37. Memorandum of Meeting0

Secretary McElroy said that in connection with the preparation of the Defense Budget for FY 1960, he would like to have the Secretary’s thoughts regarding the kinds of situations the United States would have to meet in the years to come.1 There were two aspects of the problem: (1) capability for general war and (2) capability for limited war. He thought that everyone was agreed on the need for an adequate nuclear deterrent in the form of a massive retaliatory force. What was less clear was the [Page 146]scale of the military requirement apart from that. He asked whether the Secretary believed that in the years ahead we would have continued requirement for limited local showing of force in various areas of the world similar to the Lebanese and Formosa operations this year.

The Secretary replied that he agreed with the Army, Navy and Marine Corps comment submitted in connection with NSC 5810.2 In an era when both major world powers had the capacity to destroy each other the Sino-Soviet threat to the United States lay in the Sino-Soviet capacity to create crises along the periphery of the Sino-Soviet bloc in the arch stretched from North Africa and the Mediterranean to the Far East. He thought the Lebanese and Formosan operations were characteristic of the kind of problem we would have continually to face. It seemed to him that both of these operations had gone off exceedingly well, but he had the impression that our capacity had been stretched pretty thin, and the operations had highlighted the many problems involved in operating at such great distances—overflights, operational bases, etc. The Secretary of State wondered whether we might not be putting too much emphasis on the nuclear deterrent. Anything beyond the capacity to destroy the enemy would seem excessive and unnecessary. If an adjustment of emphasis had to be made perhaps it should be at the expense of the nuclear deterrent. During the last century the British with their worldwide system of bases had provided a stabilizing influence which today only we could provide. This would seem to require on our part adequate mobile Naval forces with air and ground force components.

Messrs. McElroy and Quarles were of the opinion that too much emphasis was not being put on the nuclear deterrent.

Mr. McElroy said he agreed, however, that more emphasis should be put on our limited war capabilities. He thought the problem was essentially that of providing the logistic support for operations in remote quarters of the globe. This could not be done by air alone. It was essentially a question of increasing Naval facilities. The Navy had ended World War II with an excess of vessels. But these were becoming superannuated. The Navy probably needed another carrier which could serve as the nucleus of a task force for the area between the Mediterranean and the Far East. It need not be as large as the Forrestal class. Mr. McElroy thought there was no requirement for more ground forces.

The Secretary of State made the point that the ground forces had a role to play in limited operations. Some 14,000 had landed in Lebanon. There was a static requirement in Germany, Korea and Iceland. He did not think the Army should be cut back. The Secretary of State stated that the military requirements of national security could not simply be tailored to an arbitrary budget figure. There was some minimum requirement [Page 147]for national security. Mr. McElroy agreed and said he would seek a budget which met that requirement. Any reduction beyond that point would be a matter for the President.

Mr. McElroy asked whether the Secretary would be agreeable to providing him with a written statement of the problem from the foreign policy point of view. The Secretary told him he thought it would be more appropriate to formulate these ideas in pursuance of the further study of paragraphs 13 and 14 of NSC 5810 which the President had approved. Mr. McElroy agreed, but asked whether he could proceed for the time-being on the basis of the views expressed by the Secretary. The Secretary concurred.

Note: Meeting was attended by:

  • The Secretary
  • Secretary McElroy
  • Mr. Quarles
  • Mr. Reinhardt

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.00/11–858. Top Secret. Drafted by Reinhardt and cleared by Secretary Dulles. The meeting was held at Dulles’ residence.
  2. According to his memorandum of a conversation on November 6, Dulles told Secretary Anderson of his forthcoming meeting with McElroy. “I indicated that I felt we needed at least our present conventional weapons establishment, but I thought we could cut down on the nuclear effort on the theory that all we needed was enough to deter; that we did not need to be superior at every point. I felt that some important cuts could be made and that we could in certain respects get world advantage from doing so. Secretary Anderson indicated his general concurrence.” (Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, General Memoranda of Conversation) Prior to this meeting, Murphy, Reinhardt, and Smith jointly prepared a briefing memorandum dated November 8. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.00/11–858) See the Supplement.
  3. See footnote 8, Document 23.