36. Letter From the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Taylor) to Secretary of Defense McNamara 1

Dear Mr. Secretary:

With more warning of my departure from the arena of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,2 I would probably be leaving with fewer regrets over the unfinished business which I must leave behind. Given the circumstances of my reassignment, I have been unable to complete or even expedite work in many of the important areas where I had hoped to make a contribution during my terminal years of military service. The purpose of this letter is to note and comment upon some (but clearly not all) of the important issues which are still unresolved.

a. The effectiveness of the Joint Staff.

In spite of the many able and dedicated officers who serve on the Joint Staff, I leave it with a feeling that it is still marginally effective. It continues to be hampered by an uneven and sometimes excessively heavy workload, by cramped working conditions, and by inadequate [Page 98]recognition of its members by their Service of origin. While some progress has been made in giving greater incisiveness to Joint Staff papers and in preserving the integrity of the Joint Staff input from distortion by Service views, there is still an inherent slowness in the Joint Staff operations which often affects adversely the timeliness of the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and thus dulls their impact. An excessive concern over Service representation among the incumbents of the various key posts is another factor which works against continuity of assignment and flexibility in the use of Joint Staff personnel. Finally, the Services are still not putting their best people on the Joint Staff—not always. These factors in combination work against its effectiveness and require correction. J–1 has this whole field presently under study and will, I hope, come forward soon with constructive suggestions.

b. Proportionate distribution of assignments by Service.

I mentioned the disadvantage of the current practice of distributing important jobs in the Joint Staff rigidly by service. I am opposed to this practice in principle in filling any and all important posts within the Department of Defense. While we should follow the general policy of roughly proportionate Service sharing of participation in the important functions of the Department, we should not accept a strait-jacket policy which prevents choosing the best man for the job regardless of Service. I would favor calling for nominations from all Services to fill all important positions and then endeavor to pick the best qualified man from among the nominees. In the long run, I do not believe this practice would work against an adequate and fair representation of all the Services in the key billets within the Department of Defense.

c. The readiness of contingency plans.

In working on the Cuba and Southeast Asia plans, I have been impressed by the incompleteness of our past contingency planning. With the exception of these two plans which have lately received a great deal of special attention, our other contingency plans are little more than outlines which could not be expanded for implementation other than on a “crash” basis without months of additional staff work both in the field and in the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As I leave the Joint Staff, it is not yet clear whether CINCPAC’s 32 series can be supported without considerable mobilization and within an acceptable time frame. Once these CINCPAC plans are put in order, the same kind of treatment should be accorded all of the contingency plans which have a reasonable possibility of implementation.

d. Inadequacy of Army support units.

From this examination of contingency plans, it is becoming quite clear that the force structure of the Army is out of balance. There are [Page 99]insufficient support type units to permit the deployment of the combat forces as they become ready for commitment to action. The implementation of virtually any contingency plan will require some mobilization, if not to meet the needs of the immediate contingency then to replace units deployed from CONUS reserves. There are three alternatives open to us; either (a) to increase the size of the regular Army to permit the formation of the missing support units, or (b) to reduce the combat structure to a proper balance with the existing support structure, or (c) to accept the fact that partial mobilization will be indispensable in any contingency situation.

e. Need for rational logistic guidance.

A further byproduct of the study of contingency plans is a growing recognition of the need for rational logistic guidance to assure the combat readiness of the forces required to execute the approved strategy. We should re-read paragraph 40, Part IV, JSOP-69,3 and decide whether or not we really mean the language contained therein. If we do, we should then formulate the logistic guidance which will permit the creation, maintenance, and combat support of the general purpose forces described therein. General Meyer has considerable work in progress directed toward this end. He needs full support to carry it forward to completion.

f. New SIOP guidance.

[1 paragraph (10–1/2 lines of source text) not declassified]

g. Army-Air Force relations.

I regret to report that the relations between the Army and Air Force in Washington have not improved—indeed, I believe that they are worse than when I arrived on my present tour of duty. We are paying the price today of unsound and incomplete decisions and uncoordinated doctrine developed over past years. The immediate need is for the approval of a statement differentiating between organic Army aviation and that Air Force aviation provided in support of the Army. I have made a recommendation to you on this subject with which you are familiar. The second requirement is to make clear that sustained land combat is the primary function of the Army to which the Air Force is in a supporting relationship. The Army commanders responsible for conducting sustained land combat must always have available under their operational control that indispensable element of air power necessary for the success of the land battle. If necessary, the attachment of Air [Page 100]Force units should be made without hesitation. If such procedures are not adopted, I would consider an overhaul of the statement of roles and missions to be indispensable.

h. Review of roles and missions.

With regard to the possible requirement for a review of roles and missions, I would point out that the last statement of roles and missions was effected in 1947 and was based largely upon the capabilities of the Services at that time. Since then, there have been many changes in weapons, in warfare, and in the capabilities of the Services so that a review would appear to be timely. When it takes place, specific consideration should be given to the desirability and feasibility of the following adjustments of roles and missions:

Assumption by the Air Force of the provision of all air vehicles for the Army in accordance with CSAFM–408–64 dated 12 May 1964,4 provided to you on that date.
Assumption by the Army of the close air support responsibilities now assigned to the Air Force.
The assignment of the Army role in continental air defense to the Air Force.
Restatement of the mission of the Marine Corps in consistence with present capabilities and probable employment in contingencies.
Placing of all or part of Marine aircraft aboard Navy carriers.
Elimination of equipment now organic within various units of the Services which is subject to intermittent rather than habitual use and the pooling thereof at another echelon.

To resolve such questions as the foregoing in a temperate atmosphere will be difficult. However, until it is accomplished there will be a continuing struggle among the Services over missions and parts of missions which presently overlap agreed frontiers.

i. Civilian-military relationships in the Pentagon.

During my service as Chairman, I have worked to the best of my ability to attenuate or, if possible, to eliminate the differences—sometimes real, sometimes imaginary—between the civilian and military authorities in the Department of Defense. I hope that our own personal relationship of which I have been very proud has set an example for those around us and has contributed to proper team play. Inevitably, however, there are areas of potential friction where there is an overlap or gray zone of common interest between subordinate elements of DOD. Insofar as the business of the JCS is concerned, it is the Comptroller’s office and ISA which by the nature of their duties are [Page 101]most likely to impinge upon the responsibilities of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. While informal discussions have tended in the past to remove most of the abrasive corners, there are still potential difficulties arising from the fatal attraction which some of our civilians find in military planning. To cite a recent example, I suggest a look at DEF 975264 to Vientiane.5 I feel that it is very important for ISA and the Systems Analysis area of the Comptroller’s office to understand that they are not in the business of military planning and are not a rival source of military advice in competition with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In closing, let me say what a pleasure it has been to have been associated with you in the last year and nine months. In my former unhappy days as Chief of Staff of the Army, I cried out for a decisive Secretary of Defense to end the unending conflicts. I got one and am now content. If you will only stay with your present job and not allow yourself to be diverted to other tasks, I have no concern over the soundness of the future policies and programs of the Department of Defense.

Sincerely yours,

Maxwell D. Taylor
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, McNamara Files: FRC 330 71 A 3470, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Folder 17. Secret; Personal & Confidential. “Sec Def has seen” is stamped on the letter.
  2. General Taylor was appointed Ambassador to Vietnam on July 1.
  3. See Document 12. Part IV is not printed.
  4. Not found.
  5. Not found.