140. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense McNamara to President Kennedy0

Last November at Hyannis Port1 I informed you that we would restudy Titan III to see whether, despite its overlap with Saturn C1/C1B in payload capacity, it seemed desirable to proceed. You will recall that the Titan III program was justified, in part, on the grounds that the cost per Titan launch would be so much less than per Saturn launch that the savings over the life of the program would approximately offset the development costs. The study of the costs and of the other elements of the program has been carried out by the Air Force. At the same time, preliminary development work has continued.

Since last Fall the contracts for Titan III have been finalized. Ninety-five percent of the cost of the development program which has been negotiated is represented by incentive contracts. This should be, and indeed is, a strong influence in keeping the development cost close to the estimated total of $875 million. Firing of 120 rockets which in modified form will be used for the strap on boosters has been carried out. Development of the other components of the system has continued on schedule. We anticipate the first test flight of the core (this includes the two stages based on the Titan II ICBM and the transtage) in August 1964 and of the full Titan III C in April 1965.

With respect to the desirability of Titan III, I conclude that, on the basis of the best estimates that can be made of its development cost, production and launch cost, and reliability as compared to those of Saturn, and the expected number of payloads in the 1966-75 period, Titan III will probably very much more than pay for its development. Recognizing the uncertainties in all of these factors, we have also examined the situation with some assumptions less favorable to Titan III. Under these circumstances we conclude that Titan III will nevertheless roughly pay for itself. I know that others have made still more pessimistic estimates. However, even with some slight economic deficiency, I believe the insurance that we purchase by the Titan III development makes it a desirable investment. This insurance is the capability to launch space payloads on very short notice or into narrow time windows, and the possibility of converting Titan III into a weapon system of large payload capacity, both of which are offered by its combination of storable and solid fuels. Therefore [Page 499] the Department of Defense plans to proceed with the development of the Titan III.2

Robert S. McNamara
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Departments and Agencies Series, Department of Defense Volume V, July-November 1963. Secret.
  2. The President was in Hyannis Port for the Thanksgiving weekend, November 21-25, 1962. See Document 113.
  3. An attached note from Spurgeon Keeny to Bundy stated that Jerome Wiesner “still questions the necessity of undertaking the project at all and the wisdom of the specific forum of the proposal if the project is undertaken,” but added that Wiesner did not plan further opposition since McNamara had taken his objections into account in making his decision. Wiesner set forth his views at length in a July 8 memorandum to Harold Brown. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Departments and Agencies Series, Department of Defense Volume V, July-November 1963)