40. Memorandum of Discussion at the 266th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, November 15, 19551

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

2. Characteristics of the Timetable of Change in Our Military Position Relative to Russia (Report to the President by the Technological Capabilities Panel of the Science Advisory Committee, ODM, dated February 14, 1955;2NSC 5522;3NSC Action No. 1430-a;4

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Memos for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated November 2,5 and 9,6 1955)

Mr. Anderson briefed the Council on the background of the reference report from the NSC Planning Board (copy of briefing note filed in the minutes of the meeting).7 At the conclusion of his briefing, Mr. Anderson indicated that Secretary Wilson wished to make a statement.

Secretary Wilson stated that the various recent reports and recommendations, such as those of the Killian Committee, were putting a very expensive load on the budget of the Defense Department. This underlined the necessity of evaluating, first, how much money we can appropriately spend on the defense of the United States and, second, how to determine the correct allocation of funds between the requirements of the offense and the requirements of the defense. It might come, he added, as a considerable shock to the members of the National Security Council to learn that, according to the unilateral estimates of the Services, it would cost approximately $45 billion a year for some years if the Defense Department were to carry out the recommendations of the Killian Committee together with the regular military and military assistance programs.

All this, continued Secretary Wilson, would provide the National Security Council with some idea of the great difficulty which he was encountering in attempting to determine the over-all figure for the Defense budget for the Fiscal Year 1957. He wondered whether the Council would consider a figure of $38.5 billion as a reasonable ceiling for the Fiscal Year 1957. Actually, Secretary Wilson said that he was presenting to the Services the figure of $34 billion, but it could be safely anticipated that there would be vigorous protests on it. In any case, when the Council talked about the various programs recommended by the Killian Committee, it should be better aware of the problem posed by the costs of implementing these programs. Certainly every effort must be made to try to establish some priorities among all these conflicting programs. On the one hand, it was impossible to disregard the factor of costs. On the other hand, it was likewise difficult to determine a certain top figure and then simply tell the Services to carry out what programs they could while keeping within the figure selected. In addition to all this, there was the problem of ever-increasing costs. Steel was up $7 a ton over last year.

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Admiral Radford pointed out to the Council that in point of fact the Defense Department had established some priorities based upon agreed national policies. The difficulty was that these papers gave rise to directives to the military services, and they felt obligated to carry out these directives, though sometimes, as in the case of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line, the costs of carrying out these directives were greater than anticipated.

At this point the Vice President called on the Acting Director of the Budget. Mr. Brundage stated that the Administration seemed to encounter very great trouble in putting an end to old projects and programs when it got into new projects and programs. This was true not only in the area of national defense and foreign policy. It was likewise true of the whole range of domestic programs. Although much that Secretary Wilson said seemed to be correct, the fact remained that there was no priority “on stopping things”.

Dr. Flemming then said that he wished to be heard on this subject. He first reminded the Council of the President’s great interest in the so-called Killian Committee Timetable when it had first been considered by the National Security Council last summer.8 If, said Dr. Flemming, he correctly understood the contents of the Planning Board’s report now before the Council, the members of the Planning Board regard the Killian Committee Timetable as of greater importance now than when it had initially been considered. If one links all this up with the recent Soviet moves and maneuvers in the Middle East, Dr. Flemming said he could not avoid a strong feeling that the United States is going through a period which was tantamount to a parting of the ways in terms of national security policy. Of course, continued Dr. Flemming, he was as anxious as anyone to hold expenditures down. But he did hope that no doubts as to national security programs would be resolved in favor of some fiscal advantage unless there were very sound reasons for such a resolution. Let us not set some ceiling figure and say that we will do all that we can for the defense of the United States within the limits of this figure. Instead, we should carefully evaluate our national security situation and decide in each case which programs were required and what was the relative risk involved. The Administration must do all that it could to maintain the U.S. on the offensive and not permit it to be shoved into the defensive.

Dr. Flemming went on to express strong approval of the President’s directive accelerating the program for the achievement of an intercontinental ballistic missile.9 He said he also believed that the high priority now being accorded programs for continental defense was thoroughly justified. Finally, we must not lower our sights at the [Page 148] wrong time with respect to our programs of military and economic assistance to friendly nations. The Secretary of Defense, concluded Dr. Flemming, should be made to feel the wholehearted support of the National Security Council if he decides that the figure for the Defense budget for FY 1957 must be advanced to $38.5 billion.

Secretary Wilson commented that he was not sure that the Defense Department could do a reasonable job even with the figure $38.5 billion. Admiral Radford certainly did not believe that it could, and it was at any rate going to prove a rough job to carry out the necessary programs with an FY 1957 budget of $38.5 billion.

Secretary Hoover said that it was advisable to point out to the Council here that Secretary Dulles had just requested that the Administration not freeze the figure for U.S. military and economic assistance programs for the coming fiscal year until he could return and take part in the discussion of these programs.

The Director of Central Intelligence said that further examination of the recent Soviet nuclear test10 might have some bearing on the Killian Committee Timetable problem. [2 sentences (4 lines of source text) not declassified]

Admiral Strauss said that he had a somewhat different interpretation of the implications of the Soviet test than had the Director of Central Intelligence. It was Admiral Strauss’ feeling that what had occurred might well turn out to have been the test of a warhead on a ballistic missile. [1 sentence (31 words) not declassified]Moreover, continued Admiral Strauss, if the Soviets were successful in cutting the lead time for the production of a ballistic missile as rapidly as they had succeeded in cutting the lead time for the production of their recent aircraft types, the date of mid-1958 might actually be too late as marking the end of Period II of the Killian Timetable, during which the United States would enjoy a period of maximum military advantage over the Soviet Union. Admiral Strauss said he preferred to believe that the end of Period II might come as early as mid-1957.

Secretary Wilson interrupted to say that he believed that it was a safe assumption that any technological achievement of the United States would be duplicated by the Soviet Union within a period of two years. Somehow or other they seem to have “infiltrated us” to such a degree.

Admiral Strauss continued his remarks on lead times by pointing out that the Soviet Union had achieved the Bison bomber in five years, starting from scratch. It had taken the United States seven years to build the B–52 bomber. The Soviets cut out a lot of excess detail and [Page 149] cut out a lot of testing of their aircraft and weapons. Admiral Radford agreed with Admiral Strauss’ conclusions, but pointed out that of course the Russians cared nothing whatever about accidents. We had to be careful of human life and accordingly more careful in our testing.

Admiral Strauss then stated his belief that instead of approving the Planning Board report on the Killian Timetable at this time, the National Security Council would be well advised to await further data on the most recent Soviet nuclear test. He repeated his belief that if his fears were borne out it might be necessary to advance the date at which the end of Period II of the Timetable would be reached.

Mr. Dillon Anderson pointed out to the Council that the action called for by the Killian Timetable report was simply noting. The report could be readily revised at any later date if any developments pointed to the desirability of revision.

The Vice President observed that, so far as he understood, the implications of the Killian Committee Timetable were to be taken into account by the National Security Council in recommending a revision of the basic national security policy (NSC 5501). To the Vice President, “the big news” from the present report on the Killian Committee Timetable was that the years 1956 to 1958 constituted the period of maximum military advantage for the United States over the Soviet Union. Perhaps, indeed, these years constituted the last period of such advantage that we would have over the Soviets. He asked Secretary Hoover whether he was right in this deduction and whether this meant forceful diplomatic steps by the United States to take advantage of its opportunity. Secretary Hoover replied that the Vice President was correct, but pointed out the difficulties which confronted the State Department in the area of diplomatic action. We simply could not make use of our ultimate military force as a means of carrying out our diplomatic moves. To this the Vice President replied that when one sees what the Soviets have been able to achieve throughout an era in which their atomic strength was much less than that of the United States, one dreaded to think what they might do when their atomic strength came to equal that of the United States.

Admiral Radford said that all he could add was a conviction that sooner or later we must “get tough” with the Soviets and tell them bluntly that there were certain things they could not do.

The National Security Council:11

Noted and discussed the results, as set forth in the report enclosed with the reference memorandum of November 2, of the Planning Board’s review of the validity of the “Characteristics” in the [Page 150] “Timetable of Change in Our Military Position Relative to Russia” contained in the report of the Technological Capabilities Panel of the ODM Science Advisory Committee.
Noted that the Planning Board, on the basis of its review of the validity of the “Characteristics”, will analyse the “Effects” and policy implications of the Timetable in connection with its current review of basic national security policy; subject to any changes which may be required in the “Characteristics” following evaluation of the recent Soviet atomic tests.

[Here follow the remaining agenda items.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Prepared by Gleason on November 16.
  2. Document 9.
  3. See Document 25.
  4. See footnote 9, Document 30.
  5. According to paragraph a of Action No. 1476, printed below, the memorandum of November 2 transmitted the Planning Board’s report on its examination of the validity of the Killian Committee timetable. Neither the memorandum nor the report has been found in the Eisenhower Library or Department of State files.
  6. Not found in the Eisenhower Library or Department of State files.
  7. Neither the briefing note nor the minutes has been found in the Eisenhower Library or Department of State files.
  8. See Document 30.
  9. Reference is presumably to NSC Action No. 1433; see footnote 9, Document 34.
  10. Dulles described this test to the Council at its 269th meeting on November 10. (Memorandum of discussion by Gleason; Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records)
  11. Paragraphs a–b that follow constitute NSC Action No. 1476, approved by the President on November 18. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)