224. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Wheeler) to Secretary of Defense Clifford1



  • FY 1970 Defense Budget Discussion with the President (U)
(U) Reference is made to my memorandum, dated 26 November 1968,2 which contained information on the forthcoming FY 1970 defense budget discussion with the President.3
(U) A copy of the statement that I plan to give and the illustrative examples to be discussed by each Service Chief are attached for your information.
(C) Since information concerning many budgetary and force level decisions is not available at this time, it may be necessary to revise the illustrative examples prior to meeting with the President. I shall appreciate an opportunity to discuss with you the time and place for our meeting with the President.
(U) Without enclosures, this memorandum is Confidential.
Earle G. Wheeler

Enclosure A



Mr. President, recognizing the financial constraints under which the FY 70 budget is being developed, the JCS decided against addressing individual issues as has been the custom in the past. Instead, we [Page 772] propose to discuss the general posture of our armed forces with emphasis on the impact of FY 70 budget decisions on present and future military capabilities. I will provide a brief assessment and each Service Chief will provide illustrative examples highlighting his key areas of concerns.

The JCS are fully aware of the wide variety of demands on our nation’s resources and the hard decisions which must be taken in allocating these resources. The war in Southeast Asia, coupled with the dangerous situation in Northeast Asia, and the unstable and uncertain environments in the Middle East and Europe, challenge our capability for adequate and timely response to other contingencies which might arise.

First, The Threat—

The Soviet threat continues to expand in size and improve in quality. There is no indication that it is leveling off nor is there any sign of self-imposed limitations based upon achievement of a particular force capability. We expect an increase in Soviet land and sea-based missiles, an increased deployment of anti-ballistic missiles, an improvement in air defense, and an overall improvement of their general purpose forces.

Regarding Strategic Forces—

Despite US progress in certain areas, rapid increases in USSR capabilities have eroded our once clearly superior strategic position.

The Soviet missile force is growing in size. Our strategic force is undergoing qualitative improvements, such as Poseidon and Minuteman III, which will increase our force effectiveness; however, it is programmed to remain static in numbers. While our bomber force is being reduced, the loss in numbers is partially offset by the introduction of a short-range attack missile and a new decoy missile. Our capability to defend the continental US against the bomber threat will be reduced by force reductions programmed for FY 70. The lack of an effective ballistic missile defense is also cause for concern, although the planned Sentinel deployment represents a significant first step in this direction.

In the General Purpose Forces Area—

The JCS are concerned with the decreased readiness of our general purpose forces and their capability to respond to possible worldwide contingencies. Our fighting forces in Vietnam are the best equipped and supported in history; however, the higher priorities given Southeast Asia, together with manpower and funding limitations, have resulted in constraints on personnel and materiel in other areas of the world. The [Page 773] resulting personnel turbulence, curtailment of training, and diversions of logistic assets to meet unprogrammed requirements magnify the deficiencies in our current military posture.

In this regard, the plan for the improvement and modernization of the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces is receiving priority attention and support. The JCS note, however, that it will require diversions of service equipment programmed and procured for US forces. An uncompensated diversion of materiel from US forces will have an adverse effect upon the readiness of general purpose forces not directly committed to the conflict in Southeast Asia.

In Summary—

The JCS consider that US strategic force levels, when compared with the growing Soviet strategic capabilities, represent a declining trend in the US strategic position vis-à-vis the USSR. Additionally, we believe that the existing conventional capability of our general purpose forces provides only a limited choice of options at the present time outside Southeast Asia. It does not provide the capability to reinforce NATO adequately in a timely manner, nor of simultaneously providing a response to other than minor contingencies elsewhere.

Risks associated with the capabilities of our programmed forces can be reduced by short-term actions such as: (1) improving the readiness of deployed forces, (2) modernizing current forces, (3) retaining forces scheduled for phase down, and (4) providing adequate logistic support.

Deferral of such actions is generating an accumulation of unfunded requirements which reduce current force capabilities and will have an adverse impact on force capabilities in the future.

In amplification of these judgments, and to provide further insight into these matters, each Service Chief is prepared to discuss his areas of concern, with illustrative examples.

Enclosure B


Army—Low manning levels in Korea and Europe, and STRAF structure and manning level problems.

Navy—Shortages of personnel, and budget constraints related to capability and staying power of naval forces.

Air Force—Reductions in Strategic Bomber and Air Defense Forces.

Marine Corps—Degradation of amphibious assault capability.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, JCS, Filed by the LBJ Library, Box 29. Top Secret.
  2. Not found. A 21-page “Summary of Recommendations by the Secretary of Defense and Related Recommendations by the Joint Chiefs of Staff with FY 70 Budget Implications,” November 19, 1968, and a 4-page list, entitled “Remaining Significant FY 70 Budget Disagreements between the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense,” also dated November 19, are in the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Nitze Papers, Top Secret File, Box 1.
  3. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, along with Secretary of Defense Clifford, Walt Rostow, and others, met with the President in the Cabinet Room of the White House on December 26, 11:17 a.m.–12:25 p.m. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary) No summary record of this meeting has been found.