Eighth Interim Meeting

Thursday, 19 July 1945

Thursday, 19 July 1945, 10:00 AM to 1:15 PM


  • Members of the Committee
  • Dr. Vannevar Bush
  • Dr. Karl T. Compton
  • Dr. James B. Conant
  • Mr. George L. Harrison, Acting Chairman


  • Maj. Gen. Leslie R. Groves
  • Brig. Gen Kenneth C. Royall
  • Mr. William L. Marbury’s Consideration
  • Lt. George S. Allan of IV.
  • Lt. George M. Duff, Jr.


The Committee considered a memorandum prepared by Dr. Bush in consultation with Dr. Conant, which they proposed should be sent to the Scientific Panel by the Committee. The memorandum asked the Panel to study in some detail the future program of research and development in this field with particular reference to the scale of effort that should be planned for in terms of scientific and technical personnel and financial outlay. Dr. Bush explained that it was thought desirable to secure at this time the recommendations of the Panel in detail so that the Committee might gain a more specific understanding of the dimensions of this subject and its implications to the scientific resources of the nation and thus be in a position to consider the balance that must be struck between this program and other fields of scientific research in the post-war period. The Committee agreed that subject to minor verbal changes, the memorandum should go forward from Mr. Harrison to the Scientific Panel.


Drs. Bush and Conant placed before the Committee a memorandum establishing some mechanism for international control in the United Nations organization in this field. They pointed out in the following discussion that the memo constituted only a tentative proposal designed to raise the issue. In receiving the message, the committee felt, as did Drs. Bush and Conant, that consideration of this question should be deferred until after the Potsdam Conference when the full Committee membership would be available.


As a matter of information, Mr. Harrison read to the Committee his exchanges of cables with the Secretary of War regarding the outcome of the test. In this connection, Mr. Harrison asked whether a letter of congratulations should be sent to Dr. Oppenheimer for the Secretary of War. The Committee unanimously agreed this should be done.


Dr. Bush reported that Senator Magnuson of Washington was introducing a bill that followed the recommendations made to the President in Dr. Bush’s report “Science – The Endless Frontier.” Senator Kilgore probably would also introduce a bill that would not follow the news so closely.

At this point, General Royall, Mr. Marbury, and two lawyers from the Manhattan District, Lt. Allan, and Lt. Duff, joined the meeting to review the draft bill that General Royall and Mr. Marbury had drawn up. It was learned that Lts. Allan and Duff had been working for some time in New York to gather materials about such legislation and had compiled a comprehensive document. They would be aided in their work by benefiting from the Committee’s discussion of the Royall/Marbury draft.

Mr. Harrison suggested that the Committee should not concern itself at this time with a line-by-line consideration of the bill but should confine its discussion to general principles.

  • Name of Organization: It was agreed that the organization established by legislation should be known as the “Commission on Atomic Energy.”
  • Compensation: Regarding the members of the Commission, it was felt that they should not receive a salary but rather a per diem to avoid making the positions susceptible to political pressure. It was agreed that the administrator and deputy administrator’s wages should be $15,000 and $12,000, respectively.
  • Composition: While it was agreed that no member should be named as a representative of any particular agency or interest, some divergence of view developed concerning the provision in the draft for two Army and two Navy officers out of a total of nine members. Dr. Bush favored a commission composed only of civilians, as did Dr. Conant; At the same time, General Royall pointed out that given the preponderance of the military aspect of this field and the greater likelihood of prompt Congressional action, if this fact were reflected in the composition of the Commission, he felt that solid military representation was desirable. Mr. Harrison suggested that the army interest would probably be adequately protected by the existing provision for a Military Board plus a new proviso to the effect that the President should be empowered to turn this field over to the military during war or threatened emergency. General Groves expressed that it would be desirable to provide that some members should have military experience but not that such members necessarily serve as representatives of the Services.
  • Control Over Research in the Universities: Dr. Conant expressed concern about the sweeping powers given to the commission over research. While he recognized the need for control of the material, he felt that it should be possible to devise some quantitative measure whereby university laboratories could use the material and conduct experiments in this field without endangering national security while at the same time preserving considerable freedom to pursue basic research. Dr. Compton suggested that such a measure might be devised regarding energy release. The Committee agreed that the bill should make some positive statement requiring the Commission to define some quantitative borderline. All agreed that the emphasis should be on the direction of freedom of research in universities to an extent not incompatible with national security.
  • Basic Research: Dr. Bush strongly urged that the bill should contain a positive statement of intent that the Commission would generally depend on the universities to carry forward the basic research program in this field. He pointed out that unless this were done, the bill would directly conflict with his Foundation bill and be a severe deterrent to the healthy advance of fundamental knowledge in this field. The Committee was in general agreement with this view.
  • Censorship: Dr. Bush felt that the censorship and security provisions of the bill were too broad. He suggested that the law should permit any publication of information in this field that did not endanger national security and require the Commission to draw up rules to implement this principle. It was generally agreed that the advantage of the United States in this field might be lost if publication were too narrowly restricted.
  • Patents: It was generally agreed that the patent section should empower the Commission to impose secrecy orders on patents and prevent issues if and when the Commission determined such action was necessary for the national interest.
  • Assets of the Combined Development Trust: It was agreed that a provision should be made in the law to empower the Commission to take over American interests in and existing international agreements.
  • International Relations: Mr. Marbury pointed out that it was not necessary to spell out in the bill any powers about entering into international agreements, for the ability to enter into any treaties in this field would automatically stem from the law.
  • General Accounting Office: It was agreed that the bill should provide that the Commission would have relationships with the General Accounting Office similar to those of TVA, namely, that while the Commission would be accountable to the GAO, it should be empowered to certify that certain expenditures were necessary for the national interest and not subject to detailed accounting.
  • Miscellaneous: Other suggestions made by the Committee members were as follows:
  1. General Groves — In addition to the four Boards named in the bill, the Commission should be empowered to call “such other boards” as at its discretion appear necessary.
  2. General Groves — The Administrator should operate under general rules laid down by the Commission; he should not be required to secure specific approval from the Commission for individual decisions.
  3. General Groves — It would not be possible to render a “complete” inventory of the holdings of the Manhattan District in three months, as provided in the subject draft. The reporting period should also be on a fiscal rather than a calendar year basis.
  4. Dr. Bush — Clerical and administrative personnel should be under Civil Service, but scientific, technical, and legal personnel should be exempt.

General Royall pointed out that the bill did not give the Commission quasi-judicial power. The Committee agreed that it should not have such capabilities. The Committee also agreed with General Royall’s view that no power need be given to the Commission in the bill over exports and imports. It was decided that the language of the law should permit the Commission to make payments for local taxes when circumstances so warranted.

It was agreed that Lieutenants Allan and Duff should redraft the bill to reflect the suggestions at the meeting and the extended comments Dr. Bush and General Groves would prepare in writing.


No definite time was set for the next meeting. Dr. Conant suggested that 2 August would be desirable from his point of view.

1st Lieutenant, AUS
Secretary to the Committee.

Original at: http://www.whistlestop.org/