94. Memorandum of Discussion at the 439th Meeting of the National Security Council0

[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and Agenda Items 1. “U.S. Policy Toward Scandinavia,” 2. “Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security,” and 3. “U.S. Policy Toward Cuba.”]

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4. Production of the Minuteman ICBM System and Related Operational Force Objectives (NSC Action No. 2118;1 Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated March 30, 19602)

Mr. Gray briefed the Council on this subject. (A copy of Mr. Gray’s Briefing Note is filed in the Minutes of the Meeting and another is attached to this Memorandum.)3

Secretary Douglas said the Department of Defense always raised with the President and the Council proposals to establish the highest national priority for weapons, especially missiles. The Department of Defense proposal to commit the Minuteman missile to production and to establish an initial operational force objective for achievement of 150 Minutemen operational missiles by mid-1963 had already been considered in connection with the FY 1961 budget. This proposal would result in the establishment of one production facility for Minuteman. If successful, the program would close the so-called “missile gap”.

The President said perhaps we should go ahead with this program if the scientists were convinced that Minuteman is an operational weapon. Secretary Douglas said no serious question had been raised as to the feasibility of the Minuteman system, although the system had not yet been fully tested. The President remarked that in the absence of tests he was slightly skeptical; he hated to buy “a pig in a poke”. He asked Dr. Kistiakowsky to comment. Dr. Kistiakowsky said there had been no tests of Minuteman, as Secretary Douglas had said. He had no up-to-date technical information on the progress of the Minuteman program and hence was unable to form an independent judgment as to the feasibility of the system. Secretary Douglas said there had been successful static tests of the first and second stages of Minuteman. There had also been successful launches from the hole of the first stage lightly loaded, so that the missile was lifted only a slight distance above ground. This test, however, indicated the structural characteristics of the missile.

Mr. Stans said he understood that a decision to commit Minuteman to production would not include establishing a date for an initial operational force objective, which he thought should be established after production facilities had been created. Secretary Douglas said it was necessary to proceed along the lines proposed by Defense and to increase expenditures on Minuteman if an operational capability for Minuteman [Page 390] were to be achieved by the end of 1962. The Department of Defense proposal had been well understood in government since the first of the year, except that the size of the operational capability had only recently been fixed. The President said it had earlier been agreed that the funds to proceed with production of Minuteman would be available as soon as the scientists “gave the green light.” Secretary Douglas said Dr. York and his office had no question as to the advisability of proceeding with production of Minuteman.

In response to a question from the President, Secretary Douglas said expenditures on Minuteman in FY 61 would amount to $300 million. The President asked whether part of this sum had already been spent. Secretary Douglas replied that part of the sum had been committed. He added that some research and development production would be available for operational production in the case of Minuteman.

Mr. Gray asked whether an initial operational capability of 150 Minutemen by mid-1963 meant that an initial annual production capability of 150 missiles was being established. Secretary Douglas said that the Minuteman production facilities would be designed to produce 30 missiles per month, a rate which would be achieved by May 1963. Prior to the achievement of that rate, there would be a gradual build-up in the rate of production from February 1962 when the first production Minuteman missile would come off the assembly line.

The President inquired about the final target of the Minuteman program. Secretary Douglas said there was no target beyond 400 missiles by the end of Calendar Year 1963. There was no authorization for production facilities beyond the creation of this first facility and no firm plans for more than 400 missiles to be produced by 1963. He added that there would have to be substantial funding for the Minuteman program in 1962. The President said we were inclined to say what the final figure for production of a missile would be as soon as we start producing it. Secretary Douglas said he was conservative as to the final figure. He refused to go beyond the figure of 400 missiles at the end of 1963, although the figure of 800 missiles at the end of 1964 had come up for discussion. The President said perhaps we should go crazy and produce 10,000 Minutemen. Secretary Douglas believed the Department of Defense proposals were reasonable if we were to attain a substantial operational capability during the important period of time down to mid-1963. The President pointed out that we would have Atlas, Titan, Polaris, and Minuteman missiles soon. Secretary Douglas said we would have 130 Atlas missiles by the end of 1962 at the rate of ten missiles per squadron, plus some additional missiles for the last six squadrons. We would have 70 Titan missiles at the end of 1962 at the rate of ten per squadron. We would have either 144 or 160 Polaris missiles by mid-1963. Admiral Burke said we would have nine or ten Polaris submarines then, depending upon the FY [Page 391] 1961 budget. The President said he calculated that we would have 750 long-range missiles at the end of 1963, counting Polaris and counting the 400 Minutemen mentioned by Secretary Douglas earlier. Secretary Douglas said that by mid-1963, including the Polaris, we had programmed about 500 missiles. It was estimated that the Russians would have just over 500 missiles at that time. Mr. Dulles pointed out that there was a split in the National Intelligence Estimate as to the number of Soviet missiles.4 Mr. Herter inquired about the mobile land-based Polaris missiles in Europe. Secretary Douglas believed we could not count on the deployment of many land-based Polaris missiles in Europe if we had to depend on their production in Europe. The President asked why the European countries should not buy the land-based Polaris from the U.S. Secretary Douglas believed the land-based Polaris should be purchased from us. However, there were difficult questions of deployment regarding the land-based Polaris in Europe, questions as to whether the weapons should be deployed by heavy road machinery, by barges or by trains. The President said there should be no difficulty in transporting the missiles, since he recalled that Navy boats had been hauled across Europe for operations on the Rhine during World War II.

With respect to the proposals of the Department of Defense for commitment of Minuteman to production and for an initial operational force objective, the President said he was willing to give his approval, but he would like to keep in close touch with tests of this missile. Secretary Douglas said there would be a full-scale test firing of Minuteman in September or towards the end of the year. The President said we had gambled so much on our missile program since 1955 that we might as well take another gamble. Mr. Stans felt it would be desirable to total up the procurement and facilities cost of all our missiles in an effort to determine what the cost would be in 1963. The President said he hoped the Department of Defense would be as eloquent in suggesting the abandonment of unnecessary weapons systems as it had been in proposing the commitment of Minuteman to production.

The National Security Council:5

Noted the President’s approval of the recommendations of the Acting Secretary of Defense, contained in the enclosure to the reference memorandum of March 30, 1960, for:

Commitment of the Minuteman program to production.
An initial operational force objective which specifies the achievement of 150 Minuteman operational missiles by mid-calendar year 1963.

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Note: The above action, as approved by the President, subsequently transmitted to the Secretary of Defense for appropriate implementation.

5. Priorities for Ballistic Missile and Space Programs (NSC Actions Nos. 1846, 2013, 2081 and 2118)

Mr. Gray said that one of the projects which was added to the highest priority list of May 13, 1959 (NSC Action No. 2081)6 was Sentry, the satellite-borne visual and ferret reconnaissance system. The Sentry program had been redesignated Samos and the Record should be corrected to reflect this change in designation.

The National Security Council:7

Amended NSC Action No. 2118–c by substituting the designation “Samos” for “Sentry”, to reflect a redesignation of the satellite-borne visual and ferret reconnaissance system.

Note: The above action, as approved by the President, subsequently circulated to all holders of NSC Action No. 2118–c.

Marion W. Boggs
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Drafted by Boggs on April 2.
  2. See footnote 4, Document 72.
  3. This memorandum transmitted a March 25 memorandum from Douglas to Gray, which proposed committing the Minuteman weapons system to production since “recent test results on the various parts of the weapon system” had been “highly indicative of the probable attainment of the desired objective.” Douglas advocated approval of a rate of production that would bring the force to 150 operational missiles by mid-1963. (Department of State, S/SOCB Files: Lot 61 D 385, Ballistic Missiles)
  4. Not printed.
  5. See Document 88.
  6. The following paragraphs and note constitute NSC Action No. 2207, approved by the President on April 6. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)
  7. See footnote 5, Document 56.
  8. The following paragraphs and note constitute NSC Action No. 2208, approved by the President on April 6. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)