Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, Whitman file
Memorandum of Discussion at the 168th Meeting of the National Security Council, Thursday, October 29, 19531
Present at the 168th meeting of the Council were the President of the United States, presiding; the Secretary of State; the Secretary of Defense; the Acting Director, Foreign Operations Administration; the Director, Office of Defense Mobilization. The Vice President did not attend the meeting because of his absence from the country. Also present were the Secretary of the Treasury; the Attorney General (for Items 2 and 3); the Director, Bureau of the Budget; the Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission (for Items 2 and 3); the Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers (for Item 2). The following were present for Items 2, 3 and 7: the Secretary of the Army; the Secretary of the Navy; the Acting Secretary of the Air Force; the Acting Chief of Staff, U.S. Army; the Chief of Naval Operations; the Acting Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force; and the Acting Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps. Others also present were the Director of Central Intelligence; the Assistant to the President; Robert Cutler, Special Assistant to the President; C.D. Jackson, Special Assistant to the President; the Deputy Assistant to the President; Robert Bowie, of the Department of State; the Acting White House Staff Secretary; the Executive Secretary, NSC; and the Deputy Executive Secretary, NSC.
There follows a summary of the discussion at the meeting and the main points taken.
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2. Review of Basic National Security Policy (NSC 162/1)2
Mr. Cutler gave the members of the Council a very careful briefing on previous action with respect to this report, and on the structure and content of NSC 162/1. He insisted that despite the feeling in certain quarters that the policy was lacking in sharpness and in new content, it did actually provide adequate guidance on a number of important points, including emphasis on the internal threat to the U.S. economy, subsequent redeployment of U.S. forces abroad, emphasis on massive retaliatory offensive capability, normalization of atomic weapons, the build-up of German and Japanese defensive strength, and continued pressure on the Soviets but hospitality towards any genuine possibility of negotiating settlements with the USSR.
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Secretary Dulles also pointed out that the rules and regulations governing the exchange of atomic energy information had been developed at a period when the United States had a monopoly in the field and wished to retain it. The monopoly was now gone, and accordingly it was time to review the prohibitions.
Secretary Dulles said that he had another question to raise with respect to paragraph 39–b. Was the policy statement in this paragraph in accordance with the law of the land as set forth in the Atomic Energy Act of 1946? It seemed to be our policy that the President would, in certain contingencies, allow our allies to have and use atomic weapons.
Mr. Cutler said that the matter of custody of weapons was not at issue in the present paper, but Admiral Strauss thought that, indirectly at least, the custody issue was raised. He observed that the President could turn over these weapons for immediate use if he deemed it in the interest of the national security. Accordingly the custody problem was involved. Mr. Cutler agreed with Admiral Strauss, and noted that the existing policy paper on custody would have to be revised if the President approved paragraph 39–b
. . . . . . .
Mr. Cutler then read to the Council a proposed amendment to paragraph 42-d which had been agreed by the Planning Board. The objective of the revision was to indicate that the decision of the United States, to make clear to the leaders and people of the USSR that if the USSR forgoes external expansion, relinquishes domination of other peoples, etc., the United States would be prepared to accept continuance of the internal political and economic organization of the USSR, was a directive in the diplomatic field and was not intended to constitute guidance for our information and propaganda [Page 569] agencies. The directive to the latter was set forth in paragraph 44–b.
Mr. C.D. Jackson expressed emphatic approval of Mr. Cutler’s suggested revision, and said that if the present language of paragraph 42–d remained, it could be interpreted as an endorsement of the Soviet system as it now existed.
The President likewise expressed approval of the new language, as did the Director of Central Intelligence and the Secretary of State. On the other hand, Secretary Wilson thought that the subject deserved further study.
Secretary Dulles then stated that he wished to raise a point with regard to pressures on the Soviet Union as set forth on page 25 of NSC 162/1. Certain of his people in the State Department had expressed concern at the absence of any specific inhibition against aggressive action vis-à-vis the Soviet bloc. They had in mind such projects as the detachment of Albania or an assault on Hainan Island, which had been discussed earlier. As long, said Secretary Dulles, as it is quite clear that no such actions as these would be undertaken without consideration by the National Security Council, he was willing to let the present language on page 25 stand.
Mr. Cutler then called the Council’s attention to the revision of paragraph 15–b with regard to the build-up of strength in Western Europe, adding that he thought the revision suggested by the Joint Chiefs constituted an improvement on the present version of the paragraph.3
Secretary Humphrey expressed strong dislike of the content of this paragraph, since, he said, to him it indicated that we were telling our allies in Western Europe to spend more money on their military defense than they are doing at the moment, whereas in fact present expenditures were causing these allies to go broke.
Secretary Wilson challenged the statement of the Secretary of the Treasury, who, in turn, cited France as an illustration of his point.
The President observed that whatever the situation of the economies of the Western European powers, 1953 had been the best year in a long time for them.
Secretary Humphrey continued to argue, however, that it was unwise to ask our allies to undertake what we cannot ourselves accomplish. Their defense expenditures should be calculated in relation to their economic capabilities. If they overspend, we would ultimately have to foot the bill.
After further discussion, the President expressed approval of the JCS revision, and Mr. Cutler went on to call attention to the next [Page 570] important point raised by the Joint Chiefs’ comments, namely, their suggestion with regard to paragraph 9–a–(1), which in its present form called for a “strong military posture”, with emphasis on the capability of inflicting massive retaliatory damage, and which the Joint Chiefs wished to change to read “a strong military posture to include emphasis on the capability”, etc.
After Mr. Cutler explained that the Planning Board had not viewed this proposed change favorably, the President observed that this seemed to him to be a highly academic argument. A strong military posture, said the President, pre-supposes a basis of general strength, but it does not exclude emphasis on certain aspects of such strength. He liked the word “emphasize”, he continued, because it provided some sense of priority for our military planning. Certainly we do not want to build up equally all types and varieties of military strength.
Admiral Carney pointed out to the President that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were at present feeling the pinch of trimming their sails. Our national policy commitments had, of course, not changed. If, therefore, we set priorities as this paragraph recommended, this was bound to affect the character and composition of our forces, and Admiral Carney insisted that the time had not yet come to effect such changes and could not come as long as our present military commitments remained unchanged.
Secretary Humphrey inquired, with some heat, if the time had not come to make such changes, when did Admiral Carney imagine it would come? Admiral Carney replied, when you change our commitments.
Secretary Dulles manifested some impatience with the talk about commitments. He insisted that we are not committed to the maintenance of any specified number of ground forces in Europe. We were committed to go to war there if there were an attack on a NATO country. Certainly, however, if the Soviets attacked Norway, we were not committed to reply by fighting a war in Norway. We would be much more likely to retaliate somewhere else where the military advantages would be clear.
In reply, Admiral Carney insisted that, nevertheless, we do have large numbers of military forces situated in Europe and committed there as of the present time, to which point Secretary Wilson added that “quite a wind” blew on this subject this last week.
Secretary Dulles pointed out that the reason the wind blew was not because of the possibility that withdrawing some of our ground forces from Europe had led the Europeans to fear that they would be unable to defend Western Europe against Soviet aggression. The real reason for the alarm in Europe about such a redeployment had arisen because the American forces presently stationed there [Page 571] are the chief means by which the Europeans hope to see a welding together of French and German military resources. This was primarily a political rather than a military matter. What was at stake in the present discussion in the Council was how best to assure the defense of Europe.
Secretary Humphrey commented that as he understood it the National Security Council was supposed to be considering at present the redeployment of large numbers of U.S. troops overseas and a thorough-going revision of our whole military strategy. If we did not propose to do either of these things, the whole purpose and objective of our deliberations was lost.
The President answered Secretary Humphrey by saying that the real issue was not the pros and cons of redeployment, but rather how fast such a redeployment could be carried out. He again reminded Secretary Humphrey that no matter what we now decided as to the size and character of our military establishment, we could not effect changes in its present composition very rapidly. The whole structure was too immense and complicated, and all we could do now was to set up new goals and initiate action to reach them. Furthermore, said the President, we must not lose sight of the political and morale problems which would be involved in any abrupt change and redeployment of our forces. Nevertheless, continued the President, he did emphatically believe that we must begin to look forward to the day when we could realize the new concept which we had been discussing.
Secretary Wilson, speaking in defense of the views of the Joint Chiefs with regard to paragraph 9–a, repeated the conviction of the Joint Chiefs that they could not remove our troops from Europe in view of the present commitments there. He pointed out in addition that we were contemplating increased expenditures on other aspects of our military posture; for example, on continental defense. In short, there were other things to be emphasized besides the retaliatory striking power, and for this reason Secretary Wilson preferred the JCS version.
Secretary Humphrey replied that if we accepted the version proposed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we would be abandoning all our attempts to secure a radically new and different military policy.
Admiral Carney answered that of course the Joint Chiefs of Staff believed that apart from our offensive missions the armed forces had very important defensive jobs to do. It was unwise, he insisted, to put all our eggs in one basket of striking power, and that the Joint Chiefs preferred a version of this paragraph which expressed a reasonable balance of military capabilities.
Unconvinced, Secretary Humphrey insisted that to emphasize one mission certainly didn’t mean the exclusion of other important [Page 572] missions. However, if we ever proposed to make a real change in our military posture, we’ve got to begin some time to do it.
Mr. C. D. Jackson, addressing the President said, “You set some very excellent ground rules when this problem of redeployment first came to the attention of the National Security Council. You said in the first instance that no one was to talk about the problem except with his advisers while the Secretary of State explored the ‘how’ and the ‘how soon’ of accomplishing the redeployment. After the Secretary of State reported his findings you would make the decision as to redeployment. These were good ground rules when you first gave them out, and they continue to be at the present time.”
Mr. Cutler commented that there were three elements of our defense posture specified in paragraph 9–a. While the Planning Board was deliberately emphasizing retaliatory striking power, it was obvious that there was no intention of excluding other important elements.
The President stated that he still preferred the Planning Board version of the statement on our military posture. After all, deterring war was even more important than winning a war. No deterrent to war could compare in importance with this retaliatory striking power. Why don’t we therefore say what we mean to emphasize?
In reply to this point, Admiral Carney said that the use of the term “emphasize” as presently stated meant in effect giving first priority to this attack force. He could discern many undesirable imbalances if the word “emphasize” were used.
Addressing himself to Admiral Carney, Secretary Humphrey inquired, “But are you not planning ultimately to change your strategy and the composition of your forces?”
Admiral Carney asked to be permitted to summarize the history of the Joint Chiefs’ thinking on this whole problem. He reminded the Council that before the new Chiefs had formally taken office the objective of reducing the cost of the military establishment had been handed to them with a request to study and report on how such reduction could be accomplished. After such study the Chiefs reported that a real reduction in cost could be achieved only by the redeployment of American forces stationed overseas. They did not, however, make an immediate recommendation that such redeployment be initiated.
Secretary Humphrey stated with emphasis that Admiral Carney’s remarks outlined our basic difficulties. Secretary Humphrey said that he thought that the Chiefs meant to begin such redeployment at once, and that the State Department was to prepare the way for the initiation. Now Admiral Carney says that the Chiefs [Page 573] never made any such proposal and recommendation. There ensued a discussion between Secretary Humphrey and Admiral Carney, which was concluded by a statement by Admiral Carney to the effect that if, in the course of JCS analysis of the redeployment problem, the conclusions turned out to be different from those originally hoped for, the Chiefs had no option but to change their views. After all, it was their responsibility to provide the best military advice they could to the President and to the National Security Council.
Secretary Wilson added the comment that the President has already said that we could not change our military posture overnight. Furthermore, the State Department cannot change at once the political situation overseas in order to make possible a change in military posture. This left the Defense Department in a very delicate position. While it recognized the need for economic stability at home, it was also responsible for the maintenance of our military strength abroad. This was the crux of the problem. In their study of the problem the Chiefs had come up with proposals which recommended themselves to him. Meanwhile, the budget has got to be prepared, and the great problem facing the Defense Department was how to get the budget ready for presentation to Congress. To be sure, the Chiefs had, on October 2, come back with much the same answers to military problems that had been given before, but that was because the necessary preliminary changes in commitments had not been made. Furthermore, it was found necessary to add something to the military budget to take care of increased continental defense. Secretary Wilson then paused to read from a memorandum designed to indicate where the Defense Department found itself now in the process of preparing a budget. (A copy of this statement is filed in the Minutes of the 168th NSC meeting.)4
At the conclusion of Secretary Wilson’s remarks, the President expressed some doubt as to whether he had followed the direction of the argument and the points which Secretary Wilson was making, but said that in any case, with regard to paragraph 9–a, we should certainly adopt the Planning Board version with its emphasis on retaliatory offensive striking power. In effect, we should state what we propose to do, namely, to keep the minimum respectable posture of defense while emphasizing this particular offensive capability. Nobody could possibly reduce from such a statement that we propose to abandon the defense of New York City.
Mr. Cutler inquired whether it would be appropriate for the record of action to note the dissent of the Defense Department with [Page 574] respect to this paragraph, but the President replied, with considerable warmth, that he would tolerate no notice of a JCS dissent in the record of action. The Joint Chiefs of Staff were, after all, his military advisers; he made the decisions. If the Joint Chiefs or the Defense Department, after a suitable interval, felt that the agreed statement on our military posture did not serve the best interests of the nation’s defense, the President said he fully expected them to come to him and tell him so. He would then reconsider the problem.
Secretary Dulles commented that he fully realized how delicate was the operation to redeploy American forces from overseas stations. Indeed, it might prove too delicate an operation to undertake. In any event, it will take time to accomplish, and the decision to try it must first be made at the very highest levels of government. This matter of emphasizing the retaliatory capability may consume two or even three years, but if we do not decide now on this change, no change will ever occur. Secretary Dulles said that he himself was against immediate change, and furthermore pointed out that there are safeguards written in NSC 162/1 which would prevent accomplishing this change too hastily.
The President replied that Secretary Dulles had stated, with greater clarity than he himself had been able to, the President’s own position, and Secretary Wilson agreed that, as a result of the discussion, this issue had now been sufficiently clarified.
Mr. Dodge then inquired whether the statement on page 7 implied that the Government would undertake the expense of the dispersal of production plant capacity. Mr. Flemming replied in the negative, and pointed out that there would be no cost to the Government except indirectly through tax amortization.
Mr. Dodge went on to say that he had also another more general question. He had detected nothing in this paper with regard to any theoretical date for D–Day readiness. As this date had figured in prior statements of policy, he wished assurance that it was not implied anywhere in NSC 162/1. Mr. Dodge received the desired assurance that no such date was contemplated.
Admiral Strauss said that he was much worried by the final sentence of paragraph 46, which read, “whenever there is substantial evidence that the USSR is likely to develop the capability to knock out our atomic striking power, the entire policy of the United States toward the Soviet Union will have to be radically re-examined.” Will we ever, inquired Admiral Strauss, be sure that we have substantial evidence of such a capability on the part of the USSR? Would we have time, in this contingency, to re-examine our entire policy? The answer to both these questions seemed to Admiral [Page 575] Strauss to be no, and he suggested therefore that the sentence be either omitted or radically revised.
The President said that of course we all recognize that Soviet military capabilities are constantly growing, and that these capabilities must be kept under continuous examination.
After further discussion, it was agreed to revise the sentence along the lines of the President’s suggestion.
At this point, Dr. Burns suggested three revisions of paragraphs dealing with the internal threat to our security, and the paragraphs in question were modified in the light of the discussion.
Secretary Wilson offered an amendment to subparagraph c on page 10, with regard to what concessions the United States would be prepared to offer to obtain an adequate system of armament control.
The National Security Council:5
- Adopted the statement of policy contained in NSC 162/1, subject to the following
- Page 5, subparagraph 9–a–(2): In the 3rd line, change the word “or” to “and”.
- Page 10, subparagraph 14–c: Delete the words “what concessions it would be prepared to offer”; and substitute therefor the words “on what basis the United States would be prepared to negotiate”.
- Page 11, subparagraph 15–b: Delete the 3rd, 4th and 5th sentences and substitute therefor the following: “however, even though significant progress has been made in building up these forces, the military strength in Western Europe is presently not sufficient to prevent a full-scale Soviet attack from overrunning Western Europe. Even with the availability of those German forces presently planned within the framework of EDC, present rates of defense spending by European nations and present rates of U.S. Military Assistance certainly could not be expected to produce forces adequate to prevent the initial loss of a considerable portion of the territory of Western Europe in the event of a full-scale Soviet Attack. Therefore, since U.S. Military Assistance must eventually be reduced, it is essential that the Western European states, including West Germany, build and maintain maximum feasible defensive strength.”
- Page 16, paragraph 26: Change the word “pre-determined” in the 2nd line to read “determined”, and change the word “destructive” in the 5th line to read “repressive”.
- Page 18, subparagraph 33–a: Change the beginning of the 2nd sentence to read, “the United States should not weaken its capacity for high productivity for defense, its free institutions,” etc.
- Page 20, subparagraph 35–a: Delete from the 2nd sentence the concluding words “and cannot be furnished by the United States.”
- Page 23, subparagraph 40–c: Re-word the first portion of the subparagraph to read as follows: “barring basic change in the world situation, the Federal Government should continue to make a determined effort to bring its total annual expenditures into balance”, etc.
- Page 24, subparagraph 42–d: Delete
the subparagraph and substitute therefor the following text
and footnote: “The policy of the United States is to prevent
Soviet aggression and continuing domination of other
nations, and to establish an effective control of armaments
under proper safeguards; but it is not to dictate the
internal political and economic organization of the USSR.*”
“*This paragraph does not establish policy guidance for our propaganda or informational activities.”
- Page 25, paragraph 46: Delete the 2nd sentence and substitute therefor the following: “therefore, there must be continuing examination and periodic report to the National Security Council in regard to the likelihood of such neutralization of U.S. retaliatory capability.”
- Noted the President’s statement that if the Department of Defense hereafter finds that the provisions of subparagraph 9–a–(1), when read in the context of the total policy statement, operate to the disadvantage of the national security, the Secretary of Defense should bring this finding before the Council for reconsideration.
- Noted that action should be promptly taken to conform existing arrangements regarding atomic weapons to subparagraph 39–b.
- Noted that the policy in NSC 162/1 does not contemplate any fixed date for D-Day readiness.
- Noted that the Planning Board would submit for Council consideration a revision of “U.S. Objectives vis-à-vis the USSR in the Event of War”, as presently stated in the Annex, in the light of the provisions of NSC 162/1.
Note: NSC 162/1 as amended and approved by the President, subsequently issued as NSC 162/2. As basic policy, this paper was not referred for special coordination.
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- Drafted by Deputy Executive Secretary Gleason on Oct. 30.↩
- NSC 162/1 is not printed; for text of NSC 162/2, see p. 577.↩
- See the memorandum by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Oct. 27, p. 562.↩
- The memorandum has not been found. For information on the minutes of NSC meetings, see footnote 1, p. 394.↩
- Paragraphs a–e constitute NSC Action No. 944. (S/S–NSC (Miscellaneous) files, lot 66 D 95, “NSC Records of Action”)↩