55. National Security Council Report0

NSC 5904/1



  • A. NSC 5410/1
  • B. Memo for NSC from Acting Executive Secretary, subject: “Basic Military Planning Concept to Govern Planning and Development of the Mobilization Base”, dated March 1, 19571
  • C. NSC 5810/1
  • D. Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, subject: “Review of NSC 5410/1”, dated January 7, 1959
  • E. NSC Action No. 2039
  • F. Memos for NSC from Executive Secretary, subject: “NSC 5904”, dated March 3 and 9, 1959
  • G. NSC Action No. 2056
  • H. NSC 5904
  • I. NSC Action No. 2057

The National Security Council, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Director, Bureau of the Budget, and the Acting Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, at the 398th and 399th NSC Meetings on March 5 and 12, 1959, adopted the statement of policy in NSC 5904, as amended by NSC Actions Nos. 2056–b and 2057–b.

The President has this date approved the statement of policy in NSC 5904, as adopted by the Council and enclosed herewith as NSC 5904/1; and directed its use as a planning guide by all appropriate Executive departments and agencies of the U.S. Government, subject to the understanding that it will be reviewed annually.

The enclosed statement of policy, as adopted and approved, supersedes NSC 5410/1.

It is requested that special security precautions be observed in the handling of the enclosure, and that access to it be strictly limited on a need-to-know basis.

James S. Lay, Jr.2



Section A: U.S. Policy in the Event of General War

Special Note: This section of the policy statement addresses itself only to the contingency of general war; it does not apply to situations of local aggression or so-called “limited war”.


1. To prevail, and survive as a nation capable of controlling its own destiny.

2. To reduce, by military and other measures, the capabilities of the USSR and Communist China to the point where they have lost their will and ability to wage war against the United States and its allies.

[Page 209]

3. To render ineffective the control structure by which the enemy regimes have been able to exert ideological and disciplinary authority over their own peoples and over individual citizens or groups of citizens in other countries.

4. To preserve and retain as many of our allies as possible.

5. So far as consistent with the above objectives, to avoid destruction and casualties in all countries not involved in war.

6. To retain in the United States a capacity for quick recovery from nuclear assault.

Policy Guidance

7.3 The United States should utilize all requisite force against selected targets in the USSR—and as necessary in Communist China, European Bloc and non-European Bloc countries—to attain the above objectives. Military targets in Bloc countries other than the USSR and Communist China will be attacked as necessary. (Note: It is assumed that the peoples of the Bloc countries other than the USSR and Communist China are not responsible for the acts of their governments and accordingly so far as consistent with military objectives military action against these countries should avoid non-military destruction and casualties.)

8. If, in the course of the hostilities, an enemy country asks the United States for peace terms, the United States should not accept any terms unless they remove the threat to U.S. security posed by such country.

Post-War Objectives

9. To prevent, so far as practicable, the formation or retention after the war of military power in potentially hostile states sufficient to threaten the security of the United States.

10. To seek the eventual establishment in nations of the Sino-Soviet Bloc of friendly governments founded upon broad-based, popular support.

11. To maintain after the cessation of hostilities sufficient U.S. and allied military strength to deter aggression and to accomplish other postwar objectives.

12. To establish effective international arrangements for the preservation of peace.

[Page 210]

Section B: U.S. Policy in the Event of a War in Which the USSR is Not a Belligerent4


13. To reduce, by military and other measures, the capabilities of the enemy to the point where it has lost its will or ability to wage war against the United States and its allies.

Policy Guidance

14. The United States should be prepared to utilize such force as is requisite to attain its objectives. If during the course of hostilities general war becomes a clear probability, the United States will have to decide in the light of the circumstances then existing whether it is in the U.S. interest to alter its original objectives.

  1. Source: Department of State, S/PNSC Files: Lot 62 D 1, NSC 5904 Series. Top Secret; Limited Distribution. A cover sheet is not printed.
  2. This memorandum enclosed a memorandum dated February 25, 1957, from Secretary of Defense Charles E. Wilson to Lay. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol. XIX, pp. 419424.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
  4. Paragraph 7 contains the controlling policy guidance with respect to military action to attain the foregoing objectives. [Footnote in the source text.]
  5. Present U.S. policy is based upon the assumption that any war with the USSR would be general war. The validity of the foregoing assumption is not an issue in this paper, but will be susceptible of re-examination in the course of review of basic policy (NSC 5810/1). [Footnote in the source text. This footnote was later deleted; see Document 95.]