9. Memorandum of Discussion at the 356th Meeting of the National Security Council0

[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and Agenda Item 1. “U.S. Economic Defense Policy.”]

2. Report to the President by the Security Resources Panel of the ODM Science Advisory Committee (NSC Action No. 1814; NSC 5724; NSC 5724/1; NSC Actions Nos. 1841 and 1842)

General Cutler, in his briefing on this item, pointed out that the Department of Defense was to present a report on certain military recommendations included in the so-called “Gaither Report” for which there had not been sufficient time for discussion before the Council at its January 6 meeting.1

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  • The first item to be reported on was whether to produce additional first-generation ICBMs beyond the 130 currently programmed to be operational prior to the end of 1963; whether to build additional launching sites required for an operational capability of such additional ICBMs; and whether to harden such additional launching sites.
  • The second item, continued General Cutler, was whether to order now production of more than three Polaris submarine missiles systems and whether possibly further to accelerate Polaris production.
  • The third matter was whether to utilize modified existing anti-aircraft missiles (Talos) as interim defense against ICBM attack at SAC bases, pending the development of an initial operational capability of the more effective Nike–Zeus anti-missile missiles.
  • The fourth matter was whether to harden SAC bases by providing blast shelters for a large part of SAC planes, weapons, personnel, and supplies.

The report on the first three of the aforementioned matters was presented by Mr. William Holaday, Director of Guided Missiles, Department of Defense. (A copy of Mr. Holaday’s report on these three items is included in the minutes of the meeting.)2 In the course of his report, Mr. Holaday made use of charts which indicated force objectives and estimated fund requirements.

At the conclusion of Mr. Holaday’s report, the President inquired whether the Talos missile was better than the Nike–Zeus anti-missile missiles. Mr. Holaday replied in the negative, but pointed out that at this time the Talos program was further advanced than the Nike–Zeus. Accordingly, we must decide whether the Soviet threat in the years just ahead justifies going on with Talos or moving into Nike–Zeus.

Thereafter, General Cutler called on Dr. Killian for any comments that he desired to make on Mr. Holaday’s report.

Dr. Killian stated that with respect to the first and second items (ICBM and Polaris), he would say that we are reaching a point where it is necessary to undertake an over-all review of our U.S. ballistic missiles programs, particularly in view of the possibility of achieving a solid propellant ICBM (the so-called “Minute Man“).

As to the Titan program, Dr. Killian commented that it looked promising and appeared to be subject to greater improvement in the future than did the Atlas, the prospects for improving which were not so considerable. Accordingly, it might be better to put our money on Titan rather than on Atlas. This question should be part of the general review which he was recommending. On the other hand, Dr. Killian warned that [Page 42]we should not jump to the conclusion that a solid propellant ICBM was near at hand and stake too much on that assumption.

With respect to the Polaris missile, Dr. Killian pointed out the extreme complexities we were encountering in developing navigation and guidance systems. He also pointed out the very high cost per missile of the nuclear submarine program. (A copy of Dr. Killian’s comments is filed in the minutes of the meeting.)3

When Dr. Killian had completed his comments on Mr. Holaday’s report, the President inquired whether what they had been listening to did not emphasize the need for a centralized research on fuels because these fuels were used all across the board. The President said he would put such centralized research under the Secretary of Defense. In response, Dr. Killian pointed out that research on solid propellant fuels differs in important respects from research on liquid propellant fuels.

Secretary Dulles indicated that he had some observations to make. He then pointed out that in any over-all review of our U.S. missiles programs such as had been suggested, it would be of great importance to take political considerations into account, particularly in the matter of deploying our missiles on the territories of our allies. We must not assume that we can station intermediate-range missiles anywhere we want on the territories of our allies. Nor would we be sanguine on the point of how dependable our missile bases overseas will turn out to be in practice. To make his point clear, Secretary Dulles indicated that we had required a year to complete our negotiations with the United Kingdom (our strongest ally) on stationing IRBMs in the United Kingdom. In short, Secretary Dulles said he felt that we could not stake the security of the United States on missiles deployed and based on foreign soil. We must depend in the first instance on ballistic missiles deployed on U.S. soil or in U.S. submarines.

The President said he had one comment to make on all this discussion—namely, that we were not going to carry out all these plans and still maintain a free economy in the United States.

At this point General Cutler asked Secretary McElroy when he estimated that the over-all review of the U.S. missiles program would be completed. Would it be by April 1? Secretary McElroy replied that the President would have made a decision on a number of moot points by April 1, but not on all.

General Cutler then called on Secretary Quarles for the fourth in the series of Defense Department reports—namely, on whether to harden SAC bases. Secretary Quarles made his report, and noted that the review of this matter in the Defense Department had confirmed the earlier position of the Defense Department that it did not concur in the recommendation [Page 43]of the Gaither Panel relative to providing blast shelter at SAC bases. (A copy of Secretary Quarles’ report is filed in the minutes of the meeting.)4

Asked by General Cutler to comment, Dr. Killian expressed the opinion that Secretary Quarles’ reasoning against hardening SAC bases appeared persuasive, though Dr. Killian hoped that this opinion would not be interpreted to exclude the possibility of a limited and selected hardening of SAC bases as opposed to a total hardening program for SAC bases. Secretary Quarles replied that the possibility of a special and limited hardening of selected SAC bases could very well be kept in the picture.

Dr. Killian then added that he had a question to put to Secretary Quarles. What were the actual pounds per square inch (PSI) levels in use for protecting SAC headquarters and other Air Force command headquarters? He believed that the level was 30 PSI and he feared that this would leave such headquarters vulnerable. Secretary Quarles admitted that a direct or near hit by a megaton bomb would destroy SAC headquarters. It was terribly costly even to provide a 30–PSI level of protection. If we attempted to provide protection at the level of 100 PSI, the costs would go out of sight.

The President asked what additional protection could be afforded installations by layered reinforced concrete, noting that we had been unable to destroy the German submarine pens even with direct hits by the bloc-busters of World War II. Secretary Quarles replied to the President by indicating that over-pressure of 2 PSI would destroy aircraft on the runways. An over-pressure of 10 PSI would destroy a reinforced steel building.

The Director of the Office of Defense Mobilization stated his agreement with the views of the Department of Defense that it was not wise to adopt now a program of hardening all SAC bases; but Mr. Gray expressed the hope that we could follow out Dr. Killian’s suggestion for a limited hardening program for certain selected SAC bases.

The National Security Council:5

Noted and discussed an oral report by the Department of Defense:
On the status of its studies pursuant to NSC Action No. 1842–g–(1), –(2)and –(3).
Confirming, after further review, its comment in NSC 5724/1 that it does not concur in and would not propose to carry out Recommendation III–A–2–d [Page 44]of the Security Resources Panel Report (NSC 5724), relative to providing blast shelters at SAC bases.
Noted the comment by the Secretary of State that the development of U.S. ballistic missiles programs should take account of foreign political conditions which could involve a risk to U.S. security through undue dependence upon deployment of such missiles in areas not under secure U.S. control.
Noted that the Secretary of Defense would:
Report to the Council, prior to April 15, as to his recommendations regarding the measures referred to in NSC Action No. 1842–g–(l), –(2) and–(3).
Keep under review the feasibility and desirability of providing blast shelters for a limited number of selected SAC bases.

Note: The actions in b and c above, as approved by the President, subsequently transmitted to the Secretary of Defense for appropriate implementation.

[Here follow Agenda Items 3. “Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security,” and 4. “Shipments Entering the United States Under Diplomatic Immunity” (included in the Supplement).]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Gleason on February 28.
  2. For text, see the Supplement.
  3. Not printed. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 273, Records of the National Security Council, Official Meeting Minutes File)
  4. Not printed. (ibid.)
  5. Not printed. (ibid.)
  6. The following paragraphs and note constitute NSC Action No. 1866, approved by the President on March 3. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)