2. Briefing Note for the 350th NSC Meeting1

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1. The next item concerns the Security Resources Panel, chaired by Mr. Gaither, set up on April 4/57 by an NSC Action directing a study “as to the relative value of various active and passive measures to protect the civil population in case of nuclear attack and its aftermath, taking into account probable new weapons systems.”

2. On November 7/57, the Panel presented to the Council its 28-page report (including 5 annexes). I understand from Dr. Killian that the Panel did not officially adopt the 500-page Background Studies made by the Panel Staff (filed with the Council on December 9).

3. After the November 7 Council Meeting the Panel Report was circulated—under special security precautions and on a need-to-know basis—to responsible Executive Branch departments and agencies for comments on the 26 Panel recommendations. The Planning Board has discussed and analyzed these agency comments, which are before you.

4. The Panel based its study on intelligence and factual material furnished to it by government departments and agencies, as to Soviet and U.S. present and estimated future military capabilities. From the [Typeset Page 5] summarization of this material, appearing largely on pages 1–4 of the Report, these points stand out:

The Soviet Gross National Product is now more than 1/3 of our GNP and is increasing at a faster rate.
Soviet expenditures for armed forces and heavy industry in 1957 about equal ours ($57 billion at 1955 prices).
Soviet concentration since World War II on military power and heavy industry has resulted in a spectrum of nuclear bombs and enough fissionable material for over 1,500 nuclear weapons; in 4,500 long- and short-range jet bombers; in 250–300 long-range submarines, some probably equipped with aerodynamic missiles; in an air defense system which includes 4,000 ground radars, over 3,600 launching pads for surface-to-air missiles, and 10,000 jet fighter planes.
Soviet ballistic missiles with 700 nautical-mile range have been in production for at least a year; with 950 nautical-mile range, have been successfully tested.
The Soviets may have a capability to launch an attack with 100 ICBMs carrying megaton nuclear warheads, possibly by late CY 1959.
The Soviet Army of 175 line divisions has been largely re-equipped.

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5. The Panel concluded that, in case of nuclear attack against the U.S. continent, our programs in effect last summer for active and passive defense would not protect the civil population, and that SAC was currently vulnerable to surprise attack when not on a “SAC alert status” and would be seriously threatened by the early-indicated Soviet ICBM capability.

6. Accordingly, the Panel made some 26 recommendations:

Measures to lessen SAC’s vulnerability to bomber and to ICBM attack, to increase SAC’s strategic offensive power, and to sugget forces for limited war. To these measures it assigned the highest value, relative to cost, for protecting the civil population. (Estimated 5-year cost of these measures—$19 billion.)
Measures (lower than highest value) to reduce vulnerability of U.S. people and U.S. cities. (Estimated 5-year cost—$25 billion; exclusive of additional contingent measures costing $17 billion.)
Other measures of related concern. (No cost estimates provided.)

7. The Panel’s expenditure estimates cannot readily be correlated, by item, with Defense current and projected spending. They were (according to Dr. Killian) intended to represent order-of-magnitude rather than precise costs. The agencies have not calculated what part of the Panel’s total expenditure estimates for FY 59 might be covered by our proposed FY 58 Supplemental Appropriation Request and FY 59 Appropriation Request. However, Defense estimates expenditures in FY 58 and FY 59—above a $38 billion level—of $2.64 billion, as compared with the Panel’s estimate for FY 59 of $2.87 billion for “highest value measures” and $4.7 billion for its total program.

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8. After making a brief over-all summary of the agency comments in relation to the Panel recommendations, I shall ask Dr. Killian, who has helped with this summary, to comment at the end, before the individual agencies discuss their views.

9. To facilitate Council consideration, the Panel recommendations have been grouped on the sheets distributed to you (and to be collected at the end of the meeting), in accordance with the position taken by the agency having primary responsibility to comment. Such a grouping does not indicate the position of any other agency, or that implementing action would be taken before Presidential decision.

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10. As to Group A: “Panel recommendations which the agency assigned primary responsibility for comment fully concurs in, and would carry out in general conformity with Panel views”, I shall advert to only four items:

No. 1. Using SAC’s planning criterion for reaction time to a bomber attack, i.e., 30 to 120 minutes, depending on the base location; only 1/10 SAC (157 bombers) are at present on an alert status to get off, weapons aboard, on way to target, within the assumed tactical warning time. By mid-59, 1/3 SAC (515 bombers) will be on such an alert status.

No. 3. We will have 3 nuclear-powered Polaris submarines (each with 16 Polaris missiles)—currently budgeted for—operational well ahead of the Panel’s CY 62 deadline. We are still studying whether to increase the force from 6 to 18 submarines.

No. 4. While concurring in the urgency of this anti-missile area defense program against ICBMs and of research and development therefor, Defense believes a decision as to installation of such a system would be premature before the research is completed.

No. 5. Because of the complexity of the fallout shelter program, and because the final comments of certain agencies have not yet been received, it will be desirable to put this item over until the January 16 NSC Meeting, together with certain other items not yet fully ready.

11. As to Group B: “Panel recommendations which the agency assigned primary responsibility for comment partly concurs in, and would carry out on a modified basis.”

Generally speaking, current Defense plans would not implement Nos. 11 to 18, inclusive, as rapidly as or in the quantities recommended by the Panel.

For example, No. 11 and No. 12, which seek to lessen SAC’s vulnerability to now-existing bomber threat. The main part of our early warning network from Midway to mid-Atlantic is now operational with substantial capability, and will be operational with modernized equipment by mid-1960. Segments of the network and the 100,000-ft. altitude radars will not be effective until 1960–1962. Only 29 of 52 SAC bases will have anti-aircraft missile defenses by mid-60. Whether to provide missile defenses at all SAC bases, in addition to area defenses, has not yet been decided.

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Now look at Nos. 13, 14, and 15, which seek to lessen SAC’s vulnerability to a possible late CY 59 ICBM threat. The first of three ICBM early warning stations (the Thule arc) will be operational in late CY 59, and the remaining operational by December 60. Tracking [Facsimile Page 4] radars to identify probable targets will be operational one year after early warning radars are operational. Only one-fifth of SAC will be on a 15-minute alert by mid-CY 60 (one-fourth of SAC by mid-CY 61). SAC (which now has 31 bases) will be further dispersed to SAC bases as follows: 44 by mid-CY 59; 52 by mid-CY 60; 53 by mid-CY 61. The Air Force is studying interim dispersal to non-SAC military bases and to civilian airfields.

Now look at Nos. 16, 17, and 18, which seek to increase SAC’s strategic offensive power. We will increase the IRBMs to be produced by early CY 60 to 120 (as compared with 240 recommended by the Panel for the end of CY 60). We will increase the ICBMs to be produced by the end of FY 63 to 130 (as compared with 600 recommended by the Panel). The initial operational capability of the first 15 U.S. IRBMs and the first 10 U.S. ICBMs will equal or better the Panel time phasing; but not (under present plan) the operational capability of larger numbers of these missiles.

According to the latest NIE, the earliest date at which the Soviets could have a 100 ICBM capability would be mid-1959. At this time the U.S. would have operational 10 ICBMs and at most 45 IRBMs. However, our early warning ICBM detection system, our 15-minute SAC alert status, and our dispersal of SAC to SAC bases would be deficient as indicated in the short-page table before you. (Examine table.)

12. As to Group C: ‘‘Panel recommendations which the agency assigned primary responsibility for comment would further study before deciding to carry out, modify, or reject.

No. 20, which is another measure to lessen SAC’s vulnerability to a possible late CY 59 ICBM threat, is under study in Defense, but preliminary findings indicate that, because modification of available anti-aircraft missiles would have too limited effectiveness, Defense prefers an R & D program for a new anti-missile system.

As to No. 21, Defense agrees in principle that capabilities for limited military operations should be augmented. However, Defense believes that consideration of this problem should be deferred, pending completion of a national-level study, a plan for which will be recommended by Defense to NSC. I understand this plan will not be ready for some two months.

13. Recommendation No. 26 is the only one in Group D. “Not concurred in and not proposed to be carried out.” Defense points out that blast shelters would not protect SAC runways or reduce fallout radiation, and believes SAC can be better protected, for the cost involved, by alert and dispersal measures.

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14. As the footnote on the last page points out, Sections V and VI of the Report contained no specific recommendations. The comments of Treasury, Budget, and the Council of Economic Advisers on the “Costs and Economic Consequences” of implementing the $44 billion recommendations over 5 years will be presented at the January 16 NSC Meeting, together with a current estimate of the fiscal and budgetary outlook.

  • Dr. Killian
  • Mr. McElroy
  • Mr. Quarles
  • General Twining

On Defense recommendations

  1. Source: Security Resources Panel (Gaither Panel) report. Top Secret. 5 pp. Eisenhower Library, Whitman File.