11. Letter From the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (Strauss) to the President1

Dear Mr. President you for sending me the excerpt from Cabot Lodge’s letter2 concerning Sir Winston Churchill’s remark as to his unhappiness over the fact that we have not yet achieved that cooperation with the U.K. which is so desirable in the atomic energy field.

My purpose in this note is to tell you the reason and to suggest a course of action which might be helpful meanwhile.

(1) The reason why we have not progressed in our negotiations with the U.K. (per contra, we are very close to completing our agreement with the Canadians)3 is that we must certify to adequate personnel security practices in the country to which we disclose “Restricted Data”. I had a security team visit England and they have reported deficiencies in the U.K. personnel security system. Without going into detail, I might say that they have deviated from the standards agreed to in 1952 and that, furthermore, the great number of the employees in the British atomic energy establishment who would have access to information which we would be expected to transfer have been granted security clearance on the basis of investigations considerably below the standards set in our own procedures.

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We are negotiating actively to ameliorate this. Until this can be done, however, an agreement cannot be concluded.

This has no bearing on the military aspects of cooperation, however, and in that area, progress is being made. The Atomic Energy Commission has been giving serious study and consideration to atomic military information which the Joint Chiefs of Staff plan to convey to NATO.4 anticipate that this will be resolved very promptly and without any significant reservations on the part of the Atomic Energy Commission. Quite possibly, Sir Winston has no information that this matter is progressing so favorably. Attached is a summary of items which I anticipate the AEC will agree are suitable for communication to NATO.5

(2) I now come to a matter in which I think we could make a gesture which should be very pleasing to the U.K., particularly to Sir Winston. According to reports, the Australians have objected to large weapons testing in Australia where the British have hitherto conducted their weapons tests. My suggestion is that we might offer them the use of our Pacific Proving Ground (i.e., Bikini–Eniwetok) at a time which would not conflict with our own tests. They could not but regard this as a friendly gesture. If they accepted it, we would no longer be the sole target of Communist propaganda and the sole recipient of irrational protests from Nehru and others. …6

Will you let me know what you think of this?

Respectfully yours,

Lewis S.
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Administration Series: AEC. Secret.
  2. Document 9.
  3. Reference is to bilateral Agreements for Cooperation with Canada and the United Kingdom on civil aspects of atomic energy. These agreements were approved by President Eisenhower on June 15, 1955, and signed by representatives of the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States on the same day. The bilateral agreement with the United Kingdom contained additional limitations on the exchange of restricted data. For texts of these two agreements, see Atoms for Peace Manual, pp. 462–486.
  4. On March 2, the North Atlantic Council approved a proposed agreement for cooperation between the United States and NATO involving the transfer of atomic information. Secretary of Defense Wilson endorsed this agreement in his letter of transmittal to the President on April 2. President Eisenhower approved the agreement and on April 13 forwarded it to Senator Anderson, as required under section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. For Wilson’s and Eisenhower’s letters and text of the agreement, see Department of State Bulletin, April 25, pp. 686–689.
  5. Not printed.
  6. Attached to this letter is a memorandum for the record, dated March 4, by Goodpaster: “On reading the attached letter today, the President indicated, in connection with paragraph (2), that he thought the action proposed would be a good thing, and that it should be taken up with State. I so advised Admiral Strauss in order that he might do so.”