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

Dear Bob:

Thank you for sending me the first installment of your memoranda to the President on the FY 69–73 Defense program under cover of your letter of October 28.2

I note that the Strategic Forces memorandum is to be revised this month and understand it will include a new program for North American air defense and some other revisions of the October 4 draft.3 I would like to defer comment until I receive the newer version. I would, however, like to make a few comments on some of the other memoranda.

In your ASW memorandum2 the analysis supporting the retirement of the ASW carriers and the transfer of their mission to aircraft operating from land bases abroad argues that insurance against the loss of a few bases, such as the Azores, is not a sufficient case for maintaining and modernizing the carrier forces since there will be other bases available. I am less sanguine than you are about the prospects five years hence of being able to use all of the primary or secondary ASW bases you cite, and I think we may have to face more than the loss of just a few bases over the next five years. Thus I think it could be a mistake to plan any long term increase in our dependence on foreign bases for a major function such as ASW.

As you know a joint State-Defense base study is to get underway in January. It should throw some light on the likely availability of ASW bases. A final decision on the carriers might if possible be deferred until the study’s findings are available and can be assessed by our staffs.

The theatre nuclear forces memorandum argues that our stockpile of nuclear warheads in [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] is [Page 621]more than adequate, particularly in [less than 1 line of source text not declassified].4 It is not clear, however, what specific reductions are planned and on what sort of schedule. I would like to be kept informed of the major changes you have in mind since our allies are often extremely sensitive to adjustments in levels of nuclear weapons support.

I am in full agreement with your air and sea lift objectives,5 but I can foresee that your renewed request for FDL funding may well run into the same difficulties in Congress that it did last year. To the extent that the objections of Senator Russell and others to the FDL rest on its foreign policy implications, the State Department would be prepared to lend a hand in defense of the ship program, if this would be useful to you. It is my feeling that the argument for the program will be most effective if it emphasizes our need for these ships to support our normal overseas deployments and long standing commitments, rather than the great advantages they offer for meeting a broader range of contingencies.

There are two memoranda, NATO Strategy and Research and Development, that were not in the group you sent. I will defer comment, therefore on your recommendations on European forces issues until I receive them.

With warm regards,

Sincerely,

Dean
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 330 71 A 4919, 381 1967 Nov-Dec. Top Secret. The word “Personal” is handwritten on letter. Copies were sent to Walt Rostow and Charles Schultze (BOB), and a stamped notation indicates that Warnke saw the letter.
  2. Not found.
  3. A copy of this 21-page draft memorandum to the President on strategic offensive and defensive forces is in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, Department of Defense, Draft Memorandums to the President for the FY 69 Defense Programs.
  4. A draft memorandum to the President (for comment) on theater nuclear forces, June 28, is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 200, Defense Programs and Operations, Draft Memoranda to the President, Annotated, FY 1968–73, Box 73. A Record of Decision copy on the same subject, January 11, 1968, is ibid., Draft Memoranda to the President, 1969–1973 Budget, Vol. I, Tab 2, Box 77.
  5. A draft memorandum to the President (for comment) on airlift and sealift forces, July 12, which contains many handwritten revisions, is ibid., Draft Memoranda to the President, Annotated, FY 1968–73, Box 73. A Record of Decision copy on the same subject, January 3, 1968, is ibid., Draft Memoranda to the President, 1969–1973 Budget, Vol. I, Tabs H–J, Box 77.