8. Memorandum of Discussion at the 355th Meeting of the National Security Council0

[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and Agenda Item 1. “Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security.” Vice President Nixon presided at the meeting.]

2. U.S. Policy on Continental Defense (NSC 5408; NSC 5606;1NSC Actions Nos. 1574, 1781, 1814, 1815, 1841 and 1842;2 Executive Order No. 10173; NSC 58023)

General Cutler briefed the Council in detail on the history of U.S. Continental Defense policy, noting that in 1954, because of the lack of emphasis previously placed on programs for Continental Defense, the Council concluded that it would be advisable to raise to a high level of importance and urgency—in relation to other national security programs—certain military and non-military programs directly related to Continental Defense. For this purpose, a Continental Defense policy statement embracing over 30 selected programs was recommended to and approved by the President in February, 1954, as NSC 5408. General Cutler observed that in the years which have followed, the basic purpose of elevating these selected Continental Defense programs is currently reflected in our Basic Policy statement (NSC 5707/8).

General Cutler indicated that during the last four years some of these Continental Defense programs—especially those of a military [Page 33] nature—have been either completed, diminished, modified, or altered in priority by reason of scientific and technological advances. Thus, the Southern Canadian Early Warning Line and the DEW Line have been established and are in operation. In addition, other Continental Defense programs are in a continuing state of implementation. As a consequence of the foregoing, it has been conceded for some time that although NSC 5408 has remained the official policy statement, many parts of it are out of date and require revision.

General Cutler noted that the Council’s recent consideration of the Gaither Report and of progress in advanced weapons systems related to Continental Defense make the present time suitable to present to the Council an up-to-date statement of Continental Defense policy to replace NSC 5408. He noted that when NSC 5408 was considered in 1954, then existing circumstances made it appropriate to present the issues in the form of a group of programs rather than in the form of policy guidance. Now, however, circumstances permit the presentation of the less detailed and non-programmatic statement (NSC 5802) scheduled on today’s agenda. In the latter connection, General Cutler noted that the President had recently indicated it was high time the Council issued such revised non-programmatic statement of policy.

General Cutler called attention to the scope of NSC 5802 and to the fact, as stated in paragraph 1–a, that there are many policies relating to Continental Defense (for example, our overseas base complex) which are not included in the statement. He then invited attention to paragraph 1–b, which specifically notes that although NSC 5802 does not include programs, the omission from NSC 5802 of any program which had been included in NSC 5408 does not of itself cancel or change that program. Under paragraph 1–b each responsible agency is required to determine whether a specific program is currently valid under NSC 5802 or should be cancelled or changed.

General Cutler indicated that, following the introductory and general policy statements appearing in paragraphs 1 through 5 of NSC 5802, the statement covers strategic and tactical warning (paragraphs 6 and 7), military policies (paragraphs 8 through 12), internal security and port security policies (paragraphs 13 through 19), and other non-military policies (paragraphs 20 through 27). General Cutler then invited attention to paragraph 4 of the statement, which outlines the time-phasing and urgency of the new Continental Defense policy proposed in NSC 5802, which time-phasing takes into account the recent National Intelligence Estimate on “The Soviet ICBM Program”.4

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General Cutler mentioned that the compilation of this draft policy statement involved great difficulties and complications with a few resulting divergencies of view as reflected in the paper. He then proceeded to take up each of these divergencies.

After reading paragraph 8 of the draft statement,5 General Cutler indicated that the Science and Technology Observer at the Planning Board, with the concurrence of the State, ODM and FCDA Planning Board representatives, recommended that there be included in paragraph 8 a requirement for a high percentage kill capability against enemy aircraft or missiles approaching or operating over the North American Continent before they reach vital targets.

Dr. Killian said this point had been suggested for inclusion in the policy paper in order to raise for Council consideration the question as to whether the programs envisaged in NSC 5802 would actually achieve the objective called for in paragraph 3 of NSC 5802—namely, that the United States be prepared at all times to counter an attack on the North American continent in such a way as to deter Soviet attack, or, if an attack occurs, to insure our survival as a free nation. He said that from a technical standpoint, the air defense system we presently have and the one we have programmed will probably not achieve the aforementioned objective, and that it will probably give us a kill capability of less than 50%. It was the view of the technological experts who examined this matter that our defenses against aircraft and missiles should have a greater capacity if we are to meet the objective referred to above. It was Dr. Killian’s thought that the Council should be cognizant of this technological judgment before taking final action on NSC 5802.

Secretary McElroy thought Dr. Killian’s point was a valid one and, indeed, a key one. He said, however, that the Defense Department questioned whether it would be desirable to include in a paper of this kind the “high percentage” phrase. While the Secretary would agree with the percentage figures as to kill capability cited by Dr. Killian and would certainly agree that within reasonable limits every effort should be made to improve our capability, it was the belief of the Department of Defense that the phrase in issue should be eliminated from the paper. This is particularly so at this time, inasmuch as Defense is not ready to implement such a requirement even if it is included in the paper.

Secretary McElroy then called on Deputy Secretary Quarles for further comment. The latter indicated that the Defense Department experienced considerable difficulty in trying to determine the degree of increase intended by the phrase in issue. He stated that in the event of a small raid on the continental United States, we would expect to inflict a relatively high percentage of kill; whereas if the raid were a large one, we [Page 35] would not expect to have such a high kill capability. He noted further that the phrase in issue could be so construed as to require a doubling of our air defense costs. He stated that the Defense Department would, of course, like to see a better air defense capability than we presently have, and went on to point out that war games which were conducted in the past reflect that under our present defense programs we have what is regarded as a solid deterrent position.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff indicated that the Joint Chiefs of Staff did not know the precise meaning of this phrase. He thought that the language “high percentage” could be so construed that if it were fully implemented the Defense Department would be put in the position where it did not have money left to do anything else in other important defense areas.

The Acting Director, Bureau of the Budget, indicated that his Bureau was encouraged to see the Defense Department supporting the Budget Bureau’s position. He indicated that it was the Budget view that if the phrase in issue were included in the policy statement, it would almost imply a crash program for air defense against aircraft and missiles. The Budget Bureau was opposed to such a crash program.

Secretary McElroy thought that the problem under discussion was but one of a number of questions which would have to be faced by the country. He said that this kind of problem is becoming more complex. Today we must defend against aircraft, missiles and satellites; tomorrow who knows what we will have to defend against. He mentioned that in time we may have aircraft that will travel three times the speed of today’s planes, and we may have to prepare defenses against planes of such speed. He observed that the speed with which weapons technology is moving raises and will continue to raise a variety of questions. Consequently, on a matter such as that at issue, we must ask what are the most important things that we should do, and to what extent should we do them. It was his thought that we couldn’t do everything, and that we must do that which is determined to be most essential.

The Vice President, who presided at the meeting in the President’s absence, said it seemed to him that in many of our policy papers of this general type, we seem to express the pious hope of achieving maximum objectives which are beyond our reach. It seemed to him that the real question was to determine how the language suggested by Dr. Killian, if included in the statement, would really affect or change what we do. He thought that all concerned realize the importance of Continental Defense. The real question was whether our Continental Defense policy on air defense against aircraft and missiles should be changed—should we expend more in this area than we presently plan?

In response to the Vice President’s inquiry, Secretary McElroy expressed the thought that the inclusion of the language concerning “high percentage” would change what the Department of Defense is [Page 36] endeavoring to do in this and related programs, because statements contained in NSC policies are used as the basis of military planning. Should the phrase in issue be included, the military planning in this area would be different than that now envisaged. The Vice President inquired as to whether the Defense Department feared that the inclusion of such language would take something from or otherwise divert from other important areas in which the Defense Department is working. To this, Secretary McElroy responded that there may be interference with things the Defense Department may be recommending in the future, and that such things might deserve higher priority than the priority suggested by the inclusion of the “high percentage” phrase in paragraph 8. Secretary McElroy indicated that despite this concern, the Defense Department would of course like to achieve the high capability envisaged by the phrase in issue and would strive to that end even if the particular phrase were not included in NSC 5802.

The Vice President inquired of Dr. Killian whether, in the opinion of his people, the Defense Department needs to be “revved up” in this area of Continental Defense. He asked whether Dr. Killian thought the President should indicate to the Defense Department that it should place greater emphasis on the aspect of active air defense covered in paragraph 8.

Dr. Killian expressed the view that this aspect of our Continental Defense program must be looked at in the context of other important military programs. He thought, however, that our present Continental Defense program constitutes more of a psychological than an actual deterrent and, accordingly, in approving a statement of policy on this point, the Council should bear this fact in mind. Dr. Killian continued, however, that he could not strongly advocate diverting funds to the Continental Defense program from other important programs underway.

General Cutler observed that the stated objectives of Continental Defense have always been higher than the programs to implement same, and it was his view that the purpose of Dr. Killian’s raising and suggesting the language under discussion was to call attention to our technological capabilities and limitations in this area of the over-all Continental Defense program.

The Director of the Office of Defense Mobilization indicated that he favored the inclusion of the “high percentage” phrase. He joined with Dr. Killian in the latter’s concern lest anyone feel we have a greater capability in the air defense area than we actually possess. He thought the real question to be considered did not involve diverting funds from other military programs to the one under discussion; rather, the bigger question to be considered was whether we want to raise the budget ceiling for Continental Defense purposes.

Secretary McElroy indicated, in response to the last point mentioned by Mr. Gray, that this immediately raised questions as to whether [Page 37] any such increase in funds should be used for the programs under consideration here, or for other relatively more important programs.

General Cutler noted that since this Administration assumed office it has increased greatly expenditures on Continental Defense.

It was the Vice President’s thought that the discussion on this issue indicated quite clearly that everyone is aware of the problem. As a consequence, the contested language might be eliminated from the final statement of policy on the subject, with the understanding that those concerned do desire and will strive to achieve improved air defense capabilities.

General Cutler indicated that the contested language would be eliminated from the paper as finally submitted to the President for approval; but, at the time of such submission, the President would be informed as to the pro’s and con’s of the Council discussion on paragraph.

As a closing note on the Council discussion of this phase of the subject, Dr. Killian noted that the problem related inevitably to the shelter program and to our general defensive capabilities. As a consequence, he thought the question of our air defense capabilities would inevitably arise when the shelter program is again considered by the Council.

General Cutler next referred to paragraph 8–b of NSC 5802, which called for the development of “an anti-ICBM weapons system operational capability as a matter of the highest national priority”.

Secretary McElroy, in response to General Cutler’s request, commented that the Defense Department believed the phrase “operational capability” should be omitted from the policy statement on the subject because, at this time, the problem of defending against an ICBM attack involves too many unknowns. It was the Secretary’s thought that it would be premature to include in a policy statement at this time language calling for such operational capability.

Dr. Killian agreed with Secretary McElroy’s point, and, in the absence of objection from other Council participants, General Cutler indicated that the phrase “operational capability” would be omitted from the revised statement of policy on the subject.

General Cutler then read paragraph 9 of NSC 5802, noting that the ODM Member of the Planning Board favored the inclusion of language which called for “hardening” as well as other protection of essential facilities.

Mr. Gray, based on his understanding that the subject would be taken up on February 27 when the Council considers the Gaither Report again, indicated that he would not push for the inclusion in this paper of the language recommended by his representative on the Planning Board. He accordingly agreed to deletion of the contested language in the draft statement of policy on Continental Defense, with the proviso that such [Page 38] deletion would not prejudice its being raised when the Council considers further the Gaither Report. In the latter connection, Secretary Quarles indicated that the Defense Department would be ready to report to the Council, on February 27, on those aspects of the Gaither Report to which Mr. Gray had referred.

[Here follows discussion of port security, the potential for clandestine introduction of nuclear weapons into the United States, the protection and dispersal of Federal facilities, measures for the continuity of industry under attack, and stockpiling for civilian survival, all included in the Supplement.]

(Note: The above summary of the Council discussion on U.S. Policy on Continental Defense was recorded by Mr. J. Patrick Coyne, NSC Representative on Internal Security.)

The National Security Council:6

Discussed the draft statement of policy on the subject contained in NSC 5802; in the light of the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff thereon, as presented at the meeting.
Adopted the statement of policy in NSC 5802, subject to the following amendments:
Page 5, paragraph 8: Delete the bracketed phrase and the footnote thereto.7
Page 6, subparagraph 8–b, 4th line: Delete the words “operational capability”.
Page 6, paragraph 9: Delete the bracketed words and the footnote thereto.
Page 11, subparagraph 20–b: Delete the bracketed sentence and the footnote thereto.
Page 12, paragraph 21: Revise to read as follows:

“21. Except as otherwise determined by proper authority, new Federal facilities and major expansion of existing Federal facilities, important to national security, should not be located in target areas. The location of new or expanded military installations, excluding the Pentagon and other similar administrative headquarters, shall be within the sole discretion of the Secretary of Defense.”

Pages 12–13, subparagraph 22–b: Delete the bracketed subparagraph (2) and the footnote thereto; eliminating the numeral “(1)”.
Page 13, paragraph 23: Revise the second sentence to read as follows (deleting the footnote thereto): “Where total availabilities appear inadequate, measures should be developed to meet minimum requirements with the least disruption of the economy, the least cost to the Government, and maximum encouragement of private participation.”
Agreed that the statement of policy in NSC 5802, as finally adopted and approved, is intended to supersede NSC 5408; but is not intended, of itself, to cancel or change any program set forth in NSC 5408, each of which programs should be reviewed by the responsible departments and agencies in accordance with paragraph 1–b of NSC 5802.8
Recommended that the responsible agencies should use, on a continuing basis, available passive devices for the detection of fissionable material, pursuant to paragraph 14 of NSC 5802.
Noted that the Department of State would undertake to examine and report at the next Council meeting, on whether, if there were substantial evidence that any shipment entering the United States under diplomatic immunity contained radioactive material, the Department should advise the diplomatic representatives of the country concerned that the shipment would be opened by U.S. officials, in the presence of representatives of such country, to determine the nature of the radioactive material.
Requested the Departments of the Treasury and Justice, in view of the decision in Parker v. Lester:9
To draft an Executive Order, to supersede Executive Order No. 10173, which will enable Federal authorities to take the most effective action possible in the circumstances to deny access to U.S. merchant vessels, ports, and waterfront facilities on the part of individuals considered inimical to the security of the United States.
To draft proposed legislation, which would enable Federal authorities to take more effective action in this area, for consideration for submission at this session of the Congress.
Requested the Department of the Treasury to prepare for Presidential approval the programs to implement all aspects of paragraph 19 of NSC 5802; such draft to include (1) instructions taking into account the new Executive Order referred to in f–(l) above and (2) appropriate provisions along the lines of those stated in NSC Action No. 1781 (which related U.S. policy toward Poland to the port security provisions of NSC 5408).

Note: NSC 5802, as amended and adopted, subsequently approved by the President; circulated as NSC 5802/110 for implementation by all appropriate Executive departments and agencies of the U.S. Government [Page 40] (together with the action in c above, as approved by the President); and referred to the departments and agencies indicated in the table on “Primary Responsibilities for Implementation” (with the exception of the Department of State and the Central Intelligence Agency) for report, in a special annex to their respective annual status reports, on progress in implementing the appropriate paragraphs of NSC 5802/1.

The action in d and f above, as approved by the President, subsequently transmitted to the Secretary of the Treasury and the Attorney General for appropriate implementation.

The action in e above, as approved by the President, subsequently transmitted to the Secretary of State for appropriate implementation.

The action in g above, as approved by the President, subsequently transmitted to the Secretary of the Treasury for appropriate implementation.

[Here follow Agenda Items 2. “NSC 123,” and 3. “U.S. Policy Toward Turkey.”]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Gleason and J. Patrick Coyne, NSC Representative on Internal Security, on February 14.
  2. NSC 5606, entitled “Continental Defense” dated June 5, 1956. (Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5606 Series) Discussion of NSC 5606 at the NSC meeting on June 15, 1956, is printed in Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol. XIX, pp. 317333.
  3. NSC Action No. 1574 was approved by the President on July 9, 1956; see ibid., p. 332, footnote 18. NSC Action No. 1781 was approved by the President on September 16, 1957. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)NSC Action No. 1815 was approved by the President on November 12, 1957; see Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol. XIX, p. 676, footnote 5.
  4. NSC 5802, entitled “Continental Defense,” dated February 3. (Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 62 D 1, Continental Defense)
  5. SNIE 11–10–57, dated December 17, 1957. (Ibid., INRNIE Files) A footnote to paragraph 4 of NSC 5802 notes the estimates in SNIE 11–10–57 that the Soviet Union would have operational 10 ICBMs sometime during mid-1958 to mid-1959, 100 by mid-1959 to mid-1960, and 500 by mid-1962 at latest.
  6. Entitled “Active Defense Against Aircraft and Missiles.”
  7. The following paragraphs and note constitute NSC Action No. 1862, approved by the President on February 19. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)
  8. That is, the language calling for a high percentage kill capability.
  9. Paragraph 1–b called for agencies to review Continental Defense programs “in the light of this policy statement to determine whether such programs are currently valid or should be cancelled or changed.”
  10. In this 1955 decision, a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that certain procedures in Executive Order 10173 violated minimum requirements of due process.
  11. For text of NSC 5802/1, “Continental Defense,” dated February 19, see the Supplement. NSC 5802/1 contains certain pages as revised by NSC Action No. 1911, May 15, and another as revised by NSC Action No. 2249, June 29, 1960. (Both in Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council) Regarding NSC Action No. 2249, see Document 105.