101. Memorandum of Discussion at the 307th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, December 21, 19561

[Here follows a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting.]

U.S. Military Program for FY 1958

The Special Assistant to the President informed the Council that the only item on the agenda for this meeting was a discussion of the U.S. military program for FY 1958. He then called upon Secretary Wilson, who in turn stated that Admiral Radford would make the initial statement with respect to this military program.

Admiral Radford said that he proposed to open the presentation with a brief review of the background of military thinking and estimates of the military situation as these two considerations bore on the Defense Department budget. He said he would start with the Joint Chief of Staff review initiated by an order of the Secretary of Defense in August 1953. The subsequent special study and review came up with certain important conclusions:

The primary national responsibility was to ensure the survival of the United States as a free nation with a viable free economy.
The principal threat to the United States was the long-range Soviet objective of destroying democracy and democratic institutions throughout the world.
The most critical military factors in defense against this Soviet threat were the air defense of the continental United States and maintenance of our retaliatory capabilities against the Soviet Union.
At the present time our military posture was seriously overextended.
In order to rectify this overextension, it would be necessary to curtail the deployment of U.S. forces overseas.
If such redeployment was carried out, the Joint Chiefs believed it to be essential that the national objectives of the United States short of a general war should be clearly stated so that our friends would be assured and our enemies made perfectly clear as to our intentions.
The Chiefs believed that the United States must significantly improve its intelligence effort.

Admiral Radford then stated that the foregoing conclusions had since that time constituted the broad basis of our military planning. In addition, however, in 1954 and in 1955 large-scale studies were undertaken with the objective of analyzing the effect on our military posture of the rapid development of technology. Examples of such studies were those of Mr. Robert Sprague and of the committee headed by Dr. Killian.2 The studies by Mr. Sprague and Dr. Killian’s committee had made strong recommendations hi favor of strengthening the continental defense of the United States. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, however, have reserved their opinion as to the ratio of resources to be devoted on the one hand to strengthening our continental defense and on the other to competing demands on these resources. They regarded this ratio as one requiring very delicate balancing.

By January 1956, continued Admiral Radford, it became evident that another full-scale review of our military program would be necessary. Such a re-examination was accordingly commenced by the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the orders of the Secretary of Defense. After the meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Puerto Rico, it was concluded that our basic military program remained generally valid, but that to maintain this program over the future years would certainly involve increasing costs because of such factors as missile development, development of continental defense measures, and the introduction of new weapons. Nevertheless, the Joint Chiefs estimated that our annual military expenditure up to 1960 could be held to a level of approximately $38 to $40 billion. Admiral Radford said that he personally had felt that this level was somewhat on the low side. The Chiefs also estimated that our military defense assistance program would require expenditures of approximately $3 billion a year, although under certain circumstances this amount could be increased by as much as $1 or $2 billion a year.

In this review, as in the earlier review of 1953, the Joint Chiefs reaffirmed their view as to the desirability of reducing our overseas commitments and deployments, although they pointed out that this [Page 386]would be next to impossible in the Far East and would be very difficult to accomplish without undermining NATO if the redeployment of U.S. forces occurred too rapidly. In any event, in this review the Joint Chiefs of Staff strongly recommended a full scale review of our military aid programs.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff concluded in March and April of 1956 that, in spite of the fact that our own U.S. military posture was generally adequate, the military posture of the free world generally was deteriorating.3 Unless this deterioration were arrested, the results would put the United States in a very dangerous situation in the future. The Chiefs also stressed the need for vigorous political, economic and psychological courses of action, on grounds that we must assure the world that the United States was prepared to act in a timely fashion in the event of war in order to restore and bolster the morale of the free world.

Admiral Radford then noted that since this report of the spring of 1956, world events had moved quickly and not always in a direction which had been predicted. As examples he cited tension in the satellites and the crisis in the Middle East. These events have led the Joint Chiefs of Staff to recommend certain actions designed to achieve our national security objectives. After briefly referring to these measures, Admiral Radford said that in conclusion he wanted to emphasize once again that both now and in the future the costs of our military program would continue to rise. In his view it was not possible at one and the same time to maintain a fixed level of forces and a fixed budgetary level. It was accordingly necessary for us to lower the level of our forces while at the same time assuring them increased effectiveness. He believed that this great problem could be solved if we kept ever in mind a basic objective and a basic fact. First, our objective of ensuring the survival of the United States and its free economy, and second, that the principal threat to the United States remained Russian-dominated world Communism.

At the conclusion of Admiral Radford’s introductory remarks, Secretary Wilson said that General Taylor would outline the program of the Army for FY 1958. General Taylor stated that it was his proposal to present the kind of Army that could be attained at the end of FY 1958 within a budget of $9 billion. Such an Army would consist of 1,000,000 men in 17 reorganized divisions, etc., etc.. With the use of a chart,4 General Taylor discussed the five major categories of which this Army would consist—namely, overseas forces, strategic reserves, anti-aircraft defense forces for the United States, reserve forces, and [Page 387]forces for the support of our allies. These five categories, he pointed out, would be backed up by support forces deployed within the continental United States. Thereafter, General Taylor, with the assistance of a chart, briefly outlined the major Army unit forces deployment planned for FY 1958, after which he described in some detail the quality and qualifications of these forces. He added a warning that the Army could not afford to neglect so-called conventional arms and equipment.

In closing his report, General Taylor summed up assets and liabilities for the Army program as follows: With respect to assets, he indicated that the FY 1958 program would certainly enhance the combat effectiveness of the U.S. Army. A second asset would be the improved quality of our reserve forces. In the category of liabilities, General Taylor pointed out that the Army divisions would be reduced by two, and that the growing obsolescence factor was very serious. An additional liability was represented by the deterioration of our antiaircraft capabilities for the air defense of the United States.

Upon the conclusion of General Taylor’s presentation, Secretary Wilson called on Admiral Burke to describe the Navy Department program for FY 1958.

Admiral Burke remarked that the Navy had been working on this 1958 budget for a whole year past. The Navy Department proposed to request approximately $10.9 billion in new authorizations in its FY 1958 budget—a sum slightly less than that in the current Navy budget. Force levels for the Navy would be about the same as in FY 1957. Despite steady technological advances, Admiral Burke pointed out that the budget for research and development in the Navy had been reduced in favor of additional aircraft procurement and shipbuilding.

In the course of discussing the Navy’s aircraft procurement program, Admiral Burke indicated that 1257 new aircraft would be ordered for the Navy in the course of FY 1958, a figure less than the figure for FY 1956 or FY 1957. Admiral Burke concluded his discussion of the Navy program by a detailed statement on the shipbuilding and conversion programs. This portion of his report was accompanied by a chart entitled “Combat Effective Ships, 1956, vs. Present Planned Strength” (over a period of five years).

At the conclusion of Admiral Burke’s comments, Secretary Wilson asked General Pate if he wished to report on the Marine Corps program. General Pate replied that Admiral Burke had spoken for him, and that he had nothing to add. Secretary Wilson then called on General Twining to present the Air Force program for FY 1958.

General Twining spoke first from two charts. One was entitled “Comparison of Programs”; the second was entitled “New Obligating Authority and Service Obligations for FY 1957 and FY 1958”. General Twining pointed out that the Air Force program called for a request on [Page 388]the Congress for $17.7 billion in new obligational authority. He indicated that this was about $3 billion less than the Air Force would have wished to ask for in order to meet its estimated requirements. In general, however, the Air Force proposed to cut its program to fit the cloth. For example, there would be a cut in procurement of B–52 aircraft from about 20 to 15 or 17 a month. The objective of the B–52 procurement program called ultimately for 11 wings of this type of aircraft.

At this point General Twining turned to a discussion of the combat structure of the Air Force. This indicated a reduction in program combat wings from a total of 137 to a total of 128. The reduction would occur in the categories of fighter aircraft and tactical bombers. General Twining believed that this cut could be justified by the expected increase in firing power. He also pointed out that each B–52 wing would contain over 40 aircraft instead of 32, as originally proposed. In addition, General Twining indicated that the intermediate-range ballistic missile would be put into the inventory of weapons in 1960. This would be followed shortly thereafter by the addition of the intercontinental ballistic missile to the inventory. General Twining concluded his remarks with the observation that the presently programmed Air Force for FY 1958 represented the very minimum force that the United States should have in order to protect the security of the United States and to carry out the missions assigned to the Air Force by NSC and JCS policies.

Secretary Wilson then called on Assistant Secretary of Defense Gray for a brief analysis of the MDA program. Secretary Gray made his report on the basis of a series of charts entitled “Status Report on Military Assistance Programs”. Included in his remarks was a statement of the five major purposes of our military assistance program. He pointed out that in FY 1958 there would be a request upon the Congress by way of new obligational authority in the amount of $2.45 billion. He predicted that expenditure for that fiscal year would probably amount to about $2.6 billion. Secretary Gray referred to the embarrassing carry-over from previous fiscal years, but pointed out that the carry-over for this year was the least in size in all recent years. The total investment to date, from FY 1950 through FY 1957, in the MDA programs amounted to $22.4 billion.

At the conclusion of Secretary Gray’s report, the President turned to Secretary Brucker and asked him the following question: “Are you confident that the Army program previously described is the best Army program for the money?” Secretary Brucker replied in the affirmative, and said that the Army program for FY 1958 represented the best balanced program which could be gotten for the money. The one element, he said, which we wish to preserve is the combat edge, the razor edge. Secretary Brucker stated that he was opposed to simply [Page 389]dropping the personnel who could be saved in the proposed cutting of Army divisions from 19 to 17. He wanted this personnel to be enrolled in other extremely important Army units. Secretary Brucker also expressed anxiety over the cost of the upkeep of the Army plant, and emphasized the need for better housing for Army personnel in the near future.

In reply, the President stated his agreement that the Army is now producing better balanced forces than it had in the past; but what really concerned him, continued the President, was the correct balance between the proposed strength of our Army and the general economic strength and well-being of the country. This is the great decision which must be made, and the President said he judged that Secretary Brucker thought the proposed FY 1958 budget for the Army represented the best balance that we can devise. Secretary Brucker again replied that the program represented the best balance possible under the circumstance. He confessed that some of his people were unhappy over certain aspects of the proposed FY 1958 budget, but that he, Secretary Brucker, thought it was OK. The President said that, in short, Secretary Brucker believed that to go higher by way of budget for the Army would entail serious risk of inflation and damage to the nation’s economy. Secretary Brucker agreed.

The President then turned to Secretary Thomas and asked him to address himself to the same questions with respect to the Navy that the President had just put to Secretary Brucker respecting the Army.

Secretary Thomas indicated that he would like to state briefly the philosophy behind the proposed FY 1958 budget for the Navy. In this connection he mentioned the President’s statement of last fall to the effect that while we must never put dollars above defense, we must at the same time have a strong and free economy. Secretary Thomas said that he stood firmly behind this philosophy, and added his belief that the proposed Navy budget represented the best balance that was possible. He added that he sincerely believed that this country had much more powerful military forces than many of the critics believe, and he paid warm tribute to the President and to the policies of the Administration.

Secretary Thomas then pointed out that the Navy had faced two very basic problems in the course of formulating its FY 1958 budget. The first of these stemmed from the Navy’s worldwide commitments, as a result of which ships of the Navy had to be stationed all over the world. Secondly, the Navy was currently going through a transition greater than anything known in the past. The Navy was moving all at once from conventional to nuclear power and from conventional to nuclear weapons. The costs were obviously bound to be much greater. In conclusion, Secretary Thomas stated that in his opinion the proposed Navy budget was a very good and very acceptable program, [Page 390]even though, of course, it involved a calculated risk. Indeed, said Secretary Thomas, if he had had his own way he might have cut another billion or two from the Navy budget. But, he said to the President, the Navy was the most powerful Navy in the world, and that the proposed budget would keep the Navy in just that position.

The President then called on Secretary Quarles to answer the same questions. Secretary Quarles pointed out how carefully the Air Force budget had been worked over. He said that it represented the best balance which could be attained within the framework of the proposed 1958 budget. The program put first things first in terms of the missions of the Air Force. Though there were clearly to be fewer wings in the Air Force, the Air Force itself would actually be stronger. Nevertheless, Secretary Quarles warned that the Air Force program was marginal in certain respects. After the exercise at the National Security Council meeting of yesterday, Secretary Quarles said that he had come away with certain misgivings. (The reference by Secretary Quarles was to the report of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee of the NSC on the net capabilities of the USSR to damage the continental United States.) Secretary Quarles had wondered whether we were doing quite all we should do in the light of the terrible threat depicted in yesterday’s report. Despite this, Secretary Quarles said, he did not question the proposed 1958 budget, and he assured the President that the Air Force would give the budget loyal support and make the best of it.

The President inquired of Secretary Quarles what he thought he could do right now to reduce the appalling threat depicted yesterday in the report of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee. Secretary Quarles said that so far as he could see, there was nothing that one could do to reduce the threat markedly. Nevertheless, it might be wise to increase our air defense forces and to allocate larger funds to the building up of our own strategic striking force. Secretary Quarles said he was not actually recommending the above course of action, but found the problem troublesome.

The President stated firmly that the only area in which he disagreed with Secretary Quarles was that the President did not think that the suggested courses of action would markedly reduce the threat of the holocaust described yesterday. In short, if we do not now have enough military strength to deter the Soviet Union from nuclear attack, the President said he could not be sure that 20 times as much military strength would succeed in deterring the Soviets.

The President then said that he had one more question to address to General Twining. How many missiles can be carried in a B–52? General Twining replied that two of the largest missiles were within the capability of the B–52 to carry.

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Secretary Wilson then inquired whether he might call on Assistant Secretary of Defense McNeil for an analysis of the overall figures for the Defense Department budget for FY 1958. With the assistance of charts, Secretary McNeil turned first to the new obligational authority, the direct obligations, and the estimated expenditures for FY 1958. He pointed out that the total new obligational authority sought in FY 1956 was $34.2 billion. In FY 1957 this amount had risen to $36.7 billion. The request for new obligational authority for FY 1958 would be $38.3 billion. Turning to expenditures, Secretary McNeil indicated that the total for FY 1956 had been $35.7 billion; for FY 1957, $36 billion; and the estimate for FY 1958 was $37.8 billion.

After further detailed analysis by Secretary McNeil, the President stated that he wanted to make sure that at some point or other in the future the country would at last be able to achieve a leveling-off period on these expenditures and not face continually mounting costs.

Secretary Dulles inquired whether the over-all figures given by Secretary McNeil included or excluded the figures earlier given by Secretary Gray covering the military assistance programs. When Secretary McNeil indicated that his figures did not include MDAP, Secretary Dulles emphasized that this fact should be made crystal clear when Congress was briefed on the FY 1958 budget.

At this point the President inquired whether there were any other questions, and directed his inquiry particularly to Secretary Humphrey. Secretary Humphrey replied that he thought it unfortunate that everyone in the United States could not have heard this Council briefing. He believed that the results showed a marvelous coordination and teamwork. In fact, this was the “finest budget performance” since the Administration had come into power. The President replied facetiously that Secretary Humphrey had made his own speech for him. The President added that the proposed budget did represent some backing up in our hope that we could go along at an expenditure level of about $35 billion annually for the Defense Department program. Actually we were now pretty close to $40 billion, but the President confessed that he did not see how this latter amount could be reduced.

Secretary Wilson commented that other Executive departments’ and agencies’ expenditures had gone up by a comparatively larger ratio than had those of the Department of Defense. The President replied that this was no valid comparison. The other departments and agencies had done their best, just as had the Department of Defense. Secretary Wilson then added that he thought that by and large the FY 1958 Department of Defense budget was a good budget and that resources had been pretty well allocated among the Services. The preparation of the budget had been characterized by extraordinarily good teamwork.

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Governor Stassen asked to be heard, and stated his agreement with the President that any small modification upward of the proposed budget would probably not greatly enhance our defensive capabilities against the Soviet Union. What we must really try hard to do was to open up the Soviet Union. The forthcoming year would provide the United States with the best opportunity to date to open up the Soviet Union. On the other hand, if we tried to drastically raise the levels of the U.S. defense budget, the Soviet Union might be led to conclude that war was inevitable and act accordingly.

The President stated that this reminded him that he wished to disagree with Admiral Radford’s statement at the beginning of the discussion, that the likelihood of war was now increasing. On the contrary, in the President’s opinion the USSR had taken a worse beating lately than at any time since 1945. Unless Admiral Radford meant that war might come from a miscalculation, he was therefore in disagreement with the point of view that the danger of war was increasing.

Admiral Radford replied that in part he had in mind the risk of miscalculation leading to war. He added that if the Soviets continue to have further troubles with their satellites, the United States would have to make up its mind what course of action to follow. The President said he was not impressed by this argument. He believed that the Soviets would be much more likely to worry about having to solidify themselves against satellite unrest. In present circumstances they were not likely to stick their necks out.

Secretary Dulles stated, apropos of this exchange of views, that in his opinion we had been witnessing a very drastic and very dramatic deterioration of the position of the Soviet Union in the course of the last two years. The men in the Kremlin do not now exert anything like the influence they exerted two years ago, either over the National Communist Parties outside the Soviet bloc or over the Soviet satellites themselves. Moreover, we can even discern in the Soviet Union itself a rising demand for greater freedom and a more liberal policy. All of this added up to a defeat and a setback for the Soviet rulers. In one sense, of course, this was a highly encouraging development for us. On the other hand, the setbacks of the last two years might call for a terrific effort by the Kremlin to achieve some kind of offsetting success. To achieve this the Soviets might therefore be willing to take risks which could be very dangerous to the free world, since they would be risks born of desperation.

The President said the only comment he had on this point was that there was no such thing as a success for any country involved in a major war today. Secretary Dulles expressed agreement, but pointed out the danger that the Soviets might be willing to run risks at the [Page 393]present time that they would have been unwilling to run two years ago. The President said that of course we must remain on the alert every single minute.

The President inquired whether there were any remaining questions or comments. Mr. Allen Dulles stated that he believed that a review of the subversive war was long overdue, and that the subject should come up for discussion early in the next year. As an example of dangerous developments, he pointed to the intelligence from Laos to the effect that the Pathet Lao people were about to be integrated into the Royal Government and the Royal Army. The President said that Nehru had expressed anxiety over this development in his recent conversations,5 and asked Secretary Dulles if the Indian Prime Minister had referred to the same danger in his talks with the Secretary of State. Secretary Dulles said that Nehru had also raised this question with him, and added that he wondered if we had not been a little too strong in our indication to the Government of Laos that the taking in of any Pathet Lao people into the government would result in the cessation of all American assistance. This statement had been perhaps a little too strong, but it was apparently the hope of the Pathet Laos to secure the Ministries of Interior, Defense and Foreign Affairs in the newly integrated government. If the Pathet Lao secured even one of these three key ministries, the fate of Laos would be sealed and it would come under Communist control.

Secretary Wilson then suggested that, inasmuch as the budget cycle for FY 1959 would commence soon, it would be desirable to use the FY 1958 personnel strengths, force levels and dollar figures as the basis for planning for the FY 1959 military program and budget. Modifications could subsequently be made with respect to this planning basis if circumstances so dictated. The President indicated approval of Secretary Wilson’s suggestion. Secretary Wilson followed this suggestion with a question to the President as to whether he thought that the FY 1958 military program, as it had been presented in the morning’s discussion, was generally satisfactory. The President replied that the Defense Department program for FY 1958 was acceptable to him.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the President warmly thanked those who had briefed him and the Council on the military program for FY 1958.6

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The National Security Council:7

Noted and discussed the U.S. military program for Fiscal Year 1958 as presented orally by the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Service Secretaries and the Chiefs of Staff, and Assistant Secretaries of Defense Gray and McNeil.
Agreed that the U.S. military program for Fiscal Year 1958 as presented was consistent with national security policy objectives.
Noted that for initial planning purposes in Fiscal Year 1959, the Department of Defense will utilize as ceilings the over-all force levels contained in the approved Fiscal Year 1958 budget, and a planned ceiling of $39 billion for both new obligational authority and expenditures.

Note: In approving the above actions the President stated that, except in the event of some unforeseen critical emergency of an international or economic character, he does not intend to request from the Congress during his term in office new obligational authority for the Department of Defense above $39 billion in any Fiscal Year.

The actions in b and c above and the above statement by the President subsequently transmitted to the Secretary of Defense and the Director, Bureau of the Budget, for information and appropriate action.

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Prepared by Gleason on December 21.
  2. Reference is presumably to the report by Robert Sprague on Continental Defense, discussed by the NSC at its 252d meeting on June 16, 1955. The report is not printed, but see footnote 4, Document 28. The Killian Committee report is printed as Document 9.
  3. See Documents 64, 65, and 73.
  4. Neither this chart nor the ones mentioned below has been found in the Eisenhower Library or Department of State files.
  5. Prime Minister Nehru of India made an official visit to the United States December 16–20.
  6. In a memorandum dated December 31, Goodpaster, on behalf of the President, requested the Chiefs of Staff and the Military Secretaries to confirm the following statement, to be used in the President’s remarks to Congressional leaders on January 1, 1957:

    “Each of the Chiefs of Staff and each of the Secretaries has given his views on this military program.

    “Although individual service Chiefs have pointed out specific areas in individual services in which increases in the program would be desirable, each Chief and Secretary has indicated that he considers a program of this magnitude—viewed as a whole—well-balanced and satisfactory.

    “Each one has assured the President that he can and will give the program his wholehearted support, as involving an acceptable degree of risk and providing a reasonable and wise degree of security.”

    All of the addressees initialed this memorandum. (Eisenhower Library, WhitmanFile)

  7. Paragraphs a–c and the Note that follow constitute NSC Action No. 1643, approved by the President on January 11, 1957. (Department of State,S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)