The Secretary of Defense ( Forrestal ) to the President


Dear Mr. President: In accordance with the instructions contained in the memorandum of July 16, 1948 from the Director of the Bureau of the Budget,1 I have today made a formal submittal of a proposed national security budget, calling for new obligational authority within [Page 670] the tentative ceiling figure of 15 billion dollars, details of which have been forwarded to the Bureau of the Budget over the past several weeks. The tentative ceiling of 15 billion dollars included approximately 600 million dollars for other items—as, for example, the 525 million dollars for stockpiling funds to be appropriated to the Treasury Department—leaving a net amount of 14.4 billion dollars for military activities of the National Military Establishment.

As I have previously informed you orally, the Joint Chiefs of Staff do not believe that our national security can be adequately safeguarded with the forces which can be maintained under this 14.4 billion dollar budget. It is their recommendation that forces are needed which would require that an amount approximating 23 billion dollars be appropriated for the maintenance of our national security during fiscal year 1950.

For purposes of ready comparison, the military strengths that can be maintained under the 14.4 billion figure and tinder the 23 billion figure can be summarized as follows:

14.4 Budget 23 Budget
Army Navy (including Marines) 677,000 men 10 divisions 800,000 men 12 divisions
527,000 men 287 combatant ships 662,000 men 382 combatant ships
Air Force 412,000 men 48 groups 489,000 men 70 groups
Limited procurement Relatively substantial procurement for regular, reserve and Natl. Guard forces
Nominal reserve forces Strong reserve and Natl. Guard forces
Restrictive maintenance standards Normal maintenance standards, plus some previously deferred maintenance

I have, as you know, devoted a number of months to a most thorough and detailed study of the military budget for 1950. It is my profound conviction that the budget which you should recommend to the Congress falls somewhere between the extremes of the 14.4 billion figure, which represents the tentative fiscal limitation contained in the July 16 memorandum, and the 23 billion figure which is based on the forces recommended to me by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In the light of existing international conditions, in the light of the impact of rising prices on the Military Establishment, and after giving long and serious consideration to the fiscal impact of national security requirements and to the effect of such requirements on scarce materials and civilian production, it is my belief that you should recommend to the Congress a national security budget for military activities in the amount of 16.9 billion dollars.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff have unanimously agreed on the increase in the forces that should be maintained by each Service, and the funds [Page 671] needed by each Department to support such forces, if a budget of 16.9 billion should be enacted—but the Joint Chiefs of Staff do not consider that the forces provided by such a budget will furnish the strength necessary for our national defense under present international conditions. However, after taking into account the fiscal and economic impact on the country of additional appropriations for military purposes, I do not believe I can conscientiously recommend a budget larger than 16.9 billion, unless the international situation should become more serious.

While the 16.9 budget is closer to Mr. Webb’s2 figure of 14.4 than it is to the Joint Chiefs’ figure of 23, I believe that this intermediate amount will permit us to so arrange our plans that we can obtain a maximum benefit from funds provided for military activities—with the result that strength figures under this 16.9 billion budget (as worked out by the Joint Chiefs of Staff) will be as follows:

Army Navy (including Marines) 800,000 men 12 divisions
580,000 men 319 combatant ships
Air Force 460,000 men 59 groups
Reasonably adequate procurement.
Maintenance standards near normal levels.
Reasonably adequate reserve and National Guard forces.

I want to emphasize that all three of these budgets which are outlined in some detail in the attachment are based on mutual support of the Services by one another—part of the strength of each of the Services representing forces which must be maintained in order to make possible the effective utilization of forces of another Service.

The attachment which I enclose3 spells out in some detail the strengths which can be maintained under the three budgets I have mentioned. The strength of the different forces and the implications of each have a very definite impact on the strategic concepts which would be utilized in any war situation. As I have indicated to you orally, I stand ready, along with the Departmental Secretaries and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to give you an oral presentation on just what each of these three budgets means when translated into terms of our ability to protect throughout the world the interests of the United States.4

The Secretary of State has authorized me to state that the forces provided by the budget I am recommending would provide a military [Page 672] posture and state of readiness better calculated, during the difficult diplomatic negotiations that lie ahead, to instill the necessary confidence in democratic nations everywhere than would the reduced forces in a more limited budget.5


James Forrestal
  1. Not found in the files of the Department of State.
  2. James E. Webb, Director of the Bureau of the Budget.
  3. Not printed.
  4. The oral presentation occurred at the White House on December 9. President Truman was not convinced of the advisability of expanding the military budget (Millis, Forrestal Diaries, p. 536). For text of the President’s budget address to Congress for Fiscal 1950, January 10, 1949, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman, 1949 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1964), p. 44.
  5. On December 1, by telephone, Secretary of the Army William H. Draper, Jr., solicited and obtained the agreement of Acting Secretary of State Lovett for inclusion of this final paragraph.