New additions to the DX list required the approval of the National Security Council, but earlier that body had delegated authority to the Secretary of Defense to decide on top priorities for satellite systems. Secretary Neil H. McElroy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff received the Liaison Committee's recommendations for a new Master Urgency List on December 17. NASA Administrator T. Keith Glennan protested to William M. Holaday, the Pentagon's Director of Guided Missiles and chairman of the Liaison Committee, that not only Mercury but the big new booster, to become known in February as the Saturn, should have top priority. McElroy therefore directed Holaday to review the entire DX category before deciding what to do about the dual NASA requests for the so-called "brickbat," or highest, priority rating.4 Here matters stood at the end of the year.
For these reasons, financial allowances for extensive (and expensive) overtime work and the authorization for preferential acquisition of scarce materials were delayed well into 1959. Maxime A. Faget's optimistic belief before the program started that a man might possibly be placed in orbit within 18 months, or during the second quarter of the calendar year 1960, depended upon the immediate assignment of the Nation's highest priority to Mercury - and an enormous amount of the best possible luck! One of the first official estimates of the launch schedule for STG, made by Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., in early December for the Air Force Missile Test Center at Cape Canaveral predicted concurrent development, qualification, and manned orbital flights from April through September in 1960.5 This "guesstimate" was likewise predicated on an immediate Defense Department order to allow Project Mercury to compete "on a non-interference basis" with the military missile programs in obtaining critical "off-the-shelf" components, particularly electronic and guidance items.
By the first of the new year, it was fairly clear that the large Saturn booster would be continued by the Army's Wernher von Braun team and that the Defense Department was not about to release von Braun and his associates to NASA. Glennan, Dryden, and Silverstein had given Project Mercury the highest priority  within NASA itself, but among industrial suppliers and the Defense Department it ranked second to several more urgent and competing demands. By March 1959, definite evidence of equipment and material supply shortages accumulated. The new prime contractor warned of delivery schedule slippages resulting from Mercury's DO rating. Holaday's reports were favorable toward Mercury, and Glennan compromised on the "106-engines." For the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) had directed the Army Ordnance Missile Command and the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division, respectively, to start independent development of both a clustered first-stage booster (the Saturn) and a single-chamber rocket engine (the F-1) able to generate about 1,500,000 pounds of thrust.6
So NASA finally presented a united front with the Defense Department to the President and Congressional committees. On April 27, 1959, Eisenhower himself approved the request for the "brickbat" procurement rating for Mercury. The prime contract and most of the major subcontracts for the space capsule had been let well before May 4, when Mercury was officially listed in the topmost category on the Master Urgency List.7 But the attendant privilege of not having to seek the lowest bidder on every major item bought was probably less important to the development of the program than the added prestige and support the DX rating brought to Mercury within the aerospace industry and among the military services.
During the first quarter of 1959, confusion reigned in Washington aerospace circles as too many missile czars, too many space projects, and too many agencies clamored for more funds and support. But journalists, scientists, and humanitarians applauded the successes of the Navy-NASA Vanguard II, a tiny weather satellite; of the Air Force's Discoverer I, first satellite in polar orbit; and of the Army-NASA Pioneer IV, which managed to duplicate Mechta's escape velocity. As a deep-space probe and the first U.S. solar satellite, Pioneer IV, launched March 3, was magnificently instrumental in expanding man's knowledge of the plurality of the Van Allen radiation belts and of the "solar winds," or radiation storms, that permeate interplanetary space. Glennan had resolved to identify all NASA booster rockets with the name "United States" only, but other rocket agencies within the government were unlikely to follow suit. In the midst of all this, Project Mercury seemed still an obscure conception to the public. Roy W. Johnson of ARPA called it "very screwball" when first proposed; by the end of March he said, "It looks a little less screwball now."8
Meanwhile, within STG itself, the most urgent task in getting on with the program had already been accomplished by the end of 1958. On December 29 the Task Group had completed its technical assessments of the industrial proposals for manufacturing the capsule and its subsystems. Eleven complete proposals had been received. The narrowing of the field of possible manufacturers was facilitated by the fact that so many alternate configurations were submitted. Faget had invited the bidders "to submit alternate capsule and configuration designs if you so desire, provided that you incorporate the retrorocket principle,  the non-lifting principle and the non-ablating heat sink principle. You are not limited to this particular approach only."9 But some of the bidders had taken him altogether too literally in this statement.
3 T. Keith Glennan, "The Task of Government," in Lincoln P. Bloomfield, ed., Outer Space: Prospects for Man and Society (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1962), 65. For more of the background on engine and booster priority assignments, see Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, 87 Cong., 2 sess. (1962), Staff Report, Manned Space Flight Program of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration: Projects Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, 160-168.
4 Letter, Hugh L. Dryden to Robert R. Gilruth, March 23, 1959; memo, Clotaire Wood to NASA Administrator, "Priority for Project Mercury," March 12, 1959, Table D.
5 Memo, Christopher C. Kraft to Gilruth, "Operational Program Estimate for AFMTC," Dec. 4, 1958.
6 Letter, Lloyd Harrison to Charles H. Zimmerman, March 10, 1959; letter, C. F. Picard to Zimmerman, March 23, 1959; memo for files, R. L. Barber, "NASA Contract NAS 5-59 - Manned Satellite Capsules," April 10, 1959. Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, 86 Cong., 1 sess. (1959), Governmental Organization for Space Activities, 42-43. For a different interpretation of the facts surrounding the DX priority for Mercury, Saturn, and the F-1 engine, see House Committee on Science and Astronautics, 86 Cong., 2 sess. (1960), Space, Missiles, and the Nation, 10-12. For details on the birth of the F-1 engine and the Saturn booster, see Saturn Illustrated Chronology, April 1957 June 1964, Marshall Space Flight Center, Aug. 10, 1964, 1-16.
7 Memos, George M. Low to J. W. Gannon, "Priority for Project Mercury," April 25, 1959; Low to House Committee on Science and Astronautics, "Urgency of Project Mercury," April 27, 1959: House Committee on Science and Astronautics, 86 Cong., 1 sess. (1960), 1961 NASA Authorization, 348.
8 Roy W. Johnson, quoted by John W. Finney, "Space Ship Model Tested in Flight," New York Times, March 27, 1959. On rivalry and confusion in Washington, see Drew Pearson, "Too Many Czars in Space Work," Washington Post, Feb. 9, 1959; William Hines, "Policies of Washington Blamed for Missile Lag," Washington Evening Star, Feb. 17, 1959. For part of the furor over Project Argus, see Walter Sullivan, et al., New York Times, March 19, 20, 22, 1959. See also "Roy W. Johnson, Early Builder of U.S. Space Program, Dies," New York Times, July 23, 1965.
9 See "Questions and Answers from Bidders' Briefing for Manned Space Satellite," STG, Nov. 7, 1958, 3; letter, Sherwood L. Butler to R. E. Cushman, "Proposals on Requisition S-6 - Manned Satellite Capsule," Dec. 12, 1958.