399. Notes of Conversations Relating To Skybolt0

On 7 November I reported to the President, at a time when Dean Rusk was present, that it appeared to me we should consider cancelling the Skybolt program. Because of the serious impact such a cancellation would have on the British Government, I asked the President’s approval to discuss the matter with David Ormsby-Gore and Peter Thorneycroft. He agreed that I should do so.
On 8 November I met with David Ormsby-Gore and reported to him that during the past six months the estimated cost to procure the Skybolt missile had risen from $1.4 billion to over $1.75 billion. This increase, on top of a series of previous increases, was causing us to reconsider the worth of the weapon. Two days ago I had referred the matter to the Chiefs and asked for their recommendations. Although no decision would be made on this matter within the next three to four weeks, I wanted his government to be aware that we were reconsidering the program.
On 9 November in a telephone conversation. I repeated to Peter Thorneycroft the substance of my conversation with David Ormsby-Gore. I added that in the event it appeared desirable for the U.S. to cancel the Skybolt program, I believed there would be several alternatives that should be considered by the British Government. Further, I stated that prior to any U.S. decision to cancel I would be quite willing to come to London to discuss the matter with Peter. I estimated that the decision would not be made here before approximately December 10. London consultations would probably not be advisable before November 23. He [9 lines of source text not declassified].
Robert S. McNamara1
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, McNamara Files: FRC 71 A 3470, Skybolt. Secret. More detailed summaries of the meetings and conversations referred to below are included in Report to the President, Skybolt and Nassau, November 15, 1963, by Richard E. Neustadt, a study that was requested by the President in March 1963. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, Neustadt)
  2. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.