3. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara1



  • Deep Underground Command Center (DUCC) (S)
Reference is made to:2
JCSM–405–63, dated 29 May 1963.
JCSM–484–63, dated 3 July 1963.
JCSM–753–63, dated 27 September 1963.
JCSM–914–63, dated 2 December 1963.
Secretary of Defense Decision/Guidance (Format B), dated 19 December 1963, subject: Deep Underground Command Center.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff have considered on a continuing basis over the past several months the matter of the Deep Underground Command Center (DUCC). On those occasions in which this subject has been addressed directly (references 1a through 1d), the response has dealt with separate but related aspects of the problem. In view of the bearing of this matter on other programs under consideration, the Joint Chiefs of Staff wish to state their views as to the justification for a DUCC and as to the military requirement therefor.
It is the opinion of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that a DUCC as a military command center cannot be justified and it is not recommended for inclusion in the National Military Command System (NMCS) program for the following reasons:
It would not, in their opinion, permit top military leaders to operate as effectively as would be possible through use of other survival means. Specifically, it would involve their operating without adequate staff or support in a “buttoned-up” environment from which communications and egress would be uncertain following a nuclear attack.
The adverse effect of the DUCC on the NMCS program, planned to establish an effective and survivable system of command and control facilities, is exemplified best when viewed in relation to the long-term aspects of the program. The proposed funding for the Five-Year Program (FY 1965–69) indicates that approximately $860 million may be committed to the NMCS. The cost estimate for a 300-man DUCC is approximately $310 million which represents over 36 per cent of the total budget proposed for the NMCS. The $310 million basically provides for only construction costs, and does not include in-house or entrance communications equipment or operational support systems essential to the realization of initial operational capability. If the DUCC were to be included in the NMCS program, there are indications that it would absorb in future years considerably more than 36 [Page 8] per cent of the total NMCS funds now programmed for the NMCS, and, unless additional funds were provided, would thereby force severe reductions in other NMCS programs, such as deferral of the First Generation National Military Command Center, limitations in number and degree of enhancement of the more desirable mobile alternate command centers, and curtailment of communications and other support systems.
The weakest link in a hardened communications system is the antenna. In view of limited progress to date in the design of hardened antennas, the probability of survival of DUCC communications depends primarily on redundancy of antennas. Various means of communications have been considered as possible solutions to this problem. One such means particularly suited for use in a DUCC installation is the substrata earth transmission of electromagnetic waves. However, research on this project has not progressed to the point where operational feasibility can be determined nor can reliable operational use be predicted with any degree of confidence.
An examination of the functions to be performed by the National Command Authorities, which include the Joint Chiefs of Staff, indicates that for this decision group to operate within the isolated environment of a DUCC, adequate space and facilities to house sufficient staff personnel and to provide appropriate supporting data would require that the facility be considerably larger in size and scope than the 300-man DUCC estimated to cost $310 million. To meet the demands of nuclear war, it will be of vital importance that a tremendous volume of actions be performed swiftly by trained and experienced people.
An austere size (50-man) DUCC would be totally inadequate to accommodate the decision element of the National Command Authorities together with minimum essential staff support and housekeeping support. It is clearly evident that a 50-man DUCC is essentially a survival facility. As a follow-on step, it is highly probable that immediate expansion to a 300-man DUCC will be required to provide a minimum national command facility. However, such an expanded DUCC would be inadequate for military purposes.
A deep underground facility could be useful as an emergency shelter to safeguard the President for continuity of government, provided escape and survivable communications can be assured. The following factors are considered germane to the issue: [Page 9]
It would be a facility affording improved protection to which the President and a minimum number of selected advisors could rapidly relocate in times of international tension.
The minimum amount of time would be lost during the relocation process, and confusion, disruption of operations, and adverse public impact would be minimized.
Studies indicate that a deep underground facility could be designed to permit relocation within the time period now described as “tactical warning” due to its ready accessibility to the President and selected advisors.
Escape and survivable communications from a DUCC would be problematical in case of a direct attack on Washington with large-yield nuclear weapons.
In summary, the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that the DUCC would be too small, and its communications too uncertain, to serve as a military command center. They recommend against the allocation of resources to such a facility at the expense of existing and currently planned elements of the NMCS. They consider that it is a question for executive decision as to whether the DUCC would be worth its cost as a safe shelter for the President and a minimum number of selected advisors, from which he might or might not be able to communicate in case of attack.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Maxwell D. Taylor 3
Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330 70 A 4662, 381 DUCC (10 Jan 64) 1963 and 64 Papers. Top Secret.
  2. The four JCS papers referenced are ibid. The last reference was not found.
  3. Printed from a copy that indicates Taylor signed the original.