145. Letter From Secretary of Defense McNamara to Secretary of State Rusk1

Dear Dean:

I am attaching for your comments a Defense draft NSAM on the subject of chemical and biological warfare policy.2 It has been prepared in response to a State request for a Defense position.3

The draft states that the President does not now expect to authorize first use of lethal CB weapons. With respect to incapacitants, it reflects the actual situation as it now exists by stating that the President may authorize their use in certain situations of national urgency. In my view, we should keep this option open until we have better information concerning specific incapacitating agents, their military effectiveness, and the political consequences of their use. Accordingly, I have asked the members of my staff to conduct a study on the role of incapacitating agents. The results of this study will be reflected in next year’s Draft Memorandum for the President on Theater Nuclear Warfare. In the meantime, I believe policy guidelines such as those in the attached draft NSAM would be appropriate and desirable.

I share your interest in reaching an early joint position which we can recommend to the President. I would be happy to discuss the draft policy with you at your convenience, if you wish.


Bob 4
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OASD/ISA Files: FR 330 70 A 6648, 384 1966 Jan-. Secret. Drafted by Commander Morris on November 1 and rewritten on November 16. An attached November 17 memorandum from McNamara to the JCS notes that the letter reflected the principal points made in JCSM–637–66 and offered “to discuss the draft policy with you at your convenience, if you wish.” A copy of JCSM–637–66, “Chemical and Biological Warfare Policy,” October 3, is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 218, JCS Files, 3260 (10 Dec 64) S.2 IR 2095.
  2. Not printed.
  3. The State request was transmitted to the Department of Defense under cover of a November 3 letter, but it has not been further identified. (Letter from Vance to Llewellyn Thompson, November 16; Washington National Records Center, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 330 70 A 6648, 384 1966 Jan-)
  4. Printed from a copy that indicates McNamara signed the original.