62. Letter From Secretary of State Rusk to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Wheeler)1

Dear General Wheeler:

I appreciate your sending me a copy of the 1964 Report of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee of the National Security Council.2

There are some findings of the report on which I should like to comment. First, I agree completely that political and psychological factors will be important, and in some situations may be determining, in the decisions to release nuclear weapons. It is for this reason that I have always felt that we need not only a wide range of options, but also effective means for exercising initial and continuing control by the President, over the use of all types of nuclear weapons. I believe it would be helpful, if it has not already been done, to brief the President on what can and cannot be accomplished with existing systems and procedures in exercising selective control over the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. We should then seek means of remedying deficiencies in pres-ent control systems.

Second, I was impressed by the description of the restrictions of SACEUR’s flexibility in the use of NATO forces in limited aggression situations. I concur in the judgment that “situations may arise in which the risk inherent in degrading NATO’s general war posture in Europe is more than offset by the advantages of bringing decisive conventional forces to bear in a limited conflict.” While we must exercise considerable care to avoid the impression among our allies that we are prepared to contemplate a World War II conventional hostility limited to Europe, or that we would not carry out our nuclear commitments, it is important that we place our emphasis on the more likely sort of contingencies, with the expectation that in time our allies will agree with the wisdom of such action. This suggests that SACEUR should prepare, by the way of planning or training, more than he has in the past for contingencies in which some degrading of his general war posture is permitted by higher authority in order to cope with a limited conflict. In particular, I [Page 181]would hope additional effort would be directed at the problem of unpremeditated conflict arising from the present unsettled situation in Central Europe. I understand that this, and other ideas to improve SACEUR’s capabilities for situations less than general war are under continuing discussions among Ambassador Thompson, Mr. McNaughton and General Goodpaster. I hope that we will be able to reach a considered judgment about this matter at an early date.

Third, I fully endorse the position that there should be continuing inter-agency work on improving our crisis management capability, to include a timely development of contingency plans identifying the politico-military courses of action in anticipation of a crisis. Pursuant to an exchange of correspondence between the Secretary of Defense and me, we have established a small senior level coordinating committee precisely to fill this need. (A copy of that correspondence is attached for your information.)3

Fourth, I am entirely in accord with the suggestion that there should be close State-Defense collaboration in developing the portions of the JSCP and JSOP having to do with national and military objectives and strategic concepts. I suggest that our staffs discuss soon how this might most effectively be done. In this connection, I assure you that we will make every effort to avoid creating delays in the JSCP and JSOP timetables as a result of Department of State participation.

With warm regards,


Dean Rusk 4
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 330 68 A 4023, 381 1964 Nov-Dec. Top Secret. A copy was sent to Secretary McNamara.
  2. The full report has not been found; a revised staff draft of Section V (Conclusions and Recommendations), June 26, is enclosed with a memorandum from General Leon W. Johnson to McCone, June 26. (Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (McCone) Files, Miscellaneous Papers, 19 Sept 1963–08 Aug 1964, Box 8) In the third paragraph of the letter printed here, Secretary Rusk quotes from this concluding section and in the final paragraph summarizes another recommendation in the section.
  3. Not found.
  4. Printed from a copy that indicates Rusk signed the original.