118. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara1



  • Military Strategy for Fiscal Years 1968 Through 1975
JCSM–15–66,2 dated 10 January 1966, subject: “Changes and Revisions in Content and Transmittal Procedures of the Joint Strategic Objectives Plan (JSOP), Parts I–V and Part VI (U), “informed you of certain procedural changes instituted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff regarding the JSOP.
Transmitted herewith are:
A resume of the view of the Joint Chiefs of Staff concerning over-all military strategy for the period 2–10 years hence (Appendix A).
Tentative major force-level decision-issues which the Joint Chiefs of Staff will address in Part VI of the JSOP (Appendix B).3
Parts I–V of JSOP 68–754 (Appendix C, forwarded separately).
Force levels considered necessary to implement this strategy together with supporting rationale will be forwarded as Part VI of JSOP 68–75 about mid-March 1966. At that time, the Joint Chiefs of Staff will provide you with their analyses and recommendations on the major decision-issues listed in Appendix B.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that the separate force analyses of the draft memorandums for the President, prepared for the upcoming budget year, be developed within the context of the over-all military strategy contained in Appendix A as supported by the more detailed treatment in JSOP 68–75. They further recommend that Appendix A be utilized as the principal basis for your draft memorandums for the President on over-all US military strategy and force levels for Fiscal Years 1968 through 1975.
Without attachments, this memorandum is Unclassified.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Earle G. Wheeler 5
Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff

Appendix A6


Part I



1. (U) The basic missions of the US Armed Forces are two: (1) to deter or deal decisively with any military attack against the United States and its possessions and (2) to protect and project US interests on a global basis in support of national goals.

National Goals

2. (U) Five major goals7 of US foreign policy are:

To deter or defeat aggression at any level, whether of nuclear attack or limited war or subversion and guerrilla tactics.
To bring about a closer association of the more industrialized democracies of Western Europe, North America, and Asia in promoting the security and prosperity of the Free World.
To help the less developed countries carry through their revolution of modernization without sacrificing their independence.
To assist in the gradual emergence of a genuine world community, based on cooperation and law, through the establishment and development of such organs as the United Nations, the World Court, the World Bank and Monetary Fund, and other global and regional institutions.
To search for means of reducing the risk of war, of narrowing the areas of conflict with the communist world, and of encouraging the re-emergence [Page 358] in communist countries of the nationalism and individualism which are already changing and dividing the once-solid communist bloc.

3. (C) The United States must take an active part in shaping a world compatible with freedom or yield to the communist powers a major opportunity to shape the world to our disadvantage. The role of US military forces in this concept is (1) primarily, to deter the use of hostile force and, if deterrence fails, to enable the United States together with its allies to defeat the enemy, and (2) secondarily, to participate in nonwar diplomatic, economic, and psychological operations to the degree their unique capabilities and their primary role permit. Derived from the national goals and fundamental military role for US forces are basic military objectives.

Military Objectives

4. (S) Four basic military objectives of the United States are:

Protect and defend the United States and preserve both its status and freedom of action as a dominant world power. The military forces required to achieve this objective must first be capable of deterring or dealing effectively with any military attack against the United States.
Be capable of supporting US world-wide interests. The military forces of the United States should be able, in conjunction with allied and friendly forces as available, to deter or deal effectively with any military attacks against other areas essential to US security.
Support US foreign policy and diplomatic efforts abroad. Included herein are military programs to assist friendly governments in the prevention and defeat of subversion, insurgency, and aggression which threatens their survival. Concomitant tasks of US forces are the capability to protect US property as well as US and selected nationals and their properties as required. This responsibility extends, as appropriate, to ensuring the freedom of the sea, air, and space regions for the United States and friendly powers and to denying their use for purposes adverse to US interests.
Maintain active forces in a high state of readiness, strategically deployed, mobile, and adequately supported to conduct military operations so as to achieve US objectives, minimize damage to the United States and her allies, and force a conclusion of hostilities on terms advantageous to the United States and its allies, while keeping hostilities at the lowest scale of conflict commensurate with the achievement of US objectives.

Strategic Considerations

5. (TS) The over-all strategic concept designed to support US national goals and achieve US military objectives is to prevent or to defeat aggression wherever and whenever US national interests are adversely affected. This requires (1) a military posture of sufficient strength and flexibility to permit exercise of the initiative by the United States in the conduct of military, political, and economic affairs and (2) [Page 359] the coordination and exploitation to best advantage of all instruments of national power. Deterrence, collective security, and flexible response are the basic elements of this concept.

6. (C) Deterrence of a nuclear exchange is the first responsibility of US strategy since national survival is clearly at stake; at the same time, US strategy must also provide for the capability to deter aggression at any lesser level of conflict. To insure deterrence, US forces must be clearly capable of making both direct and indirect attack on the United States or its interests grossly unattractive and unprofitable. The military capability to control, defeat, or destroy the enemy and the firm resolve of the United States to use its forces if required must be obvious as well as real.

7. (C) Collective security involves the acquisition, the development, and stability of those allies who can now or ultimately will contribute to US security interests world-wide.

8. (S) Flexible response is essential to the prevention of conflict escalation and is, therefore, an inextricable element of deterrence. Flexible response requires a combination of modern, mobile, and balanced forces which will permit the exercise of a wide range of options to employ military forces under varying conditions and threats to achieve US objectives.

9. (C) Translation of these considerations into a force structure depends on the interaction in the world environment between US national goals and the threat to their accomplishment.

Part II

Global Strategic Appraisal


(U) Today’s world appears to be somewhere between (1) a bipolar world and a polycentric world; (2) an environment in which the USSR and the Chinese People’s Republic (CPR) are challenging Free World interests and an environment in which the CPR is challenging USSR as well as Free World interests; (3) a globe divided on lines of ideology and political organization and on lines of race and economic development; and (4) a world of law organized to respect the inter-dependencies of modern life and a world of conflict disorganized by competing ideologies and social turmoil.
(S) The most dangerous threat to US interests is posed by the strategic nuclear forces of the Soviet Union. This threat is so serious—regardless of the estimated intentions of Soviet leaders—that it must receive primary cognizance in the formulation of military strategy and in the development of adequate countering force levels. Concurrently, it must be recognized that, without ever resorting to a strategic nuclear [Page 360] attack, the USSR and/or the CPR could expand the communist-dominated world until the United States and its allies are finally isolated and subjected to piecemeal domination.
(S) The USSR now has the capability to conduct a massive nuclear attack against Eurasia with manned aircraft, surface-to-surface missiles, and submarine-launched missiles. The Soviet strategic offensive force of ICBMs, SLCMs/SLBMs, the heavy bombers, and some medium bombers can wreak enormous damage on the United States in a first strike but cannot at the present time destroy enough of the US strategic nuclear force to preclude retaliatory destruction of the Soviet Union as a viable society. Additionally and apart from Soviet nuclear capabilities, the USSR/Warsaw Pact and the CPR have significant conventional forces which pose major threats to the Free World.
(TS) Without a clear belief that they would emerge as the dominant world power, Soviet leaders are not likely to initiate deliberately a strategic nuclear exchange. This does not preclude the possibility of strategic nuclear war through escalation or miscalculation. Further, the United States cannot safely discount the possibility that Soviet leaders might launch a pre-emptive strike if they considered themselves irretrievably committed in a confrontation or if they believed a nuclear attack on the USSR was imminent.
(S) The fact that the United States and the USSR each has the ability to inflict extensive destruction on the other, regardless of which strikes first, has a paradoxical impact on the formulation of military strategy. It decreases the likelihood of strategic nuclear war but increases the necessity that the United States maintain a balanced strategic nuclear force superior to that of the Soviet Union. It increases the importance of conventional military power but inhibits its application in direct confrontation between major powers because of the risks of escalation. It diminishes the role of lesser powers in high-intensity conflicts but enlarges their role in mid-and low-intensity conflicts.
(S) The US and USSR strategic nuclear capabilities are expected to remain superior to those of any other nation for the period of this appraisal, provided no unbalancing arms control or disarmament agreements are negotiated. The actual and potential nuclear capability of the United Kingdom is not considered to be in competition with US interests. France’s nuclear efforts are weighted more toward a political and psychological effect than toward a direct military threat and are aimed primarily at gaining leadership in Europe. However, in the current worldwide environment and considering the militant and sometimes irrational orientation of Chinese communist officials, the growing nuclear capability of the CPR—although expected to remain less than that of France for the next decade—constitutes a significant political, psychological, and military threat to US security interests.
(TS) The CPR has initiated a long-range, broad-based program in support of nuclear weapons development. A weaponized version of their 1964 fission device probably is available now in limited numbers, and Communist China at this time has some bombers—but no missiles—capable of delivering nuclear weapons. There are indications of some developmental work on ICBMs and construction of missile launching submarines; however, the CPR appears to be concentrating first on obtaining MRBMs. By 1970, the CPR could have sufficient medium range missiles and warheads to threaten peripheral states. Hence, nuclear attack and nuclear blackmail become feasible CPR courses of action in the Western Pacific-Asian area. Additionally, the CPR may be able to pose a limited nuclear threat to the United States and to the USSR by the early 1970’s. Communist China certainly will attempt to exploit these capabilities, as well as its large conventional forces, to threaten its neighbors and to undermine US commitments in the Asian area without, however, subjecting its growing potential to serious risk.
(S) There is no longer a communist bloc in the traditional sense of a monolithic structure subservient to Moscow. Independent factions are developing because of the growing tendency of East European countries to emphasize national rather than ideological and bloc ambitions as well as because of the increasingly bitter Sino-Soviet dispute which has its deepest roots in national rather than ideological differences. The trend in Europe toward independent national policies probably will be enhanced by increased East-West trade and other forms of communications stimulated by historical orientation. Although there may be some temporary accommodations for purposes of expediency, the Sino-Soviet rift is likely to persist and, in the absence of overt war between the United States and either the USSR or the CPR, to crystallize. Competition between the USSR and CPR may intensify their activities in areas of interest to the United States; on the other hand, the rift, for as long as it continues, lessens the magnitude of the otherwise combined military threat to the United States.
(S) There has been a trend toward a general stabilization of the US–USSR relationship—although this trend could be reversed suddenly. Contributing to this stabilization are the maturing of the Soviet society, the continued economic advancement of West Europe and Japan, and the divisive tendencies within the communist group of nations.
(C) This stabilization of US–USSR relations has significant ramifications:
The focal point of the cold war is shifting to the underdeveloped two-thirds of the world.
The cold war has become less linear and more triangular, with the CPR, the USSR, and the United States—each with its allies—at the apexes.
The Soviet Union and the CPR, without disavowing their intent ultimately to achieve world domination, have reoriented their strategies; i.e., the Soviets’ espousal of “Wars of National Liberation” and the Chinese communists’ doctrine of “People’s Wars” to wear down, isolate, and destroy opposing advanced states.
(C) The underdeveloped world is particularly susceptible to communist insurgency because of the prevailing militant and immature nationalism coupled with the instability inherent in the modernization process. The coming decade is likely to be critical because of revolutionary trends stemming from the inability of governments to cope with social and economic problems; further, exacerbation of this situation by the disruptive competition between the USSR and CPR for influence in these areas must be anticipated. Whether the continuing conflicts in the underdeveloped regions will be primarily military or primarily political and economic will depend on two factors: (1) the success of the current US military effort in Vietnam and (2) the ability of the Free World to execute effective political, economic, psychological, and military preventive programs.
(S) In summary, of all the forms of warfare, general nuclear war, although the most dangerous threat, is the least probable for the next decade. Continued low-intensity conflict, particularly in the underdeveloped portion of the world, is almost certain. Limited war in the underdeveloped areas is a continuing possibility because (1) militant and immature nationalism prevails in many states; (2) there remain many traditional unresolved issues between neighboring states and races; and (3) there will be the possibility of escalation of Soviet or CPR-instigated insurgencies. Limited war in the developed portion of the world is unlikely because (1) the dangers of escalation are magnified by the intimate involvement of both US and USSR interests and (2) the relative postures of the advanced states are sufficiently balanced that each would be reluctant to initiate a limited war without explicit US or USSR backing which is considered unlikely in the absence of extreme provocation (e.g., a serious threat to the allied position in Berlin or Western military intervention in an East German uprising).
(S) Fundamental to the entire question of the likelihood of conflict is recognition that the most important single factor in deterring Moscow, Peking, or their allies from the use of force in any portion of the conflict spectrum is opposing military power—the existence of superior US strategic nuclear capabilities and US military presence at, or an obvious capability to deploy military power rapidly to, the point of contest. With its allies the United States is presently superior militarily and has the potential to exert superior military force globally if it decides that the situation merits the requisite military, political, and economic decisions. Nevertheless, the Sino-Soviet schism bears so importantly [Page 363] on US strategic planning that, should there be a USSR-CPR accommodation, the basic threat and consequent Free World force posture will have to be reassessed.

Balance of Military Power

(S) At present the balance of strategic military power appears to favor the United States. There are a number of factors, however, which could lead to upsetting this favorable balance, such as unmatched technological breakthroughs in nuclear strategic systems by the USSR, failure to consider basic US–USSR disparities in deciding on force levels, unverified arms control agreements or unbalanced arms reductions, and major shifts in alliances and alignments.
(TS) The Soviet Union is improving its strategic nuclear posture relative to that of the United States. It undoubtedly will seek continued qualitative and quantitative force improvements and may be seeking to enhance its relative posture through arms control agreements. Primary Soviet efforts have focused on a build-up of ICBMs; the hardening and dispersing of missile sites; developing active air and missile defense systems; an increased mobility of land-based and sea-based ballistic missile systems. There is evidence that the Soviets are deploying a ballistic missile defense (BMD) system, and are working on larger nuclear warheads with compatible delivery vehicles; and they have the capability to develop and deploy multiple independently guided re-entry vehicles (MIRVs). The Soviets probably could attain an operational capability with a MIRV in the period 1970–1975. They could already have developed a limited antisatellite capability based on an operational missile (e.g., the SS–4) with a nuclear warhead and on existing electronic facilities. A breakthrough or major advance in any of these areas could alter, in their favor, the present ratio of the US–USSR strategic nuclear postures unless the United States, through its own vigorous development and modernization program, keeps pace.
(TS) There are three basic disparities between the United States and the USSR which must be considered in determining the minimum US strategic nuclear force levels. First, the Soviet Union, as a closed society, has an advantage in thwarting intelligence collection; it can secretly increase its forces quantitatively and qualitatively with less chance of detection than if the United States made the same attempt. Second, the Soviet Union probably has less inhibitions about executing a first strike. Third, there are significant differences in population distribution which, in conjunction with higher missile payload capacities, favor the Soviet Union. Hence, equality in US and USSR strategic nuclear forces is less than parity for the United States when the asymmetry in intelligence, in population distribution, and in willingness to strike first are considered. [Page 364] Thus, the strategic nuclear advantage must be clearly in our favor both actually and in the view of potential enemies.
(C) Arms control is a desirable objective for national security policy if it actually reduces the likelihood of the outbreak of war. However, an arms control or disarmament agreement which resulted in a state or a group of states improving its military posture vis-à-vis other states probably would be more destabilizing than stabilizing. There is ample evidence that the USSR and other communist states do not subscribe to the idea of arms control in the same way Western governments do, to include the traditional and doctrinal attitude of communist states toward treaties and agreements. A fully adequate verification system in effect prior to implementation of any arms control or disarmament agreement is essential to US security.
(TS) Comprehensive or threshold test ban treaties are cases in point. There are serious gaps in US hard intelligence about Soviet knowledge and capabilities in the newest weapon effects areas; in fact, there are indications that the USSR already may have made gains in nuclear weapons technology beyond current US capabilities. Should probable Soviet developments in BMD systems with drastically improved nuclear effects warheads be deployed prior to compensating accomplishments by the United States, the military balance of power could be critically upset in favor of the USSR. Vigorous nuclear testing within the restrictions of the present Limited Test Ban Treaty is necessary to permit the United States to increase effectiveness and better to assure survival of its offensive nuclear weapons and defensive systems against the effects of the improved Soviet nuclear weapons. To stop or even further to limit testing would foreclose the possibility of attaining essential knowledge of BMD, of improved silo hardening, of better penetration aids, and of other strategic weapon technology for the United States.
(TS) Space competence is important to national security just as it is to national growth and prestige. In recent Moscow parades, the Soviets displayed what they alleged to be an orbital missile. Despite a number of Soviet allusions to “orbital rockets,” probably advanced for propaganda purposes, it is not believed that the USSR has an orbital bombardment capability, and there is no evidence of an intention to develop such systems. It is estimated that the Soviets will not deploy offensive weapons in space within the next ten years. However, it is clear that Soviet space technology is well advanced, and their current peaceful objectives in this medium sooner or later may be accompanied by hostile demonstrations or acts seeking to obtain a military advantage in space. A lack of parallel or countervailing space capabilities would place the United States at a disadvantage, regardless of its earth-based strategic deterrent strength.
(S) A significant destabilizing element in the world environment is the potential proliferation of nuclear weapons capabilities. There are a number of countries which have the capability to become members of the “Nuclear Club” if they make such a decision, with India, Israel, and Sweden being the most likely to do so in the short run. In the long run, the FRG and Japan probably will become the serious contenders. Such nuclear proliferation as may occur over the next ten years is not likely to affect materially the existing thermonuclear duopoly. Although widespread independent national nuclear capabilities are basically deleterious to US security interests, it may not be within the reasonable power of the United States to preclude nuclear proliferation. Even though multilateral nuclear partnership arrangements tend to reduce unilateral US military flexibility, the political and psychological requirements of national policy may be such as to override the military disadvantages. Hence, considering all factors, additional nuclear sharing arrangements may become desirable in specific instances to maintain favorable power relationships.
(TS) Evidence indicates that the Soviets can support substantial toxic chemical warfare (CW) operations and that research on improving toxic nerve agents and efforts to develop nonlethal incapacitating agents is continuing. The Soviets have a variety of chemical munitions and delivery vehicles for dissemination of chemical agents and they possess a wide range of good defensive CW equipment. While Soviet CW munitions probably will be used in the tactical sense, the Soviets have consistently grouped toxic agents with “weapons of mass destruction” in political and classified military writings. Decision to use such weapons probably will be taken at the highest political level in the Soviet government.
(S) Another factor which could affect the world balance of power in the mid-term is a weakening of alliances, together with a concomitant realignment and greater independence of action within and among the major power sectors. As Western nations grow stronger economically, as their sense of nationalism increases, and as the fear of nuclear war recedes, the Western alliances are becoming less united, and the member states are more inclined to base their individual military forces on national interests rather than alliance requirements. The resurgence of nationalism in East Europe and the broadened relations between Eastern and Western Europe probably will militate against success of Soviet efforts to achieve any additional military, economic, or political integration of the Warsaw Pact. While both East and West European alliance systems can be expected to become less unified, it appears that the communist alliance system will suffer greater disintegration as its members improve their economic status.
(S) Coupled with the foregoing trend in the alliance structure of the communist and noncommunist camps is the move toward progressive [Page 366] withdrawal and decreasing military presence in colonial areas by former colonial powers. As colonial power presence has diminished, a corresponding vacuum has developed. France, the Netherlands, and Germany are no longer Asian powers. The United Kingdom is gradually withdrawing militarily from the overseas areas. The power equation has been drastically altered in Africa, although France, Belgium, Portugal, and the UK will retain some presence and influence on that continent. To maintain a power balance, the United States has had and probably will continue to have to fill such military vacuums to varying degrees.
(C) The United States, Western Europe, and the Soviet Union each appear economically capable of increasing significantly their military efforts. Since 1945, the US gross national product has risen from approximately $330 billion (in 1964 prices) to $675 billion in 1965 while defense expenditures, as a percentage function of GNP, have declined from 12.9 percent in 1954 to 7.9 percent in 1965. Although the balance of payments problem has an adverse impact on US forward deployment and military assistance programs, the United States is in a better economic position than either the USSR or the CPR to support increased military expenditures and to engage in economic warfare. The economy of West Europe is certainly such that it could support an increased military defense effort as well as simultaneously provide substantial assistance to underdeveloped areas.
(C) The increasing economic gap between the developed and underdeveloped areas of the world contributes significantly to international tensions. Economic modernization is a slow, painful process which requires a major effort just to keep up with the population growth. There are already three billion people in the world, most of them living in underdeveloped regions. The United Nations Population Commission estimates that, if present trends continue, the world population will be nearly 7.5 billion by the end of this century. Low agricultural output is a significant limitation in the underdeveloped world. The ability of the United States to produce and distribute food can become an even more significant element of national power. The ability and success of the Free World vis-à-vis that of the communist world to foster democratic capitalism versus communism in the underdeveloped areas will impact on peace and stability during the mid-range period, as well as over the long run, on the balance of world power.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 218, JCS Files, 3130 (10 Dec 65) Sec 1 IR 5216. Top Secret. The memorandum forms Enclosure A to a report by the J–5 to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, February 28 (JCS 2143/268–2), which was revised on March 7 or later to indicate revisions in Enclosure A and Appendix A to Enclosure A, several pages of which bear the typed note: “Revised by Decision—7 March 1966” or “Revised” followed by the March 1, 3, or 4 dates.
  2. Enclosure A to JCS 2143/268–1. [Footnote in the source text. JCSM–15–65 has not been found.]
  3. Not found.
  4. Enclosure A to JCS 2143/260. [Footnote in the source text. JSOP 68–75 has not been found.]
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
  6. Top Secret. A title page and table of contents are not printed.
  7. Department of State pamphlet “Five Goals of U.S. Foreign Policy,” 24 September 1962; and Department of Defense “Commanders Digest,” 12 February 1966. [Footnote in the source text. The text of the former, issued as Department of State Publication 7432, is printed in Department of State Bulletin, October 15, 1962, pp. 547–558. The Department of Defense publication has not been found.]