53. Letter From Secretary of State Rusk to the President’s Military Representative (Taylor)0

Dear Max:

I have given Bob McNamara certain comments on his excellent Memorandum to the President of September 30, 1961,1 dealing with FY ’63 defense budgetary requirements. As I pointed out to Bob, though his memorandum adequately provides for a considerable portion of the requirements which I can foresee arising out of projected foreign policy developments, and which I referred to in my letter to him of February 4, 1961,2 there are still a number of questions which trouble me. I think it would be useful for you to have copies of the comments I am providing him (Attachment A), so that we might all have the opportunity to consider them further.

I am sending identical letters to Mac Bundy and Dave Bell.





We fully support the proposition that the U.S. should seek improvements in its strategic force which would increase its survivability, its flexibility, and its ability to be used in a controlled and deliberate way under a wide range of contingencies. This has been assured by the planned Defense program. If there is any imbalance, it would appear to be weighted on the side of strategic needs as compared with likely requirements for conventional forces arising out of potential foreign policy developments during the period covered by the budget.

If a reallocation of resources between these alternative needs seems militarily inadvisable consideration should be given to some increase in the total planned Defense budget.

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Program I: General War Offensive Forces

1. Command and Control. It is strongly in our foreign policy interest that the plans and capabilities of our strategic forces be sufficiently flexible so that they could be used with discrimination in any one of a number of alternative ways, as circumstances may dictate. To this end, it is of vital importance that our command and control arrangements be sufficiently effective and well protected to permit continuous civilian control over the use of these forces during grave crises and during actual hostilities.

It is also desirable that use of tactical nuclear forces be subject to centralized effective control, both because limited use of these forces may be a significant form of political bargaining and pressure short of general war and because any such use would clearly involve a very high risk of general war. We will want to ensure that use of these weapons is not initiated without a political decision and that any such use is subject to constant and specific political control if it is begun.

We are especially interested, from this standpoint, in ensuring effective control of such front-line weapons as the Davy Crockett which we understand are to be deployed to Europe. Our concern is the greater since we doubt it will be possible to deploy these weapons to U.S. forces there, without also generating European demands for these weapons which it would be difficult to resist. (We have never been able to resist such pressures in the past.) We would suggest that you appraise the military significance of delaying deployment of these weapons to Europe until the institution of effective arrangements for their control, e.g., by means of the “permissive link,” to ensure that these weapons will not be used without proper authorization by U.S. or allied front-line units.

Program II: General War Defensive Forces

2. Need to limit Soviet opportunity for exertion of diplomatic pressure by enhancing our defenses against strategic attack. As the program indicates, all available information suggests that the “Soviet efforts in the field of ballistic missile defense appear to be more ambitious than our own.”4 Current intelligence estimates predict that this high level of Soviet effort will result in an initial operational anti-missile capability during the 63-66 period. Should the Soviets achieve an effective operational system by that time, it would afford them an opportunity for exerting immense pressures on the Western Alliance. The initial psychological impact on allies and even conceivably on the U.S. public of claiming a defense against U.S. strategic striking power would be adverse.

Of even greater importance, such a capability, if not offset by U.S. technological advances, could provide a military advantage to the Soviet [Page 190] Union sufficient to encourage it into launching increasingly aggressive policies. Under such circumstances, the ability of U.S. foreign policy to maneuver successfully and with the necessary flexibility required to keep the U.S. out of a war while at the same time protecting U.S. vital interests, would be limited.


Anti-Missile-Missile Program. As set forth at considerable length in Appendix II to the DOD Budget,5 Defense has decided on a limited program of Nike-Zeus production which will provide 12 batteries of such weapons, enough to defend six or seven cities, by 1967. A program of such limited size seems largely to result from serious reservations concerning the weapon’s effectiveness. Despite these reservations the program is justified at least in part on the grounds that “the existence of a deployed defense may substantially increase the uncertainty at the Soviet decision making level.”

We seriously doubt that so limited a program, coming into operation as much as four years after the Soviets may have their own much more ambitious program operational, satisfactorily meets our objective. Either a substantial increase in this program should be decided upon or other alternatives explored. A much larger program, such as the 70 battery program recommended by NORAD, might considerably enhance the possibility of sowing uncertainty in the Soviet mind. Whether so ambitious a program is warranted given the added expense, largely revolves around the question of the weapon’s effectiveness. The judgment as to the effectiveness of the weapon system is of course one for the Department of Defense to make. However, if the weapon is deemed not militarily effective we would seriously question the advisability of investing some $3.6 billion in the limited program of 12 batteries on the assumption this will have any appreciable effect of creating uncertainty at the Soviet decision making level. In fact I fear, quite to the contrary, the limited, time-lagging effort cannot help but be viewed as a clear indication of U.S. impotence in this field.

As to whether other avenues are open to us to offset this serious potential Soviet advantage, we take it that all current alternative missile systems are being fully explored with no current prospect of a more reliable system in sight. We would hope that no reasonable effort in this field is being restricted by virtue of budgetary unavailability.

Civil Defense. There is one area, other than in the development of an effective U.S. anti-missile-missile, where we could achieve a significant neutralizing impact on any Soviet anti-missile successes. The Defense budget recognizes that an effective anti-missile system presupposes an effective civil defense, fallout shelter program. For this purpose [Page 191] $400 million is included in the budget. If our objective, as in the case of the anti-missile-missile, is at least in part designed to impress the Soviets with our ability for a second-strike effort in the event of a general nuclear war our effort must be large enough manifestly to provide for the survivability of significant portions of our population, war-making potential and second-strike force.

Though we are aware that a rapid increase in our previous level of civil defense activity would pose practical problems of ability to obligate funds effectively, we strongly suggest that we consider whether it is not possible to step up the level of our efforts substantially beyond the modest increase proposed in the FY ’63 DOD budget. For the reasons previously stated, having an effective offset to Soviet strategic attack, will become an increasingly vital requirement for a successful future pursuance of our foreign policy objectives.

Program III: General Purpose Forces

3. Need for building an adequate level of military forces to deter non-strategic attack. U.S. preparedness efforts of prior years appear to have been inadequate in deterring limited and ambiguous Communist pressures. The prospects for the future suggest a continuance and even intensification of these limited pressures. From a foreign policy standpoint, therefore, it is desirable to remedy the past imbalance in our defense preparedness: to increase the level of resources going to deter Bloc non-strategic attack, while maintaining the present sufficiency of our strategic forces. We need readily available military force which can not only cope with actual hostilities but also serve as a clear and positive deterrent to limited aggression. In this connection, the DOD budget raises certain serious questions.

Adequacy of force levels. The DOD budget actually projects a cutback in force levels, principally in the Army, below those currently approved. This is presumably based on the assumption that the Berlin crisis will have eased thereby permitting such a cutback. While not unmindful of the qualitative and even to some extent quantitative improvements which will result from the current buildup and which are maintained in the FY ’63 DOD budget, we would argue that the surest method for preventing further Berlin crises, if indeed our current effort is successful, is to maintain no less than the present level. As we noted in our letter to the Secretary of Defense of June 27, 1961,6 the Communists have entered on a period of over-confidence. We must disabuse them, if there is not to be a risk of serious miscalculation on their part. An increase in the levels of our non-strategic forces would surely impress the Soviet government, particularly given its traditional preoccupation with [Page 192] ground strength. This would be due not only to the actual increase in U.S. military capability which would result but equally because it would create doubts as to the validity of Communist dogma concerning the unwillingness of democracies to shoulder long-term burdens and to accept risks as Communist states are prepared to do. Finally, and equally important, the higher the level of U.S. force capability which the crises leaves the Soviets to cope with, the more likely the Soviets are to be impressed with the disadvantages of stirring up crises, in the future.
Dependence on Reservists. To some extent reliance upon call up of reservists in the event of emergency is inevitable. However, it is entirely likely that the Soviets, appreciating the difficulties inherent in the democratic process of raising forces and marshalling public opinion to meet emergencies, will periodically create crises which will present the U.S. government with increasing political difficulties in attempting to effect large-scale reserve call-ups. From a foreign policy standpoint, we must count on a continuing series of such pressures. It, therefore, seems important to plan for a higher level of available general purpose forces. It is strongly urged that consideration be given to this course of action, which would have important implications for our tactical air—as well as ground—forces.
Capability to conduct Guerrilla and Counter-Guerrilla Operations. We have been concerned for some time over the need to develop a U.S. capability (i) to give advice and training and assistance to indigenous elements and (ii) to conduct guerrilla operations. Progress in this area has suffered in the past from inadequate funds as well as from a reluctance to accord a sufficient priority to such unconventional type of military activity. We are therefore delighted to see that the Department of Defense has included a special allocation of $100 million for such operations in the 63 budget. This is a move in the right direction but it leaves open the question of whether this amount, primarily to be devoted to research, is sufficient to meet the need. Our current experience in Southeast Asia demonstrates, at least in part, our inability to cope effectively with the type of ambiguous guerrilla military threat presented. We must expect an increase in such Communist activity, not only there but elsewhere—Latin America, the Middle East and Africa—and the need to combat these efforts rapidly and effectively should be given a high priority. We suggest that the Department of Defense reassess this item in light of the above with a view to substantially increasing the priority and funds accorded to it.

Program IV: Sealift and Airlift

3. Need for a Flexible and Highly Mobile Troop Delivery Capability. As suggested in our letter of February 4, 1961, increasing opportunities for the Soviets to exert military pressure along the extensive periphery of free-world borders have created the necessity for a military posture [Page 193] capable of rapid response to such threats. Only with such a capability can we conduct effective political negotiations without the threat of the Communists being able to bring overriding military force to bear as a means of resolving any issue in their favor. The DOD budget attempts to improve our ability to more forces rapidly to any trouble spot. However, the resultant capability, on the surface, still appears to be quite modest:

one airborne brigade to employment area in 3 days,
one division (including the brigade) within 7 to 10 days,
a second division in 4 weeks, and,
the complete equipment for this 2 division force in 45 days.

The questions we have are three-fold. First, in terms of the magnitude of force which could quickly be brought to bear by the enemy in remote areas, e.g., Southeast Asia, Korea and Iran, are we making sufficient provision to provide us with an alternative to the immediate employment of nuclear weapons (or acceptance of defeat)? Second, as we mentioned in our letter to the Secretary of Defense of June 27, 1961, assuming that the Communists choose to exert pressure in two places simultaneously, e.g., Iran and Southeast Asia, do our plans provide sufficient conventional force to meet such a contingency? Third, will it be possible to commit forces to distant, underdeveloped areas even in the magnitude contemplated by DOD almost solely through airlift? For example, will not the paucity of adequate airfields in the less-developed areas of the world limit our ability to respond effectively?

All these questions raise questions about the adequacy of projected sealift. For example, we note that Defense plans to build only one of the newly developed, and we gather highly efficient, roll-on/roll-off ships a year. In light of the importance of having an effective and flexible force available for deployment to remote areas, we suggest that the Department of Defense reexamine its lift plan to assure that within the limits of production feasibility they provide adequately for our needs.

Program VI: Research and Development

6. MRBM’s. It is highly desirable that the proposed $500 million MRBM development program explore possibilities for sea-based, as well as land-based, deployment.

Sea-based deployment could more readily be reconciled with the April 21 NSC policy toward NATO and the Atlantic nations7 than land-based deployment.

That policy precludes deployment of MRBM’s to the forces of individual European countries (whether or not these forces are committed to SACEUR), calls for commitment of U.S. sea-based missiles to NATO, and [Page 194] holds out the long-term possibility of a multilaterally owned and controlled sea-borne NATO missile force, such as the President discussed in his Ottawa speech.

It is in the U.S. interest to hold to this policy. Deployment of MRBM’s to the forces of individual countries would be a major step toward creation of de facto national strategic nuclear capabilities. This would create peacetime tensions and divisions within the alliance, as well as greatly lessen our ability to follow a non-nuclear strategy or a centrally controlled nuclear strategy in event of hostilities. On the other hand, deployment of MRBM’s to U.S. forces only would probably be politically infeasible. The NSC policy of initial deployment to U.S. forces while holding out the possibility of a multilateral force thus seems the most useful course.

It is difficult, however, to conceive of carrying out this policy with land-based MRBM deployment. Multilateral deployment would be clearly less feasible on land than at sea, since missiles would be vulnerable to seizure by the countries on whose territory they were to be deployed. And, as for deployment to U.S. forces only, the European countries on whose soil the U.S. MRBM’s were to be deployed would insist on securing some of these missiles for their own forces as a pre-condition to giving us deployment rights.

These considerations suggest that sea-based deployment is greatly preferable from a foreign policy standpoint. At a minimum, they make it desirable to avoid allowing the question of land-based vs. sea-based deployment to be foreclosed by the nature of development work which is planned within the DOD FY ’63 budget.8

  1. Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, T-357-69. Top Secret. A copy of the attachment to this letter is in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Departments and Agencies Series, Defense Budget FY 1963 1/61-10/61. According to a November 6 memorandum for the record by Major William Y. Smith of Taylor’s staff, the attachment was drafted in S/P. (National Defense University, Taylor Papers, FY 63 Budget #1)
  2. Apparent reference to Documents 46, 48, and 50.
  3. Document 10.
  4. Top Secret.
  5. The quotations are from Document 48.
  6. Document 48.
  7. Reference is to Document 35, which was drafted on June 27.
  8. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. XIII, Document 100.
  9. In his November 6 memorandum (see the source note above), Major Smith discussed the defense budget process. He stated in part: “The impact of the SecState paper evidently was diminished by a Rusk-McNamara conversation, Rusk saying he did not feel strongly about the remarks.” Smith reported also that Henry Owen of S/P and Seymour Weiss of G/PM were among those at the Department of State arguing most strongly for an increase in conventional forces.