102. Editorial Note

In their book, How Much Is Enough? Shaping the Defense Program, 1961–1969 (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), Alain G. Enthoven and K. Wayne Smith, who worked in the Systems Analysis Office of the Department of Defense during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations (Enthoven serving as the newly-created Assistant Secretary of Defense (Systems Analysis) from 1965 to 1969), summarized the strategic thinking of Department of Defense officials.

In determining strategic force requirements, the two wrote that U.S. defense officials decided that the “assured destruction” capability of U.S. strategic offensive nuclear forces would be sufficient to destroy 20 to 25 percent of the Soviet population and 50 percent of Soviet industry. This was a “judgment reached by the Secretary of Defense and accepted by the President, by the Congress, and apparently by the general public as well.” Studies by the Systems Analysis Office concluded that following a Soviet nuclear attack, U.S. retaliation with 100 1-megaton-equivalent U.S.-delivered nuclear warheads would kill about 37 million people (15 percent of the total Soviet population) and destroy 59 percent of Soviet industrial capacity. Doubling the megaton delivery to 200 would increase the percentages to 21 percent fatalities and 72 percent industrial capacity destroyed. Higher levels would increase the destructive percentages, but the returns would be sharply diminishing compared with the expense involved. (Ibid., page 207) The studies of the Systems Analysis Office also concluded that the number of U.S. and Soviet citizens killed in a nuclear exchange would be very high, regardless of whether the United States had no ABM defense system, an ABM defense of 25 cities, or defense of some 52 cities. (Ibid., pages 184 ff.)

The figures cited by Enthoven and Smith in their book, as well as additional estimates presented in their tables, were publicly known and debated at the time. Indeed, Enthoven’s office likely developed the estimates for Secretary McNamara, who used the same figures in his annual posture statements to Congress. See, for example, Statement of Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara Before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the Fiscal Year 1969–73 Defense Program and 1969 Defense Budget (prepared January 22, 1968), page 57. For additional references to assured destruction of the Soviet population and industrial capacity, see Documents 103, 128, 139, 160, 200, and 210.