Options Assessed

Lyndon Johnson and his space assistant, Space Council executive secretary Edward Welsh, quickly set to work after receiving JFK’s April 20 memo. Welsh was the only staff member of the Space Council at this point. The orga­nization of the review reflected the “Johnson system” of obtaining informa­

tion through personal contacts rather than formal organizational channels. Johnson consulted many of individuals whom he thought would signifi­cantly contribute to examining the space program. He met with officials from NASA, the Defense Department, the Atomic Energy Commission, and Wiesner’s office. At the suggestion of Welsh, a Bureau of the Budget (BOB) representative attended most of the meetings, so that the bureau could remain informed of the alternatives under discussion and assess their financial implications.2

As the review was getting underway, President Kennedy on April 22 reported to the National Security Council, meeting in the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs failure, that “he had asked the Vice President. . . to direct an inquiry into our space effort and make a report to me which I hope will constitute the basis of a Presidential Message on this subject to Congress.”3 It is worth noting that even before he received the vice president’s report, Kennedy anticipated a positive recommendation justifying a “Presidential Message” to the Congress; it is not clear whether at this point he had also decided to deliver that message in person. One indication that he was being pushed, if not already leaning, in that direction was an April 19 memoran­dum from Walt Rostow, who as a MIT professor had been a Kennedy cam­paign adviser and was in April 1961 on McGeorge Bundy’s national security staff. Rostow suggested that “as the first hundred days draw to a close, I believe you should consider a major address taking stock of where we are and where we should go, both at home and abroad.” Rostow identified an accelerated space effort as one of the potential topics in the speech.4