5. Memorandum of Discussion at the 352d Meeting of the National Security Council0

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

1. Capabilities of Forces for Limited Military Operations (NSC Action No. 1814; NSC 5724; NSC 5724/1; NSC Action Nos. 1841 and 1842)

General Cutler read to the Council the Gaither Panel recommendation on the subject, as follows:

“Augment our and allied forces for limited military operations, and provide greater mobility, to enable us to deter or promptly suppress small wars which must not be allowed to grow into big ones. The Panel suggests that a study be undertaken, at the national rather than at a service level, to develop current doctrine on when and how nuclear weapons can contribute to limited operations.”

General Cutler went on to point out that in its comments on the above recommendation, the Department of Defense had agreed that the capabilities of forces for limited operations should be augmented and the readiness of such forces increased, in relation to our over-all posture to meet the requirements of a general war. But Defense wished to defer implementation of this recommendation pending completion of a national-level study, a plan for which would be recommended by Defense to the Council about March 15, 1958. Secretary Dulles had expressed concern over the delay in the submission of this plan to the Council. He had also questioned the advisability of postponing action to augment the capabilities of our forces for limited operations, until after the completion of the proposed Defense Department study on this subject. Accordingly, these two questions were before the Council today. General Cutler then called upon the Secretary of State.

Secretary Dulles said that in the first place, the comments of the Department of Defense on the recommendation of the Gaither Panel were not wholly responsive to the Panel’s recommendation. While we did not necessarily have to follow the Gaither Panel recommendation, that recommendation actually called for the augmenting of our forces for limited military operations. The Department of Defense comment, on the other hand, merely stated that we should augment the capabilities and the readiness of such forces. Thus there existed a discrepancy.

Secondly, continued Secretary Dulles, the Gaither Report had recommended a study of this problem at a level higher than the level of the [Page 27]military services. He believed that the State Department should be brought into this study at its inception, because the kind of forces referred to in the Panel recommendation were those that the State Department was particularly interested in and on whose composition the State Department had pronounced views. Secretary Dulles went on to say, in explanation, that in the course of carrying out our foreign policy over the last five years, the State Department had sometimes felt a need for the United States to have non-nuclear-equipped forces which could, if necessary put on a demonstration of U.S. interests in various parts of the world. The Joint Chiefs of Staff had responded well when called upon to mount such demonstrations in the past. There had been and would be occasions when aircraft carriers, air power, and even potential landing forces had been very useful in this context. Perhaps such forces should even now be deployed in the general area of Indonesia, because we do not know what will happen there. Such forces had recently proved very valuable in the Eastern Mediterranean when they had been called upon to demonstrate U.S. support of King Hussein of Jordan. Such examples illustrate in general how limited forces can be of assistance to U.S. foreign policy. Accordingly, political and foreign policy considerations should be meshed into the study by the State Department from the very beginning.

Secretary Quarles replied that Secretary Dulles’ suggestion gave rise to complicated questions, and that the problem of forces for limited war was far from achieving agreement as to the implications. The Defense Department had thought it best for the Joint Chiefs of Staff to formulate a plan for the study of the problem and to submit this plan to the National Security Council through the NSC Planning Board, where the State Department member and other members of the Planning Board would have an opportunity to analyze and comment upon the JCS plan. Would such a procedure meet the point raised by Secretary Dulles? As to the other matter raised by the Secretary of State—namely, the time of submission of the JCS plan (March 15, 1958)—it was the view of the Defense Department that the problem of forces for limited war was so difficult and serious that consideration of the plan deserved the amount of time allocated. Perhaps the due date of the JCS plan could be advanced if the President so desired. Secretary Quarles then asked if General Twining could present his views on this general subject.

General Twining pointed out that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had been concerned for a very long time with the problem of U.S. forces for limited military operations. Indeed, our basic national security policy called upon the Defense Department to maintain such forces. It was true that we did not have a “platoon system” of forces set apart for the specific purpose of undertaking limited military operations. Such a separate force might be very desirable, but it would surely be very expensive, and [Page 28]the Joint Chiefs of Staff were now stretched to the absolute budgetary limit. In spite of this, we were capable of sending military forces today from the pool of regular military forces to any part of the world where they were needed, and to do this very rapidly.

With respect to the proposed study by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Twining pointed out that in the wake of the leak of the Gaither Report the Joint Chiefs of Staff were very worried about a possible leak of our U.S. war plans. If outsiders like those on the Gaither Panel were brought into the JCS study, a leak of our war plans might actually prove fatal to our national security.

Secretary Dulles quickly pointed out that he was not suggesting that any persons outside of the Government be brought in on the formulation of the Defense Department study. He was only asking for the inclusion of State Department views on the problem of forces for limited war from the outset of the study. If these State Department views were not included, the result would be purely a military study of the problem, and we would have to go on to do another study of the problem of limited war in its political and foreign policy aspects.

General Cutler asked Secretary Dulles whether the procedure just proposed by Secretary Quarles did not meet Secretary Dulles’ argument. Secretary Dulles replied that he didn’t think that it quite did, because as he saw it, under Secretary Quarles’ proposal the State Department did not have a chance to express its own views until the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had already crystallized. Secretary Quarles then suggested the holding of a preliminary conference between the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after which the Joint Chiefs would get down to work. Secretary Quarles pointed out that what the Joint Chiefs would present to the National Security Council on March 15 was only a plan for the study of forces for limited military operations, and not the study itself.

The President commented that in any event the JCS plan would have to go to the NSC Planning Board before it was considered by the National Security Council. The President and General Cutler both agreed on the desirability of the conference between the Joint Chiefs and State, suggested by Secretary Quarles, before actual work on the study was commenced by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Mr. Allen Dulles inquired whether covert operations would be included in such a study. The President replied facetiously that he, of course, had no knowledge of covert operations.

Secretary Dulles then stated that he had one more question. He felt that the Defense Department comment on the original Gaither Panel recommendation seemed to prejudge in a negative sense the validity of the Panel’s recommendation. This might prove to be correct, but the matter should not be prejudged. Accordingly, Secretary Dulles recommended [Page 29]that the terms of reference of the JCS study should be broad enough to permit at least the consideration of the Gaither Panel recommendation in favor of augmenting our forces for limited operations as opposed to merely augmenting the capabilities and readiness of such forces.

The President said he was inclined to believe that in general the important thing was to augment the capabilities of our forces for limited war rather than increasing the size of such forces. He did not believe that the Gaither Panel recommendation was well set forth in calling for an augmentation of U.S. forces for limited military operations. However, the President expressed agreement with Secretary Dulles that the terms of reference of the JCS study should be broad enough to include consideration of whether to augment the size of our forces for limited operations. The President pointed out that we had been earnestly arguing for the augmentation of the capabilities of the military forces of the Republic of Korea, while at the same time we were seeking to cut down the force levels of the ROK armed forces.

The National Security Council:1

Discussed the subject, and procedures for further Council action thereon, in the light of comments by the Secretary of State, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Noted that the Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff would confer with the Department of State in the preparation of a plan for a coordinated study by the Departments of State and Defense pursuant to NSC Action No. 1842–g–(4); and would make the terms of reference for the study sufficiently broad to include consideration of the entire range of U.S. and allied capabilities for limited military operations.

Note: The action in b above, as approved by the President, subsequently transmitted to the Secretary of Defense for appropriate implementation, and to the Secretary of State and the Chairman, JCS, for information.

[Here follow Agenda Items 2. “Long-Range U.S. Policy Toward the Middle East,” 3. “Priorities for Ballistic Missile and Satellite Programs,” 4. “Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security,” 5. “U.S. [Page 30]Policy Toward Finland,” and 6. “U.S. Policy Toward Ethiopia.” For Agenda Item 3, see the Supplement.]2

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Drafted by Gleason on January 22.
  2. The following paragraphs and note constitute NSC Action No. 1844, approved by the President on January 24. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)
  3. The brief discussion of Agenda Item 3 led to adoption of NSC Action No. 1846, approved by the President on January 24, establishing the following programs as having the highest developmental authority, with operational capability to be as approved by the President: Atlas and Titan ICBMs, Thor–Jupiter IRBMs, Polaris FBMs, an anti-missile missile defense SYSTEM “including active defense and related early warning for defense of the United States proper,” the Vanguard and Jupiter C satellite programs, and other satellite programs “determined by the Secretary of Defense to have objectives having key political, scientific, psychological or military import” ( Ibid .) See the Supplement. On March 10, Eisenhower discussed the relative merits of Atlas, Titan, Thor, and Jupiter missiles with Dr. Killian and others. (Memorandum by Goodpaster, March 11; Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries)