38. Memorandum of Discussion at the 263d Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, October 27, 19551

[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and agenda items 1 and 2.]

3. Net Evaluation Subcommittee Report (NSC 55112)

Mr. Anderson said that the next item on the agenda would be the Net Evaluation Subcommittee’s report which would be presented in the Broadcast Room of the White House. Admiral Radford commented that the Net Evaluation report which the Council was about to hear had been much more difficult to prepare than its predecessors. Moreover, it went further into very highly classified intelligence information, although not as far as General George, who had directed the preparation of the report, had wanted to go. Admiral Radford also expressed the opinion that the National Security Council directive establishing the Net Evaluation Subcommittee was too broad in its terms. He likewise warned that the Council would be hearing statements made in the course of the forthcoming presentation which he hoped the Council would not accept as altogether factual. Many of the conclusions of the Net Evaluation report would actually be approximations based on certain assumptions. If one changed these assumptions, and it was quite reasonable to do so, one would get different answers. Finally, Admiral Radford expressed considerable doubt as to the value of the exercise performed by the Net Evaluation Subcommittee in view of the immense amount of work and the considerable expense involved in the months which were consumed in preparing the report of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee.

The Council then moved from the Cabinet Room to the Broadcast Room of the White House.

Mr. Anderson opened the discussion on this item, advising that the purpose of the meeting was to hear a briefing on the first annual report by the Council’s Net Evaluation Subcommittee which was established pursuant to a new directive recommended by the Council and approved by the President on February 14, 1955. 3 He recalled that the directive established a permanent procedure (in the form of a Net Evaluation Subcommittee) to provide integrated evaluations of the net capabilities of the USSR, in the event of general war, to inflict direct injury upon the continental U.S. and U.S. installations overseas, and to provide a continual watch for changes which would significantly [Page 127]alter those net capabilities. Mr. Anderson mentioned the makeup of the Subcommittee and the fact that the President had appointed Lieut. General Harold George, USAF, retired, as the Subcommittee’s staff director. Mr. Anderson also indicated that in addition to the regular attendants at this Council meeting, there were present for this briefing the members of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee, General George and the members of the Subcommittee staff, and the Planning Board members and advisors. Mr. Anderson then called upon Admiral Radford, as Chairman of the Subcommittee, to make any additional comments he deemed appropriate.

Admiral Radford observed that the report the Council was to hear today was an interesting and highly sensitive one. He requested that details of the briefing which was to ensue not be covered further in any debriefing in the several departments and agencies concerned. He indicated that General George has been engaged in intensive work on this project since his appointment by the President last February. He noted that earlier in the week the Subcommittee had heard the briefing which was about to be put on for the Council and that insofar as he, Admiral Radford, knew, the Subcommittee members were in unanimous agreement on the report. Admiral Radford indicated that while the individual members of the Subcommittee were responsible for elements of the report falling within their respective jurisdictions, that only the Chairman is responsible for the report as a whole. Admiral Radford concluded with the opinion that the Subcommittee staff has done an excellent job, whereupon he called upon the staff director to initiate the briefing.

General George outlined in brief the general approach taken by the Subcommittee staff to the implementation of NSC 5511. He indicated that two basic plans were worked by members of the staff who simulated the role of war planners in the Kremlin. In brief, the first plan (Plan A) assumed a Soviet surprise attack on the United States with no strategic warning. The second plan (Plan C) assumed a Soviet attack preceded by sufficient strategic warning to place U.S. military and civil defenses in a condition of full alert in order to initiate U.S. retaliatory action. General George then called upon the Deputy Director of the staff, Major General Gordon B. Rogers, who introduced the following individuals: Colonel Worth Kindred,USA, and Colonel Edward Herbes,USAF, who gave the briefing on Plan A and on the war-gaming of that plan, including U.S. retaliatory action as well as estimated damage effects resulting from the Soviet attack and the U.S. retaliatory attack.

Plan C was thereupon presented, along lines identical to Plan A, by Colonel George W. Criss, USAF, and Captain Frank Turner, USN.

[Page 128]

Next Dr. Ludwell Montague, CIA, briefed the Council on various aspects of the threat to the United States posed by the clandestine introduction of nuclear weapons by the USSR.

Colonel Criss thereupon briefed the Council on significant variables which could substantially alter the estimates and conclusions reached by the Subcommittee in its war-gaming of Plans A and C. These variables included basic questions as to (a) the size and make-up of the Soviet nuclear stockpile (b) fallout effects (c) the psychological impact upon the populace of large scale nuclear weapons (d) strategic warning and (e) programmed U.S. military posture at the time of attack.

The formal briefing was terminated with the presentation of the conclusions reached by the Net Evaluation Subcommittee. These conclusions were presented by Colonel Richard Ross, USMC.

The Vice President, at the suggestion of Mr. Anderson, invited the Council members to comment on the briefing and to raise any questions that they might have with the Subcommittee.

Mr. Allen Dulles indicated that when the Subcommittee received the briefing by General George’s staff earlier in the week, questions had arisen and were answered at that time. As a consequence, Mr. Dulles had no questions to put to the Subcommittee today. He wished to mention, however, that all of the member agencies of the Subcommittee did not participate in the war-gaming covered in the formal briefing.

Dr. Flemming said he had no questions and he expressed appreciation to General George and his staff for the excellent work performed by them.

The Vice President said that he appreciated not only the great effort and many hours which the staff had devoted to this project, but also the excellent and concise manner of presenting their very complicated report. He said that he assumed that the Subcommittee’s evaluations were based on the best evidence available as to the contemplated capabilities of the USSR in 1958 and Admiral Radford advised that his assumption was correct.

The Vice President then inquired whether the Soviets were aware of our nuclear and delivery capabilities and if not, he wondered whether it would be in the interest of the United States to create such an awareness on the part of the USSR. Admiral Radford responded that the USSR probably had much better intelligence on our nuclear stockpile and delivery capability than we had on theirs. In fact, he said, we publish a considerable amount of information relating to aircraft delivery and fighter capability, all which is readily available to the USSR.

[Page 129]

The Vice President observed that up to a point there could be substantial benefit accruing to the United States if the USSR were cognizant of our great nuclear and delivery capability.

The Vice President noted that the portion of the briefing which dealt with clandestine attack appeared to be the closest thing to a recommendation made by the Subcommittee and he inquired whether the Subcommittee had further recommendations to make with respect to clandestine attack or to other aspects of the subject. Admiral Radford said that the Subcommittee was not asked to make recommendations; that General George’s people had some recommendations but that it was his (Admiral Radford’s) view that in lieu of Subcommittee recommendations as such, each member of the Subcommittee should suggest any action in his particular area of responsibility which he considers appropriate.

Dr. Flemming observed that the evaluations and briefing provided by the Subcommittee are basic to the Council’s thinking on numerous subjects and problems which are constantly arising in the field of national security. He noted that many of these problems are being reexamined regularly by the Council and he expressed the view that today’s briefing would substantially aid the Council in its thinking on such problems as they come up for discussion at future Council meetings.

Secretary Humphrey, observing that it did not appear that the DEW Line seemed to serve any particular purpose in terms of the attacks contemplated under Plans A and C, asked what value, if any, the DEW Line seems to have in terms on enemy attack. General George responded that the DEW Line is of great importance, particularly in terms of a surprise attack such as is envisaged under Plan A, because it would be the one means of alerting for such purposes as getting planes off the ground to meet such an attack.

Mr. Rockefeller inquired why, in terms of clandestine nuclear introduction, the Mexican Border was not considered just as vulnerable as shipments via the diplomatic pouch or other shipments under diplomatic seal. Admiral Radford responded that both means of introduction were considered by the Subcommittee, but time did not allow of the staff going into detail thereon at this particular briefing.

Secretary Herbert Hoover inquired whether the Subcommittee considered in its evaluations the possible use of intercontinental ballistic missiles and General George responded in the negative, stating that such missiles were not deemed to be programmed and operational by the 1958 date used as the basis for the Subcommittee’s studies.

Mr. Allen Dulles said that one of the basic questions which remains unanswered at the present is whether the USSR will have megaton weapons for use by 1958.

[Page 130]

Mr. Dodge inquired whether it would be likely that the Soviets would develop and stockpile such large weapons without testing them and Admiral Foster, AEC, responded that it is the consensus of atomic energy officials both in the United States and the United Kingdom that it is unlikely that the Soviets would risk the chance of failure which could flow from stockpiling untested high yield thermonuclear weapons.

Mr. Anderson, reverting to the references made earlier in the meeting with respect to clandestine introductions indicated his understanding that a report on the diplomatic pouch problem would be forthcoming from the Council’s internal security committees in the near future. He thought it desirable that the Planning Board consider that report in the light of the report of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee and in the light of the Council’s discussion of the diplomatic pouch problem.4

The Vice President commented on the great amount of work which has gone into this study and referred to the need for following up on national security problems highlighted by the study. He said, where appropriate, he assumed the Planning Board would follow through on these problems.

The National Security Council:5

Noted and discussed the first annual report by the Net Evaluation Subcommittee, pursuant to NSC 5511.
Noted that each responsible Executive department and agency would review its program in the light of the above-mentioned report, and submit any resulting policy recommendations to the Council through the NSC Planning Board.

Note: The action in b above, as approved by the President, subsequently transmitted to the responsible Executive departments and agencies.

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Prepared by Gleason on October 28.
  2. See Document 10.
  3. Reference is to NSC 5511.
  4. On December 1,NSC 5527, “Reappraisal of U.S. Policy Regarding Soviet Bloc Shipments Afforded Diplomatic Immunity,” was transmitted by Lay to the National Security Council and referred by him to we Planning Board for comment and recommendations prior to Council consideration. See Document 63.
  5. Paragraph a–b and the Note that follow consititute NSC Action No. 1463, approved by the President on November 2. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95. Records of Action by the National Security Council)