Memorandum Prepared by the Joint Chiefs of Staff69

top secret

Basis for the Formulation of a U.S. Military Policy

1. The basic purpose for maintaining United States armed forces is to provide for our security and to uphold and advance our national [Page 1161] policies, foreign and domestic. The essentials of our military policy are determined by our national policies.

2. The major national policies which determine our military policy are:

Maintenance of the territorial integrity and security of the United States, its territories, possessions, leased areas and trust territories.
Advancing the political, economic and social well-being of the United States.
Maintenance of the territorial integrity and the sovereignty or political independence of other American states, and regional collaboration with them in the maintenance of international peace and security in the Western Hemisphere.
Maintenance of the territorial integrity, security and, when it becomes effective, the political independence of the Philippine Islands.
Participation in and full support of the United Nations Organization.
Enforcement, in collaboration with our Allies, of terms imposed upon the defeated enemy states.
Maintenance of the United States in the best possible relative position with respect to potential enemy powers, ready when necessary to take military action abroad to maintain the security and integrity of the United States.

3. These policies in the aggregate are directed toward the maintenance of world peace, under conditions which insure the security, well-being and advancement of our country.

4. In the last analysis the maintenance of such a world peace will depend upon mutual cooperation among Britain, Russia and the United States. The possibility of a breakdown in the relation between these major powers and the resulting necessity to exercise individual or collective self-defense requires, for our own preservation, that we be so prepared that if necessary we can maintain our security without immediate or substantial assistance from other nations. Such an eventuality presents the maximum problem from the military point of view. A military policy that will maintain the security of the United States, standing alone, would meet all other military requirements. Any future conflict between major foreign powers will almost certainly precipitate a third world war, in which we could not hope to escape being involved. Any nation, which in the future may attempt to dominate the world, may be expected to make her major effort against the United States and before we can mobilize our forces and productive capacity. The power, range and prospective development of modern weapons are such as to favor such an attack. As a result, there will be a marked reduction in the degree of invulnerability to ready attack that has been provided in the past by our geographical position.

[Page 1162]

5. It is to be borne in mind, however, that, in correspondingly equal degree, we will possess the means for retaliatory or punitive attack against other powers who may threaten the United States or the international peace structure in general. The means for preserving peace under the United Nations are both tacit and explicit. They are primarily tacit with regard to the major powers in that, whereas the existence of effective military power must be real, its implementation or assertion must be avoided, if possible. If the stability of the international structure is to be maintained, unbalanced power factors or stresses must be guarded against. From the point of view of the United States, this means that our country, if she is to play her proper part toward the maintenance of international peace, must have sufficient military power to make it unwise for any major aggressor nation to initiate a major war against the opposition of the United States. The relative military power required for fulfilling the potential role of this international sanction should not exceed that required for national security purposes, as set forth in the preceding paragraph. It would not be maintained for, nor used in any way as, an international threat, nor for purposes of asserting world domination.

6. More explicit is the maintenance of an international security force. The United Nations Charter provides for the use, if required, of certain armed forces made available to the Security Council, by previous agreement, to maintain international peace and security. Under its terms concerted military action by the United Nations can be taken only when all five of the permanent members of the Security Council, plus two non-permanent members, agree that other means are inadequate to maintain or restore international peace and security. It may therefore be assumed that the total requirement of the Security Council for armed forces will be small, and consequently, that the United States commitment will be only a small part of the military forces which will be required in any event for national security against the in no way remote possibility of a breakdown in the relation of major powers.

7. The other definite military commitment, and the one that is most immediate, is to provide the necessary forces for the occupation and demilitarization of Germany and Japan, and the prevention of their resurgence as aggressor nations.

8. It is recognized that the maintenance of overwhelmingly strong forces in time of peace is politically and economically unacceptable to the people of the United States. However, they should accept as requirements essential to their security:

The maintenance of sufficient active forces to afford assurance of the security of the United States, its territories and possessions [Page 1163] during the initial period of mobilization of national means—manpower, resources and industry.
Readiness and determination to take prompt and effective military action abroad to anticipate and prevent attack.
An intelligence system which would assure this government information concerning military, political, economic and technological developments abroad and hence provide the necessary forewarning of hostile intent and capability.
A national organization which will promote and coordinate civilian and military activities in technical research and development.
Maintenance of an adequate system of overseas bases.

9. It may be assumed that the United States, relative to other great powers, will maintain in peace time as armed forces only a minimum percentage of its war time potential. It is imperative therefore that these forces be the best trained in the world, and equipped with superior materiel and so disposed strategically that they can be brought to bear at the source of enemy military power, or in other critical areas in time to thwart attack by a potential aggressor. These forces must be supported by an adequate system of bases and machinery for the rapid mobilization of our national resources. Plans and preparations must be kept abreast of developments of new weapons and counter-measures against them and provide for exploitation of our superior mechanical and industrial capabilities. When it becomes evident that forces of aggression are being arrayed against us by a potential enemy, we cannot afford, through any misguided and perilous idea of avoiding an aggressive attitude to permit the first blow to be struck against us. Our government, under such conditions, should press the issue to a prompt political decision, while making all preparations to strike the first blow if necessary.

10. In view of the above, the United States military policy may be stated as follows:

statement of united states military policy

11. Basic Military Policy. To insure the security of the United States and to uphold and advance its national interests by military readiness to support its national policies and international commitments.

12. General Military Policy. To be prepared to take prompt and effective military action wherever necessary with the armed forces of the United States:

To maintain the security of the United States, its territories, possessions, leased areas, trust territories and the Philippine Islands.
To secure and to maintain international peace within the Western [Page 1164] Hemisphere, acting collectively with other American states, but if necessary acting alone.
To fulfill our military commitments in the maintenance of international peace and security as a member of the United Nations.
To fulfill our military commitments in the enforcement, in cooperation with our Allies, of the terms imposed upon defeated enemy states.
To maintain the United States in the best possible relative position with respect to potential enemy powers.

13. Principal Supporting Military Policies:

To maintain mobile striking forces in strength, composition and state of readiness for prompt and adequate action and to provide necessary fixed and mobile logistic support for such forces.
To maintain adequate forces required by our commitments for the enforcement of terms imposed on defeated enemy states.
To provide security for vital areas in the United States, its territories, possessions, leased areas and trust territories against possible enemy attacks, including attacks with newly developed weapons.
To maintain an adequate reserve of appropriate composition, both as to personnel and materiel, which is capable of rapid mobilization.
To develop and maintain an adequate system of supporting establishments within the continental United States for our operating forces, capable of rapid expansion.
To develop and maintain a system of outlying bases, adequately equipped and defended, for the support of our mobile forces, and capable of rapid expansion.
To develop and maintain an intelligence system which would assure adequate information concerning military, political, economic and technological developments abroad and provide the necessary warning of hostile intent and capability.
To promote research, development and provision of new weapons, processes, matériel and countermeasures, and in so far as possible and desirable to deny such knowledge and capacity to possible enemy states.
To provide for the rapid mobilization in an emergency, of national means—manpower, resources and industry—by supporting:
Universal military training.
Maintenance of a large United States Merchant Marine, both active and reserve.
Development and maintenance of United States domestic and international commercial air transport systems.
Plans and preparations for the mobilization of manpower, resources and industry.
Maintenance of industries essential to the national war effort so designed and located as to give maximum insurance against destruction by enemy attack.
Stockpiling of critical strategic materials.
To develop and maintain close coordination and mutual understanding between the State, War and Navy Departments, and those other agencies of government and industry which contribute to the national war effort.
To maintain liaison with and to support the development and training of the armed forces of the American republics, the Dominion of Canada, the Philippine Islands, and other nations which contribute to the security of the United States, its territories, possessions, leased areas, trust territories, and the Western Hemisphere.
In concert with political and economic measures taken by the other departments of the government, to maintain the United States in the best possible military position with respect to potential enemy powers.
  1. This document was approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff on September 19, 1945, and forwarded to the Secretaries of War and Navy for transmission to the Secretary of State and the President. The Assistant Secretary of War submitted it to the State–War–Navy Coordinating Committee on September 26, 1945. It was examined at the 167th Meeting of the Secretary’s Staff Committee on November 13, 1945; for the minutes of that meeting, see p. 1118. SC–169b, an evaluation of the present document prepared in the Department of State, is printed on p. 1123. At the request of the War Department, the JCS statement of policy was republished as SWNCC 282 on March 27, 1946, and referred to an ad hoc committee for study and revision in accord with comments by the State, War, and Navy Departments. The ad hoc committee did not meet in 1946. On December 13, 1946, the Department of State recommended that action with respect to the paper be cancelled. However, in view of the desire of the War Department that further action be taken, the ad hoc committee prepared and circulated a revised draft of the present paper on February 6, 1947. This draft failed to receive full approval of all members of the ad hoc committee itself. No other draft was prepared subsequently. Events having overtaken it and a project of the newly-formed National Security Council having dealt with its subject, SWNCC 282 was removed from the agenda of the State–War–Navy–Air Force Coordinating Committee in 1948. (SWNCC Files)