122. Memorandum of Discussion at the 461st Meeting of the National Security Council0

[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and Agenda Items 1. “Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security,” 2. “U.S. Policy Toward Cuba,” 3. “U.S. Policy Toward Greece,” 4. “U.S. Policy Toward Turkey,” and 5. “U.S. Policy Toward Spain.”]

[Page 477]

6. U.S. Overseas Military Bases (NSC Actions Nos. 1876, 2034 and 2070;1 Memos for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated January 142 and March 17, 1958;3NSC Actions Nos. 2142 and 2166–c–(3))4

The President said one of the major problems which the Departments of State and Defense and perhaps CIA should study was how much dependence we could put on Polaris submarines, heavy bombers, and intercontinental ballistic missiles, as well as U.S. bases and bases in the U.K., in lieu of other overseas bases. He thought U.S. bases in Libya, Morocco, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia would be sources of weakness in the future. The Turkish base would have to be firmly maintained but the U.S. should consider relinquishing some of its other bases, assuming that its intercontinental ballistic missile program progresses satisfactorily. The President added that U.S. overseas military bases did have the virtue of creating a large number of targets which the Soviet Union would have to attempt to neutralize in the event of general war but this was about the only value of many such bases. However, we should not relinquish our base system too rapidly because as long as the USSR is concerned about our ability to strike from these bases, it must make plans for their neutralization in case of war. The President felt, however, that we must make a continuing and serious study of our overseas bases. Secretary Dillon agreed and added that the earlier we attained a reliable intercontinental ballistic missile capability, the happier the State Department would be.

The National Security Council:5

Noted the President’s view that a major question which should be studied by the Departments of State and Defense is how much dependence [Page 478]could be placed upon heavy bombers, Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles and Polaris submarines over the next few years, in lieu of the maintenance of military bases in Morocco, Libya and Saudi Arabia which could become points of weakness in the U.S. security posture. The President, however, expressed the view that any change in policy as to the extent of U.S. reliance on overseas military bases should not be made under conditions prevailing, in view of the value of such bases both for positive action in emergency and in increasing the number of military targets which the USSR would have to attack in the event of general war.

Note: The above action, as approved by the President, subsequently transmitted to the Secretaries of State and Defense for appropriate implementation.

[Here follows Agenda Item 7. “Retirement of General Twining as Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.”]

Marion W. Boggs
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Drafted by Boggs.
  2. Regarding NSC Action No. 1876, see footnote 7, Document 10. NSC Action No. 2034 was taken pursuant to Agenda Item 3, “U.S. Military Bases Overseas,” at the NSC meeting on January 15, 1959. (Memorandum of discussion; Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records) NSC Action No. 2070 was taken pursuant to Agenda Item 2, “U.S. Overseas Military Bases,” at the NSC meeting on April 25, 1959. (Memorandum of discussion; ibid.) See the Supplement.
  3. See footnote 1, Document 10.
  4. Apparent reference to a memorandum dated March 17, 1959, not found, but summarized at the April 25 NSC meeting; see footnote 1 above.
  5. NSC Action No. 2142 was taken pursuant to Agenda Item 4, “U.S. Overseas Military Bases,” at the NSC meeting on October 29, 1959. The action reflected the President’s request, following his remark that “we had our heads in the sand” on the bases question, for designation of a Department of Defense official to re-examine the issue, with a report to be submitted to him within 6 months. (Memorandum of discussion; Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records) NSC Action No. 2166 was taken pursuant to Agenda Item 4, “Topics for Future Discussion or Consideration by the National Security Council,” at the NSC meeting held December 16, 1959. The action incorporated Nixon’s suggestion that the forthcoming report on bases should take into account developments in missiles. (Memorandum of discussion; ibid.) See the Supplement.
  6. The following paragraph and note constitute NSC Action No. 2313, approved by the President on October 5. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)