82. Memorandum of Discussion at the 430th Meeting of the National Security Council0

[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and Agenda Item 1. “U.S. Policy with Respect to the Development of Cargo Airlift.” See the Supplement.]

2. Scope of Operational Capability of the Atlas and Titan ICBM Programs and Polaris FBM Program (NSC Actions Nos. 1846, 2013, 2081 and 2118;1 Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated January 5, 19602)

Mr. Gray briefed the Council on the background of this subject and on the recommendations by the Secretary of Defense contained in the reference memorandum of January 5, 1960. (A copy of Mr. Gray’s Briefing [Page 354] Note3 is filed in the Minutes of the Meeting and another is attached to this Memorandum.)

The President said he saw no objection to the recommendations by the Secretary of Defense.

The National Security Council:4

Noted the President’s approval of the recommendations of the Secretary of Defense, contained in the enclosure to the reference memorandum of January 5, 1960, that:

The presently approved 20-squadron ICBM program (9 Atlas and 11 Titan) be increased to 27 squadrons (13 Atlas and 14 Titan).
The present authorization to construct 9 Polaris FBM submarines be increased to 12 (3 additional beginning in FY 1961) and authorization be given to proceed with the necessary long leadtime planning and procurement actions permitting construction of 3 additional Polaris FBM submarines.

Note: The above action, as approved by the President to supersede subparagraphs (1), (4) and (5) of the Note following NSC Action No. 2013, subsequently transmitted to the Secretary of Defense and the Director, Bureau of the Budget, for appropriate implementation.

3. Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security

Mr. Dulles said the Intelligence Community had recently completed work on two of its particularly important year-end Estimates, namely, “Main Trends in Soviet Capabilities and Policies 1959 through 1964” (NIE 11–4–59)5 and “Soviet Capabilities for Strategic Attack through Mid-1964” (NIE 11–8–59).6 The latter Estimate in particular raised many questions which will be raised in this session of Congress, particularly as concerns the missile issue. Mr. Dulles then presented a brief summary of NIE 11–4–59 as follows:

NIE 11–4–59 indicates that the principal objectives of the USSR vis-à-vis the West remain unchanged. The Soviet leaders currently show [Page 355] great confidence that the trend of world events is in their favor and believe that from the position of strength they have now gained, they can either engage the West vigorously on disputed questions, or can relax tensions without any imputation of weakness. During the next five years, Soviet external policy is likely to be marked by swings between a relaxation of tension and belligerent pressure. These swings, however, are not likely to go as far as deliberate assumption of the use of general war on the one hand, or abandonment of the struggle between the Communist and non-Communist worlds on the other hand. The main influence on Soviet policy will be the sense of an improved power position vis-à-vis the West. In another year or two the Soviet leaders may feel that their long-range missiles give them a political advantage which they may wish to test by attempting to win concessions from the West through negotiations which may contain a great deal of pressure and threat. The Soviet leaders may feel that a condition of mutual deterrence applies to general war only and opens up to them the possibility of advancing Communist power by more provocative means, including perhaps limited military means. While the Soviet leaders would not willingly assume serious risk of general war, the chances of miscalculation will be increased by this situation.

Mr. Dulles then summarized NIE 11–8–59 along the lines of the attached “Advance Conclusions” of NIE 11–8–59.7

At the conclusion of Mr. Dulles’ presentation, the President referred to the hardening of U.S. missile bases and asked whether hardening could be started at once. Secretary Gates replied in the affirmative. Mr. Douglas said we were well along on the 25 PSI hardening of Atlas bases, although not on the 100 PSI. He pointed out that Titan will ultimately be fired from a hole. The President said that apparently a different type of hardening was necessary as between Atlas and Titan because Titan uses storable fuel. He asked whether Atlas as well as Titan could be fired from a hole. Mr. Douglas said various views had been expressed on this point, but that so far the Department of Defense had developed no plans to fire Atlas from a hole. The President said he assumed we would be constantly improving our missiles and wondered whether some of the hardened sites being made ready for Atlas could later be used for Titan and other improved missiles. If the hardening was to cost ten times as much as the missile, the hardened sites should be adaptable to various missiles. Mr. Douglas said a great deal of modification would probably be required; and Secretary Gates pointed out that the silo for Titan was [Page 356] different from the equipment for firing Atlas. Dr. Kistiakowsky said that in order to adapt a hardened Atlas site for firing Titan, the Government would probably have to spend an additional 40–50 per cent of the original cost of the site. A substitution of Titan for Atlas would require replacement of a great deal of equipment, including ground support equipment. He added that Atlas was a “thin-skinned missile” which would probably preclude firing it from a hole. The President asked whether it was the intention to abandon present hardened missile sites after new-type missiles were developed. Secretary Gates replied that both Atlas and Titan would be kept in the U.S. missile arsenal even after Minuteman and Polaris were developed, so that the development of improved missiles would not result in abandoning present missile bases.

The President then asked why so much emphasis was being placed on the mobility of missiles. Secretary Gates replied that the enemy required more missiles to knock out one of our mobile missiles. Dr. Kistiakowsky added that the enemy could not determine where a mobile missile was at any given time. He also pointed out that when the CEP of a missile is less than one nautical mile, hardening loses much of its advantage because of the statistical probability of a “one-to-one kill”. The President asked whether we know with a high degree of accuracy the location of all the targets at which our missiles might be aimed. He recalled that in the Army the field artillery often discovered that it was using inaccurate maps to control its firing. Dr. Kistiakowsky believed that we had our major targets [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. He pointed out, however, that the Russians are in a better position to locate their targets in the U.S. accurately. The President asked when the last of the thirteen Atlas squadrons would be operational. Mr. Douglas replied at the end of Calendar Year 1962. The President then inquired about the Titan squadrons and was told by Mr. Douglas that two Titan squadrons would be operational by the end of 1962 and that Titan would be fired out of the hole in 1963. Dr. Kistiakowsky pointed out that no missile using storable fuels had actually been fired yet, but that some had been static tested and the results were very encouraging.

Secretary Gates said the Administration was in a difficult position with regard to its testimony before Congress on missiles. Last year Secretary McElroy had admitted to a missile gap on the basis of an intelligence estimate of Soviet capabilities. It now appeared that the intelligence estimate had undergone a considerable change and that it now virtually says there is no missile gap. If this is the case, the U.S. has a very strong deterrent force. The Vice President asked whether mid-1961 would be the point of greatest danger to the U.S. in view of the fact that the Soviets would have from 140–200 missiles ready for launching at that time. The President did not believe the Soviets would consider 140–200 missiles decisive. Secretary Gates said Congress is very much interested in [Page 357] exploring the so-called “missile gap”. Past intelligence estimates which had talked about what the Soviets were capable of doing, rather than estimating what they would probably do, had resulted in a large missile gap. The President felt that in testimony before Congress it should be pointed out, as Mr. Dulles had pointed out, that there was no evidence that the Soviets had launched a “crash” program for the development of missiles. The Vice President said the “missile gap” resulted from an assumption that the Soviets would do all they were capable of doing and would make no mistakes, and from the further assumption that we would not do all we were capable of doing and would make a number of mistakes. The new intelligence estimate is based on what the Soviets will probably do rather than what they are capable of doing.

The President felt the U.S. would be in a good position at the end of 1962, since it would have some 195 big missiles plus Polaris plus the IRBM’s and would begin to get Minuteman. General Twining said the low-flying subsonic Snark should not be completely ruled out; this was a very useful missile although it was not ballistic. The Vice President asked how much was in the budget for a SAC airborne alert.8 The Vice President asked how many planes could be put into the air on any given day in 1961. Mr. Douglas said that present plans call for putting 90–100 SAC planes in the air for three months if necessary. The Vice President asked whether these planes would be equipped with Hound Dog. General Twining replied in the affirmative, and added that for a brief time all SAC planes could be put in the air. General Twining said that the missile gap which appeared in 1961 would be partly closed in 1962.

The President said he did not believe that when the Soviets got all their missiles ready, they would turn them loose against us. The Vice President asked why we assumed Soviet missile accuracy to be less than ours. Mr. Dulles replied that we had better miniaturization and guidance, but added that intelligence was not firm on the accuracy of Soviet-long-range missiles. Dr. Kistiakowsky felt that the Air Force estimate of the Soviet missile CEP is a reasonable one if it is assumed that the Soviets are preparing for pre-emptive attack. If the Soviets go in the direction of pre-emptive attack, they can use “soft guidance”, that is, guidance which would be damaged by our retaliatory attack. He believed they could improve their accuracy to the figure suggested by the Air Force, although he would point out this belief involved a guess as to the intentions of the USSR. The President felt we ought to assume that the Soviets will make the first attack. Dr. Kistiakowsky pointed out that the Soviets had bigger missiles than we have and can afford not to miniaturize. Moreover, the Russians can use the long-base inertial type of guidance.

[Page 358]

The President asked whether there was any question of our capability to detect quickly a Soviet attempt to set off a great number of missiles. Dr. Kistiakowsky thought that the BMEWS system could not miss such an attempt. The President pointed out that we are now able to detect the firing of a single missile at Tyura Tarn. Dr. Kistiakowsky thought that technique would not be applicable to the firing of missiles under operational conditions. We must rely on BMEWS, although we did not know how many fake signals would appear on BMEWS. The possibility of fake signals on BMEWS was one reason for developing the infra-red satellite warning system which, combined with BMEWS, would give positive and certain warning, but which was yet several years off.

Mr. Allen was concerned that if mention is made before Congressional Committees of Soviet missile misfirings, Congress will want to know how many of our missiles have misfired. Mr. Dulles said he did not intend to go into the matter of Soviet misfirings in testimony before Congressional Committees. In any case the number of U.S. misfirings was well known.

The President felt it might be a mistake to adopt the Air Force estimate of the number of missiles the Soviets would have, referred to in Mr. Dulles’ briefing. Khrushchev had said to him, “We know you won’t start a war.” Moreover, Khrushchev had been emphatic about stopping Russian plane production. Mr. Dulles reported that the Soviets had reduced production of planes, but that production was still going on. He added that the estimate of Soviet missile capability was guesswork to a certain extent for the period after 1961. In testimony before Congress he could probably give the figures for 1961 and say there were various guesses for the period following that.

General Twining asked whether the figures Mr. Dulles had given for the Soviet missile warhead, that is 6000 pounds and 8 megatons, were based on hard intelligence. Mr. Dulles said he was pretty confident of the intelligence on this point. The President said these figures were an indication that the Soviets have larger propulsive machinery in their missiles than we have. However, he had been told by Defense that our thrust was adequate for our requirements. He wondered whether we were using smaller missile warheads as a result of our lower thrust. Secretary Gates felt that our warheads were adequate for our purposes. Dr. Kistiakowsky pointed out that Atlas would carry a [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] warhead which would produce a [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]blast. Mr. McCone said miniaturization enabled us to live with a lower thrust without reducing the warhead proportionately.

Mr. Stans remarked that as the accuracy of Soviet missiles increases, the value of hardening U.S. bases decreases. This principle raised the question whether it would not be better for us to use money for mobility [Page 359] of missiles instead of hardening of bases. Secretary Gates said this question had often been considered by the scientists, who always concluded that it was worth spending money for hardening of missile bases. The President felt it was desirable to adhere to a well thought-out war plan. In connection with missile bases, he thought we should try a camouflage program, one which would, for example, conceal missile sites in connection with construction of large dams. Mr. Dulles said we might also build a number of dummy missile bases. The President agreed, and urged that we not put all our eggs in one basket in connection with missile bases. The Vice President wondered whether it was not accurate to say that, assuming the Soviets will start any war which occurs, they will need more missiles than we will need. If they set out to destroy us, they will need sufficient missiles to do the job the first time, for if they do not succeed in their first attack, they will feel the weight of our retaliatory capability. He believed the Soviets did not want to initiate war if thereby they risked destroying themselves. He felt they would not initiate a war unless they calculated that they could deliver a decisive attack against us by surprise. Mr. Allen agreed with the Vice President as to the USSR but was not sure about Communist China if the latter acquired missiles with nuclear warheads.

The President remarked that in a period of strained diplomatic relations we might get information about an impending Russian attack which would cause us to fire our missiles. Missiles once fired, however, could not be recalled if the information about the Russian attack proved to be false. There was no “fail-safe” or positive control over missiles as there was over planes. Secretary Gates concluded the discussion with the remark that all studies made by Defense showed that a greater and greater premium was being placed on taking the initiative by surprise attack.

The National Security Council:9

Noted an oral briefing by the Director of Central Intelligence on the subject, with specific reference to a summary of NIE 11–4–59 (“Main Trends in Soviet Capabilities and Policies, 1959 through 1964”) and NIE 11–8–59 (“Soviet Capabilities for Strategic Attack Through Mid-1964”).
Discussed relative strategic attack capabilities of the United States and the USSR over the next few years.

[Here follow Agenda Items 4. “U.S. Policy Toward Iran,” 5. “U.S. Policy Toward Turkey,” and 6. “U.S. Policy on Hong Kong.”]

Marion W. Boggs
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Drafted by Boggs on January 13.
  2. Regarding NSC Action No. 1846, see footnote 2, Document 5. For NSC Action No. 2013, see footnote 6, Document 41. For NSC Action No. 2081, see footnote 5, Document 56. For NSC Action No. 2118, see footnote 4, Document 72.
  3. Not found.
  4. The note, dated January 6, states that the previous time the President had approved specific numbers of ICBMs and Polaris submarines was in NSC Action No. 2013, but that the Secretary of Defense had proposed further increases at the NSC meeting on November 25, 1959 (see Document 79). While the Defense recommendations had been considered consistent with policy objectives, the President had deferred action pending completion of the “regular budgetary process,” which had since taken place. Gray then summarized the recommendations of the January 5 Defense memorandum, which are embodied in NSC Action No. 2168; see footnote 4 below. See the Supplement.
  5. The following paragraphs and note constitute NSC Action No. 2168, approved by the President on January 13. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)
  6. Dated February 9. (ibid., INRNIE Files) The summary of this estimate is in the Supplement.
  7. Document 88.
  8. Not printed. The “Advance Conclusions,” dated December 3, 1959, differ in certain respects from those of NIE 11–8–59, but not in the projections of Soviet missile forces over the 5-year period or in the judgment that the Soviet Union was not undertaking a “crash program” in ICBMs. See the Supplement.
  9. Mr. Stans said the budget included $85 million for preparation for such an alert. [Footnote in the source text.]
  10. The following paragraphs constitute NSC Action No. 2169, approved by the President on January 9. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)