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



  • Planning for Improving Survivability of the National Command Authorities (U)
(U) Reference is made to:
DOD Directive S–5100.30, dated 16 October 1962, subject: “Concept of Operations of the World-Wide Military Command and Control System.”2
DOD Directive S–5100.44, dated 9 June 1964, subject: “Master Plan for the National Military Command System.”2
JCSM–103–64, dated 25 February 1964, subject: “The Continuity of Operations Plan for the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (COOP–OJCS) (U).”3
(S) The references provide the concept and plans to insure the survivability of a command and control system and the necessary staff personnel to support the National Command Authorities (NCA) in the strategic direction of US military forces throughout the entire spectrum of cold, limited, and general war. Currently, there is no adequate plan to insure the survivability of the NCA or their authorized successors. The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that a credible policy of controlled response requires that such a plan be prepared. Therefore, the plan outlined herein is submitted for your consideration and recommendation to the President.
(S) As reflected in reference 1c, present continuity planning by the Joint Chiefs of Staff provides the necessary flexibility to adapt to whatever relocation action the President may select in an emergency. However, there is no assurance that such relocation action will be initiated in sufficient time nor, if initiated in time, that it would ensure survival of the present NCA. Therefore, the Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that a plan should be developed to disperse designated successors to the NCA to existing facilities of the National Military Command System (NMCS) in the following manner:

Based on the established line of succession to the individual offices comprising the NCA, the following three groups of alternate NCA should be designated:

[3 paragraphs (20 lines of source text) not declassified]

The proposed alternate command groups have been kept small to improve their mobility. However, provision would be made for one or two individuals to accompany each member of the groups, if desired. For example, the Deputy Secretary of Defense has not been included in any of the groups in this concept in the event you desire that he accompany you.

According to the situation and Presidential desire, the groups of alternate NCA would relocate during a crisis escalation, one to each of the three alternate command centers of the NMCS. Command center communications would permit participation of the relocated groups in national deliberations.

[1 paragraph (8–1/2 lines of source text) not declassified]

(S) The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that specific procedures should be established to execute this plan as a means of preventing all legal successors to the NCA, and their key advisors, from becoming casualties at the same time. Timely dispersal of designated persons in line of succession to the NCA to the alternate command centers of the NMCS is believed to be the best method for assuring that recognized NCA are available for direction of military operations. The persons designated by law as successors to the NCA should be briefed on the plan and made familiar with its procedures.
(U) The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that a memorandum substantially the same as that contained in the Appendix hereto,4 which advocates the development of such a plan, be forwarded to the President, subject to the concurrence of the Secretary of State and the Director of the Office of Emergency Planning.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Earle G. Wheeler
Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330 72 A 2468, 381 Cont of Govt Ops 1967. Secret. A stamped notation on the memorandum reads: “Sec Def has seen Brief.”
  2. Not found.
  3. A copy is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 218, JCS Files, 3180 (28 Jan 64) Sec 1 IR 337.
  4. Not printed.