96. Memorandum of Conference With President Eisenhower 0


  • Secretary Gates, Secretary Douglas, General Twining, Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Harlow, General Goodpaster

Mr. Gates said the group had come in to try to reach decisions with the President on Defense reprogramming. He first said that the Defense Department had been over the Air Force reprogramming proposal, and wished to recommend approval. The President asked if this was the program that was worked out with him some days ago, and on being assured that it was, said it was satisfactory to him.

Mr. Gates then took up the question of increasing the Polaris program. He said that to bring in additional boats in 1963, which he considers desirable, would require the addition of a substantial amount of NOA for FY–61. He does not believe the Navy can find funds to offset this other than through the possible cancellation of the attack submarines. There is a real question in the minds of a number of people, however, as to whether this would be wise to do, since the anti-submarine warfare problem is a severe one. There is also the matter of possible cancellation of the carrier, but he did not feel the Administration should propose this since it is a specific part of the program.

The President said, with regard to the attack submarines, that if we are deciding to go in the direction of Polaris, it is because we think that there is value in diversifying and increasing our deterrent through additions to this force. His doubt with regard to the ASW submarines is simply that the argument in favor of the Polaris is that it cannot be detected or stopped from conducting its attack. But the same thing applies in reverse, and means that our ASW submarines will not be able to stop their Polaris.

Our real defense against their Polaris is our diversified, dependable deterrent. He is inclined to think we should take out two of the attack submarines, keeping one so as to keep the development continuing. Mr. Douglas noted that these could be put back into Fiscal 1962 without too much difficulty since they are planning to put out the contract very late in FY–61 anyhow. The President said he would like also to take $25 or $30 million in NOA from the funds made available through Air Force reprogramming. Mr. Gates commented that the Air Force had done a fine job [Page 395] in reprogramming and eliminating the Bomarc, and he thought it might have a bad effect to reward them by taking the money away from them. The President commented that he is suggesting taking only a minor amount of money, and added that he had proposed eliminating the Bomarc two years ago. The Air Force had resisted him very strongly and had simply wasted several hundred million dollars as a result in the meantime. Mr. Gates and Mr. Douglas thought it would not create a problem to take $25 to $30 million from the Air Force funds. Mr. Gates said that through these steps it would appear approximately $150 million could be brought together to support the new program. He said there would still remain a need for additional NOA if we adopted the program of “five and six,” i.e., raising the number of submarines fully funded in FY–61 from three to five and the number for which long lead time items are to be obtained from three to six. The President said the program he is particularly keen on is the so-called three and nine program, in which present action is simply to add the long lead time items for six additional submarines. Mr. Gates said the difficulty with the three and nine program in his mind is that we will not get additional boats in 1963, but will get eight in 1964. There is not much gain from the standpoint of funding, since he thought we would want to say the Administration would come in for a supplemental early next year to cover the ships themselves. The President recalled that he had stated publicly his readiness to come to the Congress for additional funds when the Polaris had further proved itself. General Twining recalled that he and others in Defense had said the same thing. The real question is one of timing. Is now the time to make a commitment to the additional six submarines? The President said that all the tests of the system have been quite good, except for the failure of one recent under-water shot to ignite—and this occurred for trivial reasons—and that he thought we had reached the place where we could validly make some increase in the program. He did not necessarily mean to make a full commitment at this point, however. General Twining commented that we should learn a great deal in the service tests that are to take place this fall, and that modifications may be found desirable as a result of these tests which can be introduced more readily if the ships are not fully funded. Mr. Gates said that he and Mr. Douglas would be inclined to recommend the five by six program although he does not feel terribly strongly on this on the grounds that it adds two fully funded ships which will be available sooner. He would also include funds for increasing the range of the Polaris to 2500 miles. The President said that he regards the extension of range to 2500 miles as something of definitely lower priority. He thought the Navy was already working on this and did not see the need for a big program. Mr. Douglas said he had been advised by the Navy that they are putting no money into this at the present time. Mr. Gates said that the Navy is concentrating on extending the range of the present Polaris to the design range of 1500 [Page 396] miles. He added that Dr. York would like to get a start on the 2500 miles development.

The President said that one thing that troubles him is that he is now told that there will be no change needed in the submarines to fit them for 2500 mile missiles. His fear is that the Navy will come back in three years saying that they need all new boats in order to handle this missile.

All in all, he thought it preferable to avoid a full commitment now. He believed we could give the authority for advance items now and look at the situation again in a few months. Mr. Gates said his thought is simply that the five by six program is a little better than the three by nine. The President asked whether the reactors—which are the chief elements involved in the long lead time procurement—are the same for the Polaris submarines as for the attack submarines, and was assured that they are. He commented that any emphasis on the particular date of 1963 seemed questionable to him, as a reversion to the game of guessing the “year of greatest danger.” He said the notion of putting forward a request for an additional $150 million or so above the budget does not necessarily stop him, but he would rather go no further than authorizing lead time items for the present, awaiting the actual firings from a submarine in mid-ocean to a point on the test range later in the year. Mr. Douglas commented again that there would be value in getting a couple of additional boats in the program for 1963. The President said he thinks it is more a question of being sure the system is proved and tested out. Mr. Gates said he could do either the three by nine or five by six program. The President said he thought it best to recommend the three by nine program on the theory that the additional procurement will be useful either for Polaris submarines or for attack submarines. In August we will have our service tests. If these prove out satisfactorily, we will probably be coming to the Congress for supplemental NOA early next year on the basis of a tested and proven system. He thought the Navy should try to scratch up a limited amount of money to let Admiral Raborn start the development of a 2500 mile missile. Mr. Douglas commented that the extension to 2500 miles makes a great contribution to the invulnerability of the submarine in future years, since the submarine can lie further off the coast and still reach any important target. The President said he thought that the Navy could get the academic and theoretical research started. He did not think it was necessary to have the full $87 million requested in order to get work started on this project.

He commented that a plan had been developed after great consideration and discussion last fall, and that he thought we should basically stick to it. He recognized that we have thought of the Polaris as having exceptional value in terms of its mobility and invulnerability and were prepared to see additions to the program for this reason.

[Page 397]

The President said he would like to have Defense ask the Navy to lay out exactly what are the problems involved in this range extension, in what order they should be attacked, at what time funds will be needed to support this, etc. He repeated that we should not be into a program involving hundreds of millions of dollars a year until we reach the test phase.

There was agreement to go ahead on a three by nine program, dropping two of the attack submarines, and taking $25 to $30 million out of the Air Force reprogramming funds. Mr. Gates said he would communicate this to the Congress. He would also make a very general announcement about this as he left the White House this morning.

Mr. Douglas raised the matter of additional airlift. The President said he does not favor substantial additions of interim aircraft, mentioning particularly the KC–135.

Mr. Douglas said that a few more aircraft should probably be obtained, mentioning the C–130–B as a very good aircraft for the purpose. General Twining said that, at the NATO meeting last week, he and Mr. Gates were pressed a little by the Europeans as to the U.S. sending additional major units into Europe in the early days in the event of an attack. The President said he is not favorably impressed by the emphasis of the Europeans on getting the U.S. to do more. He thought they should be doing more. General Twining said that he and Mr. Gates had both made this point quite clear and plain at the NATO meetings.

Brigadier General, General, USA
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries. No classification marking. Drafted by Goodpaster.