21. Memorandum of Discussion at the 363d Meeting of the National Security Council0

[Here follows a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting.]

1. Report to the President by the Security Resources Panel of the ODM Science Advisory Committee (NSC Action No. 1814; NSC 5724; NSC 5724/1; NSC Actions Nos. 1841, 1842 and 1866)

General Cutler explained that the Defense Department Report on the subject would consist of two parts, the first to be presented by Mr. Holaday, the Director of Guided Missiles, and the second by Deputy Secretary of Defense Quarles. The first part would cover Defense recommendations as to whether:

To decide now to produce first-generation ICBMs in addition to the 130 hitherto programmed, and to be operational prior to the end of FY 1963; to build additional launching sites for any such additional ICBMs; and to harden such additional launching sites.
To order now production of more than 3 Polaris submarine missile systems.
To increase the number of IRBMs beyond the 120 missiles planned to be operational in Calendar Year 1960.
To install interim defense against ballistic missile attack at SAC bases, utilizing modified available anti-aircraft missiles.

General Cutler then called upon Mr. Holaday, who read his report on the above subjects to the National Security Council. (A copy of Mr. Holaday’s report and his chart is filed in the minutes of the meeting. A second copy is attached to this memorandum.)1

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Upon the conclusion of Mr. Holaday’s presentation, General Cutler called on Secretary McElroy to comment first. Secretary McElroy said that as all of us could see from Mr. Holaday’s charts and report, we had a very diversified system for the delivery of modern weapons, and we should not overlook the existence of SAC, with both its heavy and medium bombers, even though these had not been referred to. In view of the evident variety of ways in which modern weapons could be delivered, the time had come—or indeed it might even be past—when the Joint Chiefs of Staff should attempt to determine the right “mix” among all these delivery capabilities. Indeed, Secretary McElroy said, he had already given the Joint Chiefs of Staff this problem and they in turn had given it to the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group. As a result, we could expect guidance on the appropriate mix to be ready some time next July. This military judgment would be extremely important for us to obtain, although Secretary McElroy emphasized his belief that the current programs which Mr. Holaday had described were not excessive in size or cost.

The President was next to comment. He first referred to the recommendation in Mr. Holaday’s report that the number of IRBMs be increased from 8 to 12 squadrons and from 120 to 180 missiles as an initial operating capability in 1963. The President pointed out that by 1960 we were going to be in a position to know a lot more than we now do about the effectiveness of Thor and Jupiter. This would certainly be true of the first generation of Thor and Jupiter missiles, and it would probably be true of the second generation of these missiles. Accordingly, some time about 1960 we may have to say that we are going to scrap some of these missiles. The President therefore said he was inclined to question the value of the recommended increase to 180 of first-generation IRBMs.

The President said his next question concerned the allocation of a total of $454 million for the Titan missiles. The President said it seemed to him, in the light of these figures, that every time we fire off a Titan missile we are shooting away $15 million. If this was indeed the case, he hoped there would be no misses and no near-misses! What exactly was the unit price of a Titan missile?

In the same connection, the President noted that Mr. Holaday had stated that the Titan missiles would be deployed at Denver, Colorado. This greatly troubled the President because, he said, the municipal authorities of Denver were constantly on his neck because of the abnormally large number of military installations in a city which was growing rapidly and which was facing severe congestion as a civilian air center. The Denver authorities clearly wanted no more military installations, and the President wondered if it was judged really necessary to put the ICBM installations so close to Denver. Why jam up a big city when other locations might be perfectly suitable?

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Secretary Quarles explained that while the site of the ICBM deployment was described as Denver, the actual installation would be at a distance of perhaps 45 miles north and east of the city proper. The President replied that this seemed curious, inasmuch as the servicing of the ICBMs was to be done by the Martin Company, which was located to the south of the city. He again explained that he could not understand why it was necessary to put these installations so close to a large city. Indeed, he had been told that there were more Federal employees living in Denver than anywhere else in the United States except Washington itself. Secretary Quarles replied by stating that the Defense Department thought that it was meeting the President’s point by putting these installations 45 miles away from the city, but the matter certainly could be re-examined if the President wished.

General Cutler reminded Secretary Quarles to answer the President’s question about the unit price of a Titan missile. Secretary Quarles replied that the sum of $454 million mentioned by Mr. Holaday was not a fair figure against which to compute the unit price for these Titan squadrons. A Titan missile, as it rolls off the line, costs somewhere between $1 million and $2 million. However, the costs of basing these missiles are very great, amounting to $5 million per emplaced missile if the base were hardened. The $454 million figure also took account of years of active development still lying ahead of the Titan missiles. The President sought assurance that the figure of $454 million represented all the money allocated for research and development of the Titan missile. There were no sums for this purpose placed elsewhere in the budget.

The President continued by asking Secretary Quarles to try to make a better case for convincing of the desirability of increasing the IOC of the IRBMs from 120 to 180, particularly in view of the heightened possibilities which could be envisaged for the second-generation IRBMs. The President warned that we could not let our defense programs pyramid simply because we had once established these programs.

Secretary Quarles replied that the figure 180 represented a compromise between the recommendation of the Gaither Report (which called for 16 squadrons) and the original Defense Department proposal for 8 squadrons. The figure of 180 now recommended was also designed to meet the proposed NATO deployment of IRBMs. For this purpose, the program for 180 was minimal.

The President said that perhaps his question was prompted by stupidity. Nevertheless, the Defense Department had been working for years on these missiles, and it therefore seemed to the President that the development period for the second generation of missiles would not be as long as it had taken to design the first-generation missiles. What was it proposed to call the second-generation Thors and Jupiters? Were they to be called Super–Thor and Super–Jupiter? Secretary Quarles answered [Page 73]that in so far as we can improve the liquid propulsion systems, we would call them Jupiter II and Thor II.

The President’s next question related to the matter of achieving a storable liquid fuel. Secretary Quarles replied that this kind of fuel was not suitable for IRBMs but might prove to be suitable for ICBMs.

Asked to comment by General Cutler, Dr. Killian stated his belief that the question of second-generation missiles, raised by the President, was indeed the key question. Moreover, the over-all study of the appropriate mix in delivery systems, mentioned by Secretary McElroy, was absolutely essential in order to enable us to make the necessary detailed decisions. Until we get this over-all study, we are obliged to resort to ad hoc decisions such as had been done in the case of deploying IRBMs in the NATO area.

The President then commented that we are now beginning to think of aircraft as becoming obsolescent, and so it is also with first-generation ballistic missiles. Despite this, we are going ahead full steam on the production both of aircraft and first-generation ballistic missiles. Perhaps the rate of obsolescence of the airplane will actually be the slower of the two. Accordingly, it would seem that we must anticipate some very hard thinking if in four or five years’ time we are to avoid presenting a bill to the public for these military programs which will create unheard-of inflation in the United States.

General Cutler pointed out that, as he understood it, we had not yet had a single completely successful test flight of an IRBM or of an ICBM. Dr. Killian and the President concurred.

General Cutler then asked the Secretary of State if he had any comments to make. Secretary Dulles said he had one general thought to express. Turning to the President, he pointed out that the President had often in such discussions as this quoted George Washington on the desirability that the United States possess a respectable military posture. In Secretary Dulles’ view, the United States should not attempt to be the greatest military power in the world, although most discussions in the Council seemed to suggest that we should have the most and the best of everything. Was there no group in the Government which ever thought of the right kind of ceiling on our military capabilities? This ceiling would be imposed when we had determined that we had achieved all that was necessary for a respectable military posture. In the field of military capabilities enough was enough. If we didn’t realize this fact, the time would come when all our national production would be centered on our military establishment. There should be a group designated to study what it will take in terms of military capabilities to make the Russians respect the military posture of the United States.

The President replied that this, of course, was one of the great preoccupations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Secretary Dulles replied that he was [Page 74]not at all sure that this was so. It was the business of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to recommend military capabilities which would provide the utmost national security. He did not blame them for this. It was right and it was their job. But there was, as he had pointed out, another side of the problem. The President agreed, and stated that of course too much, as well as too little, could destroy our national defense. Too much could reduce the United States to being a garrison state or ruin the free economy of the nation. Secretary Dulles added that all he wanted to state was that his words had constituted his judgment as to past discussions of the U.S. military posture in the National Security Council.

Dr. Killian then inquired whether the Defense Department had been giving any thought recently to the possibility of using the Polaris missile on aircraft-carriers or on cruisers. The President said that he had seen some suggestions on this point, and quoted the possibility of 24 missiles per carrier. Mr. Holaday indicated that this matter was being studied right now by the Navy Department, and that the study seemed to be of good quality. Dr. Killian added that if the Polaris missiles could be used on carriers or cruisers, this would really cut the cost of getting the Polaris missiles on station.

Dr. Killian then said he had a second question with respect to the solid propellant research programs in the Defense Department. How far had we gone in the direction of creating a centralized program for research and development on solid propellants? Mr. Holaday said that the Defense Department was now engaged very diligently on working out an accelerated research program on solid propellants. General Cutler stated that he knew this to be a fact, but that the accelerated program which Mr. Holaday had mentioned was not centralized but was divided among the military services. Mr. Holaday said that the Defense Department was going to produce a centralized program within a matter of days. Secretary Quarles interrupted to point out that a portion of this forthcoming program would be put under the aegis of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) and part would be under the aegis of the separate services, although to be integrated at the Department of Defense level. This development was in process now, and would be made definite within a few days.

The President commented that he still had more faith in the delivery capabilities of the aircraft than he had in all these missiles at the present time. Secretary McElroy replied that so had he as of the present time.

The President then made inquiries of Mr. Holaday about the Mace aerodynamic missile, which was explained to be a second-generation Matador. In the same connection the President inquired as to why it was necessary to have both Mace and Regulus aerodynamic missiles. Mr. Holaday explained that the Regulus missile was ship-launched. The President then asked whether this meant that the Regulus could not be [Page 75]launched from bases on land. Mr. Holaday replied in the affirmative, but explained that this would be a more expensive system of land-based aerodynamic missiles than would the Mace system. The President continued, however, that the Regulus ought to be simplified, in his opinion, so that it could be used on land, and the Mace program discarded.

Secretary Quarles intervened to point out that the Mace missile had a very special guidance system which made it particularly effective for tactical use. Mace could scan its own terrain. Regulus, on the other hand, was adapted to radio control and was not so desirable a missile for shifting land operations. These facts accounted for the two separate systems, which Secretary Quarles said he thought justifiable. The President did not sound wholly convinced.

General Cutler then attempted to sum up the consensus of the Council, suggesting that the Defense Department take a fresh look at the plan for deploying ICBMs at Denver and that the President had expressed disapproval of the recommendation for increasing the initial operating capability (IOC) of the IRBMs. On the latter point the President said that General Cutler was mistaken and that he was going along with the Defense recommendations for increasing the number of IRBMs to 180, even though this did not constitute the austerity program that the President would like to have seen. General Cutler pressed the President to withhold approval of the increase in IRBMs at least until one completely successful test flight had occurred. Secretary Quarles expressed opposition to this proposal, particularly if we intended to follow through on our plans and commitments to deploy IRBMs to NATO.

Secretary Dulles asked Secretary Quarles whether it was not true that we were experiencing great difficulties with the IRBMs. Secretary Quarles replied that we were experiencing such difficulties, but he remained confident that we were still on the schedule originally worked out, although the technical problem of the liquid propellant was not yet licked. Thus the Thor flight yesterday had been quite successful.

General Cutler then inquired whether the proposed increase in IRBMs would not require additional funding. Secretary Quarles replied in the negative, and said that the IRBMs were included in a funding plan under the FY 1959 appropriations.

General Cutler indicated that the second portion of the Defense Department report would now be heard. Secretary Quarles would report to the Council on the following matters stemming from the original Gaither Panel Report (copy of Secretary Quarles’ report filed in the minutes of the meeting):2 [Page 76]

Whether to accelerate the early warning radar system for ICBM attack.
Whether to accelerate improvement of SAC reaction time and SAC dispersal.
Whether to improve SAC anti-aircraft defenses.
A report on measures to improve the anti-submarine effort.

With respect to the first item, Secretary Quarles explained that the Defense Department originally had envisaged a radar early warning system against ICBM attack comprising three stations to be located at Thule, Alaska, and Scotland. These installations would be equipped with both early warning and tracking radars. The Defense Department had now in the FY 1958 budget funds for the completion of the Thule installations, as well as for preliminary work on the other two sites. It was expected that the Thule station would be in operation in mid-Calendar Year 1960. This had involved a heavily accelerated program and some $400 million additional expenditure.

The President questioned the accuracy of this figure, but General Cutler supported it and explained that the original Gaither estimate of costs on this item had been very low. Dr. Killian said he anticipated that the ultimate costs would be far above $400 million. Secretary Quarles estimated that if all three stations were completed, the cost would be above $1 billion. For this reason the Defense Department was now reconsidering the matter and had decided that only site surveys would for the time being be carried out in Scotland and in Alaska. We would go ahead at an accelerated rate on the Thule installation, which in point of fact would have 75% of the coverage which all three stations would have if they were completed.

Secretary Anderson asked about the funding for this program. Secretary Quarles replied that the Thule station was already funded, but that it we were to go on to install the other two stations, large additional funding would certainly be required. The President asked Secretary Anderson how he was feeling (laughter).

At this point Dr. Killian spoke up to state that the antiballistic system programs required review, particularly from the technical point of view. Secretary Quarles stated that the program was being reviewed, and Dr. Killian went on to say that there were many unknowns in this field at the present time, and that we might well meet insoluble problems. He stated his agreement, however, that we should go ahead with the Thule installation.

Secretary Quarles then came to his second question—namely, whether to accelerate improvement of SAC reaction time and SAC dispersal. He pointed out what was being done in this field, but indicated that at present the Defense Department was not much encouraged over the possibilities of dispersing SAC to non-SAC military bases and to [Page 77]commercial airfields in the zone of the interior. As to SAC alert planes, Secretary Quarles gave the following figures as to the number of SAC planes which would be on 15-minute alert over the next few years: 150 planes at the end of this fiscal year (July 1, 1958); 355 planes at the end of the next fiscal year; 425 planes at the end of Fiscal Year 1960; 480 planes at the end of the Fiscal Year 1961. General Cutler commented that this amounted to about a third of the force, to which Secretary Quarles agreed.

With respect to his third question, viz., whether to improve SAC anti-aircraft defenses by various measures, Secretary Quarles expressed the opinion that Mr. Holaday had dealt adequately with this subject and that he had nothing to add.3

On the fourth and last matter—namely, measures to improve the anti-submarine effort—Secretary Quarles indicated that additional funds amounting to $112 million are included in the FY 1959 budget amendment now before Congress. In total, the FT 1959 budget had been increased about $262 million over the amount planned for anti-submarine work at the time the Gaither Report was submitted.

The concluding comment was made by Dr. Killian, who pointed out that because of the time-span required to complete the measures to provide adequate protection to SAC bases, and because of the evident Soviet ICBM capability, we were here clearly facing a situation where the alert status of SAC is of the most critical importance, particularly in this interim period before we ourselves have achieved an adequate ballistic missiles capability.

The National Security Council:4

Noted and discussed reports by the Department of Defense, as presented at the meeting by the Deputy Secretary of Defense and the Director of Guided Missiles:
Pursuant to NSC Action No. 1866–c–(1), as to its recommendations regarding the measures referred to in NSC Action No. 1842–g–(1), –(2), and–(3).
Pursuant to NSC Action No. 1842–g–(5), –(6), –(7), –(8), –(9).
Noted the President’s approval of the recommendation by the Secretary of Defense that the initial operational capability of intermediate range ballistic missiles by early Calendar Year 1961 be increased from 8 squadrons (120 missiles) to 12 squadrons (180 missiles), with the understanding that additional new obligational authority will not be required during Fiscal Years 1958 or 1959 for this purpose.
Noted the President’s request that the Department of Defense review the need and desirability of the proposed location at which Titan squadrons are to be deployed.

Note: The actions in b and c above, as approved by the President, subsequently transmitted to the Secretary of Defense for implementation.

[Here follow Agenda Items 2. “Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security,” 3. “U.S. Employees Overseas,” and 4. “U.S. Policy Toward Africa South of the Sahara Prior to Calendar Year 1960.”]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Drafted by Gleason on April 25. On May 8, the Council heard as Agenda Item 6 a presentation by Drs. Killian and Kistiakowsky comparing U.S. and Soviet ballistic missile development. (Memorandum of discussion by Gleason, May 9; ibid.) See the Supplement.
  2. Regarding ICBMs, Holaday’s presentation did not recommend an increase “at this time,” but stated that if work on solid fuel propellant for Titan was successful, the Department of Defense would ask for four additional squadrons for fiscal year 1960 (over the authorized four squadrons totaling 40 missiles). Defense was asking for two more Polaris submarines with missiles in its FY 1959 augmentation request, and if the program continued to show promise in the test phase, would ask for three more (for a total of eight) in its FY 1960 budget request. Holaday stated that the JCS had recommended that operational IRBMs be increased to 240 by FY 1963, but the Department of Defense recommended “that the total number of squadrons be held for planning purposes to 12 squadrons (180 missiles).” Lastly, Holaday’s report called for accelerating the development of modified Nike–Zeus anti-aircraft missiles for use as defense against ICBMs, while dropping the Talos program for this purpose entirely. (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records) See the Supplement JCS recommendations regarding the Talos system are in memoranda to the Secretary of Defense dated February 5 and April 5. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 218, Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 381 U.S. (5–23–46) Section 96)
  3. Not printed. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 273, Records of the National Security Council, Official Meeting Minutes File)
  4. Apparent reference to the discussion of missile defense in Holaday’s presentation.
  5. The following paragraphs and note constitute NSC Action No. 1898, approved by the President on April 25. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)