35. Report Prepared in the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization for the National Security Council1

NSC 6009

LATIN AMERICA AS A SUPPLY BASE IN THE EVENT OF A NUCLEAR ATTACK ON THE UNITED STATES

Summary and Recommendations

1.
In the event of a nuclear attack on the United States, U.S. import requirements will shift drastically from the present pattern of primary commodities and luxury goods to survival and recovery commodities primarily manufactured and normally produced domestically.
2.
Judged by these post-attack requirements, Latin America currently has limited capability to aid in the post-attack survival and recovery of the United States. Latin America has a low over-all economic base. With a population slightly in excess of that of the U.S., Latin America’s gross national product is less than one-sixth that of ours. Her present exports are primarily agricultural and mineral in character. Her manufacturing, which has expanded substantially in the postwar period and is becoming increasingly diversified, is still heavily concentrated on the production of consumer goods. The chemical industry, however, is relatively advanced in a number of countries. The most advanced and diversified countries are Argentina, Brazil and Mexico with the latter two showing substantial growth.
3.
Latin America is heavily dependent upon the United States and other industrial countries for the kinds of manufactured goods that would bulk large in the recovery period—metal products, machinery and equipment, chemicals, transport equipment. Brazil, which has the most diversified manufacturing industry in Latin America, produces a wide variety of products, including steel machinery, consumer durables, chemicals, transport equipment. However, it depends heavily on imports for the products of heavy industry as well as for various [Page 197]types of chemicals. The heavy industry of Latin America is still fragmentary and rudimentary in character, with the level of production low. In 1958 total steel production was 3-½ million ingots with consumption over 7 million tons. Between 1954–56, ninety percent of the machinery and equipment was imported, 38 percent of the paper and board and 25 percent of the chemicals.
4.
For Latin America to serve as a major supply base in the event of a nuclear attack on the United States, it is necessary that its heavy industry be considerably expanded, its over-all economic activity be considerably diversified and its general level be raised substantially so that its production be in excess of its minimum requirements.
5.
Latin America has made considerable progress in the postwar period growing at about 5.2 percent annually over-all and at about 2.7 percent per capita. Since 1955, its rate of growth has slowed up as the markets for raw materials have softened. It is reasonable to expect that Latin America will continue to grow although the growth will, as in the past, vary from country to country. With continuing growth, Latin America’s economic base will become more diversified, and heavy industry will become increasingly important. Consequently, the potential capability of Latin America to serve as a supply base would increase.
6.
The fact that Latin America’s economic potential is likely to increase substantially over the next decade does not automatically insure its availability to the United States in the event of a nuclear attack. Political factors will play a major role in determining the degree of availability of Latin America’s resources to the United States following a nuclear attack. The availability of transportation will also be a determining factor.
7.
It is in the interest of the United States that Latin America increase its economic capacity as a necessary pre-condition for ultimate political stability. Economic expansion will increase Latin America’s capability to aid in the recovery of the United States in the event of a nuclear attack. Latin America is planning further expansion of its producer goods industries. Current plans, for example, look for the expansion of steel production to over 9 million tons between 1963 and 1965. Looking even further ahead, there is the prospect of the development of even greater capabilities.
8.
In addition to the over-all development of a diversified economy in Latin America, the products of which might be available to assist the United States in recovery from a nuclear attack, certain indigenous facilities, services, skills and support items in place in the area would be of interest to the U.S. for their potential value to military operations following an initial attack, assuming a continuation of the war.
9.
While Latin America has presently only limited capacity to serve as a supply base in the event of nuclear war, it is in process of expanding its economic base and thereby increasing its potential capabilities to serve as a supply base. To further this process, it is therefore recommended that in considering whether economic aid be granted by the U.S. Government to Latin America for any project, the existing set of criteria should be supplemented to take into account whether the project increases Latin America’s capability to act as a supply base for the United States in the event of nuclear war.
10.
Since advance planning is required to ensure that Latin America’s capabilities are utilized to the maximum extent possible in the event of a nuclear attack, it is also recommended that plans and, where feasible, arrangements be made now by the appropriate agencies to determine the specific commodities, services and skills that would be required and available from Latin America in the event of a nuclear attack.

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  1. Source: Department of State, S/S–NSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, NSC 6009. Secret. Submitted to the NSC under cover of an undated memorandum from Leo A. Hoegh to James S. Lay, Jr., in pursuance of NSC Action 2046–c. Adopted at the 396th NSC meeting on February 12, 1959, the action requested a special study by the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization, undertaken in conjunction with other interested agencies “to identify the potential contribution of Latin American resources, production and skills to U.S. recovery following a nuclear attack” and any pertinent policy recommendations. (Memorandum of discussion at the 396th Meeting of the NSC, February 12; Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records) Lay circulated the report to the members of the NSC under cover of a memorandum dated May 27. Subsequently, the NSC referred the report to the NSC Planning Board for its consideration in connection with the revision of NSC 5902/1.