18. Briefing Note for the 356th NSC Meeting1

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1. Mr. President, in October, 1956, you asked Frank Nash to “carry out a study of and make recommendations with respect to our system of overseas military bases and operating facilities.” (This language is quoted from your detailed instructions to Mr. Nash, annexed to his Report.) Mr. Nash completed his Report just before his death last [Typeset Page 77] December, and you referred it to the National Security Council for appropriate consideration and further action.

2. The Report consists of a 93-page Report proper and a 191-page Appendix. The Report is remarkably fine, comprehensive, and detailed, and should be most useful to appropriate operating personnel as a source of information and guidance.

3. Much of the Report is consistent with approved U.S. policy. I do not understand that Mr. Nash thought of his Report as a means of raising policy issues for Council consideration. In fact, the Report is not framed in the form of policy recommendations or issues. Yet scattered throughout the Report, the NSC Staff identified a total of 123 separate conclusions and recommendations.

4. It would be impossible to summarize briefly the contents of this magnificent work. Its first three sections, pages 1–13, do contain a summary of past U.S. base development and of considerations for the future. The remaining sections of the Report proper cover:

Section IV—Analyses by country and by region.

Section V—Major problems common to most areas.

Section VI—Operational and Administrative Policies.

Section VII—Internal U.S. Government organization for base matters.

5. The entire Appendix volume is devoted to a country-by-country analysis of twenty-nine nations. Each of those analyses is for convenience presented in a uniform format. Naturally, each analysis varies with the importance of the area under consideration. One wonders whether any comparable mine of exact and detailed information on this subject will be found in any one place in government.

6. It would obviously not be appropriate for the Council to give detailed consideration to most of the material in the Report. However, the Planning Board has identified nine issues for Council consideration.

7. I will call to the Council’s attention the Planning Board’s comments and recommendations on these nine issues, with respect to which we suggest that the Council: [Facsimile Page 2]

Adopt the Planning Board’s recommendations, and
Recommend that the President authorize the responsible agencies to circulate the Nash Report, together with the Planning Board’s recommendations as adopted, to key operating personnel in this country and overseas, for information and such action as each agency deems appropriate consistent with approved national security policy. In view of the sensitivity of the Report in its entirety, distribution of the full Report should be limited to key operating personnel, and only appropriate extracts from the Report should be circulated to personnel having particular responsibility for specific subjects.

8. First, the main thesis of the Report (which you will find on page 1 of the February 14 NSC memorandum), which I will read:

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The Planning Board believed that substantially our present base system will be needed for at least five years, but thought that it is not certain that it will be needed for the next ten years. With this modification, it recommended that the Council accept the validity of the main thesis, in these words:

(READ the recommendation on page 2, pointing out the three suggestions by the Chiefs, discuss and dispose)

9. The second of the nine issues (page 3) concerns positioning IRBM’s at widely-dispersed bases around the Sino-Soviet periphery. Here the Planning Board rejected the notion that such positioning is required to retain the edge in the deterrent race, but felt that it would better ensure our ability to deter general war. There was a split on whether the implications of positioning IRBM’s outside the NATO area should require an NSC decision, after giving consideration to the over-all advantages and disadvantages. Specifically, the language of the Planning Board recommendation is as follows:

(READ the recommendation on pages 3–4, discuss, and dispose)

10. The third issue (page 5) concerns a policy proposal for a Western Mediterranean pact, to include Spain, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya, which the Nash Report found desirable if feasible. The Planning Board recommends that the Council note that State and Defense are considering the feasibility and desirability of such a pact.

(Discuss and dispose)

11. The fourth issue (page 6) concerns a new chain of bases across Central Africa, which the Nash Report thought should be seriously considered. The Planning Board, however, saw no reason to change the position taken in the U.S. policy on Africa South of the Sahara approved last August, which called for keeping the area under periodic survey to determine any changes in our strategic requirements. The specific Planning Board recommendation is as follows:

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(READ the recommendation on page 6, pointing out the suggestion by the Chiefs, discuss, and dispose)

12. The fifth issue (page 7) concerns alternatives to our present Far East base system. The Nash Report said that such alternatives should be examined for the dual purpose of increasing dispersion and of establishing bases in the most politically reliable areas. Such a program would be costly, the Report admitted, but a retreat from the area would be even more costly. It is not a question of withdrawing entirely from any country, but rather of establishing alternate positions such as the Bonins, the Marinnas, Ulithi, North Borneo, Brunei, and Australia. The [Typeset Page 79] Planning Board noted that Defense is currently considering such alternatives, and recommends the adoption of the following language:

(READ the recommendation on page 7, discuss, and dispose)

13. The sixth issue (page 8) concerns transferring to Australia a portion of our “moth-balled” merchant fleet and stocks of surplus grain and other provisions, for possible use in the aftermath of an atomic war as reserves in a place relatively secure from the immediate consequences of such a war.

(READ the entire Planning Board comment)

(READ the Planning Board recommendation, explaining the split, discuss, and dispose)

14. The seventh issue (page 9) involves two matters concerning the Organization of American States. The Nash Report recommended (a) that greater use be made of the OAS and its military organs to provide a collective security framework for U.S. bases in Latin America; and (b) that early consideration, be given to the desirability of bringing the West Indies Federation into the OAS. The Planning Board rejected the first recommendation but accepted the second.

(READ the Planning Board comment on page 9, discuss, and dispose)

15. The eighth issue (page 11) concerns criminal jurisdiction, which the Nash Report found to be one of the major common problems of our existing base system. The Report recommendation is as follows:

(READ the “Statement of the Issue” except the indented portion)

(READ the Planning Board recommendation with its split, discuss, and dispose)

16. The last issue (page 13) concerns sharing defense responsibilities with Canada. The Planning Board felt that the military aspects of US-Canadian relations were already stated in a general way in existing policy, but that better cooperation is required in non-military matters. The Planning Board comment points out that there is no national security policy paper on Canada, and that there is a Joint US-Canadian Committee on Trade and Economic Affairs at the Cabinet level.

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The Planning Board recommendation on page 14 is split between a majority proposal to ask the CFEP to study means of improving US-Canadian economic relations and a proposal by ODM for the preparation by the Planning Board of a full-scale policy statement on U.S. relations with Canada.

(Discuss and dispose)

(Approve suggested Council action)

  1. Source: Nash Report on overseas military bases. No classification marking. 4 pp. Eisenhower Library, Whitman File.