119. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara0



  • Review of Basic National Security Policy—Short Version (U)
The Joint Chiefs of Staff have reviewed the Basic National Security Policy (BNSP) draft short version, dated 2 August 1962.1
In response to Mr. U.A. Johnson’s suggestion that appropriate extracts of the document be fowarded, through the National Security [Page 437] Council, for approval by the President,2 the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider it inadvisable to attempt to identify and isolate purely military portions of basic national security policy. A proper interpretation of military objectives and the delineation of missions and tasks for the armed forces depends on a thorough knowledge and understanding of the entirety of national objectives and policies which relate to national security. Fragmentation of the BNSP for the purpose of piecemeal submission to the President well might lead to a dilution of the essential inter-relationship of the various elements of national policy—political, economic, and military. The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that a completely balanced version of BNSP rather than a series of compartmented excerpts is urgently needed in order to provide, in one document, the amplifying background necessary to an adequate understanding of the policies upon which military planning and implementing actions must be based.
With respect to the military implications of certain expressions of policy in the draft document, dated 2 August 1962, the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider, inter alia, that implementation of our national strategy requires an over-all military capability adequate to respond effectively, together with our Allies, to the present and foreseeable enemy threat in all of its various forms and intensities. This combined military capability must cover the full spectrum of force, and must be able not only to prevent the enemy from attaining his goals, but also to accomplish other related US objectives to force a conclusion of hostilities on terms advantageous3 to the United States and its Allies.
In more specific terms, US military forces must be capable of conducting operations employing strategic nuclear, tactical nuclear, and conventional weapons. Strategic nuclear capabilities required for general war, in which the total resources of the nation are committed, do not of themselves preclude a concurrent military requirement for adequate capabilities to employ appropriate nuclear weapons in the lesser circumstances of limited war. US forces should not be foreclosed by policy from developing, possessing, and, if necessary employing weapons which permit the application of optional levels of force depending on the circumstances. Present and forecast Soviet capabilities to employ tactical nuclear weapons render more urgent the necessity of clarifying this aspect of US policy.
To provide a sound basis for broad military planning, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that the approved BNSP contain a statement of the continuing nature of the over-all threat as well as US regional interests [Page 438] and objectives. They recommend substantive modifications in other areas of the proposed policy:
Paragraphs relating to arms control and disarmament should be expanded and clarified.
The military requirements for and composition of a NATO MRBM force should not be specified as a matter of basic policy.
Nuclear assistance to Allies, including continued nuclear assistance to the United Kingdom and provision of assistance to France, should not be discouraged in basic policy.

The “two-China” problem, including US policy regarding the Chinese Offshore Islands, should be reconsidered.

While it is recognized that policy statements on the above topics represent national policy as reflected in other documents, the Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that these policies should be modified.

In other matters of specific military interest the Joint Chiefs of Staff are concerned over certain omissions and inadequacies in the draft policy that require additional precision and clarity. For example, in the basic mission of US forces, there is inadequate recognition of the existence and requirement for unilateral US action in circumstances short of direct attack; the draft policy provides only for supplementing friendly and Allied powers.
Specific changes recommended, together with supporting comments, are contained in the Appendix hereto.4
The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that the modified version of the 2 August 1962 draft of BNSP, incorporating their proposed changes and appended hereto, constitutes an acceptable expression of basic national security policy for military purposes. They recommend that the document modified as indicated herein be forwarded for National Security Council and Presidential consideration as a matter of priority.5
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Maxwell D. Taylor
  1. Source: Department of State, S/P Files: Lot 69 D 121, BNSP 1962. Top Secret. Another copy is in the Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 65 A 3464, 381 (Relo) BNSP 31 Mar 62.
  2. Concerning the August 2 draft, which is a condensation of the June 22 draft, see the source note, Document 93.
  3. Johnson made this suggestion in an October 15 letter to McNamara, with which he forwarded the August 2 draft BNSP. (Department of State, Central Files, 711.5/10-1562)
  4. Rather than “acceptable,” as specified in the August 2 draft.
  5. In this 73-page appendix, not printed, the JCS proposed specific modifications of the August 22 draft to incorporate most of the points made above but recommended deleting all of the language on China until completion of reconsideration of China policy.
  6. In a memorandum to McNamara also dated December 7, Taylor recommended “withholding action” on this recommendation. “The immediate requirement is to provide the Chiefs with a basis for the development of JSOP 68, a need which can be met by your noting or approving this draft BNSP. To seek governmental approval” would take so long “that it would not be available in approved form to assist the Chiefs in the development of the next JSOP. I doubt the wisdom of pressing for higher action on this document at this time.” (Department of State, S/P Files: Lot 69 D 121, BNSP 1962)