80. Letter From the President’s Military Representative (Taylor) to the Chairman of the Policy Planning Council and Counselor of the Department of State (Rostow)0

Dear Walt:

The Easter week end allowed me to re-read the text of your Basic National Security Policy,1 and to develop several additional thoughts beyond those previously submitted to you.

a. Dual Capability Military Forces

I feel that the BNSP should contain a clear statement of policy with regard to the dual capability desired in our Armed Forces. This refers, of course, to their ability for sustained combat, either with or without the use of atomic weapons. Several years ago the Army made this dual capability its objective and has developed its forces with reasonable consistency to this principle. The Air Force, and to a lesser degree the Navy, went the other way, assuming that atomic weapons would henceforth be used with little limitation. For them to change completely now would be a very expensive operation, and with respect to strategic weapons, undesirable—all the more reason for giving specific guidance.

b. The Role of Tactical Atomic Weapons

To my knowledge there has never been a comprehensive statement of national policy on the role of tactical atomic weapons in the Armed Forces. Such statements as have been made on this subject have been confused by failure to define what are tactical atomic weapons. In the course of time, this term has come to mean those weapons employed by the Army or delivered by tactical aircraft. Thus, they vary in yield from the very small Army Davy Crockett to the megaton weapons transportable in tactical aircraft.

Obviously, there is little in common either as to use or effects of weapons of such differing characteristics. In my view, we should divide this category into two parts: One, those for short-range battlefield employment varying in yield from a few tons of TNT to a few KT; the second, the interdiction weapons which would include the higher yields among the present tactical weapons. The interdiction weapons would be used to keep hostile ground forces from the battlefield. The small atomic weapons would be used to destroy the enemy at relatively close range with discrimination and without significant fallout hazard to our own troops or friendly populations. Something like this needs to be said in the BNSP.

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c. Modernization of NATO Forces

I do not believe that the present text of the BNSP recognizes specifically the need to modernize NATO atomic weapons. I was impressed during my recent visit to Europe with the interest, particularly of the Germans, in our modernization policy. They will never be content to be told that the weapons on the continent will gradually disappear to be replaced by better ones over the horizon, perhaps, in the United States. It is perfectly clear that the so-called external nuclear forces have no application to the battlefield requirements which can be met only by the small atomic weapons mentioned in the preceding paragraph. To Germans concerned with the safety of Hamburg and Munich, it is no reassurance to know that SAC or, for that matter, a NATO MRBM force at sea is looking after their interests.

d. Resistance to Aggression Without Using Atomic Weapons

Is it impossible for the BNSP to give some guidance as to the size of an aggression which we should be able to meet without resort to atomic weapons? I understand the difficulty of expressing dimensions, but am often impressed with the difference in time apparently present in the minds of people discussing the “pause” to be imposed by conventional weapons. To some in General Norstad’s headquarters, this seems to mean a very short time, or perhaps no time at all after contact with the enemy has been made. Elsewhere one talks in term of days, or perhaps weeks. Between these extremes, there is a very wide range of requirements in friendly forces to impose the pause. It would be interesting to war game a NATO-Warsaw Pact conflict to determine the difference in forces required to hold one day against a full onslaught versus the forces needed to hold for eight days.

e. A Multilateral NATO MRBM Force

With completely smooth sailing, it will take five or six years to produce the weapons and organization necessary for the multilateral NATO MRBM force as presently conceived. If this force has any utility—and its utility can be argued—it is to satisfy the Germans who, reportedly, have a deep feeling on this subject. If the latter is true, will they be willing to wait five or six years to get it? I would think that if we are sincere in supporting this later force, we would be scrounging about to get an interim solution in a much shorter time based on the employment of existing weapons. I find nothing in the BNSP on this subject.

A final general comment would be to suggest the inclusion of more unresolved points in your Part Three. I am sure that the comments which you have received from those reading the BNSP reveal disagreement on a good many points which are now in the foreword part of the text. Where a solution to the disagreements is not possible in the relatively short time available, you might want to move the issues back into your [Page 274] Part Three. Here we would find our unfinished business and our homework for a number of months to come.

Hoping that I am not too late for the foregoing observations,


Maxwell D. Taylor
  1. Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, T-138-69. Secret.
  2. Reference is to the March 26 draft; see Document 70.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.