115. Draft Memorandum From Secretary of Defense McNamara to President Kennedy0



  • Recommended FY 1964-1968 General Purpose Forces

I have recently completed my review of force levels for the tactical ground, sea, and air force (the General Purpose Forces) and their associated lift forces for the FY 1964-FY 1968 Program. This Program will form the basis for the preparation of the FY 1964 budget. The exact dollar amounts cited in this memorandum are subject to some further refinement during the next year.

My recommendations are as follows:

1. Ground Forces

Maintain the current 16 combat-ready Army divisions.
Add new provisional air assault and air mobile units, totalling 15,000 personnel, to test the Howze Board2 concepts described below.
Procure in FY 1964 about $3.3 billion of Army equipment, an amount more than double the average of the five years prior to FY 1962.
Complete the reorganization of Army divisions to the ROAD structure.
Maintain the current active force of three Marine division-wing teams.

2. Land-Based Tactical Air

Increase the number of tactical fighter wings from 16 as of July 1, 1961, to 21 fully operational wings by January 1, 1964.
Budget $1.3 billion in FY 1964, compared to $1.4 billion in FY 1963, and $0.7 billion in FY 1962, to procure new aircraft for the new wings and for further modernization of the existing wings and to [Page 424]improve conventional war readiness through procurement of increased stocks of modern ordnance and construction of aircraft shelters.
Procure additional reconnaissance aircraft to permit an increase in the number of tactical reconnaissance squadrons from 14 to 18 by FY 1966 and 20 by FY 1967, as well as modernize the existing 14 squadrons. Expenditures on reconnaissance aircraft will increase from about $100 million in FY 1963 to $374 million in FY 1964.

3. General Purpose Sea Forces

Maintain the current 15 attack carrier strike force.
Maintain the current anti-submarine warfare force, including 9 ASW carriers.
Maintain the current amphibious lift for the assault elements of the two Marine division-wing teams or equivalent numbers of other forces.
Continue to modernize the Navy through a shipbuilding program (for General Purpose Forces) costing about $1.6 billion in FY 1964. This compares with about $1.7 billion in FY 1963, $1.3 billion in FY 1962, and $985 million in FY 1961.

Table 1 following sets forth the recommended forces in more detail. The Service proposals, shown in red after mine on Table 1 where they differ, are described in subsequent sections. Table 2 indicates the costs associated with the recommended program as compared to that proposed by the Service.3

4. Airlift

You will recall that provision was made in the FY 1962 budget amendments and in the FY 1963 budget for major additions to the airlift force. This program will be continued without change in FY 1964 except for the procurement of two additional squadrons of C-130s. The programmed airlift force will increase air-deployment capabilities nearly three-fold in the FY 1963-67 period. Table 2 also shows the costs of the recommended lift forces as compared to Service proposals.

[Here follow Tables 1 and 2.]

The Basis for the Recommendations

The basis for my recommendations can be summarized in three propositions:

The forces proposed will be sufficient to counter, by non-nuclear means, a wide spectrum of likely Sino-Soviet Bloc aggression in regions outside of Europe. However, the Joint Chiefs of Staff state that in the case of simultaneous, large-scale attacks, the US would be faced with a choice [Page 425]between the use of tactical nuclear weapons or the possible temporary loss of large areas of the Free World.
While the forces proposed will not provide adequate non-nuclear forces for NATO, the remedies lie primarily with the other NATO countries rather than with a major increase in US forces. Although the political obstacles loom large, and many of the deficiencies require considerable time to overcome, I think we can demonstrate to our Allies that the NATO non-nuclear inferiority stems from specific remediable deficiencies. The Chiefs state that until adequate forces are available, NATO must be prepared to use tactical nuclear weapons early in any conflict in Western Europe.
I consider that the increase in combat effectiveness which we require above present levels can be best achieved in large part through increased quantities and improved quality of equipment and through reallocations from the more marginal units to those that promise a greater contribution to combat, rather than through the addition of large numbers of new units.

The subsequent sections describe in more detail the basis for these propositions, by reviewing, first, the threat and our capabilities in the critical regions of Europe, Southeast Asia, Korea, and the Middle East and second, by examining Service proposals, together with my recommendations for ground forces, tactical air, naval forces, and lift.


[Here follows an analysis of force requirements needed to meet possible enemy attacks in Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia, and in several multi-regional situations.]

Concluding Comments

I interpret these studies4 to indicate we have the required active divisions for the initial stages of non-European large scale, single region conflict. It would, however, be necessary to call up priority reserve units at the start of combat to provide additional divisions and non-divisional units to meet the requirements of sustained combat and to reconstitute the strategic reserve. The situations in the study represent major actions of about Korean war size or greater, often near the upper limit of enemy capability. For this scale of conflict, the call-up of the reserves is required.

NATO does not have adequate ground forces, but the deficiencies can most effectively be met by improvement in the quantity and quality [Page 426]of the non-US NATO forces rather than by a larger US contribution.5 I shall continue to urge our NATO allies to remedy their deficiencies.

The studies we have carried out are subject, of course, to a considerable margin of error. In contrast to Strategic Forces, for which relatively precise analysis is possible, the General Purpose Forces must be evaluated for a broad range of situations, none of which can be specified with much exactness. Intelligence data for enemy non-nuclear capabilities are of a lower quality than for nuclear forces. Finally the results are highly sensitive to estimates of the quantity and quality of the allied contribution. Nonetheless, I think the study by the Chairman’s Working Group, together with the parallel studies carried out by the Army Staff, are as authoritative with respect to ground divisions as the uncertainties of the problem now permit. We will be conducting further studies on requirements and this question will be under my continuing review.

[Here follow the introduction to the section on ground forces and an analysis and discussion of the Howze Board’s recommendations concerning a provisional air assault division.]

An Additional Army Infantry Division in FY 1964

The Secretary of the Army6 has proposed an additional infantry division for FY 1964, the seventh of that type in the active Army. He views this additional division as a step towards an 18 division active Army.7 He urges that serious consideration be given to deploying an infantry division to the Philippines in order to assist allies, develop bases of operations, and reduce our reaction time in Southeast Asia.8 The direct cost to activate, to equip and to operate a ROAD infantry division for five years, with associated non-divisional troops, service-wide support, and combat stocks is about $1.8 billion.9 The Joint Chiefs also recommend an additional infantry division in FY 1964, but they have not commented on the deployment of a division to the Philippines.

[Page 427]

I do not support the addition of a division force, of the type recommended, for three reasons:

To deploy a division to Southeast Asia would permanently commit a division to a specific area of the world where a clear need for such a unit has not been established. The commitment would tend to become irreversible, add to our balance of payment problem, and would require international negotiations with the host government. On the other hand, the usefulness of additional CONUS divisions is limited by lift capabilities, particularly prior to FY 1966 when substantial numbers of highly productive C-141 aircraft are in the lift forces. Since the lift limitations are in moving equipment rather than personnel, it would be preferable to preposition divisional sets of equipment in Southeast Asia. As discussed below, we already have equipment prepositioned in Okinawa and are making provision for floating depots.
Another division at this time would aggravate the serious imbalance between equipment, combat stocks, and number of units described below.
An additional infantry division does not promise the significant qualitative improvements in ground combat capability of the air mobile units described in the preceding section. Increased resources for the Army would be better spent on testing this new concept.

[Here follow the conclusion of the section on ground forces and sections on airlift and sealift forces, land-based tactical forces, and naval general purpose forces.]


The General Purpose Forces also include tactical nuclear forces. We are currently conducting studies on the requirement for these forces and I shall be sending you a separate memorandum on this topic.10

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Departments and Agencies Series, Defense Budget FY 1964 Volume I. Top Secret. This memorandum is 70 double-spaced typewritten pages long.
  2. This date is handwritten on the source text. According to a control sheet, the draft memorandum arrived in the White House on December 4.
  3. In a memorandum dated April 19, McNamara directed Secretary of the Army Elvis Stahr to examine ways of achieving sharp increases in mobility. For text, see Alain Enthoven and Wayne K. Smith, How Much Is Enough? Shaping the Defense Program, 1961-1969, pp. 101-104. A board headed by Lieutenant General Hamilton K. Howze undertook the reappraisal. (Final Report of the U.S. Army Tactical Mobility Requirements Board, August 20; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 218, JCS Records, JMF 3230 (24 Jan 62) Sec 1)
  4. Neither Table 1 nor Table 2 is printed.
  5. Reference is to a series of studies, described in the omitted section, ordered by McNamara in the spring of 1962 and prepared by a Chairman’s Working Group headed by Vice Admiral Herbert D. Riley, Director of the Joint Staff. (Report of Chairman’s Working Group, undated; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 218, JCS Records, JMF 7000 (17 Feb 62))
  6. The Chiefs state that until NATO countries achieve their force goals the US must be prepared to fill the void or accept a calculated risk. [Footnote in the source text.]
  7. Cyrus Vance.
  8. The Chief of Staff of the Army adds that a substantial increase in ground forces is clearly justified by the increased emphasis on non-nuclear defense. He also notes that nuclear weapons do not provide a clear-cut answer to the problem of defending Europe. [Footnote in the source text.]
  9. In an October 17 memorandum to McNamara, Vance argued: “Such a combat force in this area would provide firm notice of our intentions to friends and enemies alike, and would permit access to trouble spots throughout the regional area.” He noted that the “effectiveness of Army forces is increased by their deployment well forward—implementing a forward strategy, deterring overt aggression, motivating allies, and in position to accomplish initial combat tasks should war occur.” (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 66 A 3542, 110.01 Project #22)
  10. A footnote in the source text provides a breakdown of the costs.
  11. No DPM on this subject has been found for 1962. For a later discussion of tactical nuclear weapons, see Document 145.