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PPS files, lot 64 D 563, “Natl Sec (civil defense)”

Memorandum to the National Security Council by the Executive Secretary (Lay)1

top secret

  • Subject:
  • Summary Evaluation of the Net Capability of the USSR to Inflict Direct Injury on the United States up to July 1, 1955


NSC 140/12
Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated May 28, 19533

The enclosed views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Interdepartmental Intelligence Conference and the Interdepartmental Committee on Internal Security with respect to the reference report on the subject are transmitted herewith for the information of the Council in connection with its discussion of NSC 140/1 at its meeting on June 4, 1953.

It is requested that special security precautions be observed in the handling of the enclosures and that access to each copy be strictly limited and individually controlled on an absolute need-to-know basis.

James S. Lay, Jr.

[Enclosure 1]

Memorandum by the Secretary of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Lalor) to the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council (Lay)

top secret

  • Subject:
  • Summary Evaluation of the Net Capability of the USSR to Inflict Direct Injury on the United States up to July 1, 1955
The Joint Chiefs of Staff have reviewed NSC 140/1, subject as above. They note that the purpose of the report is to evaluate the net capability of the USSR to inflict direct injury on the United States in the period up to July 1, 1955. They further note that the [Page 356]terms of reference also included USSR capability to attack major U.S. installations outside of the United States, such installations selected on the basis of their relative importance to the defense of the United States or to a United States counteroffensive against the USSR.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff desire to invite attention to the fact that the terms of reference on which the report is based limit consideration to only one aspect of the over-all problem of effects of the possible courses of action with which the USSR may initiate war and these terms of reference should not be construed as representing the opinion of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as to the manner in which the USSR would wage war. Although the report is a valuable contribution to defense planning, the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that it provides only a segment of the data necessary, and therefore does not constitute a sufficiently broad basis for planning for the over-all security of the United States.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
W. G. Lalor

Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy (Ret.)

[Enclosure 2]

Memorandum by the Director of Central Intelligence (Dulles) to the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council (Lay)

top secret

  • Subject:
  • CIA Comments on NSC 140/1
The subject paper has been reviewed by this Agency and found to be in consonance with the intelligence now available to us except for one minor point mentioned below in paragraph 2–a. In my opinion, the Subcommittee is to be highly commended for the quality of its report and the unique contribution it makes to our understanding of the nation’s defense problem. It amply justifies efforts that have gone into it and to my mind suggests the advisability of similar attacks on other difficult questions requiring the blending of operational and intelligence information into “net” estimates.
I have only two comments as to the substance of the reports:
On page 8, in paragraph 5 of the Discussion, it is stated that:

“…In mid-1953, the USSR will probably possess about 1, 000 medium bombers of the TU–4 type (comparable to U.S. B–29). By mid-1955, this number may be increased to about 1, 100.…” [Page 357]Since this portion of the paper was prepared, further evidence has come to light which has caused us now to estimate that the Soviet Union has over 1, 600 of these planes at the present time and is producing them at the rate of about 35 per month. Since the number of TU–4’s assumed to take part in attack is well below 1, 000 in the period mid-1953 to mid-1955, the conclusions of NSC 140/1 are in no way affected by this revision; but it might be pointed out that any doubts as to whether the Soviet medium bomber fleet is sufficient to enable the Soviet Long-Range Air Force to expend planes relatively plentifully in one-way missions, are pretty well dissipated.

In order to keep the problem within manageable limits, General Edwards’ Subcommittee based its calculations on the “best estimate” figure as to Soviet atomic bomb stockpile. As pointed out in SE–36, NSIE–1,4 and elsewhere, this median figure is never given except in conjunction with upper and lower limits—plus 100 percent or minus 33⅓ percent respectively. Thus it should be borne in mind that by 30 June 1955, the Soviets might have a stockpile up to twice as large as that taken as a basis for the calculations in NSC 140/1. Again this does not affect, in my judgment, the validity of the general conclusions of the report. It merely means that the magnitude of the Soviet capability envisaged therein for mid-1955 might be increased or reduced, or advanced or delayed by a year or more.
This Agency strongly recommends NSC 140/1 to the Council as a sound intelligence estimate and as an appropriate basis for developing national policy.
Allen W. Dulles

[Enclosure 3]

The Chairman of the Interdepartmental Intelligence Conference (Hoover) to the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council (Lay)5

top secret

Dear Mr. Lay: Reference is made to your memorandum of May 19, 1953,6 which transmitted for review and comment by the Interdepartmental Intelligence Conference a report prepared by the Special Evaluation Subcommittee of the National Security Council pursuant to a directive contained in NSC 140.

[Page 358]

The Interdepartmental Intelligence Conference has certain comments to offer. The Soviet plan of attack as set forth in the report admittedly is not the only plan which the Soviets might logically pursue. The air attack contemplates delivery of the bulk of Soviet atomic weapons against certain of the major population centers of the United States. The Soviet leaders would have to weigh the advantages of such an attack which would involve only the random destruction of critical war industry against the fact that the bulk of the known Communist Party members in the United States and approximately two thirds of the most dangerous potential Communist saboteurs reside in the areas indicated for attack under the plan proposed. The Soviet leaders have in the past, in other countries and under war conditions utilized the indigenous Communists for underground guerrilla and sabotage operations. Any difference in allocation of atomic weapons under the plan of attack might have resulted in more atomic weapons being available for clandestine use.

The damage effects from clandestine attack and sabotage are set out on page 27 of the report. The language used in paragraph 63 thereof might leave an inaccurate impression, since the effects of “portable atomic weapons” are compared with those of air-dropped bombs. We understand it is a fact that clandestinely-placed atomic demolition weapons can have a much greater destructive power than the typical Soviet air-dropped atomic weapons contemplated in the evaluation. Damage resulting from use of clandestine atomic weapons could have been evaluated qualitatively had the Subcommittee designated specific targets for demolition atomic weapons in its plan of attack on the basis of the statements regarding vulnerability of certain critical facilities which appeared in paragraph 49 on page 20 of the report.

The Interdepartmental Intelligence Conference, applying the above observations, approves the report.

Sincerely yours,

J. Edgar Hoover

[Enclosure 4]

Memorandum by the Chairman of the Interdepartmental Committee on Internal Security (Donegan) to the National Security Council Representative on Internal Security (Coyne)

top secret

  • Subject:
  • Summary Evaluation of the Net Capability of the USSR to Inflict Direct Injury on the United States up to July 1, 1955.
[Page 359]

As requested in your memorandum captioned as above, dated May 19, 1953,7 the comments contained below are submitted by ICIS with regard to the report (NSC 140/1) on this subject prepared by the Special Evaluation Subcommittee of the NSC. This memorandum has not been coordinated through the member departments of the ICIS.

While it is realized that other plans of attack are available to the Soviets and might have been considered, the ICIS is confining its observations to the Soviet concept of operation and plan of attack adopted by the NSC Special Evaluation Subcommittee. In this connection, the ICIS believes the report undervalues the likelihood of sabotage with atomic demolition weapons. This could be misleading.

The ICIS disagrees with the conclusion stated in the third sentence of paragraph 4–d (1), page 6, for the following reasons:

Fissionable material diverted to small weapons for clandestine attack purposes would make available more weapons than the same amount of fissionable material would in weapons for military attack by air. If so diverted, these small weapons would permit a broader selection of targets and increase the likelihood of complete destruction of a greater number of critically important facilities. The ICIS concludes, accordingly, that the effect of clandestine atomic weapons properly placed could be considerably greater rather than “broadly equivalent” to the effect of the same amount of fissionable material used in air dropped weapons. Furthermore, as paragraph 4–d (1) indicates, clandestinely employed atomic weapons are one hundred percent effective whereas elsewhere in the report it is clearly indicated that weapons assigned to air drop are subject to a substantial percentage of aborts, operational losses, etc., as set forth in paragraph 7, page 9.

The ICIS wishes to emphasize that the foregoing must be considered in direct relation to the possibility of detection of alien fissionable material. We cannot be assured of receiving advance information in this regard. There are no practical technical means available either now or in the foreseeable future for the detection of alien fissionable material. Such material, without any reasonable likelihood of detection, can be introduced clandestinely into the United States through varied means which include but are not limited to the diplomatic pouch, the person, personal effects or baggage of legal or illegal entrants, shipments by land, sea and air, either at established ports of entry or across our unprotected coast lines and land borders. Once so introduced there is only a slight [Page 360]possibility of detecting such alien fissionable material either in disassembled or assembled form wherever located.

If the NSC concurs in the validity of the foregoing observations, it would appear desirable for NSC to direct a re-examination and revision of those few segments of the report that relate directly thereto such as paragraph 4–c—page 6, paragraph 16—page 11, paragraph 44—page 18, paragraph 56—page 24, and paragraph 63—page 27.

Thomas J. Donegan
  1. Copies to the Secretary of the Treasury; the Attorney General; the Directors of Defense Mobilization and Central Intelligence; the Chairmen of the Atomic Energy Commission, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Interdepartmental Intelligence Conference, and the Interdepartmental Committee on Internal Security; and the Federal Civil Defense Administrator.
  2. Dated May 18, p. 328.
  3. Not printed; it transmitted to the National Security Council additional and revised materials for NSC 140/1 that are included in the printed version of NSC 140/1.
  4. Special Estimate 36, “Soviet Capabilities for Attack on the United States through mid-1955” is in INR files, lot 58 D 528, “Special Estimates”; NSIE–l cannot be further identified.
  5. A notation on the source text reads “Via Liaison”.
  6. Not printed.
  7. Not printed.