The Eisenhower Administration: Its Security Record
Regardless of who won the 1952 election, the nation's loyalty and security programs were ripe for a thoroughgoing revision by the end of the Truman Administration. Disorganized and handcuffed by continuing Congressional investigations, hiring procedures were uneven and inadequate to protect the national security.
Few, therefore, would question the value of the new President's efforts to keep the government free from subversion and raise popular respect for the bureaucracy. In this regard the Administration has heeded its public mandate. But in the workings of the Eisenhower security program and in the President's conduct of the executive office lie some of the most justifiable criticisms of the Republican regime.
By 1953, when Eisenhower entered the White House, 4,300,000 individuals were covered under the Truman loyalty and security programs. Under these systems only 414 employees had been suspended as risks from 1947 to 1952. For most civil servants, "reasonable doubt" of loyalty was required before they could be suspended, but a special Congressional order had invested heads of certain sensitive agancies with broader powers of "summary dismissal." Approximately 800,000 civilians in the Atomic Energy Commission, the Department of Defense, the armed forces, the State Department, C.I.A., E.C.A., and the Voice of America were covered by this latter "security" requirement.
Under mounting public criticism, the Truman Administration set up the Interdepartmental Committee on Internal Security to study the whole loyalty system. In April 1952, the Committee recommended that the government establish one encompassing program based on "suitability" or general fitness for federal employment. Such a criterion would have regularized the security procedure and enabled the government to suspend an employee without undue damage to his personal reputation.
But when it came time for the Eisenhower Administration to supply its own uniform program, the keystone became security instead of suitability. Under the new standard, "employment or retention in employment in the Federal Service" had to be "clearly consistent with the interests of national security." The program thereby greatly extended the possible cause for suspension and placed the stigma of "security risk" on employees whose sins were no worse than casual association with characters of dubious loyalty.
In addition, the Eisenhower order eliminated the Loyalty Review Board, a commission of twenty leading lawyers and educators set up by President Truman to hear appeals on security firings. The abolition of the Board, however, lessened rather than increased the uniformity of government security procedures, as each department head was given the sole responsibility over the security of his office. This lack of central organization led to confused situations like that in which Wolf Ladejinsky was cleared by the State Department and then suspended by the Department of Agriculture on tenuous grounds.
Several such blatant examples of inequity were corrected only after embarassing public protest. The Air Force removed Lt. Milo Radulovitch as a reserve officer because his sister was a Communist, and the Navy Department suspended a cartographer, Abraham Chasanow, on the basis of derogatory rumors that were proved baseless. Chasanow's case illustrated the injustice to government employees caused by the operations of the Eisenhower program. Under severe economic and financial hardship during his 13-month suspension, Chasanow was denied an opportunity to confront the witnesses who had testified against him.
Meanwhile, Administration spokesmen, including the President, were deliberately misrepresenting the number of employees fired under the Eisenhower program and were trying to place sole responsibility on the Democrats for the fact that the government has been "honeycombed with Communists." Administration figures on security firings ranged from 1,459 up to 9,600, but Congressional findings last year revealed that only 342 employees had actually been removed as security risks. And many of these, it was discovered, had been hired since 1953. When this information was made public, the Administration hastily ceased its allegations but never offered to correct its misleading statements. In this context, the "numbers game" seems to have been a calculated attempt to keep the issue of Communists in government at the focus of political debate, rather than to remove subversion from national concern.
But the Eisenhower Administration's security record has more significant failings than its political shenanigans, and its needless damage to lives and careers. More important are the profound effects that security-consciousness has had on the public mind. It is still too early to asses the popular conception of freedom that has emerged from the assaults of Senator McCarthy. It is too early also to examine the damage to government morale and effectiveness stemming from unimpeded Congressional investigations and loyalty requirements that place a premium on mediocrity. But it is alarmingly clear that, as government work becomes less attractive, applications for career posts in the foreign and civil service have fallen markedly. And within the Foreign Service, according to Senator Alexander Wiley, ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, 97 percent of the officers feel that morale in the Service is poor. A leading scientist, as well, Vannevar Bush, has warned that our defense effort has been impaired by uncertainty and distrust arising from security restrictions--notably from revulsion at the fate of J. Robert Oppenheimer.
This retrospective view stands in gloomy contrast to the optimism that greeted the President in 1953. Then, his program had promise of settling the subversive issue fairly and efficiently. Because he was a military hero honored with deep national affection, it was hoped that he could not only overcome McCarthy-inspired hysteria with the force of his moral leadership, but also that he could lift government service from the level at which Truman's stubborn devotion to his political friends had left it. Public criticism and court decisions have since forced the Administration to soften some of its initial harsh policies, but the fact remains that the President, like his predecessor, has failed to use his office to create a climate in which government service can be a vital and creative career.