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Dwight Eisenhower on Technology


1957: Sputnik ended "Peace and Prosperity" boosterism

In October 1957, the country became suddenly uneasy about the grandfather-like leadership of Dwight Eisenhower. The launching of the Soviet space satellite Sputnik sent an ugly shiver down the spines of complacent citizens long convinced of their country's enduring edge against the Soviet menace. "Artificial satellites will pave the way for space travel," the Soviet news agency Tass explained to the humiliated West. Moscow was justified in its self-assurance. Sputnik was, after all, 9 times the weight of the satellites the US had been trying, with a discouraging lack of success, to launch. If the Communists could beat us in the technology of the future, they might also defeat us ideologically as well. The emerging "third world" might decide to look to Moscow rather than Washington for aid and guidance in their struggle for economic development.

The national mood shifted uneasily from the "Peace and Prosperity" boosterism of the 1950s.

Source: Kennedy & Nixon, by Chris Matthews, p.121 , Jun 3, 1996

Sputnik: Soviets lead in satellites, but US leads overall

"It is my conviction, supported by trusted scientific and military advisers, that, although the Soviets are quite likely ahead in some missile and special areas, and are obviously ahead of us in satellite development, as of today the overall military strength of the Free World is distinctly greater than that of the Communist countries."

But unless we moved further, we could fall behind.

Source: Waging Peace, by Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, p.224 , Jan 1, 1965

1958: First satellite only a step; established NASA

On the night of January 31, 1958, the Army was to launch Explorer I, which we hoped would be the US's first orbiting earth satellite. At 12:44 my telephone rang; [I received the report], "It's in orbit. We just received the official word."

"That's wonderful," I replied. "I surely feel a lot better now." But I warned, "Let's not make too great a hullabaloo over this." I did not want this success to result in any boastful pronouncements; primarily it marked a big step, but only a step, in a gigantic undertaking of space exploration.

With the January 31 launching, a long and difficult period had ended. Within the next 8 weeks we made 2 other successful shots: the Navy's Vanguard, launched March 17, and Explorer III, which went into orbit on March 26.

The exploration of outer space, a comprehensive and costly venture, demanded new controlling and operating mechanisms within the government. On April 2, I requested Congress to establish a National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA).

Source: Waging Peace, by Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, p.255-257 , Jan 1, 1965

US Information Agency: let all the world know the truth

I was anxious to preserve the appropriation for the US Information Agency, whose sole and essential purpose was to let all the world know the truth and only the truth about our policies, plans, actions, and purposes.

To my associates and me, the Agency was a non-military arm of defense and a voice of our foreign understanding among the peoples of the world. Unfortunately, however, the Agency had never been popular with the Congress.

[For 1957] I had asked for $144 million for the USIA--$31 million more than the year before. The appropriations subcommittee under the chairmanship of Senator Lyndon Johnson sliced that to $90.2 million.

Lyndon Johnson left no doubt about his views: "There is not one scintilla of evidence in the more than 1200 pages of hearings which would justify the assertion by a judicious, prudent man that the $90 million we have recommended will be wisely spent." I was disappointed by this irresponsible diminution of an agency on the front line in the cold war.

Source: Waging Peace, by Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, p.136-138 , Jan 1, 1965

Space exploration need not integrate with defense research

Our effort in space exploration is often mistakenly supposed to be an integral part of defense research and development.
  1. America has made great contributions to the world's fund of knowledge of astrophysics and space science. These discoveries are of present interest chiefly to the scientific community; but they are important foundation-stones for more extensive exploration of outer space.
  2. Our military missile program does not suffer from our present lack of very large rocket engines, which are so necessary in distant space exploration. The thrust of our present missiles is fully adequate for defense requirements.
  3. The US is pressing forward in the development of large rocket engines to place much heavier vehicles into space for exploration purposes.
  4. In the meantime, it is necessary to remember that we have only begun to probe the environment immediately surrounding the earth.
  5. We have just completed a year's experience with our new space law [which needs modification].
    Source: Pres. Eisenhower's 1960 State of the Union message , Jan 7, 1960

    Overcame 1958 recession without hasty public works projects

    The material foundation of our national safety is a strong and expanding economy. This we have--and this we must maintain. Only with such an economy can we be secure and simultaneously provide for the well-being of our people.

    A year ago the nation was experiencing a decline in employment and output. Today that recession is fading into history, and this without gigantic, hastily-improvised public works projects or untimely tax reductions. A healthy and vigorous recovery has been under way since last May. New homes are being built at the highest rate in several years. Retail sales are at peak levels. Personal income is at an all-time high.

    The marked forward thrust of our economy reaffirms our confidence in competitive enterprise. But--clearly--wisdom and prudence in both the public and private sectors of the economy are always necessary.

    Source: Pres. Eisenhower's 1959 State of the Union message , Jan 7, 1959

    National Highway Program to meet economic & security needs

    A modern, efficient highway system is essential to meet the needs of our growing population, our expanding economy, and our national security. We are accelerating our highway improvement program as rapidly as possible. However, this effort will not in itself assure our people of an adequate highway system. On my recommendation, this problem has been carefully considered by the Conference of State Governors and by a special Advisory Committee on a National Highway Program.

    In further recognition of the importance of transportation to our economic strength and security, the Administration is thoroughly examining existing Federal transportation policies to determine their effect on the adequacy of transportation services. This is the first such comprehensive review directly undertaken by the Executive Branch of the government in modern times. We are studying closely the inter-relationships of civilian and government requirements for transportation.

    Source: Pres. Eisenhower's 1955 State of the Union message , Jan 6, 1955

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    Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
    Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
    Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
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    Page last updated: Jul 05, 2014