87. Memorandum of Discussion at the 434th Meeting of the National Security Council0

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

1. Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security1

Mr. Gray said the intelligence briefing would be devoted principally to a presentation of the new “Estimate of the World Situation” (NIE 100–60).2 This Estimate, prepared every year at this time by the Intelligence Community, is normally one of the bases for the annual review of Basic National Security Policy. However, the last review of Basic Policy was begun in February of last year and the new paper (NSC 5906/1)3 was approved by the President in August. Indeed, certain portions of the paper, those relating to stockpiling, were adopted as recently as December 3. Accordingly, a complete review of the entire Basic Policy was not planned for this year.

Mr. Dulles said he wished to cover some items of current intelligence before summarizing NIE 100–60. [Here follows discussion of Soviet missile and space activity, included in the Supplement.]

[1 paragraph (10 lines of source text) not declassified]

[Here follows discussion of the Warsaw Pact, Khrushchev’s travels, and developments in Syria, India, and Algeria.]

Mr. Dulles then turned to the Estimate of the World Situation (NIE 100–60). After reporting that the Estimate had been agreed on by the Intelligence Community except for two mild dissents, he read the “Summary of the Estimate” (Pages 1–4 of NIE 100–60). The President noted that the Estimate contained no speculation as to the Soviet attitude when the Soviets become richer and more industrialized. The President was inclined to feel that as a nation gets richer, it becomes more conservative. Perhaps as industrialization advances in the Soviet Union and as the Soviets have more to risk by an adventuresome policy, they will become more conservative. At any rate, he felt this possibility should not be overlooked. Another fifty years might bring about quite a change in relations between the US and the USSR. Of course, the Chinese Communists would not become rich and conservative for quite a while yet, and they [Page 371] might become irritated at the Soviets if the Soviets become conservative. Mr. Dulles was inclined to agree with the President’s remarks. He said he had always believed in the possibility of evolutionary development in the Soviet Union. He then read the following extract from the discussion portion of NIE 100–60:

“Popular hopes for a better life are on the rise in the USSR. Some groups seek a greater degree of personal freedom from restrictions and there is a far more universal desire to enjoy more of the economic fruits of Soviet growth. Khrushchev so far has tended to take these sentiments into account and has thus somewhat strengthened the regime.”

The President noted that these desires and sentiments could be governmental as well as individual attitudes. The Vice President thought that one of the greatest subconscious restraints influencing the Soviet government was its immense pride in its achievements. The risks the USSR would take now are far less in magnitude than the risks it would have taken ten years ago. As the USSR has more to risk, it will be more restrained. The President recalled that after World War I a great many publicists had written a great deal about the “have’s” and the “have not’s”. He said he liked Mr. Dulles’ summary of the Estimate, which he had read.

Mr. McCone said he was concerned by Mr. Dulles’ remarks to the effect that Free World allegiance to the alliance with the US might be weakened if the Free World should come to doubt our military capability or our will. He asked whether the Free World was already doubting our will and ability or whether there was a danger that it might do so in the future. Mr. Dulles reported that most Foreign Offices contained a clique which doubted the will and the ability of the US. Secretary Herter agreed and added that these cliques were especially active whenever there was talk of withdrawing US forces from Europe. However, he felt that many of the doubts which the Free World had about us were laid to rest during the last NATO meeting. Most Free World countries, he continued, cannot feel secure unless they maintain their faith in US retaliatory power. Mr. McCone asked whether the attack in the US on our retaliatory capability was weakening confidence in us abroad. Mr. Herter said it was and indicated that our allies would undoubtedly be worried if they felt we were worried about our retaliatory capacity. This was one of the more troublesome features of the “missile gap” discussion. Mr. McCone said he thought that the position which the President took in commenting on the attacks on our military capabilities was of course the correct one. Nevertheless, he had detected some concern among our own people as well as among our allies lest our retaliatory capability not remain adequate. He thought additional missiles could be produced by the US at slight additional cost and wondered whether such additional production should not be given serious consideration. He felt we could not ignore the undercurrent of concern now evident.

[Page 372]

Mr. Allen believed that a Gallup Poll in 1939 would have revealed that most Americans thought Hitler was stronger militarily than the UK, but this did not mean that these Americans were about to desert the UK and join Hitler. Today polls would show that people abroad believe the Soviet Union is militarily stronger than the US, but this does not mean that our allies are about to desert us and join the Soviets.

Mr. McCone felt on the contrary that the Estimate just summarized by Mr. Dulles came close to saying that perhaps some Free World countries would join the USSR if they came to have doubts of our will and ability. He could not agree with Mr. Allen about Hitler because Hitler had not been considered a threat to us in 1939. The President said he disagreed with Mr. McCone; at least in the military services, Hitler was considered a threat to the US in 1939. However, the President felt that unnecessary hysteria had been produced in the US by the launching of Sputnik, which had no military significance. He added that if we want the US to become an armed camp, there are a great many measures we could take to strengthen ourselves militarily, but in a free country we could not impose sufficient taxes to become a much more heavily armed nation and at the same time preserve a viable economy. People were inclined to rebel against high taxes; and if we became a garrison state we would need to impose economic controls. He believed we were doing enough militarily at the present time and thought we had sufficient retaliatory capability. On his recent trip he had detected everywhere a desire on the part of the people for peace and a desire for reassurance that the US would not desert the Free World. Secretary Herter said the significance of Sputnik was that it was evidence of Soviet scientific competence and of what might evolve from such scientific competence. The President agreed, but thought nevertheless that our hysteria was too great at the time Sputnik was launched. He noted that he had made several speeches in an effort to produce a calmer atmosphere.

Mr. McCone said he did not want to transform the US into an armed camp, nor would he wish to produce serious effects on the US economy, but he still believed that for the expenditure of a relatively modest sum we could obtain considerable additional retaliatory capacity. The President said that as soon as our more advanced missiles proved themselves, we must see what we can do to get them into production. However, he did not wish to create a big arsenal of weapons which were not yet fully developed or weapons which would soon be obsolete. Mr. McCone agreed that it was always necessary to maintain a balance between existing operational weapons and weapons which will become operational in the future. However, he feared that Minuteman might be disappointing in that it carried only a small warhead [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. Moreover, making Minuteman operational by 1962 was thus far only a hope. Secretary Douglas said some of those who had had some [Page 373] doubts about Minuteman’s operational capability in 1962 were now confident that this schedule would be met. The President wondered whether the successful tests of the Polaris did not hold out great hope for Minuteman. Secretary Douglas said that while the two missiles were similar, there were enough differences between them so that successful tests of Polaris did not necessarily foreshadow success for Minuteman. He thought the situation as to the development of new missiles was healthy at this time; and Dr. Kistiakowsky agreed. Secretary Herter believed the Hound Dog missile should be emphasized. He understood it would come into production soon. The President said the present budget provided for solid accomplishments with the Hound Dog missile. Secretary Douglas believed we could establish four more Atlas squadrons during the last half of Calendar Year 1962 and this development might be extended into 1963. By mid-1963 it was hoped that 150 Minutemen would be operational. Not much could be done with the big missiles before Minuteman becomes operational. However, Mr. Douglas noted there were divided counsels on this subject. Mr. McCone conceded that a year ago we had feared that Atlas would not be successful. He reported he had worked out figures identical with those of Mr. Douglas as to the possible build-up of Atlas squadrons in 1962. The President calculated that if Atlas squadrons should be increased from 27 to 40, we would incur a cost of $6 billion for launching sites which could not subsequently be used for Minuteman. Mr. McCone believed we should have an arsenal containing various missile weapons. He felt that additional Atlas squadrons could be produced by greater effort, including overtime, in our present plants, without increasing our production facilities. Secretary Douglas said that counting both ICBMs and Polaris (which has capabilities similar to ICBMs) we would in mid-1963 have about 500 missiles on launchers, which was almost exactly the figure credited to the Soviet Union at that date, on the average. Would it not be possible to say that in our best judgment there will be no missile gap by mid-1963? Until that time we will have manned bombers and Navy carriers in large numbers. The period of the gap can thus be covered by spending relatively little on an airborne alert which can be put into operation whenever a crisis impends. The President said that launching sites alone for the additional ICBM squadrons would cost us $1 billion in this year’s budget. Secretary Douglas said that the cost would be $3-1/2 billion including Polaris.

The Vice President asked what the proponents of the airborne alert wanted. Secretary Douglas said they wanted an airborne alert established by early 1961. Indeed, some critics of our defense policy wanted the airborne alert established today. He felt there was no justification for a crash program to establish an airborne alert. A year to fifteen months lead time was required for some items crucial to the airborne alert, such as aircraft engines, if we wish to have the capacity to continue such an [Page 374] alert indefinitely. The Vice President felt that if offered a choice between a great airborne alert program and acquiring additional Atlas and Polaris squadrons, we would undoubtedly not decide on the airborne alert. Secretary Douglas said when he spoke of an airborne alert for an indefinite period, he meant by the latter phrase only that period of time until we had certain early warning. When BMEWS was completed, we will have assurance of obtaining warning of any large-scale attack. Even the proponents of the airborne alert admit that it is only a temporary expedient.

The President, pointing out that when a missile is tested there is a long count-down, asked how much count-down would be required for a surprise attack by missiles. Dr. Kistiakowsky said much of the countdown in missile testing at the present time is devoted to ensuring that the test equipment is operational. This test equipment is ten times as complicated as the missile itself. Consequently, the count-down could be reduced for firing an operational missile. For example, the initial operational launches of Thor took place after a count-down of fifteen minutes. The President said we talked a great deal about the advantages of missiles. He asked how long would be required to get Atlas ready to fire. Secretary Douglas reported that the total reaction time of Atlas was fifteen minutes, during nine minutes of which Atlas would be exposed; that is, would be a “soft weapon”. Titan exposure time would be zero. It seemed inconceivable to Dr. Kistiakowsky that in twelve to twenty-four months from now it would be possible to launch hundreds of missiles with split-second timing.

Mr. Scribner said he had found great concern among our allies as to whether we were willing to take the economic measures necessary to maintain the strength of the US economy. The President said he continued to insist that we must keep our economy sound.

The Vice President asked permission to return to the airborne alert for a moment. He said he understood the proponents of such an alert advocated continuing it for a long period of time. Mr. Douglas said they did. He added that we have had as many as fourteen SAC bombers at one time in the air for periods up to 90 days. The budget provides for a capability to be reached a year from now, of from 60–70 B–52’s airborne on a round-the-clock basis. The President asked how many Hound Dogs each B–52 carried. Mr. Douglas said that some B–52’s carried two Hound Dogs. He added that the proponents of the airborne alert would double the number of aircraft carrying this missile. The Vice President asked whether additional airborne alert capability could be obtained for an expenditure of $300 million more. Secretary Douglas said this figure was a reasonable one, but that eventually more manpower would be needed and there would also be a maintenance problem. For example, more crews would be necessary if twelve bombers from each wing were placed on airborne alert. Mr. Dulles asked whether the airborne alert was [Page 375] not supplemented by a fifteen minute alert status for other planes. Secretary Douglas said such was indeed the case for B–47’s but not for B–52’s.

The National Security Council:4

Noted and discussed an oral briefing by the Director of Central Intelligence on the subject, with specific reference to the second Soviet test missile impacted in the Pacific; the detection of an unidentified earth satellite; the current Warsaw Pact meeting in Moscow; Khrushchev’s projected trips to India, Burma, Indonesia, France, and possibly Communist China; Israeli-Syrian border clashes; the anti-Communist election victory in Kerala, India; the Algerian situation; and NIE 100–60, “Estimate of the World Situation”.5

[Here follow Agenda Items 2. “U.S. Policy Toward Cyprus,” and 3. “U.S. Policy Toward Italy.”]

Marion W. Boggs
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Drafted by Boggs.
  2. Another account of the discussion of this agenda item is in Kistiakowsky, A Scientist at the White House, pp. 242–243.
  3. Document 84.
  4. Document 70.
  5. The following paragraph constitutes NSC Action No. 2183, approved by the President on February 9. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)
  6. According to Kistiakowsky, the debate on air alert continued after the NSC meeting in a discussion among Nixon, Herter, and McCone. (Kistiakowsky, A Scientist at the White House, pp. 243–244)