 5, Document 154. On September 9 the Bureau of the Budget notified the Department that the funding request had been reduced by 25 percent to $900,000. “Subsequent attempts by the Department of State to ascertain the precise basis for the reduction has elicited only the information that the original estimate was too much for one conference (’too fat’).” (Memorandum from Hagan to Holum, Sisco, and Pollack, September 13; Department of State, SCI Files: Lot 68 D 383)
  3. The legislation, originally submitted to Congress on May 30, requested $1.2 million to defray the costs of the conference and passed the Senate on July 19. It was defeated in the House on September 19. (Congressional Quarterly Almanac, 89th Congress, 2nd Session … 1966, vol. XXIII, p. 689)
  4. On October 15 Wilson reported to the President that he had spoken with the Speaker on October 14 and that he hoped a rule could be worked out during the next week. (Memorandum from Wilson to the President, October 15; Johnson Library, White House Central Files, FG 11–9/OST, 10/1/65–1/31/67)
  5. According to his Daily Diary, the President met with Speaker McCormack and Senator Mansfield on October 15. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary) Five days later, the House passed a $900,000 authorization for the conference, which was $300,000 less than originally requested. The bill passed, despite objections that the conference would be a “’booze’ party at taxpayers’ expense.” (Congressional Quarterly Almanac, 89th Congress, 2nd Session … 1966, vol. XXIII, p. 689) Later that week, the funding level was again reduced, when a supplemental appropriation bill (H.R. 18381) set the total at $500,000. (Ibid.) The President signed the bill on November 8 as Public Law 89–799. (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1966, Book II, p. 1352)