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Letter to the Speaker Proposing an Accelerated Civil Defense Program.

June 21, 1951


I have the honor to transmit herewith for the consideration of the Congress the Budget for the fiscal year 1952 in the amount of $535,000,000 for the Federal Civil Defense Administration.

For the first time in our history, this country faces the threat of a sudden devastating attack at any time on our major cities.

We must act on the assumption that the Soviet Union has atomic bombs and that they have the planes that can drop those bombs on our cities. Our Air Force experts tell us that in any determined air attack enemy planes could drop bombs on our cities, no matter how good our defenses may be.

There is no complete protection against an atomic air attack, but there is a great deal that can be done to reduce the number of deaths and injuries that might result. The lives of many millions of people may depend on the development of a strong Civil Defense program to meet such an attack.

Every city, factory, office and home must be organized for Civil Defense. As long as there is a chance of any kind that atomic bombs may fall on our cities, we cannot gamble. We cannot be caught unprepared.

The development of the Nation's preparedness is out of balance if, at the same time our armed forces are being strengthened, measures are not taken providing the means to minimize civilian casualties, to deal with emergency conditions, and to restore vital facilities in the period immediately following attack. The Civil Defense Program will not only protect the civilian population, but will also help to maintain the industrial productivity necessary to support our military forces.

Because of the importance of Civil Defense in the protection of our people, property and production on the home front, I recommend immediate action on this appropriation in the interest of national security.

The program proposed in these estimates is not all that will be required to give this Nation a fully effective civil defense. However, it covers the minimum amount necessary to help the States organize and teach our people how to protect themselves against atomic attack; and to assist the States to make a start in procuring sirens, fire, rescue, communication, and other types of equipment required to warn the public of an attack and to fight the effects of such an attack. It also covers a Federal reserve supply of critical medical, emergency welfare and public works items because such a reserve is more economical and will permit with safety a lower inventory level than if each city were to procure its own reserve.

The estimate of appropriation to match State contributions for protective shelters is a substantial start on a program to protect the public in congested areas. The standards and criteria for evaluating existing structures have been developed and surveys are being carried out in cities to determine (1) the existing buildings usable as shelters, (2) the existing buildings which can be modified for use as shelters, and (3) the amount of new construction required. Work on the modification of existing structures will be given first priority and can be started as soon as funds are made available.

The details of these proposed appropriations are set forth in the attached letter from the Director of the Bureau of the Budget with whose comments and observations thereon I concur.

Respectfully yours,


[The Honorable Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the House of Representatives]

Note: On November 1, 1951, the President signed the First Supplemental Appropriation Act, 1952 (65 Stat. 736), which provided an appropriation of $74,945,000 for the Civil Defense Administration.

Harry S Truman, Letter to the Speaker Proposing an Accelerated Civil Defense Program. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230195

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