278. Letter from McCone to Gen. LeMay, August 221

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Dear Curt:

I agree completely with the statement in your letter of August 16, that we should leave no stone unturned to ensure that we understand the threat facing us today and tomorrow, and that our forces are shaped to this appraisal. It is for this reason that USIB spent more time on NIE 11–8 than any recent estimate, and they reached their conclusions after a most exhaustive, impartial, and deep study of every scintilla of intelligence available to the Community. During this process the evidence was also carefully reviewed by the Hyland Panel (the names of the members of which are attached) and this panel in a written report came to conclusions concerning this evidence supporting those reached by the Board of National Estimates and by a majority of USIB.

In view of this, I was obviously seriously shaken by your statement to me that after discussion with General Power, and a review of SAC’s estimate, you were reaching a conclusion that the Air Force position, as reported as a footnote in NIE 11–8, although nearly double the agreed position, was low and that you personally were tending towards the SAC estimate. I saw no dissent from this position by either Secretary Zuckert or General McKee.

I was further shaken to have Secretary Zuckert quote numbers of identified ICBM launching sites which exceeded the number of such sites identified by any other member of the Intelligence Community.

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The thrust of my report to USIB was to explain your position, to question whether acceptable intelligence existed upon which SAC might base its conclusions, and finally, to propose that another attempt be made to adjudicate this difference. In the ensuing discussion it was pointed out by several members of the Board that such an exercise would probably be futile, that all such attempts at adjudication had failed in the past (USIB examined and unanimously rejected the SAC position twice last year) and that the Hyland Panel, after hearing the SAC presentation during a detailed examination of the evidence over two full days, had been unable to accept the SAC conclusions.

Nevertheless, Curt, I propose that SAC appear before the United States Intelligence Board at an early date to present their estimate and the facts upon which they base their conclusions, and in doing so be prepared to discuss the subject in depth with representatives of the Board of National Estimates and other estimators of the Intelligence Community. If you so desire, the Joint Chiefs of Staff might also be present. I should point out that this procedure is not something that can be done in an hour, but will in all probability take the better part of a day as was the case in January of this year when General Maxwell Taylor and I went through this exercise in Omaha with General Power.


John A. McCone


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Dr. Lawrence A. Hyland, Chairman Vice President & General Manager
Hughes Aircraft Company
Dr. Hendrik W. Bode, Member Vice President
Bell Telephone Laboratories
Lt. General Howell M. Estes, Member Deputy Commander
Aerospace Systems
Dr. George B. Kistiakowsky, Member Professor Chemistry
Harvard University
Dr. William J. Perry, Member Engineering Manager
Sylvania Electronics Defense Lab.
Mr. Arthur E. Raymond, Member Vice President and Director of
Research, Rand Corporation
Rear Admiral Levering Smith, Member Director, Technical Division,
Special Projects Office
Bureau of Naval Weapons
  1. Ideas on resolving the differences in SAC and USIB estimates of the threat facing America. Secret. 3 pp. CIA Files, Job 80B01285A, ER Files–DCI Chron, 1/1–12/31/62.