73. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Radford) to the President 1


  • Military and Other Requirements for National Security

Enclosed herewithin are the further views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the above subject, organized in accordance with the topical outline which you suggested during discussion at the White House on 13 March 1956.2

Arthur Radford



I. Domestic Military Situation


Review of the position of U.S. Military Forces Vis-à-Vis Those of the USSR.

The present posture of U.S. forces provides ready forces equipped, as appropriate, with atomic capability and the capacity to respond selectively and flexibly to local aggression or general war. The rapidity with which these forces could respond to local aggression is dependent upon the forces required for a given situation, the availability of transportation appropriate to the task, and the availability and security of bases and communications. In some geographic areas, response to local aggression would require the temporary diversion of forces, [Page 291] transportation, and other resources from planned initial tasks in a general war. It is estimated that, in the event of a general war, essential sea and air communications could be maintained, except in certain areas peripheral to the Soviet Bloc, where U.S. and allied capabilities would be marginal. While the Air Defense capabilities of the continental United States are improving at an accelerated rate, the increasing Soviet atomic stockpile, now estimated to include megaton weapons, and the improved Soviet delivery capability have in effect made any relative gain questionable. It is estimated that, at present, the atomic-air retaliation capability of the United States would provide a margin of relative advantage in general war to the United States and its allies which, when exploited effectively by other military forces, would assure eventual victory against the USSR. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, therefore, view present comparative military strengths with concern but with confidence, and will continue to hold this view so long as the factor of atomic advantage remains in the U.S. favor. This present comparison is not bound to persist and may change. This change can come about at any time through U.S. failure or Soviet success in many areas, including the cold war, or through a combination of factors. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are of the opinion that the present trend in our military position vis-à-vis the USSR is not sufficiently favorable to warrant curtailment of existing programs.


Review of the Progress of U.S. Armed Forces in the Last Four Years.

The United States has, in the execution of its military programs, improved the training of its armed forces and markedly enhanced their striking power and over-all capability in the last four years. Concurrent with the increasing delivery capability of SAC, certain carrier striking forces, tactical air forces, and units employing missiles and projectiles armed with atomic warheads have attained an offensive and defensive atomic capability. This total capability has been substantially increased by strategic deployment of atomic weapons systems. Furthermore, the development of air-transportable equipment, new techniques and weapons systems, along with the training of personnel have improved the capability of the U.S. land, sea, and air forces to meet local aggression as well as carry out tasks in event of general war.


Estimated Place and Role of the Guided Missile a Few Years Ahead.

In due course, our present guided missiles capability will be increased to the point where it will greatly augment the offensive and defensive strength of our military forces. It must be borne in mind, however, that accuracy, pay load, reliability, and increased intelligence requirements are among the factors which will influence the future employment of these missiles. The rate of assimilation of guided missiles [Page 292] into our weapons systems will be governed by demonstrated capabilities rather than promised performance. Although certain guided missiles are already operational, it is too early to predict with any degree of assurance the extent to which the whole family of guided missiles may eventually replace current weapons systems. Some measure of the rate of progress expected, however, is set forth in the next succeeding paragraph.


Measures by Each Service in the Next Few Years to Shift to More Modern Elements of Military Strength.

In the coming years the offensive and defensive forces of the United States will be converted to atomic ready forces at an accelerated rate. The availability of atomic weapons in virtually any size or configuration will provide the capability to apply firepower selectively. All Services are now expediting re-equipment of their forces with new weapons and are instituting programs for changes in organization and tactical dispositions to exploit the new weapons systems as well as to meet the requirements of modern warfare. Examples are:

  • Army—In the next few years the mobility, flexibility, and firepower or U.S. Army Forces will be progressively improved. By 1965 Army weapons systems will have completed a considerable transformation which is now in progress. Surface-to-surface missiles will have partially replaced medium and heavy artillery. Although conventional artillery weapons probably will still be retained at the division direct support level, significant amounts of light and medium conventional artillery will have been replaced by missiles systems. Antiaircraft artillery will probably have been entirely replaced by guided missiles systems. Divisional weapons other than artillery will continue to be
  • Navy—The Navy is shifting to new and modern heavy attack carriers, incorporating the latest technical advances, and capable of operating the latest type jet aircraft, equipped with atomic weapons and guided missiles. The Navy has two guided missiles cruisers and at present is continuing the changeover in both cruisers and destroyers to the use of antiaircraft defense missiles. Certain of the aircraft carriers are presently equipped with Regulus launchers and programs for surface-to-surface missiles in both submarines and surface ships are under way. The Navy is continuing the development of improved weapons delivery systems and, among others, anti-submarine and air defense weapons. Fleet and task force dispositions have been modified to provide greater defense against atomic attack. Amphibious operating doctrine has been altered to make assault units less vulnerable in the attack phase and to provide for more rapid envelopment of the beachhead area.
  • Air Force—The Air Force is maintaining a qualitatively superior atomic weapon delivery system by the addition of B–52’s and KC–135 tankers. It is developing intercontinental missiles and other advanced atomic delivery systems. The Air Defense system is being expanded and perfected by more extensive radar coverage, the introduction of a semi-automatic ground environment, improved manned and unmanned [Page 293] interceptors and counter-air atomic weapons. Tactical forces are being equipped with atomic-capable aircraft and better transports. In view of the nature of modern war, primary reliance is being placed upon forces-in-being to gain and maintain air supremacy.
  • Marine Corps—While making steady progress toward realization of a helicopter-assault landing force capability, the Fleet Marine Forces are rapidly improving their interim combat effectiveness by integrating air and ground atomic support capabilities, adapting smaller forces for movement in combinations of fast shipping or airlift, and gaining in maintained as a part of the Marine forces-in-readiness. Promising developments for short-field air operations are expected to provide a major advance in the mobility and flexibility of Marine aircraft units in forward areas.

II. Our Alliances

What the United States Must Do to Maintain the Confidence and Alignment of its Allies.
To maintain the essential confidence of our allies and their alignment with us, especially in NATO, requires on our part implanting in their minds the complete conviction that “U.S. strategy and policy serve their security as well as its own, and that the United States is committed to their defense and possesses the capability to fulfill that commitment.”3 At the same time we must emphasize that a basic tenet of U.S. policy is to deter war in any form—not provoke it.
Basic to the maintenance of that essential degree of confidence on the part of our allies is the U.S. requirement for retaining, both at home and abroad, a strong military posture. To reinforce this position of strength the Congress should, upon request, give the President authority to act quickly in times of crisis, including the use of armed forces (Taiwan Resolution).4 Such action by the Legislature would demonstrate our will and ability to react promptly against threats to the security of the United States or our allies.
Besides convincing our allies of the basic United States aims as regards their security, the United States in asserting its leadership should show understanding and support for its allies in the immediate problems they face outside the formal context of alliances, when compatible with U.S. security interests.
How to be Selective in U.S. Support to Specific Areas or Countries.
In addition to the above methods of fostering the strength of Free World alliances, military aid programs furnish tangible evidence of the U.S. aim to serve our allies’ security interests as well as our own. [Page 294] Economy, however, dictates that these programs be generally predicated upon eventual complete support of forces by recipient countries. Furthermore, military aid should not subsidize unrealistic national military or economic aspirations. Force levels should be limited to country support capabilities except where there are overriding requirements vital to U.S. national security. The United States should advise nations to concentrate indigenous support upon effective units essential to U.S. policies and war plans, and reduce or eliminate support of others in order to minimize requirements for U.S. aid.
Those friendly nations which are incapable of coping with their own internal security problems should, as a first requirement for Mutual Security Act funds, be provided sufficient military and economic assistance to insure the stability and Western orientation of their governments. In order to achieve selectivity in providing military aid, other than for internal security, the criteria used should be derived from military necessity rather than from political considerations. Such U.S. military assistance should be based on a long-range plan to support specific national units which can be expected to contribute to the successful accomplishment of U.S. war plans. Military aid based on other considerations should be phased out as soon as practicable.

How to Correct the Attitude that “We Are Fighting Your War,” Which Others Tend to Develop Toward the United States.

Although the attitude which certain of our allied countries develop that they are “fighting our war” is largely psychological, it is a continuing and real problem which must be appropriately recognized by the United States. The psychological aspects of our national programs should be given further emphasis, directed toward changing this attitude wherever it appears. On the military side, we must convince our allies by our day-to-day action in collective security arrangements that their national interests are being served equally with our own. In contacts incident to the operations of NATO,SEATO, the Baghdad Pact, and through the many military assistance groups around the world, we must continually stress the mutually beneficial results that accrue from our combined defense efforts.

How to Achieve Quick Action in Providing Military Arms Aid— How to Eliminate Long Delays.
In order to close the existing gap between military aid commitments and deliveries, the time-consuming processes of the present budgetary requirements, interagency reviews, approvals, refinements, and rejustifications must be shortened, and broader authority be granted to the executive branch in the expenditure of funds and the delivery of equipment. The authority for determining the dollar values of country military aid programs, within ceilings established by Congressional [Page 295] appropriation, should be delegated to the Secretary of Defense. Necessary political and economic guidance required by the Secretary of Defense should be obtained from the Secretary of State and Director, International Cooperation Administration, respectively. Necessary interagency coordination, which is recognized as essential, can be achieved by parallel and concurrent planning.
It has become increasingly important that the United States be able to take quick action in meeting unanticipated situations, comparable to Soviet speed in making deliveries to countries such as Egypt. Such emergency action could be effected through the establishment of strategic stockpiles under U.S. control in the European and Asiatic areas. Special authority and funding should be requested by the Department of Defense in order to establish strategic stockpiles for this purpose.

III. The World Security Situation

What is the Maximum We Should Expect to Get Out of the Military Mode of International Action?
The development and maintenance of military strength in the United States and among our major allies, while indispensable to Free World security, has definite limitations in its application. Its principal purpose is to deter the Soviet-Communist Bloc from overt military action and, if aggression does occur, to oppose it promptly and successfully.
Deterred for the present from overt military action, the Soviet-Communist Bloc is pursuing its expansionist objectives by non-military means. As examples, the Bloc’s recent economic penetrations into areas formerly associated exclusively with the West, its efforts to create and exploit divisive issues among Free World countries, and its encouragement of non-committed countries toward neutralism have resulted in a marked depreciation of Western influence in these areas. Our military mode of international action alone cannot be effective against such tactics. It can only contribute, by deterring military action; thus borrowing time during which the political, economic, and psychological programs of Free World strategy can function. Short of hot war, these latter measures must carry the burden. In the final analysis, the relative strengths of the opposing Blocs will, to a large extent, be determined by the success of the non-military elements of our national strategy.

Where Would it be More Advantageous to Keep Countries Neutral Rather than Active Military Allies?

As pointed out above, the continuing effectiveness of our military programs as a deterrent to war will be measured not only by visible military strength, but by our success in achieving an unmistakable unity of purpose and will to act in an emergency. It must be recognized that the strength of a military alliance is not necessarily augmented by the admittance of additional members. From the purely military standpoint, the value of an additional member should be calculated on the basis of its potentialcontribution in geography, forces, and strength of purpose. A military alliance automatically involves certain additional commitments. Nations have come to expect that alliance with the United States entitles them not only to military protection but to an extensive program of military and economic assistance over an indefinite period. The United States cannot afford to give additional military commitments or to scatter its substance to countries whose contribution to United States and Free World security is either uncertain or of little value. In such cases the United States should not exert pressure to make active military allies of countries not so inclined.


What Kind of Action in the Various Areas Gives the Biggest Return in Security to the United States from Resources Expended?

It is the opinion of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that programs modified as necessary in the light of the foregoing, if resolutely carried out, should bring the greatest return to United States security from the resources expended.

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Administration Series, Radford. Top Secret. A note on the source text in unidentified handwriting reads: “4/18—Memo handed to Sec. of State who will return.”
  2. See Document 65.
  3. NSC 5602/1, para 17. [Footnote in the source text.]
  4. State Depart. Bulletin dated 7 Feb 1955. [Footnote in the source text.]