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



  • Recommended Long-Range Nuclear Delivery Forces 1963-1967 (C)
Reference is made to:
JCSM-620-61, dated 11 September 1961, subject as above.1
JCSM-657-61, dated 21 September 1961, subject as above.2
The Joint Chiefs of Staff have examined Appendix I to your draft memorandum for the President,3 subject as above, with particular attention to the target system and the operational factors employed therein as the basis for your force level recommendations.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff are in full accord with your objective of improving the US strategic posture with respect to survivability, flexibility and the capability of being used in a controlled and deliberate way. They also agree on the general validity of the target system and the survival, reliability and penetration factors used as the basis for your force recommendations, subject to the views expressed below.
With respect to the list of target destruction requirements, this agreement has been possible because of the broad range of uncertainty presented. In terms of total numbers of targets, the Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that the list provides an adequate representation of the threat. In terms of categories, they note that although this target list was derived from studies by the staff of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee, it is not clear whether certain categories of targets listed in the report of the Subcommittee4 [Page 196] have been included, e.g., primary military control centers and primary logistic support installations. Since a final report of General Hickey’s group is expected in December,5 it is assumed that a more definitive exposition of target destruction requirements can thereby be expected.
Similarly, within the rather wide range resulting from taking the optimistic-pessimistic approach, the Joint Chiefs of Staff are able to accept the validity of the operational factors used. It would be impossible to accept the low numbers of weapons delivered on target by the recommended forces in the pessimistic case, since the factors therein are generally so adverse as to be quite unlikely; on the other hand, it would be imprudent to count on the results obtained by application of the optimistic factors throughout.
In the references set forth in paragraph 1 above, the Joint Chiefs of Staff provided you with their agreed views on long-range nuclear delivery forces and their rationale wherein this structure was at variance with your recommendations. It is noted that the figures used in your analysis for purposes of force level comparison are those initially submitted by Services. A comparison of the levels recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff for FY 63 projected for the years FYs 64 through 67 with your forces would have shown smaller differences than appear in the analysis. In terms of five year system costs, for example, the difference would have been approximately $3.3 billion instead of the $9.7 billion resulting from comparison with the Service submissions. The essential point of difference in arriving at the two force levels is that while your analysis estimates that the situation at the outset of war would be characterized by intelligence and operational factors between the optimistic and the median cases, the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider the median case more likely. To illustrate the degree of increased assurance attained by the higher level of forces, application to them of the median factors for 1965 produces additional alert weapons on target on the order of [Page 197] 100-125. The question becomes one of increased costs versus reduced risk.
The subject of long-range nuclear delivery force objectives is one which must be kept under constant scrutiny with a view to refining the factors involved in determining optimum force levels. The analysis contained in Appendix I to your draft memorandum is an important addition to the body of study on the subject. Pending more precise resolution of the factors bearing on the problem, the Joint Chiefs of Staff continue to believe that the force levels they have previously recommended for FY 63 would offer the advantages of increased capability for retaliation in the period considered, and earlier achievement of optimum readiness.

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

L.L. Lemnitzer
Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 65 A 3464, Atomic 471.61 29 Aug 61. Top Secret.
  2. In this memorandum, the Joint Chiefs recommended to McNamara for FY 1963 funding 100 KC 135 tankers and 92 Skybolt, 18 Titan, 300 Minuteman H&D, 50 Minuteman mobile, and 128 Polaris missiles. They also supported expenditure of the FY 1962 appropriations for 45 B-52 bombers. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 218, JCS Records, JMF 7000 (6 Mar 61) Sec 5, Pt 1)
  3. In this memorandum to McNamara, the JCS set forth the reasons for the size of their recommendations in JCSM-620-61, including growing Soviet confidence in their military strength as evidenced in the Berlin crisis. Producing more of the latest model of the B-52 was the quickest way to improve the retaliatory force. Regarding Minuteman, the JCS maintained that since the Soviet missile force was superior in total yield, the United States had to offset this capability with a greater number of ICBMs. (Ibid., Sec 6)
  4. Document 46.
  5. See footnote 4, Document 46.
  6. “A Study of Requirements for U.S. Strategic Systems: Final Report,” December 1. This study concluded that controlled response strategy could not be implemented until late in the 1960s because a number of necessary advanced weapons systems such as Advanced Minuteman and a manned reconnaissance strike aircraft would not be available until then. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 218, JCS Records, JMF 4700 (1 Jun 61) Sec 1A) With a December 22 memorandum to McNamara, Charles J. Hitch, Assistant Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), enclosed a 17-page evaluation of the Hickey Report. In the memorandum Hitch stated that his evaluation concluded that the requirements for a controlled response strategy were exaggerated in the Hickey study, and its feasibility underestimated. “I see no reason why we cannot have a satisfactory posture for a controlled response strategy by 1964 if not sooner. I reject the suggestion implicit in the Hickey Study that all of these advanced capabilities must be achieved before it makes sense to abandon the spasm war concept.” There was nothing in the Hickey study necessitating “a change in the decisions you have already made for FY 1963 procurement.” (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 65 A 3463, 381 Hickey Report 19 April 61)