184. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara 1



  • Initiation of Nike–X Production and Deployment (C)
(S) Reference is made to your draft Presidential memorandum, dated 17 January 1967, subject: “Production and Deployment of the Nike–X (C),”2 which recommended that negotiations be initiated with the Soviet Union “designed, through formal or informal agreement, to limit the deployment of antiballistic missile systems.” It was further recommended that the decision not to deploy Nike–X be reconsidered “in the event these discussions prove unsuccessful.”
(S) Subsequent attempts to negotiate such an agreement with the Soviet Union have indicated little promise of success. Ambassador Thompson, in his recent discussion with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made the assessment that the Soviet Union would not be ready for talks on this subject until completion of the Nonproliferation Treaty talks.
(S) The Joint Chiefs of Staff are agreed that the timing of a Nike–X deployment decision is critical to an effective defense of the United States. Among the actions recommended to maintain a reasonable strategic posture in JSOP 69–76,3 no other single action is considered [Page 563]more necessary than the deployment of Nike–X. Delay of Nike–X deployment provides the Soviet Union with the combined advantages of continuing their own ballistic missile buildup without complicating their attack strategy and, concurrently, continuing their antiballistic missile deployment, which already poses significant problems to the US strategic offensive forces.
(S) Since the United States first proposed negotiations to limit both strategic offensive and defensive forces in 1964, the Soviet Union has shown no evidence of slowing down the deployment of such forces nor have they stated any intent to do so. Indeed, USSR representatives have indicated no interest in this subject at the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Conference and intelligence information indicates that the Soviets have accelerated their deployment of such forces. At the same time, the communist Chinese are advancing toward a strategic capability at a faster rate than had been anticipated as evidenced by their recent detonation of an air–dropped thermonuclear device. The apparent progress they are making toward developing an intercontinental ballistic missile with an initial operational capability as early as 1970 adds to the urgency of initiating a Nike–X deployment.
(S) In JCSM–804–66, dated 29 December 1966, subject: “Production and Deployment of Nike–X (C),”4 the Joint Chiefs of Staff advised against delay in deploying Nike–X, pending initiation or conclusion of arms control negotiations. They stated that, in addition to the military advantages to be gained, initiation of Nike–X deployment would provide the United States useful negotiating leverage. The Soviet Union is now benefiting from a US limitation on ballistic missile defenses, whereas the United States is without compensating benefits. While there is considerable incentive for the Soviets to engage in protracted and indecisive negotiations, there is no apparent advantage now for their agreeing to a limitation on ballistic missile defense. A Nike–X deployment decision would either stimulate Soviet participation in meaningful negotiations or disclose their lack of serious interest in this matter. In view of recent events, Ambassador Thompson’s assessment, and the negative Soviet attitude evident following the President Johnson–Premier Kosygin talks,5 the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that a decision now to deploy Nike–X is even more advisable.
(S) For these reasons, the Joint Chiefs of Staff conclude that further delay in the deployment of Nike–X is detrimental to the interests of [Page 564]the United States. They again recommend that production and deployment of Nike–X be initiated now to provide an initial operating capability in FY 1972 and that the funds appropriated by Congress for FY 1967 and those funds included in the FY 1968 budget be released for this purpose.
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 2467, 471.94 ABM (Jul–Aug) 1967. Secret. A stamped notation on the memorandum reads: “Sec Def has seen Brief.”
  2. See footnote 1, Document 160.
  3. Not found.
  4. Document 162.
  5. Documentation on the meetings between President Johnson and Chairman Kosygin at Glassboro, New Jersey, June 23 and 25, 1967, is in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. XIV Documents 217 ff.