73. Memorandum for the Record by Director of Central Intelligence McCone 1

Briefing of President Johnson at Johnson City, Texas, December 28, 1964


Reviewed the subjects covered in the briefing notes, Nos. 1 through 272 which should be made a part of this memorandum. In this connection, I emphasized the following:

Reduction in manpower of the Soviet armed forces represented a reappraisal and a new estimate but not a reduction. There was no evidence of a reduction through demobilization.

Emphasized that new ICBM’s, bigger and better, indicated Soviet policy of qualitative improvement with no attempt to match the U.S. quantitatively. We cannot explain this policy except that they hope for a breakthrough in strategic offensive techniques which will offset U.S. quantitative advantage.
Ground forces developing marine type units, are placing great emphasis on sealift and airlift, with apparent intent of developing a Commando capability for operations distant from the USSR. This is new because Soviet military forces have been landlocked since, and for that matter, prior to World War II.
The Soviet Air is relatively static. A new supersonic fighter plane being introduced but no evidence of supersonic long range bomber, although the Soviets have capability for such a development.
Air defense an enigma. After reviewing all evidence presented in attached papers, I concluded that Soviets were on an unexplained approach to either ABM or aircraft defense with a strong possibility that they had or were approaching a new technique. The status of construction in some of their facilities did not permit an accurate analysis of Soviet state of the art or air defense.
Soviets continue to expand special nuclear material production facilities, and I reviewed the figures in the paper, also photography of plant development.
In pointing out the extensive new Henhouse radar developments, I stated that these facilities, which were very expensive, exceeded requirements for tracking satellites, were not properly located for Early Warning, and therefore were quite possibly directed toward an anti-satellite capability to “blind” us from photographic intelligence gathering and we must be alert for this eventuality.
In summary, we were seeing a dynamic, progressive Soviet military program that was not being cut back, that was sophisticated, that was directed toward quality rather than quantity, and that there was a possibility of a breakthrough of some sort which would redress the present balance of power. This I said must not be overlooked and we must continually be on the alert for such a development.

[Here follow numbered paragraphs 9–12.]

The briefing was comprehensive. The President had few questions and very few remarks.

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (McCone) Files, Memo for the Record, 1/l/65–12/28/65, Box 2. Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted on January 4, 1965. A typewritten note at the end of the memorandum indicates that it was dictated but not read by McCone. A handwritten notation at the end reads: “all backup & briefing papers destroyed.”
  2. McCone’s 16 pages of briefing notes of this meeting are attached to a January 11, 1965, letter from McCone to Bundy. In this letter McCone directed Bundy’s attention particularly to the conclusions which had been placed at the beginning of the briefing notes. McCone continued: “They emphasize the dynamic character of the ongoing Soviet military program which is directed mainly at qualitative advances. Their purposes are obscure but it is obvious the Soviets are pursuing qualitative advances rather than quantitative additions to their capabilities.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Intelligence File, TKH Jan. 1964–Feb. 1965, Box 1)