105. Letter From Secretary of State Rusk to Secretary of Defense McNamara 1

Dear Bob:

I have reviewed the draft memoranda on the Five Year Force Structure for FY 67–71 which you forwarded to me on October 28.2 As in past years, I am immensely impressed at the very high caliber of your analyses. I find these memoranda extremely useful in obtaining a better understanding of the current status of our force posture and likely future problems. In this connection, I would like to note that your staff, in particular Alain Enthoven and his people, have been most cooperative in providing us with an appreciation of the emerging problem areas.

I would like to comment on several issues which I believe to have major significance for our national security policy. The first deals with our NATO policy.3 You and I continue to be in agreement that the position which the US has evolved over the past several years concerning the importance of a realistic non-nuclear capability in Europe remains an important tenet of US policy. In this connection, the further work which you are now having done within the Department of Defense to define more precisely both the requirements for and the capabilities of a non-nuclear military effort in Europe will undoubtedly prove useful. But the problem to which I believe we must both address ourselves is the priority of effort which we wish to apply to a series of policy issues which currently confront us within the alliance.

I know you are fully aware of the numerous problems which currently bear on our European relations. First and foremost among these are the German/nuclear sharing issue and the future role of France within NATO. Clearly these matters are so important that they should take first priority in our diplomatic relations with Europe. While giving primary attention to the solution of these problems, I agree we should [Page 326] continue to pursue other important objectives, including those relating to what the US considers to be an appropriate strategy and force posture for the alliance.

However, we are not likely to persuade our allies fully to adopt our judgments on force posture, at least in the short run. It could be seriously counterproductive if we were to press our views with regard to emphasis on a major non-nuclear option to the point that it further complicated our political problems. While I personally cannot accept the point of view, there would be those in Europe who would question our resolve to defend Europe in the event of Communist attack if they interpreted our emphasis on a non-nuclear buildup as reducing the importance we attach to a nuclear deterrent.

I note that you feel that there may be some inconsistency in our retaining the current US military posture in Europe (or in CONUS-based support) if we cannot bring our allies to a full acceptance of our views on strategy with resultant major improvements to their own non-nuclear force posture. Despite the limited sympathy of the Europeans with our strategic views, we have managed to induce our allies to develop forces which do contain a capability for a considerable non-nuclear effort. This, together with our present nuclear options, represents a strong deterrent, and a significant war-fighting capability. While I agree that we should work toward elimination of inadequacies in our allies’ force postures, it seems to me that we are going to have to accept some imbalances for the time being. Thus, I do not see that the threat to reduce, even less so, the actual withdrawal of a portion of US forces from Europe, as is touched upon in one of our memoranda, would serve our policy interests during the next several months while we pursue the German/nuclear sharing problem and the problems which will undoubtedly arise out of the evolving issue with regard to France’s role in NATO.

I personally hope that full discussion of the nuclear problem in connection with the NATO nuclear force issue will serve to close the gap between us and our allies on strategy, particularly as the European leaders come to understand fully the issues involved in the use of nuclear weapons.

There are other related matters which bear on our NATO policy which are treated in your memoranda and on which I might briefly comment:

With regard to the constraints on a further tactical nuclear weapons buildup, I agree that the general guidelines established by NSAM 3344 should be maintained. However, I would hope that we [Page 327] could have some additional clarification concerning the relationship to NSAM 334 levels of certain specific proposals, such as the ADM and 155 Howitzer programs, and any others you may see arising in the early future. My staff will be following up on these problems.
If the question of land-based MRBM’s is again surfaced in NATO, it will be necessary for us to work out carefully the tactics for handling this matter with our allies. I gather you feel that the military case for such weapons is not persuasive. For our part, we see some political problems which would result from a land-based deployment of such weapons, though we have not recently reviewed our position on this matter. This is clearly an issue which requires continuing close contact between State and Defense. The outcome of current discussions on the ANF/MLF problem will have a bearing on this.
I agree in principle on the desirability of shifting the QRA role from aircraft to Pershings, as Pershings demonstrate the necessary capability, but anticipate this may raise certain political problems. At such time as you are prepared to make a specific proposal with regard to this shift, I would appreciate an opportunity to review it and to work out with you the precise tactics for presenting the proposal to our allies.
Your proposed command and control study seems to me to have very considerable merit. This question has generated so much interest among allied governments in the past, that any US study of this issue can be expected to arouse considerable attention in the future. Accordingly, I suggest that our staffs work out very carefully the terms of reference and the method for proceeding with this study, and upon its completion that we consider together its political implications before it is presented to NATO.

As a matter which bears upon our NATO policy but obviously has broader implications as well, I have been impressed by the increasing reliance which our strategy places on the ability to deploy US forces to various trouble spots around the world. I appreciated the degree to which your efforts have been directed toward improving the ability of the US to project its military power where it is required and to do so in ways designed to support our foreign policy. In the face of growing demands on US forces, I feel it is important that we stay abreast of the status of our deployment capabilities and accordingly, I have asked Alex Johnson to keep in touch with your staff on this matter.

The third major issue on which I should like to comment deals with damage limiting programs and especially the ABM. I want to make clear that I do not believe that foreign policy problems should in any way prevent us from deploying a system that could contribute significantly to the defense of the US at such time as you believe such a program is feasible and necessary. Nevertheless, there will be certain political problems that will have to be dealt with if a decision is made to [Page 328] deploy an ABM. As you know, the UK already has asked to discuss the political implications of an ABM deployment with us, and other countries have shown some interest. I would like to see us take advantage of the additional time afforded by the deferral of the ABM deployment to discuss the political aspects of the ABM program as it affects our allies. This will require additional studies both by State and Defense, and the joint development of a course of action. I propose that we address ourselves to that task without delay. I am, therefore, suggesting that Alex Johnson get in touch with appropriate people in Defense on this matter at an early date.

There are several other issues which I can only briefly touch upon in this letter, but I believe you and I should set aside time to discuss them at greater length, and I would hope in the fairly near future:


While we need to do some very hard thinking about how the military assistance program can be improved, the foreign policy significance of MAP is such that I would not want to proceed on the assumption that major adjustments in rationale, scope or content of that program can be made until such changes are thoroughly and carefully examined.

For example, in your draft memorandum to the President on this subject, certain conclusions are advanced about the ability to reduce reliance upon indigenous forces and the MAP support for such forces on the assumption of a changing threat and the further assumption that the growing US capability can to a degree substitute for indigenous forces. This issue requires very careful examination. The extent to which we wish to assume such responsibility, even provided the governments in question were prepared to accept such a change, is by no means a clear or easy issue to decide. Moreover, in view of the more immediate problems which appear to confront us in connection with meeting our overseas obligations (a point which I have alluded to above), it is not entirely clear to me whether or when we can assume such increased responsibilities.

A second major question concerns the relationship between the military aid which should be provided Pakistan and that for India. While I fully agree that the relationship between these two countries must be carefully scrutinized before we decide upon the content and levels of future military aid, I feel we cannot settle this question at the present time. This illustrates what to me is a very troublesome question about MAP, namely to what extent do we take any part in military efforts which might encourage other nations to engage in local arms races or to use violence in neighborhood quarrels. Until such broad issues are resolved we should leave open the specific MAP allocations to India and Pakistan.

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I suggest that Alex Johnson discuss with Dave Bell and appropriate people in Defense how we might best proceed to examine in greater depth these and other issues which surround the military assistance program so that they might formulate proposals for you and me to consider at an early date.

I noted last year my interest in having a further exposition of the tactical nuclear problem as it affects theaters other than Europe. Particularly with our growing commitment in the Far East, it seems to me that we need a great deal more insight into the utility of and limitations on the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons in that theater. While your memorandum to the President on tactical nuclear weapons this year alludes briefly to this problem, I am convinced that a great deal more work needs to be done. Since the questions of tactical nuclear weapons so intimately relates political and military considerations, I believe this is an effort which might jointly be undertaken by State and Defense. I would welcome your views on this entire problem.

Finally, we would like to work with your staff, as in the past, on your presentation to Congress of the five year military program. My staff is available to be of as much help as possible in insuring that this presentation takes full account of the political issues involved in our relations with other countries. Perhaps we can be particularly helpful in working with you to develop the review of the world-wide situation which normally opens your presentation.

In view of the fact that I will be out of the country until November 24,5 during which time I presume there will be further discussions on your draft memoranda within the Executive Branch, I am taking the liberty of sending a copy of this letter to Messrs. McGeorge Bundy, Charles Schultze and Dave Bell.

With warm regards,


Dean 6
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330 70 A 1265, 031.1 White House PDM Oct 1965. Top Secret.
  2. Reference is to a set of draft memoranda from McNamara to President Johnson prepared during October 1965, which outlined the military force structure for the FY 1967 defense budget. (All ibid.) The memorandum on recommended FY 1967–71 strategic offensive and defensive nuclear forces is dated October 1. For text of a later version, see Document 103. The October 28 transmittal memorandum is in the Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330 70 A 1265, 031.1 WH PDM Oct 1965.
  3. This issue was covered mainly in McNamara’s October 13 draft memorandum to the President on “NATO and the United States Five-Year Force Structure and Financial Program.” (Ibid.)
  4. Document 90.
  5. Secretary Rusk traveled to several Latin American nations en route to and from the Second Special Inter-American Conference at Rio de Janeiro. He returned to Washington on the evening of November 24.
  6. Printed from a copy that indicates Rusk signed the original.