8. Memorandum by the Assistant Director for Policy Coordination of the Central Intelligence Agency (Wisner)1


  • Data for Consideration in Connection with NSC Studies
The attached data have been prepared in response to a request on 4 May from the Policy Planning Staff, Department of State, for budgetary estimates by OPC for the period from 1 July 1950 to 30 June 1957 in connection with certain studies being conducted with regard to NSC 68.2 These estimates are based upon the assumptions understood to be applicable to NSC 68 and particularly the decision of the United States Government to make a major effort in the field of covert operations. The OPC charter is not elaborated here since it is assumed that those reviewing this paper will be familiar with NSC 10/23 and related documents.
The primary consideration is determination of the scale on which it may be possible to carry out covert operations in support of [Page 13] United States foreign policy. In this connection it is apparent that two factors impose ceilings on covert operations:
The establishment of an organization such as OPC is unprecedented in the peacetime history of the United States. Because of this a significant body of knowledge, personnel reserves, techniques and philosophy of operations are not readily available. The difficulty of locating and inducing physically, intellectually and psychologically qualified American personnel to abandon their present activities and enlist in the cold war imposes a significant limitation on the capacity to plan and conduct covert operations. So long as the nation is technically at peace and manpower controls do not exist, recruitment of adequate numbers of personnel with ability to direct and execute these activities will be difficult and a fairly heavy attrition rate can be foreseen.
The second major limiting factor is the requirement that OPC activities be conducted in such a covert manner that they cannot be traced to the United States Government and in the event such activities are so traced, the Government shall be in a position plausibly to disavow responsibility. Covert operations are increasingly difficult to execute as they increase in size. Even such a relatively simple matter as the clandestine disbursement of funds grows difficult as the amounts involved increase to millions of dollars. These difficulties pyramid when complex activities are undertaken, such as the creation of large resistance organizations or the extensive employment of guerrilla units. The problems attendant on security are not insurmountable in themselves, but there are definite [limits?] above which it is not safe to go without willingness to face exposure which might entail hostile political and psychological exploitation.
A further difficulty inherent in the conduct of clandestine operations on behalf of this Government lies in the vast water area and various national borders interposed between the United States and its target areas. In contrast to the USSR operating from the center of the Eurasian land mass with interior lines of communication and dominating all areas between them and their primary targets in Eurasia, United States is confronted with major logistical and security problems that are not comparable. Even though logistical problems can be resolved the maintenance of adequate security in peacetime is a real limiting factor in the conduct of covert operations in Eurasia.
Responsive to the decision of the United States Government to make a major effort in the field of covert operations and to provide the basis on which the increased responsibilities of OPC may be accomplished, it is assumed that adequate administrative and logistical support will be available; specifically, that:
Prompt and final decision is made on NSC 50,4 thus providing a firm basis for organization.
Adequate space is available to accommodate the Washington headquarters.
OPC (or the combined covert offices if OPC and OSO are consolidated under NSC 50) will have a high degree of administrative autonomy and control.
The FBI will conduct such personnel and other investigations as may be requested by OPC on a priority basis.
The Departments of Defense, State and other governmental agencies will provide adequate logistical and administrative support upon request of OPC.
In view of the dearth of personnel experienced in covert operations, military and foreign service personnel having appropriate qualifications will be made available to OPC on a high priority basis.
Recognition will be given to the fact that those conducting covert operations are in fact the front line troops in the cold war and should be given maximum support with administrative flexibility.
Since it is considered that 1954 is the crucial year, the estimates up to and including that time must necessarily include expenditures for establishing, stockpiling and operating overseas supply bases, the establishment and strengthening of effective organizations to direct and execute covert operations in and against each target area, the establishment of an adequate, world-wide communications system, and the conduct of extensive training with adequate facilities of all types, including paramilitary.
A series of independent projections coincide in establishing a figure of [number not declassified] as the maximum American field force that OPC can install and maintain overseas in 1954. This force will be disposed largely in Eurasia in considerable depth along the periphery of the Soviet Union. Prior to 1954 the primary limitation will be the size and inexperience of our overseas stations. However, by 1954 the bulk of the [number not declassified] personnel will have attained a degree of effectiveness which should have a significant effect on the cold war. The number of American personnel does not indicate the total size of the forces involved in covert operations, which must necessarily be conducted largely through apparati utilizing indigenous personnel.
The attached data which present estimates of OPC financial requirements by target areas as well as operational areas are considered as realistic as is possible within the framework of considerations and limitations outlined herein. Modifications of these estimates would be required in response to more specific policy guidance with respect to emphasis on certain programs or areas. For example, if covert economic warfare operations on any considerable scale were subsidized by OPC it would require sums greatly in excess of these estimates. Likewise, the share of financial responsibility to be borne by OPC in connection with certain types of joint operations undertaken with the Department of Defense may affect the estimates.
As is indicated above, the two major factors limiting the scale of covert operations are qualified and trained personnel willing and able to undertake these activities in the areas involved and the requirement that the activities be conducted in such a covert manner that they cannot be traced to the United States Government. Manpower controls designed to channel qualified personnel into the Government service on behalf of the cold war would ameliorate the first limitation. Likewise, if the international situation deteriorates further, the United States Government may be willing to authorize greater security risks in covert operations in order to step up such activities. For example, covert support of guerrilla or resistance forces on a large scale would be impossible to accomplish with the degree of security required by current United States policy. Should the Government’s policy require such support on an enlarged scale with recognition of security factors involved, funds greatly in excess of those indicated on the attachment would be required.
Frank G. Wisner
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, S/P Files: Lot 64 D 563, NSC 68. Top Secret. The memorandum bears no indication of addressees.
  2. An annex of budgetary estimates for FY 1951–1957 is attached but not printed. The Policy Planning Staff request of May 4 has not been found.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 2.
  4. For text of NSC 50, see Foreign Relations, 1945–1950, Emergence of the Intelligence Establishment, Document 384.
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.