10. Memorandum of Discussion at the 358th Meeting of the National Security Council0

[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and Agenda Items 1. “Recommended Revisions of National Security Council Intelligence Directives,” 2. “Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security,” and 3. “Possible U.S. Actions in Support of Pro-Western Nations in the Middle East.”]

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4. U.S. Overseas Military Bases (Memos for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated January 14 and February 14 and 24, 1958)1

General Cutler briefed the Council in considerable detail on the contents of the Nash Report, which he described as a remarkably fine, comprehensive and detailed study, and one which should be most useful to appropriate operating personnel as a source of information and guidance. On the other hand, there were only a few significant issues which the Planning Board had thought should be brought to the Council’s attention and on which the Planning Board had made recommendations. (A copy of General Cutler’s briefing note is filed in the minutes of the meeting, and a copy is likewise attached to this memorandum.)2

When General Cutler had finished his briefing, he read the main thesis of the Nash Report, summarizing Mr. Nash’s statement on the present and future need for the base system,3 the comments of the Planning Board, and their recommendation that the National Security Council accept the Planning Board statement as to the validity of the thesis on the present and future need of an overseas base system. He read the Planning Board’s recommendation as follows:

“The tremendous changes in weapons technology will not, in the immediate future, alter the need for substantially our present overseas base system. Most probably for at least five years, this system will remain essential (a) to maintain and disperse our deterrent to general war; (b) to maintain tactical forces to deter and cope with local aggression; and (c) to support foreign policy objectives. In fact, a small net expansion for our base system may be required, at least initially, to accommodate new weapons and to meet new Soviet offensive techniques.”

Pointing out the proposed changes of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—to wit, that the term “in the immediate future” in the second line should be changed to read “for the foreseeable future” and that the term “tactical forces” in line 7 and the word “small” in line 9 should be omitted— General Cutler inquired of General Taylor whether he felt strongly about the desirability of incorporating the changes proposed by the Joint [Page 46] Chiefs. General Taylor4 replied that he personally did not. The President intervened in the discussion that followed, to state that after all, the members of the National Security Council were not prophesying columnists whose views were valid as to the length of time that we would need our present overseas base system. He therefore suggested that the above recommendation be revised to indicate that the situation was going to change progressively and rapidly over the next ten years, and that we should conduct a review of our base system each year.

General Cutler turned to the next issue selected by the Planning Board, namely, the issue of stationing IRBMs around the Sino-Soviet periphery. He read the Planning Board recommendation on this issue as follows:

“In view of the prospective Soviet ICBM capability and the resulting increase in the vulnerability of the continental United States, our continued ability to deter general war will be better ensured by the positioning of IRBM’s in selected areas around the Sino-Soviet periphery. Such positioning must be carefully planned to avoid pressing the Sino-Soviet bloc to the point that may incline it to miscalculate our objectives and conclude that our intentions have become aggressive, thereby making it feel obligated to react violently. [The implications of positioning IRBM’s around the Sino-Soviet periphery outside the NATO area are of such import that a decision to do so should be made through NSC procedures, only in light of the over-all advantages and disadvantages.]*5

“*ODM–Treasury–Budget proposal.”

After General Cutler had explained why the ODM, Treasury and Budget members of the Planning Board had felt it desirable to include the bracketed last sentence of the above recommendation, and why the majority of the Planning Board had objected to its inclusion, the President expressed his hearty agreement with the ODM–Treasury–Budget proposed addition. He took issue with the majority view that this was solely a military matter, and said that it seemed plain to him that the decision involved more than military matters. Secretary Herter agreed with the President on the strong political element involved in a decision to station IRBMs in bases on the Sino-Soviet periphery outside of NATO. Accordingly, the ODM–Treasury–Budget language was included.

On the third issue—namely, a Western Mediterranean Pact—General Cutler read the Planning Board recommendation as follows:

“Consideration is being given by the Departments of State and Defense to the feasibility and desirability of a Western Mediterranean defense arrangement embracing Spain, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya.”

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The Council adopted the Planning Board language without discussion or change.

On the fourth issue—a chain of bases in Central Africa—General Cutler read the Planning Board recommendation as follows:

“The United States should not, at this time, establish a line of ‘back bases’ across the waist of Africa; but should, in accordance with NSC 5719/1,6 keep the area under periodic survey to determine any changes in our strategic requirements.”

General Cutler then noted that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had proposed the addition at the end of the above recommendation of the following language: “and develop political accommodation that would promote assurance of early success if base rights are needed in the future.”

After a brief discussion, Secretary Herter said that he could perceive no objection to the added language, but that he would like to know what particular African countries were involved in a possible new base chain, so that the State Department could commence to prepare the ground.

General Cutler then referred to the fifth issue, on “Alternative Bases in the Far East”, reading the Planning Board recommendation as follows:

“Because of weaknesses in our present Far East defense perimeter and the increased threat inherent in Soviet missile achievements, the Department of Defense should continue to study the desirability and feasibility of alternatives to our present bases in the area as a means of increasing dispersal and establishing bases in the most politically reliable areas.”

[Here follows discussion of the creation of a stockpile in Australia, the Organization of American States, and criminal jurisdiction over U.S. forces stationed abroad, included in the Supplement.]

As he was leaving, the President adverted once again to the discussion of the U.S. base structure overseas. He spoke with earnestness to the effect that the whole matter should be the subject of soul-searching in order to determine the net value and advantage of each of these bases to the United States. He was not, he insisted, asking for any new study, but instead asking each responsible official to keep this matter constantly in mind. There was grave question, he said, in his own mind as to the net value of many of our overseas bases, although there were, of course, exceptions such as Okinawa and the Bonins.

[Here follows discussion of the sharing of defense responsibilities with Canada, included in the Supplement.]

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The National Security Council:7

Noted and discussed the report by the NSC Planning Board (transmitted by the reference memorandum of February 14, 1958) on main issues of the Report to the President on the subject prepared by the late Mr. Frank C. Nash and transmitted by the reference memorandum of January 14, 1958; in the light of the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff transmitted by the reference memorandum of February 24, 1958.
Adopted the recommendations contained in the Planning Board report enclosed with the reference memorandum of February 14, 1958, subject to the following revisions:
Recommendation 1, page 2: Revise to read as follows:

“Progressively the situation, as affected by tremendous developments in weapons technology and other factors, is going to change rapidly over the next ten years the need for our present overseas base system. Accordingly, while an overseas base system will most probably remain essential (a) to maintain and disperse our deterrent to general war, (b) to maintain forces to deter and cope with local aggression, and (c) to support foreign policy objectives; each year the then-existing base system should be reviewed. In fact, a small net expansion of our base system may be required, at least initially, to accommodate new weapons and to meet Soviet offensive techniques.”

Recommendation 2, page 4: Include the bracketed sentence, deleting the brackets and the footnote thereto.
Recommendation 4, page 6: Add at the end of the sentence the following words: “and develop political accommodation that would promote assurance of early success if base rights are needed in the future.”
Recommendation 6, page 8: Delete the bracketed word and the footnote thereto; and substitute in its place the words “in the foreseeable future”.8
Recommendation 8, page 12: Delete the phrase “, where feasible,” in the first sentence; and include the second sentence, deleting the brackets and the footnote thereto.9
Recommendation 9, page 14: Substitute for both the majority and the ODM proposals the following: “The Departments of State and Defense and the Office of Defense Mobilization should study and report [Page 49] to the National Security Council on the need for and possible scope of a statement of policy on U.S. relations with Canada.”
Noted the statement by the President that earnest and continuous scrutiny should be given by all appropriate officials as to whether each U.S. overseas base throughout the world continues to represent a net advantage to U.S. security.
Recommended that the President authorize the responsible agencies to circulate the Nash report, together with the recommendations adopted pursuant to b above, and the statement by the President in c above, to key operating personnel in this country and overseas, for information and such action as each agency deems appropriate consistent with approved national security policy. Distribution of the full Report, because of its sensitivity, should be limited to key operating personnel, and only appropriate extracts from the Report should be circulated to personnel having particular responsibility for specific subjects.

Note: The above actions, as approved by the President, subsequently circulated to all interested departments and agencies for appropriate action in accordance with d above.

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret; Eyes Only Drafted by Gleason on March 14.
  2. The January 14 memorandum transmitted the study by Frank C. Nash, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, entitled “United States Overseas Bases: Report to the President,” dated December 1957. (Department of State, EUR/RPM Files: Lot 64 D 444, Nash Report) For information on the report, see Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol. XIX, pp. 709710. The February 14 memorandum transmitted the recommendations of the Planning Board on the Nash Report. The February 24 memorandum transmitted the views of the JCS on the recommendations of the Planning Board. (Both in Eisenhower Library, White House Office Files, Special Assistant for National Security Affairs Records) The February 14 memorandum and enclosure are in the Supplement.
  3. For text, see the Supplement.
  4. This thesis was that the base system was a key to U.S. national survival and that over the following 10 years, despite changes in weapons technology, its general scope and pattern were not likely to change. Base needs might even increase, at least initially, to accommodate new weapons, meet new Soviet offensive techniques, and disperse forces.
  5. General Maxwell D. Taylor was representing Chairman of the JCS General Twining.
  6. Brackets in the source text.
  7. Entitled “Africa South of the Sahara,” dated August 23, 1957. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol. XVIII, pp. 7587.
  8. The following paragraphs and note constitute NSC Action No. 1876, approved by the President on March 15. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)
  9. As modified, the recommendation provided that in the foreseeable future the United States should not transfer mothballed merchant ships to or establish grain stockpiles in Australia, but that studies should be made under pertinent provisions of NSC 5802/1 for taking both measures “outside the continental United States.”
  10. As modified, this recommendation called for the United States to obtain in all countries where its forces were stationed criminal jurisdiction arrangements at least as favorable as those in the NATO Status of Forces Agreement, and that in countries where this was not feasible, forces should be stationed only if the Secretaries of State and Defense determined that overriding national interests demanded their presence.