114. Letter From Secretary of State Rusk to Secretary of Defense McNamara0
Dear Bob: I greatly appreciated having the opportunity to review the series of memoranda which you have prepared for the President of the FY ‘64 (and forward) Defense Programs. The quality of these memoranda is most impressive and I think the forces, which implementation of the proposals contained therein would produce, are generally consistent with our basic national security policy. In particular, I wish to underline the point which you make in the memorandum on General Purpose Forces1 on the need for strategic lift in the face of the difficulties attending the acquisition of bases in troubled parts of the world.[Page 417]
I also note that the study of forces required for non-nuclear defense in Europe was predicated on defense of the Rhine.2 In accordance with the conclusion which we reached at the first Defense Policy Conference,3 a study of requirements for a more forward and therefore more politically acceptable defense of the Central Front is under way. I think this is a point well worth mentioning to the President since it could presumably support the need for a subsequent adjustment in General Purpose Force requirements.
Of all of the highly important matters touched upon in your memoranda, to my mind the issue which stands out above all others is that relating to the question of the advisability of deploying an anti-ballistic missile defense. One can only be impressed by the technical complexity of the problem. However, what seems to emerge in this discussion is that a system, having considerable operational uncertainties but, nevertheless, promising significant defensive capabilities under certain conditions, could be deployed beginning as early as 1967, were the decision made at this time to do so. Obviously your technical review, which I gather includes a heavy emphasis on alternative trade-off advantages as between investment in ballistic missile defense and competing weapon systems, inclines you to recommend against a decision to deploy at this time. I gather, however, that this is by no means a black and white issue and, in fact, may represent a rather close balance.
I would have no independent judgment on the technical feasibility/cost consideration factors. If, however, these have led to a negative decision, but only in close balance, then I would think that the decision warrants further review in light of the immense political and psychological implications for our entire security posture over the next decade of a negative decision on deployment. Though undoubtedly taken into account in your decision, the extent to which these implications were weighed is not clear from your memorandum. For that reason, I have set out in a separate enclosure to this letter my own views as to the significance which I attach to the development and deployment by the US of an anti-ballistic missile system in the shorter, rather than the longer, time period. It is my feeling that if such a system, having a reasonable degree of technological effectiveness can be deployed beginning as early as 1967, we should carefully consider the advisability of doing so.[Page 418]
Since this is a matter of highest importance, you undoubtedly contemplate it as a principal item for discussion with the President. I am prepared to enter into such discussions whenever the President deems it appropriate.
With warm regards,
- Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 66 A 3542, 452 10 Jan 62. Top Secret.↩
- For the final version of this memorandum, see Document 115. Regarding an earlier draft, see footnote 4, Document 107.↩
- This discussion occurs in the section of “US Non-Nuclear Force Requirements Worldwide,” which also notes that “the Joint Chiefs believe that military strategy must be based on containing the enemy well forward, placing his forces in jeopardy, and assuming an early counter-offensive, rather than allowing him to take a sizeable amount of territory that can be used as a fait accompli in any pause negotiations.” This language paraphrases part of a September 30 memorandum from the JCS to McNamara. (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 66 A 3542, 110.01 Project #22)↩
- See footnote 5, Document 86.↩
- Top Secret.↩
- Document 111.↩