S/SNSC files, lot 63 D 351, NSC 5440

Memorandum by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense (Wilson)1

top secret
  • Subject:
  • Basic National Security Policy—NSC 54402
The Joint Chiefs of Staff have reviewed a tentative draft statement of policy titled “Basic National Security Policy” (NSC 5440), prepared by the NSC Planning Board for discussion by the NSC at its meeting on 21 December 1954. Due to the limited time available for study of NSC 5440, the Joint Chiefs of Staff request that their views which follow be considered as tentative and without prejudice to any subsequent comments they may desire to submit.
In their memorandum to you dated 12 November 1954, subject: “Review of Basic National Security Policy (NSC 162/2 and NSC 5422/2),”3 the Joint Chiefs of Staff expressed the view that the objective stated in paragraph 45 of NSC 162/2 remains valid, namely, “…to create, prior to the achievement of mutual atomic plenty, conditions under which the United States and the free world coalition are prepared to meet the Soviet-Communist threat with resolution and to negotiate for its alleviation under proper safeguards.” They also stated “It is believed necessary to remove from NSC 162/2, its present preponderant commitment to a policy of reaction with the purpose of providing a basic U.S. security policy of unmistakably positive quality” and that “it is imperative that our basic security policy, when revised, reflect throughout the greater urgency of the present situation, define concretely the conditions which it is the aim of our security policy to create, and direct the formulation of courses of action designed to achieve the basic objective.” None of these recommendations appear to have been incorporated in NSC 5440.
As a general assessment of NSC 5440, the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that, while it appraises adequately the gravity of the Soviet-Communist threat to the United States, it fails to (a) state in clear, simple terms, the major objectives our policy is designed to attain, (b) define concretely the conditions referred to in paragraph [Page 829]2 above, or (c) stress the urgent need of achieving these conditions while the United States still holds a marked superiority in the atomic field. Rather, the draft statement of policy proposes as a general strategy (to be pursued in both the present era of United States superiority and the coming era of atomic plenty) the encouragement of tendencies that would lead the Communist Regimes to abandon their expansionist policies (paragraph 26). The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that, in the face of the basic and continuing hostility of the Communist Regimes and of their recognized objectives as depicted in Section A II of the paper, it would be illusory to expect that any overtures on the part of the United States, consistent with United States security interests, would be effective in ameliorating the danger now confronting us.
The following general comments are directed to those portions of the draft basic policy considered to have military implications. More detailed comments are contained in the Appendix hereto.
Section A. This section is considered to constitute, in general, an acceptable estimate of the situation. There is, however, a discernible tendency in Subsection II to underrate the likelihood of Communist armed aggression particularly after the advent of atomic plenty. Also, this Subsection overstresses the significance of the present Soviet “soft” tactics as indicative of a possible basic shift in the Soviet policy. The Soviets have recently demonstrated that this “soft” tactic is subject to radical reversal whenever it suits their interest.
Section B. The national strategy set forth in this section appears to be premised on the thesis that the solution to the problem of United States security lies mainly in attempting to bring about a reorientation of the Soviet Regimes through persuasion leading to mutually acceptable settlements. If a policy of persuasion is to be effective, the United States must either offer adequate inducements or develop a position of sufficient strength to alter radically the Soviet attitude. If the estimate of Soviet objectives set forth in paragraph 14 of Section A is accepted as being reasonably accurate, it is difficult to perceive how the United States can present to the Communist Regimes alternatives which are in their basic interests and do not conflict with the security interests of the United States. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are of the opinion, therefore, that our national strategy should recognize that, until the Communist Regimes are convinced that their aggressive and expansionist policies will be met by countermeasures which inherently will threaten the continued existence of their regimes, it will not be feasible to induce a change in their basic attitude or bring about the abandonment of their present objectives, and that the desired conviction in Communist minds can be brought about only through positive dynamic and timely action by the United States.
Section C. Subject to the detailed comments in the Appendix hereto, Subsections I, IV, and V of this section are considered to be generally acceptable. Subsection II should be expanded to provide adequate guidance for future military assistance programs, which [Page 830]are important factors in any United States undertaking to strengthen the Free World. Subsection III develops the political aspects of the national strategy contained in Section B. The comments of the Joint Chiefs of Staff contained in subparagraph 4 b above are considered equally applicable to this subsection.
In a memorandum of 22 November,4 to the NSC, the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended that an ad hoc or an existing agency of the NSC be charged with formulating a statement of methods of implementing paragraph 45 of NSC 162/2. The Joint Chiefs of Staff reiterate that recommendation.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff request that the foregoing views be presented for consideration by the National Security Council at its meeting on 21 December 1954.
The Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff did not participate in the action of the Joint Chiefs of Staff outlined in this memorandum.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
N. F. Twining

Chief of Staff, United States Air Force


Detailed Comments on NSC 5440

1. The following comments are directed to certain changes in the draft statement considered desirable and to those divergent views which are considered to have military implications:

a. Page 1. The Joint Chiefs of Staff favor the retention of the first sentence in the Estimate of the Situation, as constituting a fair appraisal of the peril now confronting the United States.

b. Paragraph 6, page 2. Change the last sentence to read as follows (changes indicated in the usual manner):

“Provided that it has the will to do so, the free world coalition has the capacity to maintain sufficient conventional armed strength, including the capability for adequate and timely reinforcement, along with U.S. strategic nuclear striking power . . . .”

Reason: The paragraph should recognize the need for U.S. capability for timely and adequate reinforcement and the fact that U.S. conventional strength is a major element in the context of this statement.

c. Paragraph 14f, page 5. Add a sentence to read:

“In this connection Latin America should be viewed as a prime Soviet target and one most sensitive to U.S. interests.

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Reason: Self-explanatory.

d. Paragraph 15, page 5. Reword the first sentence to read as follows (changes indicated in the usual manner):

“The Chinese Communist Government remains bitterly hostile to . . . .”

Reason: It is the Government of Communist China, and not necessarily the Chinese people, which remains hostile.

e. Paragraph 20, page 7. The last sentence should be retained as now phrased.

Reason: It is considered to constitute a more accurate estimate of probable Communist actions.

f. Paragraph 21, page 8. Omit the bracketed phrase.

Reason: It is considered to be an inappropriate qualification to the statement of the basic objective. Further, it appears in its proper context in paragraph 23.

g. Paragraph 23, page 8. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have no preference as between the two bracketed phrases.

h. Paragraph 24, page 8. Change to read (changes indicated in the usual manner):

“… (a) overthrow of the Soviet regime {including the destruction of its international Communist apparatus) and its replacement…”

Reason: To complete the thought.

i. Paragraph 25, page 8. Delete the bracketed phrase.

Reason: It would foreclose the possibility that basic Communist military strength might be reduced by defection of one or more satellites.

j. Paragraph 29, page 10. The bracketed phrase should be retained.

Reason: Preparedness to fight a general war is properly identified as a central aim of United States policy.

k. Paragraph 32, page 11. Change to read (changes indicated in the usual manner): “Such ready forces will be in addition to those assigned to NATO: they must be in properly proportioned relationship with the versatility to meet aggression in all of its forms, suitably deployed,…”

Reason: To clarify the composition of the “ready forces.”

l.Paragraph 35, page 11. Delete the bracketed phrase.

Reason: The paragraph would be more terse and meaningful without this insertion. Its inclusion would tend to circumscribe actions by the United States to an excessive degree.

m. Paragraphs 39, 40, 41, and 42, pages 12 and 13. Should be broadened to include some reference to plans for improving the availability and adequacy of food supplies concurrently with other economic improvements.

n. Paragraph 47, pages 15 and 16. Omit both versions of subparagraphs a and b, and expand paragraph 47 to set forth the essential precondition which should exist before the United States undertakes substantive negotiations with the Soviets, namely, demonstrated good faith.

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Reason: As thus revised, the paragraph should be sufficiently comprehensive to provide adequate policy guidance.

  1. A covering memorandum of transmittal to the NSC from Lay dated Dec. 20, reads: “At the request of the Secretary of Defense, the enclosed tentative views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the subject are transmitted herewith for the information of the National Security Council in connection with its consideration of the reference report at its meeting on December 21, 1954.” The memorandum of discussion at the Dec. 21 meeting is printed infra.
  2. Dated Dec. 13, p. 806.
  3. See the memorandum by Secretary Wilson to Lay, Nov. 22, p. 785. For text of NSC 162/2, Oct. 30, 1953, and NSC 5422/2, Aug. 7, 1954, see pp. 577 and 715, respectively.
  4. Ante, p. 785.