6. National Security Council Report1

NSC 5501


Note by the Executive Secretary to the National Security Council


NSC 162/2
NSC 5422/2
NSC 5440/1
Memos for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated December 20, 1954 and January 3, 1955
Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, subject: “Summary Statement of Existing Basic National Security Policy”, dated October 11, 1954
NSC Actions Nos. 1251, 1272, 1279, 1286, 1290 and 12932
NEE 11–4–54; NIE 11–6–54

The National Security Council, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Attorney General, the Director, Bureau of the Budget, the Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, and the Federal Civil Defense Administrator, at the 230th meeting of the Council on January 5, 1955,3 discussed [Page 25] the subject on the basis of the reference report (NSC 5440/1) in the light of the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff transmitted by the reference memorandum of January 3, 1955. The Council adopted the statement of policy contained in NSC 5440/1, subject to the changes set forth in NSC Action No. 1293–b.

The President has this date approved the statement of policy in NSC 5440/1, as amended and adopted by the Council and enclosed herewith as NSC 5501, and directs its implementation by all appropriate executive departments and agencies of the U.S. Government. As basic policy, this paper has not been referred to any single department or agency for special coordination.

The enclosed statement of policy as adopted and approved, supersedes NSC 162/2 and NSC 5422/2, and constitutes the basic guide in the implementation of all other national security policies, superseding any provisions in such other policies as may be in conflict with this basic policy.

James S. Lay, Jr.4

[Here follows a one-page table of contents.]



Section A

Estimate of the Situation

The Soviet-Communist challenge in this era of approaching nuclear plenty constitutes a grave peril to the United States.

I. Relative Communist Bloc and Free World Capabilities

Soviet air-atomic capabilities are rapidly increasing. Already the USSR has the capacity to inflict widespread devastion on major free world countries allied to the U.S. and serious damage to the U.S. itself. Over approximately the next five years the USSR will almost certainly develop the net capability to strike a crippling blow at the United States.5
At present the U.S. can inflict massive damage on the Communist bloc by nuclear striking power. Even when the USSR arrives at the point where it can strike a crippling blow at the U.S., the U.S. will still be able to inflict equal or greater damage on the USSR, provided that it takes adequate measures to protect its effective retaliatory power.
The Soviet guided missile program, over the next few years, will bring increasingly longer-range missiles into production. Assuming an intensive effort, the USSR may develop roughly by 1963 (1960 at the earliest) operational intercontinental ballistic missiles. The U.S. program for missiles of this type should approximate this timetable, provided that intensive effort continues. There is no known defense against such missiles at this time.
Thus a situation is appoaching in which a total war involving use by both sides of available weapons would bring about such extensive destruction as to threaten the survival of both Western civilization and the Soviet system. This situation could create a condition of mutual deterrence, in which each side would be strongly inhibited from deliberately initiating general war or taking actions which it regarded as materially increasing the risk of general war. In any case, war would remain a possibility, if only because of the element of miscalculation by either side or because of a technological break-through by the Soviets leading them to believe they could destroy the U.S. without effective retaliation.
The Communist bloc will maintain and further develop formidable conventional forces, with improved combat effectiveness and a large increase in submarines. The principal limitations will be logistic problems and deficiencies in specialized experience, training and equipment.
The free world can make substantial progress in building military strength through the continued improvement of NATO forces, the introduction of West German units, some Japanese rearmament, and the progressive development of new weapons systems and of production facilities. Introduction of nuclear weapons into the NATO defense system on the basis of agreed policy will be of crucial importance. Provided that it has the will to do so, the free world coalition has the capacity to maintain sufficient conventional and nuclear military strength and mobility6 to constitute a major deterrent to Communist military aggression and to maximize the chances of dealing effectively with such aggression if it should occur.
The stability of the USSR and its hold over the European satellites are unlikely to be seriously shaken over the next few years, despite measures which the U.S. may find it feasible to take to weaken Soviet control. However, the control system of the USSR will continue to be faced with important problems (such as discontent in the satellites, agricultural difficulties, and pressures for satisfying consumer wants), some of which may be susceptible to a limited degree of exploitation from outside.
Communist China is likely to continue vigorous and cohesive, but will face internal problems much greater than those of the USSR. The Sino-Soviet tie probably will remain strong for the next few years not only for ideological reasons but also because it furthers the purposes of both parties.
In absolute terms, the growth of the U.S. economy should be greater than that of the USSR; and U.S. productive capacity in 1959 will still be more than twice that of the USSR. Nevertheless, the economic growth of the USSR can be expected to continue at a rate considerably higher than that of the U.S. or of other major free world countries. The difference in growth rates will probably be even greater in the industrial sector, despite some increased Soviet emphasis on agriculture and consumer goods. Moreover, the USSR will be devoting to capital investment, and to uses contributing to war potential, a much greater proportion of its resources.
Soviet economic progress, in spite of the fact that Soviet living standards are low compared to those of the U.S., will be for many peoples with lower living standards an impressive example, and will probably constitute an important element in spreading Soviet influence, especially in Asia. Communist China, if its industrialization continues as expected at a rate relatively rapid as compared with that of other Asian countries, will also exert considerable attractive force on Asian peoples, especially if economic improvement in free Asia is slow or non-existent.
The existing structure of U.S. alliances can probably be maintained, and could possibly be extended, particularly in the Middle East. However, there will be serious strains on these alliances, especially the ties between the U.S. and its major allies, resulting from growing fears of atomic war on the part of the allies, differing attitudes on China, and greater receptivity by the allies to Soviet overtures. Our allies will probably be more reluctant than the U.S. to participate in actions which appear to them to involve appreciable risks of war in order to prevent further Communist advances in areas which do not directly involve their vital interests.
Less developed countries will continue to be a major source of weakness in the position of the free world, owing to such factors as political instability, economic backwardness, extreme nationalism, and [Page 28] the colonial issue. The dangers of subversion will be great, especially in countries under the shadow of Communist power and subject to direct Communist pressures and intervention. In Southeast Asia the present situation is extremely precarious. Failure of the free world to deal more effectively with the problems of less developed areas will weaken the free world and benefit international communism, even in countries where actual Communist take-over is not imminent.
As the lines between the Communist bloc and the Western coalition have come to be more clearly drawn over the last few years, a situation has arisen in which any further Communist territorial gain would have an unfavorable impact within the free world that might be out of all proportion to the strategic or economic significance of the territory lost.

II Probable Soviet and Chinese Communist Intentions and Strategy

The USSR has not modified its basic hostility toward the non-Communist world, and especially toward the U.S. as the power center of that world, or its belief in the ultimate triumph of Communism. The Soviet leaders can be expected to seek constantly, by every means they find advantageous, to extend Communist power and to weaken those forces, especially U.S. power and influence, which they regard as inexorable enemies of their system. However, they will almost certainly avoid pursuing their long-term goals in ways which jeopardize the security of the regime or their control of the Communist bloc. Soviet objectives can be listed as follows, in descending order of importance:
The security of the regime and of the USSR.
Maintaining the Soviet hold on the European satellites, and keeping China within the Communist bloc.
Elimination of U.S. influence from Eurasia, and the isolation of the U.S.
Expansion of Soviet Communist power throughout Eurasia.
Elimination of the U.S. as a competing power center.
The spread of Communism throughout the world.7
The Chinese Communist regime remains bitterly hostile to the U.S., and ostensibly committed to the conquest of Formosa. It will attempt to expand its power on the mainland of Asia and to expel U.S. power and influence therefrom. In pursuit of this end, it probably will place primary emphasis on penetration and support of subversion in neighboring countries.
Provided that the U.S. and free world have at all times an adequate military posture and the necessary determination, it appears unlikely that, within the next five years, the USSR or Communist China will deliberately initiate war, or engage in overt military aggression if in its judgment such aggression would involve appreciable risk of war with the U.S.8 They will try to avoid courses of action which in their judgment will clearly involve such risk. However, they probably would not be deterred by the risk of general war from taking military counter-action against Western actions considered to be an imminent threat to their security. Moveover, general war might occur as the climax of a series of actions and counter-actions which neither side originally intended to lead to that result.
The emergence of increased flexibility in the conduct of Soviet foreign policy since the death of Stalin has introduced a significant new factor in the situation. The Soviet leaders have almost certainly regarded their “peace offensive” as their most effective present tactic for dividing the free world and isolating the U.S. from its allies. A principal aim has been to prevent the rearmament of West Germany in association with the Western Powers. If the Paris agreements are ratified, the Soviets may revert to a more uncompromising and menacing posture. On the other hand, the “soft” line may further be motivated by domestic preoccupation and fear of general war, and the Soviets may, therefore, desire an extended period of reduced tensions, without sacrificing their basic security interests. Even should that be the case, Soviet policy will mainly seek tacit understanding not to resort to force to change the present territorial division between the Communist bloc and the free world. In any event, whatever Soviet concessions are made will, for some time, almost certainly be confined to relatively minor issues. Although it appears very unlikely, the Soviet leaders might be led by the fear of nuclear destruction to accept an effective system of armaments control, with whatever changes would thereby be required in their present practices and concepts.9
Whenever the Soviet “soft” line is dominant, our allies will be eager to explore it seriously, and will probably wish, in seeking a basis of “coexistence”, to go to further lengths than the U.S. will find prudent. [Page 30] Even if the USSR offers no real concessions, these tendencies will probably persist, supported by large segments of public opinion. It will be a major task, therefore, to maintain the necessary unity and resolution in the free world coalition whenever and wherever the Soviets press their “peace offensive”.
Despite the talk of “coexistence”, the Communist powers will continue strenuous efforts to weaken and disrupt free-world strength and unity and to expand the area of their control, principally by subversion (including the support of insurrection), while avoiding involvement of the main sources of Communist power. This strategy will probably present the free world with its most serious challenge and greatest danger in the next few years.
Attainment by the USSR of the capacity to inflict crippling damage on the U.S. almost certainly would not tempt the Soviets to initiate general war, unless they believed that they could neutralize, or by initial surprise could destroy, U.S. retaliatory power before it could be used. They will continue to be extremely reluctant to precipitate a contest in which the USSR would be likely to be subjected even to limited nuclear attack. After attaining atomic plenty, however, the Communist powers probably will increase the pace of their attempts at progressive local expansion, supported by force or threat of force, provided they estimate that such action can succeed and will not provoke U.S. counteraction involving appreciable risk of general war.10

Section B

Outline of U.S. National Strategy

The basic objective of U.S. national security policy is to preserve the security of the United States, and its fundamental values and institutions.
The basic threat to U.S. security is posed by the hostile policies and power, including growing nuclear power, of the Soviet-Communist bloc, with its international Communist apparatus.
The basic problem confronting the U.S. is how, without undermining fundamental U.S. values and institutions or seriously weakening the U.S. economy, to meet and ultimately to diminish this threat to U.S. security.

In meeting this threat, the U.S. must choose between two main lines of policy, aimed respectively at:

Destroying the power of the Soviet-Communist bloc; or
Modifying the policies of the Soviet-Communist bloc along lines more compatible with U.S. security interests.

Either policy would include action to disrupt or neutralize the international Communist apparatus in the free world.

The U.S. and its allies have no foreseeable prospect of stopping the growth of Soviet nuclear capabilities and of reducing Soviet armed strength—the core of Communist power—or of significantly reducing other basic Communist military strength, except by mutually acceptable agreements with the Soviets or by large-scale military action. The initiation by the U.S. of such action for this purpose is not an acceptable course either to the U.S. or its major allies.
Hence, U.S policies must be designed to affect the conduct of the Communist regimes, especially that of the USSR, in ways that further U.S. security interests and to encourage tendencies that lead them to abandon expansionist policies. In pursuing this general strategy, our effort should be directed to:
Deterring further Communist aggression, and preventing the occurrence of total war so far as compatible with U.S. security.
Maintaining and developing in the free world the mutuality of interest and common purpose, and the necessary will, strength and stability, to face the Soviet-Communist threat and to provide constructive and attractive alternatives to Communism, which sustain the hope and confidence of free peoples.
Supplementing a and b above by other actions designed to foster changes in the character and policies of the Soviet-Communist bloc regimes:
By influencing them and their peoples toward the choice of those alternative lines of action which, while in their national interests, do not conflict with the security interests of the U.S.; and
By exploiting differences between such regimes, and their other vulnerabilities, in ways consistent with this general strategy.
To carry out effectively this general strategy will require a flexible combination of military, political, economic, propaganda, and covert actions which enables the full exercise of U.S. initiative. These actions must be so coordinated as to reinforce one another. Programs for the general strategy between now and the time when the USSR has greatly increased nuclear power should be developed as a matter of urgency.
Provided that it is resolutely pursued, this general strategy offers the best hope of bringing about at least a prolonged period of armed truce, and ultimately a peaceful resolution of the Soviet bloc-free [Page 32] world conflict and a peaceful and orderly world environment. Failure resolutely to pursue this gerneral strategy could, within a relatively short span of years, place the U.S. in great jeopardy.

Section C

Elements of National Strategy

I. Military Problem

A central aim of U.S. policy must be to deter the Communists from use of their military power, remaining prepared to fight general war should one be forced upon the U.S. This stress on deterrence is dictated by the disastrous character of total nuclear war, the possibility of local conflicts developing into total war, and the serious effect of further Communist aggression. Hence the Communist rulers must be convinced that aggression will not serve their interests: that it will not pay.
If this purpose is to be achieved, the U.S. and its allies in the aggregate will have to have, for an indefinite period, military forces with sufficient strength, flexibility and mobility to enable them to deal swiftly and severely with Communist overt aggression in its various forms and to cope successfully with general war should it develop. In addition, the U.S. and its major allies must show that they are united in their determination to use military force against such aggression.
As part of its military forces, the U.S. must develop and maintain its effective nuclear-air retaliatory power, and must keep that power secure from neutralization or from a Soviet knockout blow, even by surprise. The U.S. must also continue accelerated military and non-military programs for continental defense. So long as the Soviets are uncertain of their ability to neutralize the U.S. nuclear-air retaliatory power, there is little reason to expect them to initiate general war or actions which they believe would carry appreciable risk of general war, and thereby endanger the regime and the security of the USSR.
The United States must also have other ready forces, which, together with those of its allies, must be sufficient (a) to help deter any resort to local aggression, or (b) to punish swiftly and severely any such local aggression, in a manner and on a scale best calculated to avoid the hostilities broadening into total nuclear war. Such ready forces will be in addition to those assigned to NATO; they must be properly balanced, sufficiently versatile, suitably deployed, highly mobile, and equipped as appropriate with atomic capability, to perform these tasks; and must also, along with those assigned to NATO, be capable of discharging initial tasks in the event of general war.
Such a policy is predicated upon the support and cooperation of appropriate major allies and certain other free world countries, in furnishing bases for U.S. military power, especially strategic air, and in providing their share of military forces. To succeed, the basic strategy and policy of the U.S. must be believed by our appropriate major allies generally to serve their security as well as ours. Thus, it is important for the United States to take the necessary steps to convince them that such is the case, to strengthen the collective defense system, and to utilize, where appropriate, the possibilities of collective action through the UN. In addition, the United States should continue to provide military and other assistance to dependable allied nations where such assistance is necessary to enable them to make their appropriate contributions to collective military power.
The ability to apply force selectively and flexibly will become increasingly important in maintaining the morale and will of the free world to resist aggression. As the fear of nuclear war grows, the United States and its allies must never allow themselves to get into the position where they must choose between (a) not responding to local aggression and (b) applying force in a way which our own people or our allies would consider entails undue risk of nuclear devastation. However, the United States cannot afford to preclude itself from using nuclear weapons even in a local situation, if such use will bring the aggression to a swift and positive cessation, and if, on a balance of political and military consideration, such use will best advance U.S. security interests. In the last analysis, if confronted by the choice of (a) acquiescing in Communist aggression or (b) taking measures risking either general war or loss of allied support, the United States must be prepared to take these risks if necessary for its security.
The United States and its allies must reject the concept of preventive war or acts intended to provoke war. Hence, the United States should attempt to make clear, by word or conduct, that it is not our intention to provoke war. At the same time the United States and its major allies must make clear their determination to oppose aggression despite risk of general war, and the United States must make clear its determination to prevail if general war eventuates.

II Strengthening the Free World

The United States should place more stress than heretofore on building the strength and cohesion of the free world, and take adequate actions for the purpose of (a) creating cohesion within and among all the free nations, remedying their weaknesses, and steadily improving the relative position of the free world; and (b) destroying the effectiveness of the Communist apparatus in the free world. Success [Page 34] in these endeavors will depend heavily on the degree to which the U.S. and its major allies can attain agreement on basic objectives and actions to achieve them.
Direct action against the Communist apparatus must rest largely with the local governments concerned, although the U.S. should be able to help significantly, chiefly through covert means. In countries vulnerable to subversion, the U.S. should, as one of its objectives, assist in the development of adequate internal security forces. In case of an imminent or actual Communist seizure of control, the U.S. should take all feasible political, economic, and covert measures to thwart it, and, it appropriate, should take military action, if required to cope with the situation.
Recognizing that the Soviet bloc is at present stressing and effectively utilizing subversive forces and techniques, the US. should strengthen its effort against such forces and techniques by developing and employing in a well-coordinated manner all means at its disposal appropriate to this purpose, specifically including covert operations and other pertinent political information, economic, and military programs and activities. [1 sentence (22 words) not declassified]
The existence of conditions in the free world which the Communists can exploit makes it very difficult for the free world to overcome its divisions, fears, and weaknesses. In many cases, the U.S. faces the choice of (a) taking timely action to help remedy such conditions, or of (b) allowing the situation to deteriorate with the prospect of later trying to prevent Communist gains by more costly and less certain measures, or even military action. The ability of the free world, over the long pull, to meet the challenge and competition of the Communist world will depend in large measure on the capacity to demonstrate progress toward meeting the basic needs and aspirations of its peoples.
Two of the basic problems in the economic field are: (a) industrialized areas require further economic growth and expanded trade; and (b) the less developed areas seek to develop and modernize their economies and must also maintain a substantial volume of exports of primary products. It should be within the capacity of the free world, with U.S. initiative and leadership, to turn these two problems into mutually supporting assets for the promotion of appropriate economic strength and growth.
A necessary condition for such strength and growth is a high level of international trade within the free world. In order to foster this, the U.S. (a) should continue to press strongly for a general reduction of trade barriers; (b) must take the lead by reducing further its own tariff level over the next few years; and (c) should also support sound moves to widen the convertibility of currencies.
The dangers to free world stability are particularly acute in the less developed areas. The task of speeding up their economic growth, providing adequate dietary conditions, and promoting stability presents a multitude of problems, political and social as well as economic. For example, it calls for some changes in traditional habits and attitudes and for greatly expanded training in administrative and technical skills. In any case, new capital investment is a prerequisite to growth. Local capital will have to be supplemented by the provision of capital from abroad. In addition to external public and private investment and IBRD loans, substantial financing from U.S. public funds (including the Export-Import Bank) will be necessary, in some cases over an extended period, to help achieve the economic progress essential to U.S. interests.
In order to promote conditions of sound development in less developed areas the United States should be prepared to use economic means available to it where (a) such action serves U.S. objectives, (b) such development cannot be financed by local or other foreign capital, and (c) such assistance will be effectively used. The total level of U.S. economic assistance worldwide should, however, be reduced as rapidly as is consistent with U.S. security interests.
U.S. financial assistance alone cannot produce satisfactory economic growth in less developed areas, and external assistance should be used in a way to promote and not decrease local incentives and self-help. In addition to the provision of financial assistance, the United States should train indigenous leaders, develop skills, and provide competent advisers. U.S. information, cultural, education and exchange programs should also be strengthened.
U.S. political policies must be adapted to conditions prevailing in each less developed area. The U.S. should not exert pressure to make active allies of those not so included. The U.S. should provide assistance on the basis of the willingness and ability of countries to strengthen and defend their independence against Communist expansion rather than on their formal alignment with the U.S. As far as possible, the U.S. should attempt to work with rather than against those forces, such as constructive nationalist and reform movements, which are likely to remain powerful over a long period.
Where disputes and tensions between free nations threaten to impair free world strength and cohesion, the U.S. should exert its best efforts to help settle them or at least moderate their effects. In addition to efforts to settle specific current controversies, the U.S. should develop long-term policies to deal with deep-seated problems (such as those involved in the evolution of colonial peoples).
[Page 36]

III. Political Strategy Against the Communist Bloc

The U.S. should develop a political strategy against the Communist bloc designed (a) to reduce the likelihood of aggression, (b) to influence, in ways favorable to U.S. and free world interests, decisions and developments within the Communist bloc, such as toward greater emphasis on internal problems, and (c) to foster long-run trends which might lead to basic changes in the outlook or character of Communist regimes.
In pursuing this strategy, the U.S. should seek (a) to convince the Communist regimes that alternatives exist to their present policies which would be acceptable to the U.S. and which they might come to consider compatible with their basic security interests, (b) to give to the Communist regimes a clear conception of the true U.S. and free world purposes and uncompromising determination to resist Communist aggressive moves, and (c) to exploit, in ways consistent with this strategy, differences within the Soviet system or between the USSR and other members of the Communist bloc.
The U.S. should be ready to negotiate with the USSR whenever it clearly appears that U.S. security interests will be served thereby.
In applying this strategy to Communist China, the U.S. must take account of non-recognition of the regime and the regime’s recent and continuing aggressive policies. However, the U.S. should be ready to participate in talks including Communist China on specific subjects on an ad hoc basis, where the general objectives mentioned in connection with negotiations with the USSR would be served thereby.

IV. Domestic Strength

Sound U.S. Economy
A strong, healthy and expanding U.S. economy is essential to the security and stability of the free world. The level of expenditures for national security programs must take into full account the danger to the U.S. and its allies resulting from impairment, through inflation or the undermining of incentives, of the basic soundness of the U.S. economy or of the continuing expansion of the U.S. economy under a free enterprise system.
The Federal Government should continue to make a determined effort to bring its total annual expenditures and its total annual revenues into balance, or into substantial balance; and should maintain overall credit and fiscal policies designed to assist in stabilizing the economy.
Nevertheless, the U.S. must continue to meet the necessary costs of the programs essential for its security.
All Federal expenditures, especially those not essential for the national security, should be held to a necessary minimum. Every effort should be made to eliminate waste, duplication, and unnecessary overhead in the Federal Government.
The United States should also seek (1) to maintain a higher and expanding rate of economic activity at relatively stable price levels, and (2) to maximize the economic potential of private enterprise by minimizing governmental controls and regulations and by encouraging private enterprise to develop natural and technological resources (e.g., nuclear power).

Internal Security

Internal security measures should be adequate to meet the threat to U.S. security of covert attack by the Soviet bloc on the United States by means of sabotage, subversion, espionage, and particularly the clandestine introduction and detonation of nuclear weapons.


Civil Defense

An essential ingredient of our domestic strength is an improved and strengthened civil defense program which seeks to minimize damage from nuclear attack by both preventive and ameliorative measures.

Support by U.S. Citizens
No national strategy to meet the Soviet threat can be successful without the support of the American people. During a time of increasing Soviet atomic power, the determination of U.S. citizens to face the risks involved in carrying out such national strategy will be of increasing importance. Continuing efforts should be made to inform the American people of the demands on their spiritual and material resources necessary to ensure U.S. security during a period of armed truce, which may either continue for many years or be broken by an atomic war.
Eternal vigilance is necessary in carrying out the national strategy, to prevent the intimidation of free criticism. Necessary protective measures should not be used to destroy national unity, which must be based on freedom and not on fear.

V. Other National Security Measures

Mobilization Base
Essential to the strong security posture required by the national strategy is a mobilization base adequate to maintain military readiness and to provide the basis for successful prosecution of general war, based on (1) an approved military plan, (2) allowance for estimated bomb damage, and (3) a determination as to U.S. provision of allied material requirements.
The U.S. should continue to seek to achieve as quickly as feasible minimum stockpile objectives for materials the shortage of which would affect critically essential security programs. The stockpiling program should not normally be used to help stabilize international markets for exports of less developed countries; exceptions being [Page 38] made only on a case-by-case basis where there would be clear net advantage to the U.S.11


The United States should develop and maintain an intelligence system capable of:

Collecting and analyzing indications of hostile intentions that would give maximum prior warning of possible aggression or subversion in any area of the world.
Accurately evaluating the capabilities of foreign countries, friendly and neutral as well as enemy, to undertake military, political, economic and subversive courses of action affecting U.S. security.
Forecasting potential foreign developments having a bearing on U.S. national security.



The United States should develop an adequate manpower program designed to:

Expand scientific and technical training.
Provide an equitable military training system.
Strike a feasible balance between the needs of an expanding peacetime economy and defense requirements.
Provide for an appropriate distribution of services and skills in the event of national emergency.


Research and Development

The United States should conduct and foster scientific research and development so as to ensure superiority in quantity and quality of weapons system, with attendant continuing review of the level and composition of forces and of the industrial base required for adequate defense and for successful prosecution of general war.

  1. Source: Department of State, S/P–NSC Files: Lot 62 D 1, NSC 5501. Top Secret.
  2. Taken by the National Security Council at its 218th meeting on October 22, 1954, NSC Action No. 1251 noted an oral presentation by Cutler of the principal elements of existing basic national security policy and the procedures for review of that policy, and indicated that each member was to submit for consideration at the November 18 NSC meeting the changes that he thought should be made in the language of the existing basic policy statement. (Ibid.,S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council) For text of NSC Action No. 1272, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. II, Part 1, p. 800, footnote 12. For text of NSC Action No. 1279, see ibid., p. 806, footnote 4. Regarding NSC Action Nos. 1286 and 1290, see footnote 4, supra. Regarding NSC Action No. 1293, see footnote 23, supra.
  3. See supra.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
  5. The Director of the Bureau of the Budget notes that the net capability estimate prepared by the Net Capabilities Evaluation Subcommittee in accordance with NSC 5423 did not cover the period beyond July 1, 1957. [Footnote in the source text. The net capability estimate was presented at the 222d meeting of the National Security Council, November 4, 1954; a copy of the memorandum of discussion is in Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Regarding NSC 5423, see footnote 4, Document 1.]
  6. The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe this clause should read “… maintain sufficient conventional armed strength, including the capability for adequate and timely reinforcement, along with U.S. strategic nuclear striking power,…” [Footnote with ellipses in the source text.]
  7. The Joint Chiefs of Staff propose adding the following sentence to subparagraph f: “In this connection Latin America should be viewed as a prime Soviet target and one most sensitive to U.S. interests.” [Foonote in the source text.]
  8. An important possible exception to this estimate is a Chinese Communist attack on Formosa and the Pescadores. The Chinese Communists will almost certainly increase their probing actions against the Nationalist-held off-shore islands and will probably try to seize them, if they believe this can be done without bringing on major hostilities with the U.S. A further possibility of Communist aggression is a Viet Minh attack on South Vietnam in the event the 1956 elections are blocked by Western action. [Footnote in the source text.]
  9. The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe this paragraph over-stresses 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. [Footnote in the source text.]
  10. The State, Treasury and Budget members believe that the sentence should read: “Even after attaining atomic plenty, the Communist powers probably will not attempt progressive local expansion, supported by force or the threat of force, unless they estimate that (1) such methods can succeed and will not provoke U.S. counteraction involving appreciable risk of general war, and (2) fear of atomic war will drive the allies of the U.S. in the direction of neutrality toward or appeasement of the USSR.” [Footnote in the source text.]
  11. For subsequent modification of paragraph 55–b of NSC 5501, see Document 50.