31. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense McNamara to the Secretary of the Navy (Nitze), the Secretary of the Air Force (Zuckert), and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Taylor)1


  • Force Guidance for Submission of PCP’s on Strategic Retaliatory Forces (U)


  • ASD(C) Memorandum of February 20, 19642

I have completed my review of the Strategic Retaliatory Forces recommended in JSOP-69.3 This memorandum summarizes my tentative guidance for the preparation of Program Change Proposals for these forces. In those cases in which my tentative guidance corresponds with previously approved forces, my guidance is shown in the Previously Approved and Tentative Force Guidance (PA & TFG) line; in other cases, my guidance is shown in the Tentative Force Guidance (TFG) line. In those cases in which Previously Approved and Tentative Force Guidance differ, the Services will submit PCP’s to implement the latter.

As I indicated in my Draft Memorandum for the President on Recommended FY 1965–FY 1969 Strategic Retaliatory Forces, December 6, 1963,4 I believe that our Strategic Retaliatory Force requirements should be based on two objectives:

“Assured Destruction.” An essential test of the adequacy of our posture is the assured capability to destroy the Soviet [1–1/2 lines of source text not declassified] after absorbing a well planned and executed Soviet surprise attack. The purpose of such a capability is to give us a high degree of confidence that, even under conditions extremely favorable to the Soviets, we can deter a calculated deliberate nuclear attack.
“Damage Limiting.” Beyond the force required to meet the test of “Assured Destruction” additional forces may be justified for counter-force targeting if they could reduce the damage to the U.S. in the event of a Soviet attack by an amount sufficient to justify their added costs.

I do not believe that there can be any reasonable doubt about the adequacy of our forces to achieve the first objective. As I showed in last [Page 85] December’s Memorandum to the President, referred to above, the approved 1969 Strategic Retaliatory Forces including 1000 Minutemen could be expected to be able to destroy about [1 line of source text not declassified] in a second strike after a surprise attack. Even under extremely favorable assumptions from the Soviet viewpoint, which now seem even more unlikely than they did last December, these forces could destroy about [1 line of source text not declassified]. Therefore, I believe that the adequacy of our forces, with 1000 Minutemen rather than 1200 for “Assured Destruction” has been established beyond a reasonable doubt.

As for additional Strategic Retaliatory Forces for the “Damage Limiting” objective, it is clear that they must be considered in relation to our other programs intended for the same purpose, e.g., Continental Air and Missile Defenses and Civil Defense. Moreover, to the extent that we buy additional Strategic Retaliatory Forces for “Damage Limiting”, they should be justified as part of a balanced program, that is, a program that maximizes the number of lives saved for the amount of money spent. There are several studies under way now in the Department that are examining this matter, including:

A Study of Alternative General Nuclear War Postures to be completed by the CJCS Special Studies Group no later than 1 September (SecDef memorandum to CJCS of 9 January 1964).5
A study plan on Strategic Offensive and Defensive Forces integrating study efforts of the Military Departments and other contributing agencies (DepSecDef multi-addressee memorandum March 12, 1964).6

As these studies are completed, I will consider recommendations from the Service Secretaries and the Joint Chiefs of Staff if they believe that revisions of any tentative force guidance are indicated. After I have had an opportunity to review such recommendations and studies themselves, I shall issue revised guidance if necessary.


I question whether it would be a wise use of our resources to include the funds for 100 additional Minutemen in the FY 1966 budget for deployment by end FY 1968, for the following reasons.

We are not ready to decide on the deployment of Nike-X and the character and scale of our damage limiting program at this time. There are a number of strategic and technical uncertainties yet to be resolved. Moreover, the timing and Congressional support for the necessary full fallout shelter program is still uncertain.
Moreover, even if we were to go ahead with a full fallout shelter program and deployment of Nike-X beginning in FY 1966, it has not been established that additional Minuteman ICBM’s would form a part of a balanced damage limiting program.
Furthermore, even if it were established that additional Minutemen were a part of a balanced program that included full fallout protection and a Nike-X deployment, these missiles must be time-phased to match the availability of other damage limiting forces.
Finally, because of the Minuteman II retrofit program, we will be continuing production of Minuteman missiles. Therefore, if a larger force is required at a later date, we retain the option to buy it with no loss in lead time or production re-start costs.

Therefore, I request that the Air Force submit a PCP which levels off the Minuteman force at 1000 missiles. I recognize that the previously approved retrofit schedule was designed on the basis of a 1200 rather than a 1000 missile force objective and that therefore, in all probability, it should be modified. I would like the Air Force to reconsider the deployment of Minuteman II in light of this change and to recommend one that is consistent with achieving the ultimate force objective economically.

The previously approved decisions on spare missiles, missile motor shelf life, extended survivability of Wings I and II are unaffected. In addition, missile-away indicator, radio-launch overlay, improved launch enable system, time-on-target and squadron status reporting subsystems approved for RDT&E, production, and retrofit into Wings I–V will be implemented. Initiation of the retrofit of the Minuteman II system could become necessary in the 1972–1973 period because of the shelf life of the system. Studies should continue determining the best follow-on system.

Last year the Air Force proposed the siting of a squadron in a location which would allow peacetime launches under conditions as near as possible to operational reality. A possible location was the Hunter Liggett reservation north of Vandenberg AF Base. The basis for the proposal was to provide actual operational tests of missile, launcher, control systems, human factors, and technical data. It also would provide a control sample from which to determine bias in test launches and control system, and anomalies introduced by and during shipment of missiles from operational sites to Vandenberg missile range. If the Air Force still recommends such a plan, I request that its Minuteman PCP include this siting as an alternative to the basic plan that would not include isolated siting, together with a cost comparison and an evaluation of its cost and effectiveness in relation to such alternatives as an additional flight at Vandenberg AF Base.


The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend no change in the B–52 force structure through FY [Page 87] 1970. The phase-down of this force beyond FY 1970 was contingent upon the phase-in of an Advanced Manned Strategic Aircraft proposed by the Air Force.

The issue of the force level is related to the structural integrity of the B–52. Last year the Air Force proposed a comprehensive modification program to correct all known faults of the B–52. At that time, I approved the program for all B–52s except the “B” series. Recently my staff with the cooperation of the Air Force and other agencies has completed a review of the structural problems. It now appears that additional modifications will have to be undertaken to assure the integrity of this force into the ′70’s.

I have requested that the Secretary of the Air Force provide me with alternative bomber force levels, their effectiveness over the planning period, and the associated costs and schedules for the modification program necessary to sustain these alternatives. These studies will provide a basis for a decision at a later date.


The Joint Chiefs of Staff show in their proposed force a faster attrition in the B–58 force beginning in FY 1967. Unless there are compelling reasons to show that the quantities of command support aircraft available cannot support the recommended quantities, no change should be made. If a change is required, I request that the Air Force submit an appropriate PCP.

Materiel Acquisition Guidance for Programmed Strategic Bombers

The approved bomber force will carry with them those equipments necessary for redeployment in the event of hostilities. Therefore, prepositioning of stocks of spares, supplies or equipments is not required at other than existing approved squadron deployed locations. Procurement of chaff, tanks and pylons, engines, etc., are required only to support peacetime training and one wartime sortie per bomber.

Advanced Manned Strategic Aircraft (AMSA)

With respect to a follow-on aircraft, the Chiefs of Staff, less the Chief of Staff, Air Force, recommend that we defer a decision on development and procurement programs for AMSA pending review of the program definition phase. The Chief of Staff, Air Force, recommends for planning purposes a force level of 200 aircraft with operational availability of 105 aircraft by end FY 1973.

I support the view of the majority that the decision on the development and procurement be deferred. In addition to any PCP which the Air Force might wish to submit in support of a new strategic bomber development program, separate comprehensive R&D proposals concerning [Page 88] exploratory engine development (not limited to AMSA) and advanced avionics development should be submitted. However, I believe that a decision on deployment would be premature at this time.

Atlas D, E and Titan I

I understand that the Air Force has given serious consideration to the early phase-out of Atlas D and E, and Titan I. I agree that such a plan merits careful attention and request that the Air Force submit a PCP which phases out these missiles by end FY 1965 and Atlas F by end FY 1968.

The Atlas D is configured in a soft, three missile complex and has a slow reaction time. The first missile cannot be launched until fifteen minutes after an execution order; the second missile not before eight minutes later; and the third missile after still eight minutes later. The Atlas E, configured one missile per site, is hardened only to 25 psi and has a reaction time of fifteen minutes. The Titan I is configured three missiles per complex. Theoretically, it is hardened to between 150–200 psi, but the great complexity of the system makes its actual survival potential very uncertain and most probably lower. Moreover, the reaction time of Titan I is also slow—the first missile fifteen minutes after an execution order; the second missile eleven minutes later; and the third missile eleven minutes later, a full 37 minutes later, a full 37 minutes after the order to fire is given. The survival probability of these missiles has been estimated by the JCS to be very low. Since large quantities of Minuteman missiles will be in the inventory, it seems appropriate to phase out these complex and unsatisfactory first generation systems in order to realize cost savings that can be applied to more effective systems. Studies should be initiated which examine the possibility of using the fully hardened silos for other missile systems.

Atlas F procurement beyond FY 1964 is no longer required since Atlas E missiles can be converted into Atlas F missiles with very little modification. In addition, Atlas E assets could also be used for other space booster requirements. Atlas F and Titan II follow-on operational reliability tests are reduced to six firings each per year, as opposed to 12 firings previously approved, bringing the proportion of missiles expended into line with the Minuteman and Polaris test programs.

ICBM Reliability Program

Last year the Services proposed a reliability improvement program consistent with the Joint Chiefs of Staff guidance. We have allocated large numbers of missiles for the operational test firings. To assure continued reliability of our missile systems during their operational deployment lifetime, follow-on operational tests are also programmed. The following quantities of ICBMs are tentatively approved.

[Page 89]
Missiles Reqd for Follow-on Reliability Test End Fiscal Year
1966 1967 1968 1969 1970
Atlas F 6 6 3 0 0
Titan II a 6 6 6 6 6
Minuteman I 20 55 45 35 25
Minuteman II a 20 35 45 55

a Requiring continued procurement.

In addition, the previously proposed test program for sea-launched ballistic missiles will continue.

Robert S. McNamara 7
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 200, Defense Programs and Operations, 1966 Budget Guidance, May–June 1964, Box 41. Top Secret. Three pages of tables are not printed.
  2. Not found.
  3. Document 12.
  4. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. VIII, Document 151.
  5. See footnote 7, Document 61.
  6. Not printed. (Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330 69 A 7425, 381 Strategic Retaliatory Forces (9 Jan 64) Jan-Jun 64)
  7. Printed from a copy that indicates McNamara signed the original.