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

    • Sentinel Program Review (U)
(TS) In response to your request,2 the Joint Chiefs of Staff have reviewed the Sentinel program in relation to the projected threat, military objectives, and political and fiscal constraints. Preliminary alternative deployment levels and modes have been examined toward an objective of protecting the US second strike capability and National Command Authorities, while maintaining protection of the United States against the early threat posed by the Chinese People’s Republic or a small number of ICBMs from any source.
(TS) The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that the most serious threat to the security of the United States is the rapidly expanding Soviet strategic offensive missile capability. In developing a posture for strategic forces capable of countering this threat, our general objectives are clear. We want to deter Soviet nuclear attack on the United States and if deterrence should fail, be able to inflict severe damage on the Soviet Union while limiting damage to the United States so as to terminate the attack with the United States in a position of relative advantage.
(TS) The Joint Chiefs of Staff have previously accepted the Sentinel as a useful first step toward a ballistic missile defense capability. In a preliminary review of possible alternative Sentinel deployments, options have been identified which range from a deferral of the approved program deployment schedule through major revisions to the Sentinel program including reduced sites, radars, and missions, as well as alternative sitings of radars and missiles relative to large population areas. Based on an accelerated program review, a revised Sentinel deployment, Deployment Model 1–69, developed by the Army [Page 33] and described in the Enclosure3 hereto, has been prepared and is summarized below.
Deployment Model 1–69, in comparison with Sentinel, consists of a reduced number of sites, Missile Site Radars and Perimeter Acquisition Radars and missiles, but with an increased number of radar faces, and proposed locations further removed from cities. Surveys are now being conducted to determine such locations. The cost comparisons for the revised deployment, less Atomic Energy Commission costs, are $5.8 billion investment and FY 1968–1976 total costs of $8.7 billion; approved Sentinel program costs for the same period are $6.0 billion investment and $8.8 billion total. The site completion for the 1–69 deployment can be accomplished between October 1973 and April 1975, based on 15 March 1969 start date for full site survey investigation, congressional notification on land acquisition by 25 April 1969, and maintaining present R&D pre-production and production efforts.
Deployment Model 1–69 could provide: additional warnings for CONUS-based bombers against SLBMs and FOBS; some protection against ICBMs, SLBMs, and FOBS; an option for protecting a portion of Minuteman force; protection against a moderately heavy attack on National Command Authorities at Washington, D.C., with an option to protect the control centers at Colorado Springs and Omaha; coverage for the more populous areas of CONUS against the early CPR threat with damage denial against this threat or a small number of ICBMs from any source; and a basis for subsequent improvement as required.
An alternative deployment, employing an Improved Spartan missile is described in the Enclosure and is an option for which development should be continued to provide advanced capabilities should the threat dictate. The decision for deployment of an Improved Spartan to meet the IOC date of 1 July 1975 reflected in the Enclosure, however, would not be required, for budget purposes, prior to 1 October 1970 or submission of the FY 1972 budget.
(TS) The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that while the revised ballistic missile defense deployment described in the Enclosure clearly does not provide the necessary capabilities against the primary threat, it will add to the overall defensive capability and strategic posture of the United States against that threat, and will be compatible with future improvement.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider the Sentinel Deployment Model 1–69 best reflects the guidance parameters contained in your request [Page 34] and they can support approval and implementation thereof. Additionally, they consider that it is essential to proceed with selective research and development programs that will provide for feasible improvement of a ballistic missile defense within the considerations of both technological and fiscal attainability.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Earle G. Wheeler
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–75–103, 373.24, Safeguard. Top Secret. No drafting information appears on the memorandum. A stamped note, dated February 27, on the first page reads: “Sec Def has seen.”
  2. No record of Laird’s request was found. But Colonel Robert E. Pursley, Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, forwarded Wheeler’s memorandum to Laird under a covering memorandum dated February 27 that reads partly as follows: “I believe the attached support and endorsement of the Joint Chiefs is that which you had hoped for.” (Ibid.)
  3. Attached but not printed is a 27-page enclosure, entitled “Sentinel Program Review.”