61. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Wheeler) to Secretary of Defense McNamara 1



  • Draft Memorandum for the President on Strategic Offensive Forces, Continental Air and Missile Defense Forces and Civil Defense by FY 1966–1970 (U)2
I have forwarded, by JCSM–973–64,3 the comments of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the subject draft memorandum for the President. Except as noted below, I agree with the views expressed in JCSM–973–64.
In light of the offensive-defensive approach to the problem of determining the optimum balance of the major components of our general nuclear war posture, and the recent studies of this problem as a single package, I have reached certain new conclusions with respect to these forces and activities.
My personal views concerning these forces, including the six major issues in this area of the FY 1966–1970 program, are indicated below:
Development and Deployment of a New Manned Bomber

I believe that it would be prudent to maintain a force of manned strategic aircraft throughout the foreseeable future, and support the Air Force PCP’s and the strategic aircraft program as expressed in JCSM–791–64 of 12 September 19644 and JCSM–925–64 of 31 October 1964.5 Should you nevertheless continue to feel that there should be a delay in the decision whether to proceed with the Project Definition Phase, I then recommend that you reconsider the two-year moratorium proposed in your memorandum. The advantages inherent in increased dispersal and in the speed of AMSA as compared to the B–52, and the [Page 177]smaller tanker requirement of AMSA in relation to a strategic version of the F–111, appear to me to weigh in favor of a new manned bomber, while recognizing the economies apparent in a B–52/SRAM combination. Considering the uncertainties regarding extension of the life of the B–52 until FY 1975 or beyond, and the estimated ten-year interval from go-ahead on PDP to attainment of a 200 AMSA force, it would appear desirable to go ahead in the near future with a decision to proceed with the Project Definition Phase in order to keep a timely option, and minimize the risk of a temporary degradation of our manned bomber capability. Pending such a decision, I recommend that advanced avionics and propulsion development be expedited, that the prerequisite phase proposed by the Air Force be completed as soon as practicable and that the decision with respect to initiating the formal Project Definition Phase be made at that time.

The Size of the Strategic Missile Force

As indicated in your memorandum for the President, even with a $30 billion balanced damage limiting program, U.S. fatalities associated with an early urban attack would be very heavy. I believe we should take every reasonable step to ensure that we maintain a substantially greater assured destruction capability than the Soviets. I am concerned by the effect upon our relative superiority if we reduce the previously approved Minuteman force from 1200 to 1000, with a substantial impact being felt in the early years, and also phase out many of our Atlas and Titan missiles. I concur with your recommendation to phase out Atlas and Titan-I by the end of this fiscal year provided we retain the previously approved Minuteman program, with as many as practicable of the added 200 being scheduled in the next two years. My views in this regard are influenced by the greater hardness of Minuteman as compared to all of these missiles, the reduced time required for launch of Minuteman, and doubt as to whether Atlas-F will be capable of demonstrating adequate reliability in the operational test program in a reasonable time prior to retirement. The $515 million saving as a result of the Atlas and Titan-I phase-out should provide an appreciable portion of the funds required for the additional 200 Minuteman missiles.

The Over-all Level of the Anti-Bomber Defense Program

Although a balanced defense requires a major reorientation of our effort, I believe we should avoid significant reduction of our present over-all capability against the Soviet manned bomber threat until that threat is appreciably reduced. A shift of funds and effort from less effective to improved systems is desirable, but should be accomplished without significant drop in total capability.

I would be inclined to phase out the DEW Line Extension aircraft and radar picket ships in order to shift the funds into support of more [Page 178]advanced systems, recognizing the possibility that by outflanking our warning systems Soviet bombers could deliver many megatons more quickly following their missile attack. It would appear that this risk is limited by current utilization of USAF airborne radar resources to perform random patrols, and that increased utilization could reduce the risk further. The calculated risk involved emphasizes the need for expediting improved warning systems such as over-the-horizon radar and AWACS.
With regard to the century series interceptors, in my opinion, a decrease should not be made prior to evidence that the anticipated 1967 reduction in the Soviet bomber is a fact, or sufficient numbers of either the F–12A or an interceptor version of the F–111 are available to cope with the threat. With respect to elimination of the F–89 aircraft now in the Air National Guard inventory, I believe that in view of their age and performance, the added risk involved could be taken if the resources thus gained were applied to more advanced systems.

The Production and Deployment of a New Manned Interceptor

In their action on JSOP-69 last March,6 the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended either the procurement of 18 IMI aircraft (CSAF) or the retention of the option to initiate the procurement of IMI by means of inclusion in the FY 1966 budget of the necessary funds for the first increment of procurement subject to a review of this position following completion of an integrated review of all components of air defense (CJCS, CSA, CNO and CMC). The CJCS Special Studies Group has completed the study of Alternate General Nuclear War Postures.7 Although the question of whether the F–12A is preferable to an interceptor version of the F–111 has still not been resolved, I believe the Special Studies Group study justified the requirement for procurement of a new manned interceptor. Accordingly, I recommend that the FY 1966 budget include sufficient funds to permit the procurement of either 18 F–12A’s or 18 F–111’s, whichever are determined to be preferable in studies to be conducted between now and FY 1966.

The Production and Development of the Nike-X Anti-Missile System

Recent studies establish the need for balanced strategic offensive and defensive forces. At the present time, we have relatively strong [Page 179]strategic offensive forces and also weapon systems for defense against the Soviet manned bomber. However, until such time as we establish an anti-ballistic missile capability, we cannot attain any semblance of a balance in our offensive and defensive forces. The existing lack of ABM defense warrants the inclusion of approximately $200 million for preproduction funding in the FY 1966 budget, in order to begin to attain this capability at the earliest practicable time. In my judgment, this production decision should not be delayed for a year because of the existence of uncertainties concerning the preferred concept of its deployment, the relationship of Nike X to other elements of a balanced damage-limiting effort, the prospects for the fallout shelter system, or uncertainties concerning possible Soviet reaction to our improving our defensive posture.

The Construction of Fallout Shelters for the Entire Population

As indicated in the draft memorandum for the President, an effective nation-wide fallout shelter program would provide a high return for the money expended. This program offers defense against either bomber or missile attack and could reduce rural fatalities by over fifty per cent. In view of this relatively economical means of saving approximately twenty-two per cent of the total population, I do not believe we should restrict the FY 1966 funding for this program to the limited amount recommended in the draft memorandum. In my opinion, the Defense Department, with Executive Branch support, should lead the major effort to convince the Congress of the need for this program. I urge that the FY 1966 budget contain provision for the required development and for the maximum practicable support of construction necessary to provide fallout shelters for the entire population.

In summary, I concur generally with the views expressed by my predecessor with respect to continental air and missile defense forces in JSOP-69, and I am convinced that some increases in the force levels now programmed or recommended are well justified for our national security.
Earle G. Wheeler
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330 69 A 7425, 381 Strategic Retaliatory Forces (9 Jan 64) Sep-Nov 1964. Top Secret.
  2. Reference is to a lengthy November 5 draft memorandum from McNamara to President Johnson on “Recommended FY 1966–1970 Programs for Strategic Offensive Forces, Continental Air and Missile Defense Forces, and Civil Defense.” (Ibid.)
  3. Dated November 20. (Ibid.)
  4. This JCSM deals with proposed program changes for the Advanced Manned Stra-tegic Aircraft (AMSA), AMSA Avionics, and propulsion system for the AMSA. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 218, JCS Files, 7000.1 (2 Sep 64) Sec 2)
  5. Entitled “The Strategic Aircraft Program.” (Ibid., RG 200, Defense Programs and Operations, AMSA—Memo to the President, Oct.–Nov. 1964, Box 43)
  6. Not further identified.
  7. In a January 9, 1964, memorandum to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary McNamara asked the Special Studies Group to “prepare a study of the effectiveness and cost of alternative possible U.S. postures for general nuclear war in the time period in which we could have a fully deployed Nike-X defense.” He attached to this memorandum a 2-page terms of reference for the study. (Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330 69 A 7425, 381 Strategic Retaliatory Forces (9 Jan 64) Jan-Jun 64) The completed study has not been found but was sent as an attachment to a September 19 memorandum from Wheeler to Secretary McNamara (CM–139–64). (Memorandum from the JCS to Secretary McNamara, October 30 (JCSM–912–64); ibid., Sep-Nov 1964)