214. Telegram From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson in Texas1

CAP 82362. Herewith Clark Clifford’s letter to me2 commenting on General Taylor’s suggestion that we reestablish something like the former Net Evaluation Subcommittee of the NSC.3 As you see, Sec. Clifford and Gen. Wheeler believe that present staff work within the Department of Defense fully covers the work formerly done by the Net Evaluation Subcommittee and, therefore, they do not believe a new study is required.

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I will make Sec. Clifford’s letter available to Gen. Taylor.

“In response to your request that we look into Max Taylor’s suggestion for a resumption of the sort of study last conducted by the Net Evaluation Subcommittee of the NSC in 1963, I have had my staff review existing studies to determine whether a new NES-type effort would be worthwhile.

Needless to say, the NES studies were initiated in the 1950’s at a time when our strategic capabilities were far less than they are today and more significantly for purposes of a new study, we lacked the analytical capability to assess relative U.S. and Soviet performance in various scenarios. General Wheeler and I find that existing current material fully covers the ground of the Net Evaluation studies.

Our intelligence in regard to Soviet capabilities has vastly improved, as reflected in periodical NIEs on Soviet strategic offensive and defensive systems, updated versions of both of which will be forthcoming shortly (NIEs 11–8 and 11–3).4 Each year the Joint War Games Agency writes a Soviet objectives plan (RISOP) which they game against our SIOP. These results give us a very detailed evaluation of our near-term capabilities against the Soviets and their capabilities against us. When dealing with capabilities over the next ten years, the DOD strategic force and effectiveness tables, last revised on August 7, 1968,5 consider relative strengths in a number of different strategic situations, and we have the capability of readily preparing additional tables for any particular scenario not covered. The forthcoming DPM on U.S. strategic and defensive systems also covers much of the same ground.6

In the light of the availability of this material General Wheeler and I are convinced that it would not be desirable to proceed with a new net evaluation study.”

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Walt Rostow, Vol. 93, Box 39. Secret. The President was at the LBJ Ranch in Texas August 23–September 4. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary)
  2. A copy of Clifford’s August 30 letter to Rostow, which is quoted below, is ibid., National Security File, Intelligence File, Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, Volume 2 [1 of 4], Box 6. Another copy and supporting documentation on the drafting of the Department of Defense response on this issue are in Washington National Records Center, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 330 72 A 1499, 381 1968 June–.
  3. See Document 211.
  4. Documents 217 and 221.
  5. According to the preface to the tables, 17 in all, they “list the programmed forces and options considered in the Draft Memorandum for the President on Strategic Offensive and Defensive Forces, along with the expected Soviet threat and the Greater-Than-Expected (GTE) Soviet threat.” The preface and tables are attached to an August 7 memorandum from Nitze to the Secretaries of the Military Departments and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, among others. (Washington National Records Center, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 330 72 A 1499, 320.2 1968 I–35737/68 7 August 1968)
  6. No later draft memorandum to the President during 1968 has been found.