78. Memorandum of Conference With President Eisenhower0


  • Sec. McElroy
  • Mr. Gates
  • Gen. Twining
  • Mr. Sprague
  • Gen. Randall
  • Gen. Persons
  • Mr. Gordon Gray
  • Dr. Kistiakowsky
  • Gen. Goodpaster

Mr. McElroy said that Dr. York was ill and unable to make the flight and that Dr. Kistiakowsky had agreed to represent his views. He then reviewed for the President summary figures covering the military budget for FY’61. He said there is a “classified item” (CIA) which has gone up $75 million and has not been reviewed. The President asked who reviewed the CIA item. Mr. Stans said that the Bureau of the Budget had gone through it thoroughly. After further discussion, Mr. Gray agreed to look into the mechanism for review and make sure it is adequate.

Mr. McElroy then said that an additional item of $53 million in the budget is the result of the new health legislation for civilian employees of the Defense Department. In addition, military retirement pay has increased $73 million over the past year. The Defense Department strength is going down 35,000 people. At the same time, there is an increase of $145 million in personnel pay, since the average age of the force is increased, the average grade is going up and number of dependents is increasing.

[Here follows a section on NATO printed in volume VII, Part 1, pages 516517.]

Mr. McElroy next brought up the question of Army Reserves and National Guard. The question is whether to budget them at 700,000 total or decrease to 630,000—the figure we have used the last two years. Gen. Twining said the Army has just completed a reorganization on the basis of 700,000 strength, and an attempt to go below this figure would wreck the whole national training plan and structure. Mr. McElroy said he has asked the Joint Chiefs to consider all our Reserve forces and report as to [Page 334] what they think the function of the Reserves should be, as well as the total strength. He recognized that the Reserves and the National Guard reorganization has just been completed and said Gen. Lemnitzer feels the right course of action would be to go for a year without further changes. Another reason to doubt going back with a proposal for 630,000 is that we have been beaten twice on this. Militarily, he thought the figure could be as low as 500,000. The President said he would support such a figure. Gen. Persons commented that if the President thinks 630,000 is the right figure, it would be well to take on the Congress even though the Administration is defeated. The President said this is all part of a trend, with both Regular and Reserve forces strengths coming down. He was sure we should not go above 630,000. In fact, he believed the figure ought to be lower. Mr. Gates said Gen. Lemnitzer agreed with these observations concerning the mission of the Reserves, as well as the cuts, but felt it would not be possible to carry this through this year.

Mr. McElroy next raised the question of the Navy. Their program was considerably in excess of their funding, and a considerable sum of money has been put into the budget merely to make them honest. Even so, cuts are required. They will take out either ship or aircraft elements on the DEW-line. He has told them they should keep whichever is operationally the more important element. The President referred to new developments such as the BMEWS, initially estimated to cost $100 million, and now funded at $300 million with no end in sight. In addition, ICBMs and submarine launched missiles are coming into the military force. All in all, technology is going so fast as to reduce the reasons for such things as the DEW-line. Mr. McElroy concurred, stating that within a couple of years he felt sure we would abandon at least one of the warning lines. The President commented that there were probably a few things Khrushchev told him in which he was speaking honestly. One of these was that long range aircraft are no longer of much significance in war, nor are surface ships. The importance of submarines, missiles and conventional ground forces is rising. Our problem is that we are not concentrating simply on the things he says he is stressing, but are trying to defend ourselves against every conceivable type of weapon. He said it will be hard to sell cutbacks in air defense since this is so much a psychological question. Mr. McElroy agreed, noting particularly that we must discuss the matter carefully with the Canadians. The President added that it should be discussed also with Sen. Russell and Congressmen Vinson, Mahon and Ford.

Mr. McElroy then said he wanted to take up certain individual items. He stated that Defense has cancelled the F–108 fighter, and that this action has been well accepted. The budget includes a minimum figure for preparation for a B–52 air alert in case the JCS later say such is needed. We are not increasing the number of crews, but will procure long [Page 335] leadtime items of maintenance, such that we could later keep up to a maximum of 25% of our B–52s in the air at all times should we so decide. In addition, some extra POL will be needed to carry out the training. Mr. Stans asked if these are strictly preparatory expenses. Mr. McElroy said that they are and that he would welcome the Bureau of the Budget going over these figures.

The President said it looks again as though we are trying to protect ourselves in several ways at once. He thought if we are going to do this kind of thing then we should abandon the BMEWs project. Mr. McElroy said we cannot be certain that we will do it. It is important however to take preparatory steps, and to let it be known that we are prepared for an air alert should it be required. Until we get the Polaris and the Minute-man, we are relying upon and extending the capabilities of our bomber force.

Mr. Stans asked for a chance to look at the Defense budget, along with other budgets on an over-all basis and to seek alternatives and ways of cutting items out. The President said this is a laudable purpose but that the Secretary of Defense had already done this, checking one program against another. He thought Mr. McElroy was as competent as anyone else regarding the over-all budget picture. The President said that he himself did not have the time or the skill or the knowledge to set up arbitrary decisions. We would however hammer on the budget if Defense seemed careless in preparing it. Mr. Stans urged again that the Defense budget be dealt with in terms of over-all resources looking to see what items are in competition. Mr. McElroy commented that the Defense people have representatives of the Bureau of the Budget working with them all year. The air alert proposal, for example, started out as a $1 billion program. It is now being cut to a very hard-core, conservative program.

Mr. McElroy next brought up the matter of ICBM squadrons. The NSC has approved 9 Atlas squadrons and 11 Titan squadrons. He recommended increasing the Atlas to 13 and the Titan to 14 squadrons. There is need to harden more Atlas sites. In addition, the need for liquid missiles extends into the indefinite future. He thought we should accept the delay in readiness dates of Titan in order to shift this to storable propellants. The President said he understood that Titan was not doing at all well. Dr. Kistiakowsky said that the Titan has good design and engineering—a long step in advance of the Atlas—but that it is a management mess. Mr. McElroy said Defense is making a great effort to strengthen the Martin Company’s management of Titan. The President said he would approve the additional Atlas missiles, but that he thought we should simply put a certain amount of money into the development of storable fuels. If this process proves out, we would then add the 3 Titan squadrons, leaving the total approved at 11 for the moment. He thought we should say we [Page 336] have come to the conclusion that the ICBM is doing well, and ask for a general authorization for additional squadrons, not specified as to particular weapon. Mr. McElroy agreed to try to work the matter out that way.

Mr. McElroy next asked if the President would see the Chiefs of Staff. The President said he would and that they could come down to see him at Augusta. Gen. Persons asked whether the Service Secretaries should come down at the same time. Mr. McElroy said he felt it would make it a different kind of meeting.

Mr. McElroy next raised the question of the B–58 program. He said we have already spent $2 billion on this and would obtain 49 aircraft if we cut it off now. He said the proposal of the Air Force is for a 3–wing force of 30 aircraft to a wing. To obtain this would cost us about $1 billion more. The Air Force says the B–58 has great operational advantages. It can come in fast and low, flying at Mach 0.9 at low altitudes and Mach 2.0 at high altitudes. It cannot carry missiles, being designed to carry a “pod”. The Air Force states that the bomber will remain the principal weapon of SAC for 5 more years. Mr. McElroy commented that the Department of Defense favors cancellation of the B–58. They recognize that there would be a heavy impact on the production area. He asked Gen. Twining to state his views, since he knew Gen. Twining supported the B–58 project. Gen. Twining confirmed that he supports the project, for reasons generally as indicated above. The President said he is not so concerned about the B–58 as the B–70. He thought if we expended effort on the B–70 we would simply be saying that we had lost all faith in missiles. Mr. McElroy said the Air Force believes there will continue to be a requirement for an aircraft, and a requirement for a pilot, for armed reconnaissance if for nothing else. The President was very skeptical. He said if we place ourselves in 1965, then in those 6 years we should know whether missiles are as effective as we now believe. If they are effective, there will be no need for these bombers. He thought the Air Force must make up their minds. He said he was beginning to think that they were not concerned over true economy in defense. Mr. McElroy said he could go for the B–70 only on one basis—that we are programming for a very advanced aircraft, for reconnaissance, weapons system, civilian transport and military transport. The President said sharply that he cannot see us putting military money into a project to develop a civilian transport. He is “allergic” to such an idea. Dr. Kistiakowsky said that Dr. York stresses the importance of research and development on a large supersonic aircraft. Mr. Gates said this would involve $385 million next year for research and development on engine and air frame. The President said he cannot see this proposal. Dr. Kistiakowsky brought out the technical point that this aircraft will have a very large radar cross-section and will be extremely vulnerable to antiaircraft fire. The President said it is [Page 337] foolish to put effort into things that are going to be obsolete before they are available. Gen. Twining said the Air Force plans to send these aircraft in over an enemy country to search out and knock out mobile ICBMs on railroads. The President said that, if they think this, he thinks they are crazy!

Mr. McElroy said that if this project is cancelled then the development of any advanced aircraft in this country comes to a halt. The President said he had no quarrel with research on advanced metals, but to spend $385 million on a vehicle which would never be useful militarily is foolish in his opinion. We are not going to be searching out mobile bases for ICBMs, we are going to be hitting the big industrial and control complexes. Mr. McElroy acknowledged that the B–70 is not needed for a deterrent. In addition, he doubted if it were needed as a military transport. The President said he just doesn’t see this kind of a project. He felt the B–58 could be left in the program since it is in production. Gen. Twining repeated that this decision would stop development of anything beyond subsonic transport aircraft.

Mr. McElroy said that military construction expenditures are expected to decrease from $1.7 billion this year to $1.5 billion next year, with NOA below $1 billion. As to the Nike–Zeus, he said he has obtained agreement to keep it in a research and development status. Dr. Kistiakowsky referred to the technical difficulty involved, which is to discriminate between a missile and a decoy coming in. The President said he would be agreeable to continuation as a research and development project. Dr. Kistiakowsky added that it might be possible to reprogram the proposal for the Kwajalein Proving Range.

Mr. McElroy said agreement has been reached on the Polaris program, involving 3 additional submarines, and advanced elements for 3 more, in the FY’61 program. He referred to the study now going on concerning the optimum “mix”. The President said he would like to see the Navy give priority in its operations to the destruction of targets that bear on the accomplishment of its traditional mission. He said that he understands the U.S. can block out Soviet submarines, and the Soviets can probably frustrate our submarines. Mr. McElroy said the best current judgment is that neither of us can do this, and that this is a soft spot in our defense. The President commented that he is waiting for the day someone can come and tell him that the Polaris is a successful system. We have a tremendous investment in something not yet proven.

Mr. McElroy next discussed the Navy’s proposal to fund the balance of the new aircraft carrier, advanced components of which were included in last year’s appropriation. They called for a nuclear carrier, as contrasted with the conventional carrier recommended by the Administration, which we would still prefer. The basic reason is that except for the Forrestal class and the Enterprise, we cannot fly with safety the [Page 338] advanced aircraft now available. The program envisions 11 carriers, of which 4 will be kept on station constantly. For limited war purposes, he felt we need 1 carrier in the military budget each 2 years. Mr. Stans said he had hoped we could defer going forward with the carrier. The President said he is coming to the opinion that we are keeping too many carriers deployed. We are striving for too high a state of readiness. What we really need in forward areas is ready landing teams, with small ships equipped with missiles. He thought the carrier is coming to the point where it is much like a battleship. Mr. Gates said there would be no chance of getting a conventional carrier from the Congress. Gen. Persons commented that the Congress would not push for a carrier if the President did not recommend it. The President said that if the Congress would not give him a conventional carrier, and the nuclear carrier is blocked, he would shed no tears. He is losing faith in the carrier as in the battleship. Mr. McElroy said he would talk to Congressmen Ford and Mahon about this. The President said that if Defense wants to go back to a conventional carrier, he will approve the carrier proposal. He is really more interested in smaller ships.

The President suggested that Mr. McElroy send the JCS down to Augusta within the next day or two.1 He said he wanted a stop to the speaking of many voices, each thinking he knows all the answers in the fields of defense, science and economy. An Army man writes a book, the Marines try to cause trouble, etc.

Mr. Stans said the governmental budget is now at $82.4 billion. Postal rate increases of $500 million would bring this down to $81.6 billion, with revenues somewhere between $81 and $82. He said that FY’60 is already in the red, and that he had hoped for a level defense budget on the order of $40–40.5 billion. He has other items to question running from 10–100 million each. The SAGE supercombat centers are questionable. We had better get what we can earlier. The Dyna-soar makes no sense at all. The budget that has been proposed will force increases in FY’62. He hoped that Defense would reconsider items. If they are going to reduce the DEW-line in two years, they should do it now. The President said he thought we should consider knocking out one of the DEW-lines in Canada right now. We must always take security risks, and this adds little. [Page 339] Mr. McElroy said he had worked very closely with Dr. Kistiakowsky on this budget, and Dr. Kistiakowsky confirmed this. He said he would take another crack at the questions raised by Mr. Stans. He said he had cut the Dyna-soar submission from $150 million to $25 million.

The President said that within 5 years we must be balancing our budgets, or we will be running our defense by swings of the pendulum upsetting military programs. If our country gets sick of its tax burdens, defense will suffer. He asked Mr. McElroy to go over the budget again minutely to make it a little leaner and tougher.

Brigadier General, General, USA
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries. Top Secret. Drafted by Goodpaster on December 2. The President was on a working vacation in Augusta, November 12–23. A detailed account of this meeting is in Kistiakowsky, A Scientist at the White House, pp. 157–163.
  2. The JCS met with the President on November 18. During a discussion of various weapons systems, the President reiterated the necessity for a “reasonable” defense budget and spoke against the B–70, although he said he would reconsider it. At a similar discussion on November 21 among the President, Gates, Douglas, Brucker, and Defense officials, the B–70 program was discussed on a stretch out basis, with prototypes to be available in 1962. The President stated that he had not resolved the issue and at a later point remarked that “if we are thinking of something that is not operational for eight years this is not a transitional item but is simply a supplement to the missile force.” (Memoranda of conference with the President by Goodpaster, January 20 and January 2, 1960, respectively; Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records) Both are in the Supplement.