28. Memorandum of Conversation0


We talked about the draft paper on “Military and Related Aspects of Basic National Security Policy.”1 Rowen pointed out that the function of the paper was in his mind two-fold: The first and most important function was internal in the Defense Department, and this was to change the whole operational doctrine, and the thinking behind it, of the Military Establishment from the JCS through the operational commands. The present concept is based on “spasm war.” This was reflected in all the planning documents such as SIOP and JSCAP. In Rowen’s view (and the view of Dean Ellsberg,2 whose intellectual child this part of the report is), this is a ridiculous and unworkable notion. It is therefore extremely important to move from the “spasm” notion to the notion of controlled response over a period of time. Our general plan should be flexible and include a large variety of controlled responses.

The second purpose of the document was to make the same point clear at the level of the Secretary of Defense and the President. In addition, it was also directed at providing some general rationale for this view. The rationale is more important for the second purpose than for the first. It was my impression that Rowen was in effect saying that the Department of Defense could not itself change the views of the Services, a point which he illustrated with a number of anecdotes, and that therefore the NSC and the White House were needed to effect this change.

He appeared to accept my comment that the document in its present form seemed rather without a clear political basis. It was his view that our comment could most usefully be directed toward the political basis on which the report should rest and its usefulness for White House purposes rather than for internal educational purposes.

Carl Kaysen
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Carl Kaysen Series, BNSP 1/61-5/61. Top Secret. Drafted by Kaysen on May 27.
  2. Apparent reference to the draft cited in footnote 2, Document 30.
  3. Apparent reference to Daniel Ellsberg of the Rand Corporation, who served as a consultant in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.