25. Memorandum of Discussion at the 367th Meeting of the National Security Council0

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

1. Launching of SAC Alert Forces (NSC Action No. 1891)1

General Cutler briefed the Council on the procedure formerly known as “Fail Safe” and now christened “Positive Control”. He noted that when the Council had been briefed earlier on Fail Safe, the President had asked certain questions which had not been answered at the time. These questions would now be answered, together with any other related questions which might come up. (A copy of General Cutler’s briefing note is filed in the minutes of the meeting, and another is attached to this memorandum.)2 He then called on Deputy Secretary Quarles.

Secretary Quarles summarized the findings of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as follows: The Joint Chiefs of Staff agreed with the President’s suggestion as to the desirability of working out advance procedures which would permit strike aircraft to receive “GO” instructions at the last possible moment while they still had the capability to proceed to their assigned targets and post-strike bases using program tactics and fuel reserves. The difficulty, however, was that under emergency war plans the maximum range of each aircraft, with minimum fuel reserves over post-strike bases, had been exploited to the fullest extent in order to cover the target system. Therefore, the capability to orbit within a specific delimited area, except under extremely advantageous wind conditions, could only apply to a small percentage of the force.

The Joint Chiefs, according to Secretary Quarles, did not think that there would be any Soviet reaction to the launching of our SAC forces under the Positive Control concept because it will not be detected as such.

With respect to the question of our contemplating reciprocal action by the USSR, Secretary Quarles pointed out that our Positive Control [Page 118]operations were carefully planned to avoid alerting or triggering the Soviet early warning system. We expect them to do likewise with respect to our early warning system. Admittedly, we would have some intelligence of Soviet operations of this nature, and they would have some intelligence of our Positive Control operations, before the aircraft of either side reached the early warning network of the other. While this involved a certain risk, Secretary Quarles believed that we could continue these operations without anticipating untoward results.

The President expressed his agreement with these conclusions.

General Cutler asked Mr. Allen Dulles whether he felt that there was any need for a coordinated intelligence estimate as to the probable Soviet reaction to the Positive Control exercises. Mr. Dulles said he did not believe such an intelligence estimate was necessary. (A copy of the Joint Chiefs of Staff report, on the basis of which Secretary Quarles briefed the Council on the above subject, is attached to this memorandum.)3

The National Security Council:4

Noted and discussed a further oral report on the subject by the Department of Defense, as presented by the Deputy Secretary of Defense.

[Here follow Agenda Items 2. “Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security,” 3. “Status of Military Mobilization Base Program” (included in the Supplement), 4. “U.S. Policy Toward Spain,” and 5. “U.S. Policy Toward Taiwan and the Government of the Republic of China.”]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Drafted by Gleason.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 16.
  3. In his May 27 briefing note, Cutler stated that the President had inquired at the April 3 NSC meeting “as to the desirability of giving additional instructions to SAC Alert Forces which would permit them on reaching their points of return—in the absence of orders to proceed to their targets—to remain in the air for a specified time within a specified area instead of promptly returning to their bases; thus, giving an opportunity to send forth orders to such aircraft without requesting their return to their bases.”
  4. Not attached.
  5. The following paragraph constitutes NSC Action No. 1916, approved by the President on June 1. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)