210. Draft Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Clifford to President Johnson1


  • Strategic Offensive and Defensive Forces (U)

We have reviewed our Strategic Offensive and Defensive Forces for FY 70–74 and reached the following major conclusions:

Against the expected Soviet threat, our present strategic offensive forces provide a more than adequate Assured Destruction capability.
The program that we are recommending not only assures that we maintain our Assured Destruction capability, but provides timely and efficient options to meet the designed Greater-Than-Expected (GTE) Soviet threat to our deterrent throughout the FY 70–77 planning period.
Achieving a strategically significant Damage Limiting capability against the Soviet Union does not appear to be feasible with current technology and in relation to its cost and the other demands on our resources.
The Soviet program appears to reflect a similar conclusion about the feasibility of taking away our deterrent.
We will continue to maintain strategic “nuclear superiority” over the Soviets in terms of nuclear warheads. Based on our own experience, however, we doubt that this superiority can be converted into meaningful political power, particularly now that the Soviet Union also has a large and well-protected Assured Destruction capability.
We cannot depend on our nuclear forces alone to fulfill our nation’s commitments and insure our national security; we must also maintain very strong nonnuclear forces.
Based on our view of U.S. security needs, and without considering the implications of possible arms control agreements that might result from discussions with the Soviets, we recommend: [Page 710]
Maintaining a land-based ICBM force of 1,000 Minuteman and a slowly decreasing number of Titan IIs.
Continuing development of Poseidon and maintaining the previous schedule for converting 31 Polaris submarines to the Poseidon configuration.
Maintaining the effectiveness of the programmed strategic bomber force—reaching 281 B–52s and 253 FB–111s in FY 72—by developing and, when needed, procuring advanced weapons and penetration devices as protection against possible advanced Soviet bomber defenses.
Continuing the previously approved Continental Air Defense Plan to introduce the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), give the F–106 interceptor the most modern fire control and missile system available, add Over-The-Horizon (OTH) radars for complete peacetime surveillance, and phase down the remaining interceptors and most of the ground-based radar and control systems.
Continuing the deployment of the Sentinel system but reorienting the program so that procurement funds for only one site need be obligated in FY 69.

Specific recommendations are discussed in Section V. Financial and force summaries follow.

Total Obligational Authoritya ($ Millions)

FY 69 FY 70 FY 71 FY 72 FY 73 FY 74b Total FY 70–74
Strategic Offense
Previously Approved 8,340 8,598 6,607 5,817 4,867 4,533 30,422
SecDef Recommended 8,541 6,578 5,827 4,904 4,634 30,484
JCS Proposed 10,182 10,040 10,798 10,277 9,679 50,976
Strategic Defense
Previously Approved 3,609 4,528 4,684 3,713 3,770 2,861 19,556
SecDef Recommended 3,906 4,374 3,581 3,611 3,349 18,821
JCS Proposed 5,706 7,981 7,579 7,831 6,683 35,780
Previously Approved 11,949 13,126 11,291 9,530 8,637 7,394 49,978
SecDef Recommended 12,447 10,952 9,408 8,515 7,983 49,305
JCS Proposed 15,888 18,021 18,377 18,108 16,362 86,756

[Here follow 3 pages of additional tables.]

[Page 711]

I. The General Nuclear War Problem

The main objective of our nuclear forces is to deter nuclear attacks on the United States. Our ability to strike back and destroy Soviet society makes a Soviet decision to strike the United States highly unlikely. By developing and deploying forces that are difficult to attack we can reduce even more the likelihood of such an attack. Unable to destroy most of our nuclear striking power, the Soviets would gain little by striking first.

Although the United States and the Soviet Union are strongly deterred from nuclear attacks on each other, a nuclear war anywhere in the world could lead to a war—and most likely a nuclear war—between the two countries. To avoid a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, we try to make all nuclear wars unlikely. This objective includes:

Maintaining control of our forces in a crisis.
Deterring nuclear attacks on or intimidation of allied or neutral countries.
Discouraging additional countries from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Emphasizing and maintaining the firebreak between conventional and nuclear weapons.

To deter a first-strike nuclear attack, both we and the Soviets maintain the ability to strike back and destroy the other’s society. When they take steps to reduce the damage that we can inflict—for example, by deploying Anti-Ballistic Missiles (ABMs)—we react to offset these steps. The Soviets would undoubtedly react in the same way to similar U.S. steps to limit significantly damage to ourselves.

Our analysis shows that the Soviets can protect their second strike capability against any threat we might pose. Since a second strike capability is vital to the Soviets, they will insure the survival of this capability. Convinced that the Soviets would counter a major U.S. attempt to take away their second strike capability, we see no effective way to implement, with present technology and within available resources, a major Damage Limiting program against them, although we are continuing development work that might eventually support such a program.

These considerations lead us to put primary reliance upon deterrence to keep the Soviet Union from attacking us. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] on the other hand, we can buy an effective defense of CONUS as insurance against a failure of deterrence. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] allow us to develop an effective defense against her nuclear attack capability into the 1980s.

What if deterrence fails and a nuclear war with the Soviet Union occurs? If the war began with an all-out Soviet attack, including our [Page 712] cities, we would reply in kind. If the war started with less than an all-out attack, we would want to carry out plans for the controlled and deliberate use of our nuclear power to achieve the best possible outcome. The lack of such nuclear war plans is still a continuing weakness in our present posture.

II. Soviet and Chinese Strategic Forces

The following table shows the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of Soviet intercontinental forces.

Soviet Intercontinental Nuclear Forces

1968 1970 1972
Ballistic Missile Launchers
Soft ICBMs 128–142 90–128
Hard ICBMs 720–782 859–1,026 1,020–1,251
FOBS 0–10 20–50 20–75
Mobile ICBMs (Non-add) (0–25) (0–100)
SLBMs 43–46 123–158 267–318
Total Launchers 891–980 1,092–1,362 1,307–1,644
Intercontinental Bombers 150–155 130–150 105–130

A new solid-fueled Soviet missile has been identified. Present intelligence estimates assume it is an ICBM, which will come into the Soviet inventory as a supplement to (rather than as a replacement for) the SS–11.

The Soviets have continued to test Fractional Orbit Ballistic Systems (FOBS). If we took no counter actions, these systems would be useful in an attempt to deny timely warning to our strategic bombers.

The Soviet Union is now making operational a new class of large, nuclear-powered, ballistic missile submarines which carry 16 missiles with a range of about 1,000 nautical miles (NM). Intelligence estimates project that 10 to 13 of these boats will be in service by mid-1971, and 35 to 42 by 1976.

The Soviets are also engaged in a continuing effort to improve their strategic defenses. They have modified and improved the capabilities of the SA–2 air defense missile system; they are developing and producing a series of new interceptor aircraft; they are deploying the SA–5 air defense missile system; and they are in the advanced stages of constructing a ballistic missile defense system around Moscow. The intelligence community estimates that the Soviets have a formidable capability against medium to high-altitude air threats, a limited capability against low-altitude air threats, and probably little or no capability against ballistic missiles.

[Page 713]

The SA–5 system is being deployed in all important areas of the Soviet Union. It has two to five firing sites per complex. Each site has six launchers [2 lines of source text not declassified]. In addition, the system may have some capability against ballistic missiles, although this now appears unlikely.

The ballistic missile defense system around Moscow with about 100 launchers may be fully operational by 1971. It is believed to be a long range, exoatmospheric system using large yield warheads.

We still have seen no evidence of Soviet development of a good low-altitude Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM). However, the new Foxbat interceptor is now estimated to have a “look-down, shoot-down” capability.

The Chinese were expected to begin operational deployment of a Medium Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM) with a fission warhead in 1967, but they did not do so. China also has under development a much larger and more complex missile system, possibly an ICBM. They were expected to complete a facility for large launchers late in 1967, but they did not. It appears that they are at least nine months behind the ICBM schedule that we previously estimated. However, this delay would still allow an initial operational ICBM deployment as early as 1972.

III. Assured Destruction

We deter a rational enemy from launching a first strike against us by maintaining a strong and secure ability to retaliate under any circumstances. We measure our second strike capability in terms of Assured Destruction—the ability to inflict unacceptable damage, calculated under extremely conservative assumptions, on the attacker, even after a surprise attack. Our ability to [3–1/2 lines of source text not declassified].

However, our Assured Destruction capability does not indicate how we would use our forces in a nuclear war. We must design our forces to cope with many situations, including a war which neither side intended. We reduce the likelihood of such a war by keeping tight control over U.S. forces under all circumstances; by maintaining communications at all times with our forces, the governments of our allies, and, as appropriate, our enemies; and by having the options to choose an appropriate response. If we failed to deter nuclear war, we would want to be able to follow a policy of limiting our retaliatory strikes to the enemy’s military targets and not attacking his cities if he refrained from attacking ours. In most situations we would have many missiles surviving to attack Soviet military targets, while withholding enough for [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. For this task, missile accuracy is very worthwhile.

[Page 714]

In measuring the capability of our forces, we cannot simply count total megatons or delivery systems, we must measure the amount of damage each side could do to the cities, population, industry, and military forces of the other. Factors such as accuracy, reliability, survivability, defense penetrability, and control are often much more important than warhead size in determining damage levels. The relative importance of these factors depends heavily on the attack objectives and the characteristics of the target system attacked. And, of course, the relative costs of additional weapons, yield (megatonnage), accuracy, survivability, reliability, and penetrability also affect how much of each of these factors should be bought to achieve any particular level of destructive capacity.

The next table illustrates the relative effectiveness of equal payloads of alternate warheads used against Soviet targets. It compares [3–1/2 lines of source text not declassified].

[table (3 columns and 13 rows of source text) not declassified]

As the table shows, comparisons of missile launchers or megatons are not very meaningful. If a single input must be used as a measure, however, the best indicator of the relative capabilities of our forces is the number of weapons they can deliver. While the Soviet forces may exceed ours in megatons by 1972, the Soviets still cannot take away our Assured Destruction capability, largely because we will maintain a commanding lead in the number of weapons available and because our forces are relatively invulnerable to a Soviet first strike.

The following table compares the weapons, megatons, and megaton equivalents of the U.S. and Soviet forces.

U.S. and Soviet Intercontinental Nuclear Forcesa

1968 1970 1972
U.S. Soviet U.S. Soviet U.S. Soviet
Total Force Loadings
Weapons [*] 1,200 [*] 1,300–1,600 [*] 1,500–1,800
Megatons [*] 6,000–6,400 [*] 6,400–8,300 [*] 6,000–8,900
1 MT Equivalents [*] 2,300–2,400 [*] 2,500–3,100 [*] 2,500–3,300
Alert Force Loadings
Weapons [*] 600–700 [*] 800–1,000 [*] 1,000–1,200
Megatons [*] 3,700–4,000 [*] 4,200–5,700 [*] 4,400–6,600
1 MT Equivalents [*] 1,300–1,400 [*] 1,500–1,900 [*] 1,700–2,300

[* entry in table not declassified]

a Shows the U.S. programmed force and the NIE for the Soviet force. (The table will be updated when NIE 11–8–68 is available.) [NIE 11–8–68 is Document 217.]

[Page 715]

A. Against the Expected Soviet Threat

Against the expected Soviet threat, our strategic forces can survive a well-executed Soviet surprise attack and carry out an effective second strike. [2–1/2 lines of source text not declassified]

How much damage these surviving weapons could cause depends on the effectiveness of Soviet defenses. Against the high NIE-estimated threat, the U.S. Assured Destruction capability would kill more than [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] of the Soviet people in every year through 1977. This is far above the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] we believe is needed to deter a Soviet first strike.

B. Against China

While China may be able to threaten her neighbors and U.S. bases in Asia by 1970, she will not pose a threat to the U.S. second strike capability. [6 lines of source text not declassified]

[1 paragraph (4–1/2 lines of source text) not declassified]

C. Against the Greater-Than-Expected Soviet Threat

The vital importance of our Assured Destruction capability to our national security requires us to be prepared to cope with Soviet strategic threats greater than those which the NIE projects. While unlikely, the Soviets might add a very extensive ABM defense or much improved anti-bomber defenses. They might improve their ICBM force by putting accurate Multiple Independently-targetable Re-entry Vehicles (MIRVs) on the SS–9, or by replacing or improving the SS–11 with a new, more accurate ICBM. Conceivably, they might take all these actions. In order to test the adequacy of our forces under the worst conceivable conditions, we have designed what we call a “Greater-Than-Expected” threat. This threat includes all of the above offensive and defensive actions plus others which the Soviets might undertake in an effort to take away our Assured Destruction capability. The following table compares the 1977 balanced GTE threat, used in the following analyses, with the NIE threat.

[Page 716]
NIE Threat GTE Threat
Offensive Missiles
Independently-targetable Missile Warheads On Line 1,500–2,200 7,000–9,100
Exoatmospheric Aim Pointsa 1,500–2,200 31,000
Air Defenses
Look-Down Fighters 300–400 600
Low-Altitude SAM Launchers 0–2,700 6,100
ABM Launchers
Area 400–2,000 2,400
Terminalb 100–1,300 6,100

a Targets for long-range ABMs.

b Includes launchers in the Moscow system.

Soviet programs required to support such an effort would be technically difficult, expensive, and, since we have clearly indicated we would respond, hold little hope of providing the Soviets with a net gain in effective first strike capability. Nevertheless, to insure that these threats remain unlikely, and to maintain our deterrent should they appear, we make sure that we have the options needed to counter them. The Soviet Union, by replacing or improving the accuracy of its SS–11s and adding accurate MIRVs to its SS–9s, could destroy Minuteman missiles in their silos. Even if the Soviets could destroy all Minuteman missiles, however, they would not eliminate our Assured Destruction capability. Our remaining Sea-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) and alert bomber force can penetrate the NIE-estimated Soviet defenses and kill at [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. Putting [number not declassified] Mk-3s on each Poseidon and increasing the bomber alert to [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] against the greater-than-expected offensive threat through 1977.

Similarly, at least through 1976, a very extensive Soviet ABM system and air defense, without greater-than-expected ICBMs, would still let the U.S. programmed force maintain an Assured Destruction capability of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. Our programmed force can cope with a greater-than-expected Soviet ABM system because we already have programmed ABM hedges—Poseidon plus MIRVs and penetration aids for Minuteman.

By putting [number not declassified] Mk-3s on each Poseidon missile and increasing the bomber alert rate, the U.S. programmed force can keep its Assured Destruction capability through FY 77, even if the [Page 717] Soviets deploy greater-than-expected, balanced missile and bomber defenses (without improving their offensive forces). We do not have to exercise these options now to meet this threat.

Only against a combined greater-than-expected Soviet ABM, air defense, and accurate ICBM force, costing the Soviets $20 to $30 billion above the high NIE, would we need major new additions to our retaliatory forces. The following table shows the effect of the combined greater-than-expected Soviet offensive and defensive threat on our Assured Destruction capability. It indicates the U.S. programmed force capability and the effects of developing and deploying Poseidon decoys, increasing the bomber alert rate to 60%, and buying advanced bomber penetration aids. The JCS-recommended inventories of [number not declassified] Unit Equipment (UE) Short Range Attack Missiles (SRAMs) and [number not declassified] UE Subsonic Cruise Armed Decoys (SCADs) are used.

[table (9 columns and 3 rows of source text) not declassified]

As the table shows, while the combined GTE threat would call for a more effective U.S. Assured Destruction capability for FY 74, we can maintain our Assured Destruction against this threat without buying any new missiles or bombers. We can do this by using technological advances that greatly increase the penetration capability of our Poseidon and bomber payloads.

We have, however, three main reasons for wanting additional options to maintain our Assured Destruction capability against the GTE threat. First, we do not want to rely primarily on alert bombers which depend on tactical warning for survival. Second, depending on how far ABM technology advances, we may not want to depend on decoys for missile penetration. Third, unless we protect our land-based missile force, the greater-than-expected Soviet offense could destroy it in its silos. In such a case, we should either protect Minuteman or phase it out, since a vulnerable missile force encourages—rather than deters—a first strike. We do not need to buy protection for our land-based missiles until we see the threat, since we can rely on bombers and Poseidon in the interim.

As discussed below, we propose to develop and maintain a number of options to allow us to keep our Assured Destruction capability against the GTE threat, even though this threat is not likely to appear. Since the threat is unlikely, we should select options with small initial costs. If later evidence does not rule out the threat, we can then develop these options fully. Because of uncertainties about the performance and cost of new systems, it is usually unwise to deploy them as replacements for proven, existing systems until a threat appears which cannot be economically met by improving the existing systems. [Page 718] Once an option has been developed, however, we examine it to see if it would be an economical replacement for part of the programmed force. In some cases, advances in technology permit us to save money by replacing an existing system with a new one, even though the new system does not provide more total effectiveness than the one it replaces.

D. Options to Protect Our Assured Destruction Capability

Discussed below are the principal options which we have available to protect our Assured Destruction capability against the GTE threat.

1. Increase Warheads on Poseidon

[1 paragraph (4 lines of source text) not declassified]

2. Add Terminal Penetration Aids for Poseidon

We could develop terminal decoys for Poseidon. These decoys would aid in penetrating large ABM defenses if the threat to our land-based missile forces became severe. By initiating development in FY 70, we could equip all Poseidon with decoys by FY 75. The development costs would be $200 million in FY 70–73 and the procurement costs would be $250 million in FY 73–74.

3. Improve our Bomber Force

If Soviet air defenses improved, but their ABM capability did not, no increase in the size or expense of our strategic forces would be necessary. However, if the Soviet ABM threat became greater than the highest NIE, we might wish to respond by increasing the capability of our bomber force. Increasing the alert rate to 60% would cost about $190 million per year. By doing this, buying the JCS-recommended inventories of SRAM and SCAD, and putting penetration aids on Poseidon, we could maintain our Assured Destruction capability, as shown above.

Although we would not want to rely only on the bomber force, the next table shows the Assured Destruction capability of an improved bomber force used alone against the GTE threat. Against balanced terminal and area defenses, we could add a mixture of SRAMs, which are better against terminal defenses, and SCADs, which are better against area defenses. The SCADs could act as bomber decoys, carry nuclear warheads, or both. Contract Definition in FY 70 would lead to an Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in FY 74. The 10-year systems cost of the improved bomber force considered below would be $2.1 to $2.6 billion more than that of the presently programmed force, excluding the cost of increasing the alert rate.

[Page 719]

U.S. Assured Destruction Capability of Improved Bomber Force Against the GTE Soviet Threata

FY 70 FY 71 FY 72 FY 73 FY 74 FY 75 FY 76 FY 77
SRAM (UE) 150 450 1,000 1,545 1,545 1,545 1,545 1,545
Cruise Missiles (UE) b 700 1,400 2,100 2,700
Bombers Alone in an Assured Destruction Scenario (Percent of Soviet Deaths) c 25% 25% 21% 15% 24% 24% 23% 22%

a Adding SRAMs and cruise missiles plus increasing the alert rate to 60%.

b All cruise missiles are assumed to have warheads, and [number not declassified] of them are effective as bomber decoys.

c [1–1/2 lines of source text not declassified]

As the table shows, by buying and arming more SCADs than recommended by the JCS, we could maintain a substantial bombers-only Assured Destruction capability against the GTE threat through FY 77 simply by improving the programmed force. Thus, an Advanced Manned Strategic Aircraft (AMSA) is not needed. We would deploy AMSA only if an AMSA force of equal effectiveness costs less than the improved programmed force. Such a force would require about 138 AMSAs and would cost $4.9 billion more than the improved programmed force in FY 69–78. Thus, we do not need to maintain an option to deploy AMSA by FY 77.

Considerations other than cost also make an AMSA force less attractive than improving the programmed force. First, developing AMSA requires a longer lead-time than deploying SRAMs and cruise missiles on the programmed force and thus imposes a substantial initial investment before we could determine that an increased Soviet threat has developed. Second, if we decide to proceed with AMSA now and the GTE threat does not appear, we will have spent $3 to $10 billion unnecessarily. Third, we do not yet know whether AMSA should be designed primarily as a penetrating aircraft or primarily to carry stand-off cruise missiles, nor do we know the value of supersonic speed and advanced avionics. Starting AMSA now, before we have resolved these issues, could force us to make costly changes later.

4. Improving Minuteman

We have a development program designed to test [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] which could provide replacements for the present [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] or accommodate additional Minuteman or a new ICBM. The complete development of each silo would cost $260 million and provide an IOC in FY 74. Procurement costs would be $4.5 million per silo and the deployment rate would be 200 missiles per year.

[Page 720]

As a hedge against a heavy Soviet ABM system, we could replace all the Minuteman II by Minuteman III/MIRV at a cost of $2.2 billion over the present program. In addition, we could add penetration aids to all Minuteman III.

5. Defend Minuteman

A defense of the programmed Minuteman force could use the same components being developed for the Sentinel system: Sprint, Spartan, Perimeter Acquisition Radar (PAR), and Missile Site Radar (MSR). An option for a light defense of Minuteman is being maintained in the current Sentinel deployment plan. This light defense, although not increasing the number of Minuteman surviving a heavy Soviet attack, might show our determination to protect Minuteman and indicate that we would expand the defense if the threat grew larger. In a less than all-out attack on Minuteman (about 1,200 reliable, accurate re-entry vehicles), the light defense could save about 300 Minuteman missiles. The median defense would be an expansion of the light defense to defend more Minuteman and could be supplemented with additional Minuteman III in hard rock silos. The ABM defense and hard rock silos would insure enough Minuteman surviving against large MIRVs on the SS–9 to maintain, together with our other forces, our Assured Destruction capability. The heavy defense of Minuteman would maintain our Assured Destruction capability even against a Soviet small-MIRV threat. The table on the next page summarizes the three levels of defense.

Levels of Minuteman Defense

Defense Sprints Spartans MSRs Defense Investment Cost a ($ Billions) Level-Off Annual Operations Cost a ($ Millions)
Light 320 120 4 $0.4 $ 30
Median (With Hard Rock Silos) 1,480 120 15 3.9 b 310
Heavy 2,220 120 15 4.4 380

a Assumes the deployment of Sentinel. Fifty-six Sprints, 120 Spartans, and four MSRs are deployed as part of Sentinel.

a Does not include the cost of hard rock silos.

6. Add Poseidon Submarines

We could order more Poseidon submarines with missiles which requires a $290 million investment per ship and a four-year lead-time. By initiating procurement in FY 70 we could have 10 new Poseidon submarines [Page 721] by the end of FY 76 and 20 by the end of FY 77. With terminal penetration aids added to the whole Poseidon force, fewer new submarines would be needed.

7. New ICBM

Beginning Contract Definition in FY 70 would permit an IOC for a new ICBM in FY 76. We could deploy this new missile in new silos as part of a defended or undefended fixed land-based system. Conversely, we could deploy it as a land-mobile or ship-based system or base it in a new class of submarines called the Undersea Long-range Missile System (ULMS). Developing a new ICBM would require a $2 to $3 billion research and development program. The 10-year cost of buying 280 new ICBMs totals about $9 billion.

The next table compares the costs of these alternatives to the costs of other missile options designed to maintain our Assured Destruction capability against the GTE Soviet threat in 1977.

Costs of Various Missile Options To Protect the U.S. Assured Destruction Capability Against the GTE Soviet Threata

$ Billions
R&D 10-Year System Costb
Defense of Minuteman $0 $ 7
Threat Ac 0 8
Threat Bd
Additional Minuteman in Hard Rock Silos
Threat A .3 12
Threat B .3 10
Threat A 2.6 14
Threat B 2.6 12
20 Additional Poseidon Submarines 0 14
5 Additional Poseidon Submarines With Decoys on All Poseidon .2 3
12 ULMS Submarines 2.0 13
3 ULMS Submarines With Decoys on All ULMS and Poseidon 2.2 5

a Costs are over and above the cost of programmed forces with [number not declassified]Mk-3s on programmed Poseidon and an increased bomber alert rate.

b Includes Research and Development (R&D) costs.

c Threat A is the basic GTE threat. It has six [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] MIRVs on an improved SS–9.

c Threat B is a response to our deployment of ABM defenses. It has 11 [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] MIRVs on an improved SS–9.

[Page 722]

We have many options to meet the GTE threat that do not require a major effort now. Adding five Poseidon boats and terminal decoys on all Poseidon is clearly the least expensive option. If we start a decoy development program now, the development time for the decoys would be about two and one-half years, and it would take another one and one-half years to deploy them on the programmed Poseidon force. We could then make a decision next year on adding more submarines and still meet the GTE threat.

The Soviets might deploy an improved ICBM force, alone or as part of a combined GTE threat, capable of destroying Minuteman. In some situations, a vulnerable Minuteman force might invite rather than deter an attack. In this case we could phase out Minuteman and rely on Poseidon for our Assured Destruction capability. However, it is desirable to maintain some land-based missiles as a hedge against unexpected threats to the Poseidon force, such as Soviet advances in Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) capability.

To protect the land-based missile force, we can defend Minuteman with an ABM system at less cost than we can add hard rock silos for Minuteman. None of the new ICBMs has a clear cost advantage over defending Minuteman with an ABM system or putting Minuteman in hard rock silos until we need a much larger surviving payload to penetrate a Soviet ABM system that is much stronger than the one we envision as part of the GTE threat.

Not only is it cheaper to protect our land-based missile force with an ABM system alone (compared to a mix of ABM defense and hard rock silos), but it is much cheaper in the early years. However, we would not want to rely only on an ABM system. We are uncertain about the effectiveness of a heavy ABM defense against a heavy attack and the sensitivity of an ABM defense to larger numbers of smaller yield MIRVs and penetration aids. We would need lower levels of ABM defense and smaller numbers of hard rock silos if we deployed a combination of these two to hedge against a greater variation in threat. This suggests the following decision strategy: (1) maintain an option to proceed with an ABM defense of Minuteman (decision in CY 69, initial funding in FY 71) which could be expanded as the threat increased; (2) if the threat becomes more severe, stop expanding the ABM defense and plan on deploying 100 Minuteman IIIs in hard rock silos in FY 77; and (3) reduce near term costs for hard rock silo development to fit this schedule and to allow more time to find out how hard the silos actually prove to be.

IV. Strategic Defense

A. Damage Limiting Against the Soviet Threat

Our ability to strike back and destroy Soviet society, even under conditions and assumptions favorable to the Soviets, makes any kind of [Page 723] nuclear war with the Soviets unlikely. Thus, we first buy forces to give us high confidence in our deterrent. As insurance in the unlikely event deterrence fails, we then consider adding forces that might reduce damage to our population and industry. Since we have offensive forces available for attacking military targets, the basic Damage Limiting issue is whether we should deploy Nike-X in defense of our cities.

A defensive system to save U.S. cities from a Soviet nuclear attack must attempt to keep ahead of the Soviet threat, including their reactions to our deployment. Such attempts are costly. In our analyses we use two stages in such a deployment.2 The first, “Posture A,” is an initial step recommended by the JCS. It represents an area defense of CONUS and a light defense of 25 cities. It would cost about $12 billion in investment and $900 million a year to operate. The second, “Posture B,” is an attempt to keep ahead of the threat. It includes a higher density local defense of 52 cities. It would cost about $20 billion in investment and over $1.2 billion a year to operate. For Posture B we would also need improved air and civil defenses and ASW forces at an additional cost of $4 to $5 billion in investment. We believe the pursuit of effective defenses would eventually cost much more. Our commitment would be open-ended.

[Page 724]

Deaths In an All-Out Strategic Nuclear Exchange in 1977, Assuming No Soviet Reaction to a U.S. ABM System (In Millions)

U.S. Soviets Strike First, U.S. Retaliates U.S. Strikes First, Soviets Retaliate Soviet Assured Destruction Calculation
Program U.S. Killed Soviet Killed U.S. Killed Soviet Killed
No ABM 120 [*] 120 [*] [*]
Sentinel 90 [*] 100 [*] [*]
Posture A 40 [*] 40 [*] [*]
Posture B 10 [*] 10 [*] [*]

[*entry in table not declassified]

As the table shows, the Soviets lose their deterrent if they do not respond. They would be forced to react to increase their ability to strike back. The Soviets have the technological and economic capability to respond in many ways by: (1) adding MIRVs and penetration aids to their projected missile inventories; (2) adding a mobile ICBM, the SS–Z–2; (3) adding a new, higher payload, mobile missile; (4) deploying additional SLBMs; (5) defending all or a portion of their ICBM force; (6) launching all or a portion of their ICBM force on warning; (7) adding more bombers; or (8) some combinations of these responses. Against Posture A, the Soviets must respond with at least 100 new mobile ICBMs or an equivalent force in order to maintain their Assured Destruction capability; against Posture B, they must respond with at least 500 new mobile ICBMs or an equivalent force. These responses, while restoring their Assured Destruction capability, also restore their ability to kill Americans in a first strike. The table below shows what happens if the Soviets do respond.

Deaths In an All-Out Strategic Nuclear Exchange in 1977, Assuming a Soviet Reaction to a U.S. ABM System (In Millions)

U.S. Soviets Strike First, U.S. Retaliates U.S. Strikes First, Soviets Retaliate Soviet Assured Destruction Calculation
Program U.S. Killed Soviet Killed U.S. Killed Soviet Killed
No ABM 120 [*] 120 [*] [*]
Sentinel 100 [*] 100 [*] [*]
Posture A 90 [*] 40 [*] [*]
Posture B 90 [*] 90 [*] [*]

[* entry in table not declassified]

[Page 725]

As part of their response, the Soviets could add large numbers of offensive missiles, which would threaten our Assured Destruction capability. We, in turn, would have to react. Viewing each other’s buildup in forces as an increased threat, each side would take counteracting steps, generating a costly arms race with no net gain in security for either side.

The above tables also show an important and paradoxical result regarding first strikes. The number of U.S. killed when the Soviet Union strikes first is less than or equal to the number of U.S. killed when the United States strikes first. The main reason for this is that there are two opposing effects in a strategic nuclear exchange. On the one hand, the country that strikes first can destroy a large number of the other’s bombers and missiles on the ground, thereby limiting retaliatory damage to itself. On the other hand, the country that strikes second, facing an enemy that has partially disarmed himself, is likely to concentrate on attacking cities with its surviving force because there is little to be gained by firing back at empty missile silos and air bases. In the past, when neither side had a significant second strike force, the country that struck first could expect to achieve some strategic advantage. Now, however, the United States and the Soviet Union have reached a point where both have a large, hard-to-attack second strike force. Therefore, the country that now strikes first may destroy some of the other’s weapons, but by freeing all of the enemy’s remaining weapons to strike its own cities, it more than compensates for the enemy weapons it destroys and loses more than it gains. This result strengthens our belief that neither the United States nor the Soviet Union stands to benefit by striking first.

B. Damage Limiting Against the Chinese Threat

There has been evidence that the Chinese are devoting very substantial resources to the development of both nuclear warheads and missile delivery systems. Within a period of less than three years, they successfully detonated six nuclear devices. Last December, they detonated a seventh device, but this test was apparently a partial failure. These seven nuclear tests, together with their continuing work on surface-to-surface missiles, lead us to believe that they are moving ahead with the development of an ICBM. Indeed, if their program proceeds at its present pace (although there is some evidence it has been delayed) they could have a modest force of ICBMs by the mid-1970s.

The reasons for deploying an ABM system against the Chinese are: (1) it would prevent damage to the United States in a Chinese first strike; (2) it could increase the credibility of our commitments to defend Asian countries against Chinese nuclear intimidation or nuclear attack; and (3) it could lessen China’s ability to drag the United States and the Soviet Union into a nuclear war. In addition, a defense against a light and unsophisticated [Page 726] Chinese threat would not deprive the Soviet Union of its Assured Destruction capability.

On the other hand, we already have a massive deterrent against a Chinese attack. A Chinese-oriented ABM system might enhance the prestige of the Chinese nuclear program and reduce confidence in the ability of our offensive forces to deter attacks on our allies. Further, it might suggest that we think the Chinese would act irrationally when many believe they would not. Leaving Asia and our Asian bases exposed, this system might suggest that the United States is retreating from Asia to a “Fortress America.” Finally, it might keep Asian countries from adhering to a non-proliferation treaty by drawing attention to the threat and causing them to raise demands for their own defense, possibly as a step toward developing their own offensive nuclear capability.

On balance, however, we believe the advantages of a Chinese-oriented ABM system outweigh the disadvantages. Thus, deployment of the Sentinel system was initiated in September 1967.

We do not have to depend on deterrence alone to keep the Chinese from attacking us. The Sentinel system can be deployed at an investment cost of about $5 to $6 billion and should be highly effective against the kind of threat the Chinese may pose in the 1970s. The effectiveness of this deployment in reducing U.S. deaths from a Chinese attack in the 1970s is shown below.

[table (5 columns and 3 rows of source text) not declassified]

[1 paragraph (4 lines of source text) not declassified]

C. Conclusions

Our analysis of the ABM system and its relationship to our strategic offensive forces leads us to conclude that:

The Soviets can substantially offset any Damage Limiting measures we might undertake, provided they are determined to maintain their deterrent against us. Thus, we should not deploy Nike-X to defend our cities against Soviet attacks.

We should deploy Sentinel, an effective defense of our cities against an unsophisticated Chinese ICBM attack. The nature of this decision makes the program sensitive to threat and cost. Since the Chinese appear to be behind in the ICBM development schedule by as much as one year over what we predicted last year, we can somewhat delay the Sentinel deployment schedule and thereby reduce FY 69–70 expenditures.

The estimated investment cost for the Sentinel program has increased by about $1 billion since the deployment decision was made. This has occurred while Sentinel is still in the planning stage and has not yet experienced the design changes and cost increases that normally result from testing a new system. By delaying the development schedule oriented to [Page 727] deployment of a prototype battery, we can provide time to analyze the reasons for rising costs and attempt to find ways to reduce costs.

An ABM defense of Minuteman is the cheapest option to insure the survivability of the Minuteman force. We should maintain the option for the defense of Minuteman using Sentinel components, while continuing the hard rock silo research and development program at a reduced level. A Sentinel delay now would still allow an ABM defense of Minuteman by FY 74.

D. Continental Air Defense

Our current air defenses are costly to operate and relatively ineffective. Without a strong and effective missile defense, even a very effective air defense cannot save many lives. The Soviets could simply target cities with their missiles. In the 1970s the Soviets could kill 110 million Americans if we had no air defense system and 100 million if we had a perfect one.

However, there are other objectives of Continental Air Defense which must also be considered. These include: (1) defense against countries other than the Soviet Union, (2) defense against bomber attacks on those strategic forces that we withhold in a controlled nuclear war, (3) peacetime patrolling of our air space, (4) discouraging Soviet bomber aspirations, and (5) the use of continental air defense forces in missions outside the United States. We can achieve these objectives with a modern, more effective air defense force that costs less over the next 14 years than our present force. This modern force will consist of 200 improved F–106 fighters (the F–106X), 42 UE AWACS aircraft, and two OTH radars. It will use the Federal Aviation Agency National Air Space system for back-up command and control. The cost through FY 78 for the modern force is $12.3 billion compared with $11.7 billion for the current force. However, the lower operating costs of the modern force will result in substantial savings over the present force after FY 79.

The following table compares the relative performance of the current force, the modernized force, and an alternative force of 54 F–12s.

[Page 728]

Number of Bombers Surviving an Area Bomber Defense

Current Force AWACS/F–106X AWACS/F–12
10-Year Program Cost, FY 69–78 ($ Billions) $ 11.7 $ 12.3 $ 13.7
Current Soviet Heavy Bombers (100 Aircraft) 84 26 37
Potential Threats
Current Soviet Heavy Bombers Plus Medium Bombers (100 Aircraft) 150 74 127
New ASM—600 nm Range (100 Aircraft) 100 62 53
New Supersonic Bomber (100 Aircraft) 90 70 60

Against the expected threat, the F–106X force is much more effective than the current force and somewhat more effective than the F–12 alternative. It is also more effective than the F–12 force against the medium bomber force or a heavy bomber force with advanced decoys or SRAMs, where numbers of interceptors are important.

The following table compares mixes of F–106Xs and F–12s:

Mixed Forces 10-Year System Cost Enemy Bombers Surviving
($ Billions) 100 Subsonic 100 AMSA
Force with AWACS
198 F–106Xs $ 9.9 26 70
198 F–106Xs/12 F–12s 11.0 8 53
108 F–106Xs/54 F–12s 13.6 5 30

Adding a small number of F–12s kills more bombers, but at an additional cost of $1 to $4 billion over 10 years. Furthermore, the total number of lives lost in a nuclear war is nearly the same with any of these alternatives.

Surveillance is presently the weakest part of our air defense system. Therefore, we should proceed with Engineering Development of AWACS (if the Overland Radar Technology program is successful) and with development of back-scatter OTH radars. We should also develop, and deploy on the F–106, advanced air-to-air missiles and an advanced fire control system. With these improvements to the F–106, there is little to be gained from the high performance characteristics of the F–12. Thus, we can avoid the additional $1.1 to $1.4 billion cost of an F–12 force and still meet our air defense objectives.

[Page 729]

The same arguments about Damage Limiting also apply to our SAM programs. The Soviets could target SAM-defended cities with missiles and use their penetrating bombers on undefended cities, producing very nearly the same number of deaths. Costly systems such as SAM-D are not justified for CONUS defenses. Our other air defense objectives can be met with area air defense. In line with the perimeter defense concept in the F–106X/AWACS modernization plan, we can phase out 12 existing Nike-Hercules batteries in the interior of CONUS.

V. Specific Recommendations

The JCS have recommended strategic offensive and defensive forces that would cost $15.9 billion in FY 70 and $86.8 billion in the period FY 70–74. The program we are recommending will cost $12.4 billion in FY 70 and a total of $49.3 billion in FY 70–74. Specifically, we recommend:3

Deferring, until we have evidence of a good Soviet low-altitude SAM defense, the JCS recommendation to equip the B–52 and FB–111 force with 1,545 UE SRAM. This program would cost $137 million in FY 70 and $824 million in FY 70–77.
Disapproving the JCS recommendation for Contract Definition and full-scale development of the AMSA in FY 70. The 10-year cost of developing, procuring, and operating a force of 138 AMSAs would be $8.5 billion, including the costs of weapons and tankers.
Approving the JCS recommendation for Contract Definition of an advanced subsonic cruise missile, subject to favorable review of Concept Formulation. This program will require $30 million in FY 70 and $145 million in FY 70–74 for development. Deploying a force of 780 missiles would require a total of $361 million in FY 70–77.
Disapproving the JCS recommendation for Contract Definition of a new tanker based on the C–5. The present KC–135 fleet is satisfactory. The 10-year cost of developing, procuring, and operating a force of 210 C–5 tankers would be $5.5 billion.
Disapproving the JCS recommendation for full-scale development of an advanced airborne command post. The 10-year cost of developing, procuring, and operating a force of 14 command posts would be $1.2 billion.
Maintaining a force of 1,000 Minuteman missiles. Maintaining the IOC for Minuteman III at July 1970, resulting in 430 Minuteman II and 570 Minuteman III missiles by end-FY 74. Deferring procurement of [Page 730] terminal penetration aids for Minuteman III until we have evidence of Soviet low-altitude ballistic missile defenses.
Disapproving the JCS recommendation for full-scale development of the Mk-18 Re-entry Vehicle (RV). To complete this program would require $17 million in FY 70 and a total of $380 million in FY 70–74.
Disapproving the JCS recommendation for Contract Definition of the advanced ICBM system (WS–120A). This missile provides little improvement over Minuteman. The 10-year cost of developing, procuring, and operating a force of 280 missiles would be $9.1 billion.
Continuing Advanced Development of the ULMS, but deferring a decision on Contract Definition in FY 70 until completion of the ULMS Development Concept Paper.
Disapproving the JCS recommendation for Contract Definition on a Surface-ship-based Long-range Missile System (SLMS) in FY 70. This ship could not replace Poseidon and offers little advantage and many disadvantages, when compared to ULMS. The 10-year investment and operating costs for 10 ships would be $4.6 billion.
Disapproving the JCS recommendation for a prototype surface-ship-based intermediate range missile system (called the Ballistic Missile Ship). We do not need additional payload on the crash schedule that would justify this program. Construction of a prototype would cost $250 million, plus $75 million for five years of operation.
Continuing to plan for an average of [number not declassified] Mk-3 RVs per Poseidon missile. (The JCS recommend an initial load of [number not declassified] Mk-3s per missile, at an additional cost of $217 million in FY 70.) Procuring [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] in FY 70, and a total of [number not declassified] in FY 70–74. Continuing development of Poseidon and, in FY 70, procuring 181 missiles and converting six Polaris submarines to the Poseidon configuration for a total investment of $1.3 billion in FY 70. Planning to build to a force of 31 Poseidon submarines by FY 76 for a total FY 70–74 investment of $3.9 billion.
Disapproving the JCS recommendation to provide a large-yield warhead for Poseidon. Development of such a warhead plus the modifications required for the Poseidon missile would cost $210 million.
Approving the JCS proposal to continue converting to Polaris A–3 missiles those remaining submarines not included in the Poseidon conversion program. This program requires no funds in FY 70.
Deferring decision on the JCS recommendation to deploy 12 additional communication relay (TACAMO) aircraft for command and control of the Polaris fleet. The JCS program would cost $48 million in FY 70 and $216 million in 10-year system costs. As an alternative for decision in October, we should consider adding new modulation techniques [Page 731] and satellite communications to the current force to greatly extend its capabilities.
Disapproving the JCS recommendation to deploy a ballistic missile defense of the United States against the Soviet threat. The JCS program would require $270 million in FY 70 in addition to the Sentinel program. The JCS-recommended objective for a Nike-X defense would cost $10 billion in 10 years above the cost of the Sentinel system.
Continuing the deployment of the Sentinel system, but reorienting the program so that procurement funds for only one site need be obligated in FY 69. This results in an FY 69 cost of $739 million and an FY 70 cost of $1.3 billion. The estimated total system investment cost is $5.5 billion, plus $986 million transferred from the Nike-X development program and $250 million in AEC costs.
Approving the JCS recommendation to preserve the option for a light defense of Minuteman using Sentinel radars plus additional Sprint missiles. For an IOC in FY 74, no additional funds are needed in FY 70.
Disapproving the JCS recommendation for Contract Definition on a ballistic missile defense ship (SABMIS) in FY 70. The research and development and 10-year investment and operating costs for eight ships would be $5.9 billion.
Disapproving Contract Definition for the Airborne Missile Intercept System (ABMIS), a concept for which there is no advanced development program.
Continuing implementation of the Continental Air Defense Plan, as recommended by the JCS. In FY 70, this action involves $37 million for development of the F–106X interceptor, $229 million for a full-scale development of AWACS, and $8.5 million for developing the back-scatter OTH radar. This air defense plan will cost $11.6 billion in FY 69–77 compared to $10.7 billion for the previously approved program.
Disapproving the JCS proposal to resume development of the F–12 interceptor. The 10-year cost of 10 F–12s, as recommended by the Air Force, would be $0.8 to $1.0 billion. The 54 UE F–12s in the JCS objective force would cost $3.4 billion.
Approving selected parts of the JCS recommendation to expedite a comprehensive improvement program (MOHEC) for Nike-Hercules, at a cost of $11.2 million in FY 76. The entire JCS plan would cost $35 million in FY 70 and a total of $375 million to complete.
Deferring decision on the JCS recommendation to deploy a surveillance satellite system (Program 949) in FY 70, and deferring until October a decision on continued development. This program would cost $114 million in FY 70 and $1.2 billion in 10-year system costs.
Disapproving the JCS recommendation to extend the approved military survival measures program from $38 million to $190 million over five years. In view of the present financial situation and our needs in Southeast Asia, deferring initiation of the approved program until FY 71.
Disapproving the JCS recommendation for a $150 to $200 million annual Civil Defense program. Approving instead an austere holding program at an FY 70 cost of $84 million.
Phasing out the B–58 force in the first quarter of FY 70, instead of at the end of FY 71 as previously planned, in order to save $55 million in FY 70 and $39 million in FY 71.

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 330 72 A 1499, 320.2 1968 June–July. Top Secret. The memorandum is marked “For Comment Draft” within the Department of Defense. It is attached to a July 29 memorandum from Acting Secretary of Defense Nitze to the Director of Defense Research and Engineering and four Assistant Secretaries of Defense, among others, informing them that he was also sending copies to the Chairman of the JCS and the Secretaries of the Military Departments for comments. For the response of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, see Document 213
  2. Includes all primary program costs and allocated support costs, excluding programs 3, 6, and 9.
  3. Previously Approved FY 74 figures are projections included to make the totals comparable.
  4. Because the language in the rest of this section is very similar to that presented in Enthoven and Smith, How Much Is Enough?, pp. 188–190, it is likely that these paragraphs and tables (not to mention much of the rest of the document) were drafted in the Systems Analysis Office headed by Assistant Secretary of Defense Enthoven. The two tables in the book (pp. 189–190) and the authors’ account provide additional information on a U.S. first strike (ibid., passim). Secretary McNamara’s statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 2, 1968, also includes a table of U.S. and Soviet fatalities for both a Soviet first strike and a U.S. first strike in the mid-1970s. See Authorization for Military Procurement, Research and Development, Fiscal Year 1969, and Reserve Strength: Hearings Before the Committee on Armed Services, United States Senate, Ninetieth Congress, Second Session (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1968), pp. 122 ff. The United States can justify these costs only if they could limit significantly the ability of the Soviets to kill Americans. Our attempt to limit damage if our deterrent fails also operates to take away the Soviet deterrent. The following table shows what happens if the defense works and the Soviets do not react.
  5. All cost data used in the recommendations include Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) costs, but not the direct support and training costs of Programs 7 and 8. [Footnote in the source text.]