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The Thorn in the Admiral's Side


The record of the Atomic Energy Committee under the chairmanship of Admiral Lewis L. Strauss has been anything but distinguished. The most publicized mishaps, the Oppenheimer case and the Dixon-Yates contract, have been only surface indications of Strauss' maladministration. Strauss, who has shown little belief in the Eisenhower theory of delegation of authority, has increasingly preempted the powers of the AEC to himself.

As a consequence of his attempted one-man rule, the Commission has almost become a front for its chairman's foibles. Among these are a devotion to secrecy about the dangers of fall-out (except in the exchange of information with Britain, where Strauss was treated like royalty) and a Hoover-like faith in big business. One more side of Strauss' character is his determination to continue testing the big bombs. He is searching for a "clean" bomb, rather than limiting experiments to tactical weapons.

On almost every AEC decision relating to security, business development of atomic energy, and H-bomb tests, there has been only one dissenting voice on the Commission. Thomas Murray, the only Truman appointee to stick it out, has constantly opposed the AEC majority whenever he felt that it was acting as a rubber stamp for Strauss. As a result of his criticisms, Murray and Strauss are continually at each other's throats. If Murray's comments were only negative, his value to the Commission would be questionable. As it is, however, Murray has been partially responsible for much of the AEC's constructive work. Murray helped to revoke Dixon-Yates, set forth a realistic proposal for peaceful atomic development, and established an incentive system for uranium procurement.

Murray's term expires in June, and it is doubtful that the President will reappoint him. Strauss will do everything he can to prevent Murray from remaining on the AEC; motivated by a powerful sense of charisma, he has no sympathy for gadflies. The service which Murray performs in keeping Strauss on his toes and airing important AEC disputes is an essential one. A Democratic Congress can try to get the President to reappoint Murray, if only by the expedient of log-rolling. It might be worth sending Scott McLeod to Ireland, if Thomas Murray could stay on the AEC.

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