81. Memorandum From the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Bowie) to the Secretary of State1


  • NSC Consideration of Policy on Continental Defense (NSC 5606)2

NSC 5606 is a revision of NSC 5408 of February 11, 1954.3 The principal purpose of the revision has been to produce an NSC paper which serves more as a general policy guide than did NSC 5408 which dealt more in specifics and was more of a program guide.

The principal substantive point in this paper relates to the great increase in Soviet nuclear capabilities for 1958, as now estimated, compared to estimates made last year and on which were based the presentation of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee on the net capabilities of the Soviet Union to damage the U.S. (See paragraphs 1 and 7, the attached memorandum of the Chairman of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee,4 the attached comments thereon of the Director, CIA,5 and the Summary of NIE 11–2–56 dated June 8, 1956, also attached.6) In essence, the general agreement in the intelligence community is that the Soviets have a much greater supply of nuclear materials (U–235) than was estimated last year. You will recall that in describing the damage which could be done to the U.S. in 1958 the Subcommittee stated that if the Soviet capabilities were much greater than estimated, doubt would be raised as to whether they could then deal a “decisive” attack on the U.S. as opposed to a “crippling” attack.

In connection with the Planning Board’s work on this paper, Mr. Robert Sprague, the present NSC Consultant on continental defense, has raised questions concerning the adequacy of several specific defense programs and he may do so at the Council meeting.

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It is always difficult to decide how far State should go in commenting on specific matters of a military nature. All that I can suggest is that as the conversation proceeds during the Council meeting you attempt by questions to satisfy yourself that the Department of Defense is not endangering the protection of our retaliatory capability by economies. You will note in this connection that the paper makes the protection of this capability the prime goal of continental defense (see paragraph 10).

With respect to the difference of opinion in paragraphs 24 and 25 on protection of industry and on civil defense we took no position because on the one hand such programs as might be approved could cost a great deal of money and, on the other hand, the justification therefor, particularly if there is to be a continuation of a fairly strict budgetary ceiling, was not presented at the Planning Board. I believe, for instance, that civil defense needs more support, but if the shelter program is to cost several billion additional, this is a matter of such importance as to require a special NSC presentation and decision.

  1. Source: Department of State,S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5606 Series. Top Secret.
  2. NSC 5606 is not printed. (Ibid., S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5606 Series) Drafting information on NSC 5606 is Ibid., S/PNSC Files: Lot 62 D 1, Continental Defense (NSC 5606). See agenda item 2 of the NSC memorandum of discussion, infra.
  3. For text of NSC 5408, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. II, Part 1, p. 609.
  4. Reference is to a May 31 memorandum, not found attached.
  5. This document was not declassified. (Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5605 Series)
  6. NIE 11–2–56, “The Soviet Atomic Energy Program,” is not attached. (Ibid.,INRNIE Files) A summary was later issued as NIE 11–2A–56, “The Soviet Atomic Energy Program (Summary),” September 5, 1956. (Ibid.)