Department of State Executive Secretariat Files

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council (Lay)

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  • Memorandum for: Mr. Nitze
  • General Burns
  • General Bradley
  • Mr. Lanphier
  • Mr. Haas
  • Mr. Bissell
  • Mr. Schaub
  • Mr. Dearborn
  • Mr. Murphy
  • Mr. Montague
  • Mr. Voorhees

Subject: Fourth Meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee on NSC 68 (May 12, 1950)

After distribution of the comments of NSRB on NSC 68,1 the Executive Secretary suggested that this meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee be devoted to answering the questions raised by several agencies on the facts and implications underlying NSC 68.

Initial discussion centered on the question of the nature and extent of the present and prospective Soviet threat to the security of the United States as delineated in NSC 68. After some discussion it was generally agreed that even if the U.S. were able to contain the USSR within present limits, the threat it posed to the United States, according to NSC 68, was of increasing gravity.

Discussion followed on the relations between the military build-up and other forms of resistance to the USSR—political, psychological, [Page 313] economic, etc. It was the consensus of opinion that NSC 68 had emphasized the inseparability of the military build-up from other weapons of the cold war, and that the one without the other would fail to achieve the objectives of the United States. There was also general agreement on the serious risks of war involved in proceeding with more aggressive political, economic, and psychological measures in the absence of any adequate military shield.

This led to a discussion of what constituted an “adequate” military build-up, and whether the present military strength of the United States was sufficient to enable us to fulfill our commitments and to achieve our objectives. JCS opinion having been cited, it was the general understanding of the Committee that NSC 68 offered no hope of reaching U.S. objectives or fulfilling U.S. commitments under current plans and programs.

The question was then raised as to precisely what NSC 68 was preparing for; whether full mobilization for war by 1954, or something less. After discussion it was generally agreed that NSC 68 did not call for complete preparation for war, but primarily for a posture of defense sufficient to enable the U.S. to deter a direct Soviet attack, and to achieve ultimate U.S. objectives short of war. It was further agreed, however, that the full implications of the Conclusions of NSC 68 would have to await the formulation of programs and estimates.

Thereupon discussion centered on the comments of the Bureau of the Budget as to the relative strength of the U.S. and the USSR at the present time, and of the relative claims of national security and considerations of economy on the resources of the Nation. Emphasis was laid upon the importance of effective and realistic programming if the necessary balance was to be secured.

In comment upon the response to be made to the President’s letter on NSC 68, it was pointed out that simply to send outlines of programs and estimates of costs for them was insufficient. An adequate response also required a clear statement of the means by which the plans and dollars were designed to achieve our objectives and safeguard our national security.

After further discussion of the response to the President’s letter, there was general agreement that any remaining doubts as to the validity of the facts underlying the Conclusions of NSC 68 should be resolved by direct discussion between the interested agencies. It was also agreed that the sub-committee on programs would meet on Monday, May 15, 1950, before which time the Committee members from the several departments and agencies would notify the Executive Secretary of the names of their representatives.

James S. Lay, Jr.
  1. Not identified in the files of the Department of State, but see memorandum by the National Security Resources Board, May 29, p. 316.