71. Memorandum from Gen. Lemnitzer to McNamara, December 61

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  • Foster Panel Draft, “Proposed Disarmament Program”, Revision 9 (U)

1. Reference is made to the memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA), I–17133/61, dated 20 October 1961, which requested the comments and recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the “Foster Panel Proposed Disarmament Program,” and reply to a list of questions related thereto.

2. The Joint Chiefs of Staff recognize the magnitude of the tasks confronting the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. It is paradoxical that the agency must devise imaginative proposals to meet aggressive Soviet positions without impairing the capabilities of the United States to overcome Soviet aggression. Further, it is inevitable that tense international situations cause a sense of urgency for arms control negotiations. However, this urgency must not become the only basis for an arms control program.

3. In the development of a US disarmament position, the unswerving purposes of the Soviets toward world domination must be kept in mind. Concurrently, the United States must recognise its basic principles against which our actions and proposals must be constantly weighed. This does not indicate inflexibility, but it does indicate the need for well defined limits in disarmament matters. Such limits are not fully recognized in the Foster plan and unless they are established, the United States could move step by step to the position of our opponent. This trend, coupled with an honest desire for success in negotiations, could well jeopardize the security of the United States.

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4. The subject proposal is based on the concept that immediate progress is necessary in the reduction and control of strategic nuclear delivery vehicles and that imbalances in other forms of military power would not become dangerous until a considerable reduction had taken [Typeset Page 200] place. The Joint Chiefs of Staff do not consider this fundamentally valid. The proposal would trade off our strategic nuclear superiority for virtually no concession on the part of the Soviets. The Foster Panel approach implicitly underestimates the importance of the US strategic nuclear capability to our over-all defense posture and the extent to which it serves to maintain stability and peace.

5. The Joint Chiefs of Staff reaffirm that the United States cannot afford to reduce drastically its nuclear capability until there exists effective means for enforcing international agreements to which it can entrust its security. Moreover, the premature reduction of the US and USSR nuclear capabilities to a status of numerical parity without a corresponding elimination of the present Soviet conventional superiority, could upset the uneasy balance of opposing military power that exists today.

6. Additional comments concerning the proposal and the list of specific questions prepared by the Foster Panel are contained in the attached Appendix.

7. Although the Joint Chiefs of Staff recognise inherent shortcomings concerning the US Declaration on Disarmament, that program is considered more acceptable from a military point of view than the Foster Panel proposal. Accordingly, it is recommended that the Foster Panel proposal be withdrawn and that the current Declaration on Disarmament be utilised as the basic US proposal. Further, it is recommended that attention be directed toward the development of detailed negotiating positions and background papers for the US Declaration on Disarmament. These positions are needed for discussions with our Allies and with the USSR in the event the Soviets suddenly choose to enter into serious negotiations, using the US Declaration on Disarmament as a frame of reference.

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

L.L. Lemnitzer
Joint Chiefs of Staff
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1. In a memorandum for the Secretary of Defense, dated 28 October 1960, the Joint Chiefs of Staff forwarded a recommended US policy on arms control. At that time, it was pointed out that any proposal with respect to arms control should only be made after careful consideration [Typeset Page 201] of the international situation and its inevitable impact on US military strategy and security policies. This caveat continues to be valid. A paraphrase of the key principles from this memorandum follow:

a. The United States should not make concessions in advance of similar action by the Soviets in hope of inspiring similar Soviet concessions.

b. Should the Soviets enter into any arms control agreement, their probable intention will be to achieve net military advantage over the United States either through the operation of the agreement itself or reduction of Western defense efforts resulting from reduced tension.

c. US objective in arms control negotiations is to enhance national security through balanced, phased, and safeguarded arms control agreements.

d. There should be no major US reductions until all militarily significant States participate in similar reductions and there is a reliable system of inspection and verification.

e. We should never take the position of “appealing” for arms control measures. US eagerness for agreement spells weakness to the Communists.

f. We must strengthen our military posture vis-à-vis the Sino-Soviet threat until they have demonstrated sincerity.

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g. There must be no restriction on readiness or employment of forces until suitable international controls exist.

h. We must maintain credibility and retain adequate capability to back up our Allies.

i. We must maintain a strategic nuclear advantage until:

(1) Soviet bloc conventional forces have been significantly reduced.

(2) Soviet strategic nuclear capability has been reduced.

(3) There is adequate international peace enforcement.

j. We must not be in such a hurry that national security is compromised.

k. The entire Red bloc should be treated as an entity.

l. There should be no restrictions on research and development.

m. Any agreement should have a “fail safe” feature such that non-compliance by any party would not jeopardize the security of others.

2. Specifically, the United States must be able to maintain, at any stage of disarmament, an adequate response to the entire spectrum of the remaining Sino-Soviet bloc threat; namely, an evident, secure nuclear retaliatory capability and an evident flexible capability for military operations short of general war. In particular, the United States should retain an attitude and posture which would make credible to friend and foe alike its capabilities to fight with or without nuclear [Typeset Page 202] weapons to maintain its security interests. The Foster Panel proposal does not meet these basic criteria.

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3. The list of questions prepared by the Foster Panel is based on three assumptions designed to achieve military evaluations of specific features of the proposal. These assumptions are unrealistic. The answers developed therefrom would result in unreliable and dangerous military opinions which would serve no useful purpose. The answers, even if not separated from the assumptions, could be misleading and could place the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the position of tacitly agreeing to a proposal regarding which they thoroughly disapprove. In this sense the military security of the nation could be jeopardized. Further, several of the questions are unanswerable since they relate to future judgments involving not only military but political and economic considerations. Such judgments on precise levels of forces and armaments are meaningful only if developed at a time when the requirements to maintain secure and effective forces are imposed. Then, the international political atmosphere, the nature of the threat, and the national security policy, will dictate the levels of forces and armaments. For these reasons a specific response to each question proposed by the Foster Panel is not provided. However, comments, by Stage, using the questions as a guide, follow.

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1. The surrender of 30 medium jet bombers was noted by the Foster Panel as being a “gimmick” to show earnestness of intent. Implementation of this measure would create the misleading picture for the American public that some progress was being made in disarmament. This could result in a false sense of security and thereby jeopardize other defense efforts.

2. The Soviets could be expected to point out that there is already an imbalance in long range aircraft in favor of the United States and that this measure merely aggravates the imbalance and is therefore inequitable. Further, they might be the first to label the measure as “deceptive,” pointing out that it is public knowledge the United States had previously planned to phase out the B–47 medium bombers. It is a fact, however, that the worsening political situation has caused the USAF to set aside their plan to phase out the B–47’s. Therefore, to surrender these airplanes would be to the military disadvantage of the United States at this time.

3. If it is essential to create an environment of earnestness, it appears that some other confidence-building measure which would not involve early and substantial reductions in military capabilities, could be proposed to achieve this objective. Such measures could be in the category of those designed to safeguard against war by miscalculation, e.g., [Typeset Page 203] advance notification of major military movements or the exchange of information or limited mutual inspection teams.

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1. It is proposed in this stage to accept numerical parity in strategic nuclear delivery vehicles. Since World War II, the United States has relied on its strategic nuclear capability to deter nuclear attack on the United States. The United States must continue to rely on strategic nuclear weapons as the “backbone” of this deterrent strength. In a speech on 21 October 1961, at Hot Springs, Virginia, the Deputy Secretary of Defense re-emphasized this strategy while at the same time reiterating President Kennedy’s determination to improve the US ability to make swift selective responses to enemy attacks regardless of time, place or choice of weapons. This capability cannot be maintained if a measure to reduce strategic nuclear delivery vehicles is treated as an initial measure in isolation from other measures in a comprehensive disarmament program. Basic National Security Policy does not rest upon a concept of “stabilized parity,” nor, in the opinion of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, should “stabilized parity” be accepted as a goal of national security policy. It is nevertheless important to note that the Foster Panel proposal to accept numerical parity in strategic nuclear delivery vehicles in advance of reductions in other armaments is incompatible even with any arguable interpretation of the concept of “stabilized parity.” It would neither add to stability to accept numerical parity in delivery vehicles, nor would a condition of over-all parity exist in circumstances where a numerical strategic stand-off lends disproportionately large weight militarily and psychologically to Soviet superiority in conventional forces and CBR warfare and to Soviet emphasis on large weapons.

2. The basic concept of the proposed program is that “immediate progress is necessary in the reduction and control of strategic delivery vehicles”. There is an implication that the panel believes the existence of these vehicles constitutes the major threat of general war. This concept is not considered valid and [Facsimile Page 8] any disarmament proposal based on this assumption involves grave danger to the security of the United States.

3. It has been erroneously argued that the United States accepted a form of “parity” when it tabled the 25 September 1961 Declaration on Disarmament. Although various meanings of the term “parity” can be asserted, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in their consideration of the 25 September plan, never at any time intended to accept the notion of numerical parity. The 25 September plan was based on a concept of “balance,” in which many factors other than numerical parity must be taken into account; e.g., geographic, economic, political, and ideologi[Typeset Page 204]cal. It is unlikely that under the “balance” concept a numerical parity as envisaged by the Foster Panel would result.

4. The effect of a numerical limitation of delivery vehicles on the strategy and military posture of the United States could be profound and adverse. For example:

a. Acceptance by the United States of the parity principle in strategic delivery vehicles might not permit us to make a substantive second strike, thereby making a pre-emptive strike more tempting to the Soviets.

b. A parity compact with the USSR might result in a higher threshold of provocation, which would in turn encourage more aggressive behavior in limited or cold war activities by the Communists, including the CHICOMS. This action would be in fields in which the Communists currently have a higher capability, that is, subversion and conventional forces.

c. A quantitative limitation on strategic delivery vehicles could result in a “quality race” to reduce reaction time, and to increase the effectiveness and sophistication of strategic weapon systems. This would require an expensive mobilization of R&D assets on a “crash” basis. Such a race might well [Facsimile Page 9] increase world instability and therefore increase the chances of accidental wars utilizing more deadly and ingenious weapons (including CBR).

5. NATO strategy, in itself a critical political issue, would be affected and would have to be altered. Before the sword is shortened, the shield must be reinforced. Neither the burdens of substantial build-up of nonnuclear defenses in Western Europe nor the possibility of the devastation of Western Europe alone in tactical nuclear warfare would be attractive to the important NATO nations directly involved.

6. There are many imponderable factors to be considered in the calculation of minimal acceptable strategic force levels. It is doubtful that a level of 1000 or 500 or any other number can be established without continued and intense military study and judgments involving the impact of technological advances, source and nature of the threat, and the political environment at the time the vehicles are required. Moreover, the need for a precise figure does not seem to be an essential element of this proposal. Such words as “agreed levels” have served in other disarmament proposals and certainly with less risk.

7. The proposed definition of strategic delivery vehicles is based on the range capability of missiles and on empty weight of combat aircraft. Neither this or any other definition will serve the purpose and intent of the Foster Panel. In reality, most vehicles capable of delivering a nuclear weapon are potential strategic delivery vehicles. Therefore, a definition to cover this field will not be helpful. It would be necessary [Typeset Page 205] to designate specific vehicles within agreed categories of systems for reduction, in order to achieve the objective of the panel.

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8. Restriction on deployment, production and testing of weapons designed to counter strategic delivery vehicles is not desirable. Effective defensive weapons systems tend to increase international stability, just as it is conceived that hardened or hidden offensive weapons increase stability. Defensive systems are a matter for unilateral decision, not a matter for negotiation.

9. Cessation of production of fissionable materials is acceptable and to the advantage of the United States ONLY if the following conditions exist:

a. Any agreement to cease production of fissionable materials must include an agreement for the implementation of an effective inspection system which must be installed and properly functioning prior to a cessation of production. The consequences of the nearly three year long nuclear test moratorium demonstrate the necessity for adherence to this principle.

b. Any agreement to cease production of fissionable materials must exclude provisions for reduction of the nuclear weapons stockpile except as a subsequent arms control measure.

c. Tritium should be totally excluded from cessation negotiations or agreements.

d. Modernization of the stockpile must not be precluded.

e. A concurrent nuclear test ban, adequately enforced, is necessary if conclusions on the advisability of an agreement on cessation of production are to remain valid.

10. It is realized that the random zonal inspection concept is now being studied by a panel formed by the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA). This concept deviates from the previously stated position of the United States which requires verification that force levels and armaments which remain do not exceed agreed limits at any stage. In addition, the subject [Facsimile Page 11] proposal utilizes an untested random sampling technique developed to be unintrusive. Actually, it could result in procedures which might be impracticable to implement, noting that manpower and logistic problems have received only limited consideration. In fact, it could result in a major invasion into national territories if inspectors were stationed at all key production facilities, airfields, ports and highway centers. It is unlikely that the Soviets would agree to such an invasion. In the present situation, this type of inspection system would be inadequate to provide the degree of control and the security required in the most sensitive areas of arms control. Some reasons for this opinion follow:

a. The proposed inspection plan is geared to detection of evasion on a limited basis and therefore does not cover evasion on a militarily [Typeset Page 206] important scale. The most promising evasion opportunities lie in the organization of secret armament schemes during the early stages of disarmament agreements. The Foster Panel inspection system cannot be expected to operate at maximum effectiveness during this critical period.

b. The Foster plan does not preclude national space rocket programs. The existence of such programs in any form complicates the arms control problem and simplifies the task of evasion. Both the United States and the USSR utilize military type rocket boosters in their space efforts. Thus, the USSR could declare the number and location of “strategic” nuclear delivery vehicles in the designated inspection zone; it could freely permit their inspection, including the ascertainment that they are armed with nuclear weapons. There could exist, undeclared, an additional number of similar vehicles positioned in readiness for firing. However, these would not have nuclear warheads. They could have instrumented or manned system nose cone or have no nose cone mounted. Upon discovery by some [Facsimile Page 12] inspector exercising his right of unimpeded access, these vehicles would be described as intended for the “peaceful” exploration of space. However, at some contiguous, concealed location, there could exist a supply of nuclear warheads specifically intended for marriage to the vehicles at an opportune and propitious time. No inspection system has yet been envisaged which would ensure, with sufficient confidence, the detection of concealed nuclear warheads. Actually, in the proposed scheme, warheads are exempt from control and inspection.

c. In Stage B, the plan requires the declaration of the number of delivery vehicles by zone at home and in other NATO and Warsaw Pact countries. In addition, numbers and types of vehicles not in any of these areas will also be declared. This would require the USSR to declare X number of vehicles outside these zones, but would not require the naming of the country, e.g., Red China. This would enable the USSR to avoid the proposed inspection system since countries outside the agreement are not subject to inspection. Thus the USSR would be provided a storage site for vehicles above the declared level. In the short period of eight months in Stage B, the Soviets could gain major advantage in this critical field.

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1. In this stage the participation is extended to all militarily significant States in the Western and Eastern blocs, including Red China. This scope of participation is considered essential from the outset of any suitable disarmament program. Ideally, the membership, at the least, would include any nation that is developing a nuclear capability.

2. One of the major defects of the proposal is the underestimation of the necessity to link the reduction of conventional forces and arma[Typeset Page 207]ments with reductions of strategic delivery vehicles. The Joint Chiefs of Staff maintain that, in accordance with accepted US disarmament principles, there should be a linkage between these two areas so as to provide for balanced progress in both the nuclear and nonnuclear fields, assuring that no nation would acquire an advantage over the United States during the disarmament process. Only by adherence to such an approach will the United States be able to retain an adequate response to the entire spectrum of the remaining Communist threat.

3. The dangers and difficulties in seeking numbers of quotas of non-strategic armaments as the principal criterion for stability are the same as those discussed for strategic vehicles. This approach is further complicated when force levels are excluded from these considerations as in the proposed program. In any event, the use of quotas to effect these reductions would probably be the most difficult to work out and negotiate because of the various weapons involved. It seems percentage-type reductions would be the most manageable once the member nations declared their inventories.

4. The suggested figure of 25% representing total reductions of armaments in this stage is not appropriate. The degree or percentage of such cuts should only be determined, if at all, [Facsimile Page 14] after an evaluation of the existing strategic and tactical weapons and delivery systems which would be available to support conventional operations. This evaluation is not feasible until some progress has been made in the early stages of this proposal.

5. One of the measures in this stage relates to advance notification of major military movements and maneuvers. As previously indicated in the comments on Stage A, this appears to be a measure more suited for an earlier stage of disarmament, therefore would offer no greater risk here.

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1. Discussion of measures in this stage are limited by lack of detail in the proposal and lack of a clear picture of the nature of the international environment at the end of Stage C, which the panel considers essential for movement into this stage.

2. It does appear that the United Nations Peace Force, which is to be created in this stage, would be more effective if basic organizational elements of the force were set up in the earlier stages.


Throughout the Foster Panel program there are provisions for the withdrawal of participating states. The effect on the United States of a planned withdrawal by the Soviets should be contemplated. These tactics, so recently used in the test ban negotiations, can be expected. [Typeset Page 208] Upon acceptance of the Foster Panel program, the United States could only proceed in good faith. The nature of our open society, public pressures and funding requirements would preclude major contingency preparations for a break in negotiations. The Soviets, on the other hand, could and probably would, make all the preparations necessary to gain the advantage by a deliberate break. The United States, faced with the considerably longer lead time in producing strategic vehicles, would be seriously handicapped in this rearmament race. The disadvantage could be so pronounced that the Soviets might choose to strike while they had a clear nuclear advantage.

  1. JCS views on the proposed disarmament program as devised by the Foster Panel. An appendix is attached containing additional comments on the Foster Panel program. Two additional attachments by McCone and Scoville provide a readout of the 12/18 Department of State meeting on resumption of nuclear testing. Secret. 23 pp. Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Kaysen Series, Disarmament, 12/61–4/62.