77. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara1



  • Conceptual Approach to the National Military Command System (NMCS) (U)
Reference is made to:
A memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of Defense (ADM), dated 28 January 1965, subject as above.2
JCSM–4–64, dated 10 January 1964, subject: “Deep Underground Command Center (DUCC) (S).”3
JCSM–446–64, dated 25 May 1964, subject “Deep Underground Command Center (DUCC) (S).”4
JCSM–914–63, dated 2 December 1963, subject “Alternate Facilities and Supporting Communications Required for the National Military Command System (U).”5
Reference 1 a requested that the Joint Chiefs of Staff submit their views on a report, subject: “Department of Defense Command and Control Support to the President.”
The Joint Chiefs of Staff are in broad general agreement with the principles and concepts developed in the study (see Appendix A hereto) and believe that the study provides an excellent basis for furthering rapport and understanding among the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and other governmental agencies concerned with planning for command and control at the national level. The first assumption in the terms of reference states that it is extremely unlikely that the President would leave the Washington area during a crisis situation. It is noted that the study nevertheless advocates the principle of multiplicity of centers for Presidential protection and infers that the likelihood of Presidential relocation would significantly increase as a crisis intensifies, even if the crisis is short of general war. The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider these points to be valid both prior to and after construction of a Deep Underground Command Center (DUCC); however, continued improvement of national command and control capabilities depends on a better understanding between all principals of the conditions under which the President might seek protection.
With regard to the alternate command centers of the National Military Command System (NMCS), the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that:
The study’s recommendation prejudges the conclusions of a separate study currently being undertaken by the Joint Chiefs of Staff regarding the optimum number of National Emergency Command Post Afloat (NECPA) ships required for the NMCS.
The National Emergency Airborne Command Post (NEACP) program, in which one or more of three EC 135 aircraft are maintained on continuous ground alert status, represents the minimum acceptable airborne command post posture.
There is firm need to assure, to the extent feasible, the survival of the Presidency during any future conflicts; and the circumstances of a future crisis or conflict may be such as to preclude the relocation of the President to one of the existing alternate facilities. In this light, the proposed DUCC represents a potentially effective means for assuring survival of the Presidency to an extent not now provided by the NMCS.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Concur in the study’s comments on the NEACP.
Agree in principle on the NECPA as an important element of the NMCS. In this connection, the Joint Chiefs of Staff are currently addressing the optimum posture for the NECPA and upon completion will forward their recommendations.
Consider that, if a DUCC is approved and constructed, the study’s detailed concepts and principles regarding the DUCC generally provide a basis for determination of detailed functional requirements, concept of operation, and detailed design.
Are in general agreement with much of the detailed discussion in the body of the report regarding the role of the Alternate National Military Command Center (ANMCC). However, as indicated in Appendix B hereto, they do not feel that the study recognizes that the ANMCC is fully as valuable as the other alternates of the NMCS when its unique capabilities for supporting all levels of crisis and war are considered. Moreover, they have previously noted that it is essential to continue the ANMCC in its current role for the foreseeable future.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that:
The study be forwarded to the Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, the Office of Emergency Planning, the Department of State, and the Central Intelligence Agency for comment regarding the principles and concepts underlying those parts of the study particularly applicable to their operations (see Appendix A).
They participate in any evaluation of the comments received by the Secretary of Defense from other agencies and in the identification of [Page 213] subsequent steps to clarify the conceptual approach to command and control.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Earle G. Wheeler 6
Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff

Appendix A

Based on their analysis, it is the interpretation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the following constitute the underlying principles and concepts developed in the Study:

For all levels of crisis and war, the President needs utmost flexibility in many aspects of crisis management including centers to be used, immediate advisors, other staff elements to be informed, and options for military action.
In crises short of general war, the constitution of the Presidential advisory staff support (support which is estimative analytical, and advisory) is highly dependent upon the nature of the crisis. In contrast, capabilities for information support (defined by the study to include watch, monitoring, communications, decision implementation functions, and emergency action procedures) of the President and his advisors must be developed insofar as possible in advance of a crisis and can be developed more independently of a particular type of crisis. Advisory staff support and information support, although they must work closely together, can be somewhat separated both functionally and organizationally.
During intense crises and general war, protection of the President as an individual is as important or even more important than protection of the Presidency through use of legal successors. Although Alternate Decision Groups might be established and relocated, it is doubtful that the principals forming the groups will be named before the crisis and it is doubtful that more than one group will be formed.7
For crises less than general war, the President and his advisory group do not need an elaborate, national command center permanently staffed by representatives of several agencies; however, the [Page 214] direction of the Armed Forces will be exercised through the National Military Command System (NMCS).
During an intense crisis, protection of the President depends on his seeking protection prior to the onset of general war. He will only occupy a protected center if he can manage the intense crisis as well as he could from the White House Cabinet Room.8 (For Washington level support during the intense crisis, the Presidential advisors located with the President will primarily depend on their soft centers and their staffs in Washington.) For managing the general war, it would be highly desirable for the President to be collocated with his general war advisory staff support and the related information support. In light of these needs for both intense crises and general war, the Alternate Command Centers of the NMCS and other centers that the President might occupy must be capable of operating as national (versus departmental) command centers.

The basic missions of the alternate command centers of the NMCS have the following priority:

Support the President (located at the Center) during the intense crisis and the strategic exchange phase of a general war.
Support the President or an alternate decision group (located at the Center) during the strategic exchange phase of general war.
Locate the President after the onset of general war.
After onset of general war, provide military information and advisory staff support to the President or a legal successor located elsewhere.
Protect information and advisory staff capability for the follow-on phase of general war.

In assigning the above missions and priorities, the study concludes that direction of the strategic exchange phase of a general war should be directly from the Presidential location to the commanders of unified and specified commands, their alternates, or successors.

Under a “no warning attack” at a time of international calm, only marginal protection can be provided to the President or his designated successors.
An alternate command center should be evaluated with respect to the following criteria: survivability, accessibility, endurance, staff support, communications support, flexibility, and cost. The study heavily emphasizes survivability and accessibility for individual centers and a multiplicity of centers of comparable capability.
For the strategic exchange phase of a general war, the President and the Presidential Group will be directly and primarily concerned with military operations, civil defense, diplomacy and negotiations, and informing and leading the public. The President can extensively [Page 215] delegate responsibility for nonmilitary resource allocation, economic mobilization, and maintenance of local law and order. Accordingly, during this phase, the advisory and information support to the Presidential Group should be preponderantly military.
The National Military Command Center (NMCC) should provide information support to the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, non-Department of Defense officials, and their attendant advisory staffs. Under certain circumstances, the NMCC will provide advisory support. The NMCC must have the capability to “get information” from many sources (such as CINCs and Service Headquarters) and should not attempt to store all possible information, but only that essential for its primary mission, in its data base.
The NMCC and the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff support the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff in exercising strategic direction of the Armed Forces. They should also support the President and his advisors in detailed monitoring and control of selected military actions when such actions may have grave national significance. A system built to satisfy only one of these roles will not necessarily be adequate for the other.

Appendix B

With regard to the Fort Ritchie Complex and the Alternate National Military Command Center (ANMCC), the Joint Chiefs of Staff reaffirm their previous position that these facilities are essential to our command and control capabilities in the foreseeable future. They concur with much of the analysis relating to the Alternate Joint Communications Center (AJCC) and the ANMCC and with many of the conclusions regarding their capabilities, functions, and relationships within our over-all national command and control capabilities. However, they are concerned that the study does not support these facilities strongly enough. Specifically:

The value of the ANMCC as one possible relocation site for the President or an alternate decision group is recognized (pages V–35, 36 and VI–36) but its capabilities for the strategic exchange phase are equated to [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. This conclusion seems contrary to two principles in the study. First, survivability is stressed and the ANMCC is significantly harder than [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. More important, the study stresses collocation of the President and his principal advisors with their supporting military staff. Such collocation could be achieved much more effectively at the ANMCC than at [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] or [Page 216] Camp David. The study correctly proposes a multiplicity of sites available for relocation. If the individual sites for Presidential or alternate decision group relocation are compared, the Joint Chiefs of Staff would rate the effectiveness of the ANMCC as somewhere between that of a National Emergency Command Post Afloat ship and [less than 1 line of source text not declassified].
There is not sufficient stress within the study on the potential value of the ANMCC in supporting a decision group on board the National Emergency Airborne Command Post during the strategic exchange phase after Washington has been destroyed.
The study correctly recognizes the unique value of the ANMCC for the follow-on phase of a general war. However, since the dividing line between the initial and follow-on phases would be blurred at best, the study does not point out the great advantage of conducting both of these phases from the same location.
The study implies that a functional and technical analysis of the ANMCC would indicate potential savings. Such analyses are continuously taking place and they may equally indicate that, if the principles and concepts in the study are approved, additional investments in the AJCC would be warranted.
The report does not explicitly recommend continuation of a continuously manned ANMCC. The summary paragraphs discussing the AJCC (pages VI–72 and VII–10) are not consistent with the analyses and conclusions in the body of the report. For example, they indicate that “the ANMCC is not suited to use by the President or an alternate decision group during an intense crisis or the initial stages of a general war.” If the report is rewritten, the body of the report should incorporate the above points and these summary paragraphs should be made consistent.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, JCS, Filed by the LBJ Library, Box 29. Top Secret.
  2. Not found.
  3. Document 3.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 52.
  5. See footnote 2, Document 3.
  6. Printed from a copy that indicates Wheeler signed the original.
  7. A handwritten note reads: “V.P.—I think 2 groups at least.”
  8. Next to this sentence is written: “True.”