6. Memorandum for the Record of Meeting1

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On January 25, at 9:45 a.m., the President, accompanied by General Goodpaster and Mr. Harlow, left the White House to attend a meeting called by Secretary McElroy in the Pentagon Building. The President arrived at 10:00, met for a few minutes privately with Secretary McElroy, and entered the Secretary’s Press Conference room at 10:05, where the following persons were present:

Deputy Secretary of Defense Quarles

Secretary of the Army Brucker

Secretary of the Navy Gates

Secretary of the Air Force Douglas

JCS Chairman Twining

Admiral Burke

General Lemnitzer

General Pate

Admiral Radford (arrived at 10:30)

General Bradley

Mr. William Foster

Mr. Coolidge

Mr. Gale

General Randall

The meeting opened with a briefing given by Colonel Rosson, in behalf of General Twining, on JCS functions, duties and procedures. The presentation continued without interruption for approximately thirty minutes.

Thereafter, Secretary McElroy asked for comment, turning first to Admiral Radford. The Admiral said the first problem is the inadequate time the Chiefs have for JCS business, that it has always been insufficient, and that he hardly knew of a remedy. The Joint Strategic Survey system, he said, has never worked well, the officers assigned to this effort being too low-ranked; and the committee system has not been too good, the team papers, he found, being better than the committee papers.

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Secretary McElroy raised the question of increased authority for the Chairman of the JCS, suggesting, as an example, that the Chairman be granted a vote, and also asked about the proposal to create a planning staff separate from the individual services.

Admiral Radford said the Chairman JCS already has great influence and is now in effect the principal military to the Secretary of Defense.

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He pointed out that the long-range strategic plan makes little sense because it attempts to project 12 years into the future. He thought things might be improved if Operation Deputies were located near the Chairman JCS and be available on a continuing basis.

General Bradley, on suggestion of Secretary McElroy, commented that the service chiefs do not have enough time to do their work, that they are always behind trying to stay ahead of both their service and JCS duties. He said he knew of no remedy. He added that he had seen times when there was too much emphasis on strictly service views in JCS deliberations, but again, he said, the remedy he did not know. It was his opinion that it would be very difficult to have the operational deputies working with the Chairman because the service chiefs would not take well to this arrangement. He thought the chiefs need to be together more and did not see how this could be accomplished while they remain chiefs of individual services. He thought that the Chairman needed no greater authority than he now has as long as the chiefs remain service chiefs. He pointed out that the Chairman’s leadership and personal direction provide adequate authority.

As for the Joint Strategic Survey Committee, General Bradley mentioned that the Rockefeller Committee gave close attention to this activity and concluded that it must be strengthened in order to do its job properly—especially, that it should have outstanding officers assigned to it at the end of their periods of service and also that scientists should participate. He said that how and where to bring scientists into this process still is not clear. General Bradley concluded that while the JCS is a wonderful organization and is doing a good job with few disagreements, still it can and should be substantially improved by executive action and by law.

Admiral Radford commented on scientific advice available to the JCS, referring to the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group. He pointed out that this process is now on a contract basis and that the Joint Chiefs [Facsimile Page 3] get excellent results from this Group. General Twining pointed out that this Group can go straight to the Secretary of Defense if it feels it receives inadequate or improper action from the JCS, and he confirmed that the Group is doing excellent work.

Secretary McElroy then asked the views of General Twining. The General stated the opinion that the elimination of the committees would improve JCS action—an opinion, he said, he had not held before becoming Chairman of the JCS. He said, however, that eliminating these committees might not get the unanimity that the Joint Chiefs now have. He strongly endorsed the suggestion that operational deputies be brought closer to the Chairman and suggested that these men be separated from the actual operation of the operation divisions of each of the services.

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Admiral Burke thought that the operational deputy suggestion would probably be desirable and would relieve a good deal of the load now being carried by the JCS. He thought that these would take the place of the present operational deputies in the Joint Staff and might be called Deputies for Planning—the alter egos of the service chiefs.

General Lemnitzer thought that this operational deputy idea would be superior to separating the Chiefs from their service responsibilities, but he did think that this process would not remove the need for the committees in the Joint Staff. Admiral Burke agreed with this observation.

Secretary Douglas expressed the view that special deputies would help the JCS a great deal. He said however that the process might remove the chiefs of services from full responsibility for JCS activity, and he mentioned the tendency even now to rely more and more on the Vice Chiefs of Staff for the day-to-day administration of the military services. General Bradley pointed out that in World War II General Marshall left his administrative duties almost entirely to Generals Somervell and McNair while Marshall worked almost full time on JCS war planning. Admiral Radford pointed out that in time of war the Chiefs do not have to go to Capitol Hill nearly as often as in peacetime.

Secretary McElroy asked about the feasibility of short-circuiting the line between the JCS and the chiefs of services designated as agents to the Joint Chiefs. Secretary Gates commented that the peacetime problems of the forces are charged with political, economic, and public relations considerations and therefore that the intervention of the [Facsimile Page 4] service secretaries is essential. He said the present process works satisfactorily because the service chief goes right ahead with his responsibilities but keeps the Secretary informed. He felt that this relationship would continue because many JCS undertakings have significant civilian as well as military implications. For the same reasons, Secretary Brucker also felt that the service Secretaries should not be by-passed. He said the present system does not delay action in any way, and he emphasized that this viewpoint was not prompted by any feeling on the part of any service Secretary that by-passing the Secretaries would tend to downgrade them.

General Twining said he thought the command channels should be straightened out. Secretary Douglas, however, took the same view of Secretary Gates.

Secretary McElroy observed that going around the service Secretaries would not be a substantial change, that it would simply make sure that the command line would go straight to the service chief who in turn would inform his Secretary. Admiral Burke commented that the chief certainly should contact his Secretary swiftly because of the many nonmilitary considerations involved in such matters.

Deputy Secretary Quarles expressed the view that the greatest need is to clear up command channels. He thought the channels would [Typeset Page 16] be clearest if the JCS issued the orders of the President and Secretary of Defense, using the respective service chiefs for direct action. He said that he realized that the process actually works this way now but is fuzzed up because we assert that we do not do it.

On the invitation of Secretary McElroy, the President then commented on the foregoing discussions. He said we cannot laugh off the present criticism. He said it won’t do simply to justify everything now being done. Public opinion, he said, is a strong force and must be respected.

He said he thought the people present had been talking about details before discussing basic concepts. He agreed that things are going rather well now, said he had no criticism of JCS now, nor did he see any present trouble in getting overall strategic plans and concepts. But, he said, don’t forget the things that happen afterwards—the administrative and operational as opposed to the strategic projects that have to be applied in the Atlantic or Pacific. He said, to be sure, the JCS can have 872 agreements and only 3 disagreements; but then he wants to know about the 3 disagreements, for these might well be the only really fundamental matters.

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He then said that Congress is of course very important in these connections, and he remarked that the services now have some 130 liaison officers assigned to Congressional work. The trouble is, however, whatever differing views service leaders may have get worse as the individual service officers put out their own personal propaganda. He said the same thing applies to public relations and commented that Secretary Wilson once told him that each service has a public relations office larger than the Secretary of Defense’s. The President suggested the need of better organization of such matters.

He then urged that the JCS integrate the staff, with the JCS functioning corporately as a single Chief of Staff. He thought the JCS system as it now exists is too complicated to work in wartime, especially in relation to new weapons. He said that the executive agency process is “crazy.” He said that the JCS staff should be the G–2/G–3 staff. For an emergency, he said, the organization must be gotten so simple and clear that the job will be done free of delaying obstructions.

The President said it must be realized that there have been frictions and differences and some duplication of effort. We have got to work at this, he said, not merely by clearing command channels, but also by setting up under the JCS a really effective, integrated staff, with the whole business directly under the Secretary of Defense.

The President said, as regards having the Joint Chiefs always with the Chairman and as regards continuing interference from the Congress, that this practice of the Congress to demand appearances of the top men has grown markedly over the years. He said little can be [Typeset Page 17] done about it, but that this might be helpful: the Secretary of Defense could say that the priority of duties lies with the Joint Chief of Staff whose main job it must be always to give good advice to the President and Secretary of Defense. The Chiefs must respect each other and be ready to act at once, the President said, and the more we get into advanced weaponry, the more this will be so. He suggested, therefore, that the Secretary of Defense give an officer an imposing enough title within each service that he could suitably assume the burden of testimony before the Congress. The President said he would certainly try to keep the JCS from having to report constantly to the Congressional committees. Such a man might be called an Operational Chief of Staff, the President suggested.

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The President said that it is of course necessary for the Chiefs to maintain close relations with their individual services but that this is mainly to keep things going properly rather than to keep abreast of information.

The President said that the absolutely vital thing is the validity of the joint advice and counsel that the members of the JCS give to the Secretary of Defense and the President, how they are doing their work in allocating functions, how they formulate strategic concepts, and how they deal with new weaponry, research, etc.

The President then said he does not believe in a single Chief of Staff but that the chiefs together should constitute the equivalent of a single Chief of Staff.

The President stressed that there should be no fear of new ideas in approaching this problem. He said that the process is working better now than it was when first established.

Secretary Gates then asked what the role of service Secretaries should be. The President said he thought the service Secretaries should retain certain statutory duties. The civilian Secretaries, he said, would normally be interested in JCS plans and military orders, but that they should have a lot of duties not within the province of the JCS.

Secretary McElroy then asked Mr. Foster to comment. Mr. Foster said he thought the briefing on the JCS organization was excellent but did not meet the need. He thought the command function must be more clearly in the hands of the civilian authority than is the case today. He stressed that we are today truly in war—cold war—and that the JCS process should be thoroughly streamlined. He said there is too much confusion in some of the executive agent responsibilities. He thought the Secretary of Defense must have a staff that combines the wisdom of the service leaders and must be more available to him much more continuously than is now the case. As regards long-range planning, he said that the only way we can get a long look down the years is by some such devotion of military leaders to the single [Typeset Page 18] responsibility of making such plans. These plans, he said, are of great importance to the nation.

He thought that the service Secretaries had very important jobs to do that are separate from the responsibilities of the JCS. He thought it [Facsimile Page 7] might be wise to bring the civilian and military leaders together in a strengthened Armed Forces Policy Council, commenting that Under Secretary of War Patterson did this during World War II with General Somervell. Today, he said, the process is “all fuzzed up.”

Mr. Foster said that the present need is for a clearer and more direct source of military advice for the Secretary of Defense and a more immediately responsive command process. He expressed opposition to the committee system in the joint staff, saying that it does not work fast enough. In this connection he mentioned that it takes too long to develop new weapons.

At this point Secretary McElroy advised the President that the meeting would adjourn for lunch and would continue during the afternoon. The President’s parting remark was to emphasize the need for a completely fresh look and uninhibited ideas in approaching the problem. At 12:20 the meeting adjourned.

Bryce Harlow
  1. Source: JCS organization. Confidential. 7 pp. Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, DDE Diaries. Drafted on January 30.