92. Letter From Secretary of State Rusk to the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Vance)1

Dear Cy:

The Department of Defense study, Command and Control Support to the President, transmitted with your letter of March 6, 1965,2 contributes significantly to the development of a comprehensive Executive Branch approach to crisis management. The President’s command and control support requirements are of obvious concern to the Department of State and to me personally.

I am of the personal view that much of the prevailing thinking about the problems of conducting essential governmental processes after sustaining a nuclear attack is inadequate and dated and fails to grapple realistically with the formidable obstacles which would confront officials surviving such an encounter. Of necessity, this basic reservation colors and qualifies some of the comments which follow.

Many of the observations and recommendations contained in this study confirm the validity of present State/Defense understandings and arrangements which have enhanced the President’s ability to give direction to politico-military operations. I have in mind particularly the exchange of personnel between our Operations Center and the National Military Command Center, the monitoring by one department of the other’s significant message traffic, and other machinery for managing crisis situations at the Presidential level. Moreover, the study emphasizes the value of such activities as the recently inaugurated State-Defense-CIA cooperation in politico-military contingency planning and in the development and conduct of major JCS exercises.

We also note that the current study reinforces the previously advanced justification for the construction of a Deep Underground Command Center (DUCC). The National Military Command System’s Master Plan and the JCS Continuity of Operations Plan3 contemplate State Department representation in both the sea and airborne alternates, as well as the ANMCC. We will give further study to operational concepts [Page 249] and physical arrangements applicable to State Department functions both at and in support of such command posts.

Under its terms of reference, the DOD study group was instructed to state projections of Presidential support obtainable from non-DOD sources in “general terms” only. We concur in the view that a Presidentially directed response to varying crisis levels, up to and including general war, requires the marshalling of a wider range of governmental resources than those of the Department of Defense. Hence we believe that there is a need to explore more specifically the conceptual requirements for non-DOD command and control support to the President which will supplement the analysis of Department of Defense support developed by the DOD study group. Initially, such an undertaking would appear to call for a careful stock-taking by other key agencies of their own responsibilities and capabilities in this field. The Department of State, accordingly, will initiate a study along these lines at an early date. We hope such a study will contribute to government-wide understanding of the components of a total “national command” concept.

We shall be giving study to improving our own Command and Control System in the days ahead. Undoubtedly this work will include consultations between our respective Departments and joint consideration of pertinent materials, including the present study. If this exercise results in additional suggestions or proposals which might be worth your consideration in connection with review of command and control procedures, we will be in communication with you.

With warm regards,


  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330 70 A 1265, 031.1 White House (23 Jan 65). Secret.
  2. For the conclusion of the study, see Document 86. The letter of March 6 was not found.
  3. Neither further identified.