The Acheson-Lilienthal Report


Principal Considerations in Developing a System Of Safeguards

At the outset of our inquiry we were preoccupied with some way of making an inspection system provide security. This is a preoccupation that is apparently common to most people who have seriously tried to find some answer to the extraordinarily difficult problem presented by the atomic bomb. But as day after day we proceeded with our study of the facts concerning atomic energy, and reflected upon their significance, we were inescapably driven to two conclusions: (a) the facts preclude any reasonable reliance upon inspection as the primary safeguard against violations of conventions prohibiting atomic weapons, yet leaving the exploitation of atomic energy in national hands; (b) the facts suggest quite clearly a reasonable and workable system that may provide security, and even beyond security, foster beneficial and humanitarian uses of atomic energy.

What Should be the Characteristics of an Effective System of Safeguards:

It may be helpful to summarize the characteristics that are desirable and indeed essential to an effective system of safeguards; in other words, the criteria for any adequate plan for security.

  1. Such a plan must reduce to manageable proportions the problem of enforcement of an international policy against atomic warfare.
  2. It must be a plan that provides unambiguous and reliable danger signals if a nation takes steps that do or may indicate the beginning of atomic warfare. Those danger signals must flash early enough to leave time adequate to permit other nations--alone or in concert--to take appropriate action.
  3. The plan must be one that if carried out will provide security; but such that if it fails or the international situation collapses, any nation such as the United States will still be in a relatively secure position, compared to any other nation.
  4. To be genuinely effective for security, the plan must be one that is not wholly negative, suppressive, and police-like. We are not dealing simply with a military or scientific problem but with a problem in statecraft and the ways of the human spirit. Therefore the plan must be one that will tend to develop the beneficial possibilities of atomic energy and encourage the growth of fundamental knowledge, stirring the constructive and imaginative impulses of men rather than merely concentrating on the defensive and negative. It should, in short, be a plan that looks to the promise of man's future well-being as well as to his security.
  5. The plan must be able to cope with new dangers that may appear in the further development of this relatively new field. In an organizational sense therefore the plan must have flexibility and be readily capable of extension or contraction.
  6. The plan must involve international action and minimize rivalry between nations in the dangerous aspects of atomic development.

The facts we have come to think essential, and the elements of our thinking as we moved toward the plan we herein recommend, are set out in this section, in the form of the considerations that are relevant to an effective program for security, and that have led us to devise what we believe is an adequate plan.