129. Study Prepared by the Joint Chiefs of Staff1

VOLUME I. SUMMARY

PART I. CONCEPT OF LIMITED STRATEGIC NUCLEAR WAR

Section A. Introduction

1. (U) In that this report addresses basic issues of US strategy, it is appropriate to review briefly the evolution of nuclear power relationships, resultant strategies and limitations, and the effects on forces.

[Omitted here is Part I, Section A.2, which recapitulates the history of the U.S.-Soviet strategic relationship.]

3. (TS) US/USSR Strategic Military Power Relationship—Present

The United States and the USSR are considered to be at parity in megatonnage in strategic offensive nuclear weapons, and Soviet forces are projected over the next decade to increase significantly above those of the United States in both strategic delivery vehicles and in mega-tonnage. Programmed US strategic warhead inventory will continue to exceed the projected Soviet inventory, but this should be considered in relation to the greater Soviet megatonnage and probable increase in BMD for Soviet urban areas. The US force mix is intended to provide assured survival, in any circumstances, of sufficient forces for a second strike to destroy the Soviet urban-industrial base. US strategic defensive forces are postured largely as protection against bomber attacks on urban-industrial (U/I) areas. Current and projected Soviet strategic defense forces are several times larger than comparable US forces. In [Page 454]a vigorous strategic offensive force buildup, the Soviets are emphasizing survivability by deploying SLBMs, and by constructing hard silos. Recent developments in Soviet ICBM weaponry indicate they may be seeking a capability for an effective first strike on US retaliatory forces. In summary, while the United States has an assured destruction capability, its damage-limiting capability in offensive and defensive forces is limited and may be expected to decrease.

Section B. Assured Destruction

1. (TS) Credibility

Under a strategy in which the concept of assured destruction is emphasized, deterrence is based on the threat of immediate and massive countervalue attack in response to a Soviet nuclear attack on the United States. Further, according to US declaratory policy, a large-scale Soviet nuclear attack on Europe could bring full US retaliation upon the Soviet homeland.

a.
In the current strategic power relationship, a strategy which has as its major element the assured destruction concept may not be completely adequate for all circumstances. While the assured destruction capability makes a large-scale Soviet attack against the US unlikely, there is less assurance that it would deter a limited strategic nuclear attack against the United States. The Soviets could launch such a limited strategic nuclear attack, while reserving forces sufficient to destroy the United States, in the belief that the United States would be deterred from a massive countervalue response by fear of the ultimate consequences. Destruction in the United States which could follow might be considered a worse choice than accepting the conditions imposed by the initial Soviet attack.
b.
Limitations in the credibility of assured destruction as the major element of our strategy would apply, in even greater measure, to the credibility of US nuclear strategy in support of allies. For example, NATO nuclear response to an all-out conventional attack by the Warsaw Pact has been credible because it was backed by the threat of employment of US strategic nuclear forces. If, in the assumed strategic relationship of assured destruction, it would appear irrational for the United States to strike massively with US strategic nuclear forces to protect allies because of the risk of very high levels of damage to the United States by the Soviets, the US assured destruction capability may no longer be credible in those circumstances.
c.
Risks. The Soviets may infer from the changed strategic balance that the United States would be deterred from escalating to strategic nuclear war in response to a limited nuclear attack by the Soviets, either against the United States or its allies. They may infer that the US declaratory assured destruction policy is not credible in these situations [Page 455]and that they can employ their forces in conventional or limited nuclear attacks to gain limited objectives with acceptable risk.

Section C. Limited Strategic Nuclear War

1. (S) Introduction

The further development of the concept portion of this report is based on the assumptions that the possibility of limited strategic nuclear war is inherent in the strategic relationships as discussed above; and that to evaluate further concepts and capabilities for limited strategic nuclear warfare, limitations, employment constraints, objectives, deterrence criteria, and attack/response options should be developed.

2. (TS) Concept for Limited Strategic Nuclear War

a.
The evolving problems discussed in the foregoing sections illustrate the need to reevaluate US strategic alternatives. While the assured destruction concept is an important component of national military strategy, it is only a part of the entire structure. Because our nuclear retaliatory capability in the past has deferred a broad range of opponent actions, there is a tendency to persist in attributing to it and its assured destruction component a wider deterrent role than it may be able to perform. Other possibilities, options, and forces must be evaluated. US strategy and capabilities should provide clear and considered alternatives between accepting conditions which could be imposed by a deliberate, limited strategic nuclear attack by the Soviets, or immediately escalating to execution of the SIOP. In a relationship of mutual deterrence, the United States should develop options which have as their objective the reduction of risks and instability which exist for the lower levels of nuclear war.
b.
Relationship Between Objectives and Conflict Control. Attacks in limited strategic nuclear war should be conceived and executed to achieve specific strategic objectives, including political objectives. These objectives should be designed to deter further conflict while achieving national security objectives. A US military objective in any war is to insure an advantageous position for the United States upon war termination. In limited strategic nuclear war, it must be recognized that without restraint this objective of gaining advantage could become self-defeating to deterrence of escalation, which is another objective implicit in the limited strategic nuclear war concept. For this reason, plus others in the following discussions of limitations and constraints, there is an overriding requirement for close control of the conflict in limited strategic nuclear war by the national command authorities (NCA). Control would become a principal feature of limited strategic nuclear war.
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3. (TS) Limitations on Limited Strategic Nuclear War

Limitations discussed here primarily concern the political obstacles to changes or modifications of nuclear strategy which are designed to increase war-waging capability. The current capability of the NCA to retain effective control of a conflict is also addressed.

a.
Domestic Political Limitations. The United States may face problems in implementing a capability for limited strategic nuclear war, even as a complement to assured destruction. To lend stability in the face of public pressures, Americans would need to be assured that the capability to conduct limited nuclear war would help deter the outbreak of such conflicts, and in the event deterrence should fail, that such a capability would increase the likelihood of terminating the conflict short of general war. To attain an effective capability, strategic defense improvements would be required and military spending for strategic forces might increase. These issues may lead to temporizing and to strategic force programming stretch-outs.
b.
International Political Limitations
(1)
In projecting a concept for limited strategic nuclear war there is a risk that we may incorrectly assume that the opponent will adopt a like strategy and force posture with like objectives.
(2)
An immediate international political consideration is how the United States could reconcile advocating a capability to wage limited strategic nuclear war with the traditional US policy of limiting the possession and possible use of nuclear weapons. The effect of US advocacy that limited strategic nuclear war is a feasible and necessary option would be unpredictable.
(3)
Acceptance of the concept by allies would be problematical. Would they insist on agreement on strikes? Could the United States conduct strikes unilaterally while achieving objectives and maintaining control? Can control of such a conflict be successfully retained between two parties only? Should US strategic force employment be decoupled from theater forces and theater threats? What would be the relationship of US concept for limited strategic nuclear war to British and French nuclear forces?
(4)
In paragraphs (2) and (3) above are some international political considerations which are outside the scope of this study. They appear to be issues which must be resolved in the process of determining the validity of the concept for limited strategic nuclear war.
c.
Command and Control by the NCA. The physical effects of nuclear war may place severe limitations on the capability of the NCA for functions such as directing strategic forces employment, and obtaining timely and accurate information on both the US and Soviet strategic potential. A reliable capability to communicate with the opponent would be highly desirable. Accurate assessment of opponents’ reactions, capabilities and options would be necessary.
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4. (TS) Considerations and Constraints

There are considerations and constraints which are likely to influence force employment in limited strategic nuclear war. They can be broadly classed as control and planning.

a.
Control. Control is directly related to the objective of limiting the conflict at the lowest possible level.
(1)
For example, in selecting targets and the type of delivery vehicle, the possible and expected reactions of the opponent must be weighed as a constraint. In this sense, attacks on command and control or damaging attacks on urban defenses could result in attack escalation. The ability of the opponent to perceive the actual origin, scale, and intended objective, is an uncertainty. If warning or attack assessment systems were saturated or otherwise disabled, the level of conflict might exceed that desired by either side.
(2)
Another control constraint is the capability for damage assessment. The critical need for timely intelligence in limited strategic nuclear war makes reconnaissance information and the supporting communications net to the NCA essential for attack planning. Furthermore, reconnaissance employment constraints must be considered such as penetration capability through undegraded defenses, ability to cover all desired targets with the level of detail required, and the tradeoff in time responsiveness versus level of detail.
b.
Planning
(1)
To demonstrate resolve and capability, success of strikes in limited strategic nuclear war is extremely important. This would place constraints on selecting attack objectives, types of targets, delivery vehicles, and numbers of warheads.
(2)
Weapons resources must be controlled during the conflict to ensure forces are available to provide for a credible deterrent at higher levels of conflict and to maintain the essential integrity of the assured destruction capability, while achieving the immediate objectives in limited strategic nuclear war. The broad range of options available and the selective employment of forces could cause overextension of weapon resources introducing the possibility of degradation of SIOP effectiveness. Should the targets selected for attack in a limited strategic nuclear war, particularly at the lower levels, be covered within the SIOP, this degradation would be minimized.
(3)
Related to the foregoing consideration are the ability to predict or assess the relative balance in residual strategic potential at any point during nuclear exchanges and the relative strategic position of either side in war outcomes measures. A constraining factor would be the ability to identify the decision point in limited strategic nuclear war when further expenditure of forces would critically degrade the remaining capability of strategic forces.
(4)
Collateral damage should be minimized because of the unpredictable perception of attack objectives by the opponent which might result from unintended gross effects such as collateral casualties. This would impose constraints in selection of delivery vehicles and targets so as to achieve desired effects as precisely as possible.
(5)
Additional constraints are the requirements for delivery precision and probability of success of each attack attempted.

5. (TS) Force Implications in Limited Strategic Nuclear War

The constraints in control, attack precision, and probability of success indicate that an optimum capability for limited strategic nuclear war would require concepts and forces that go beyond current criteria for strategic forces. What would appear to be required is a US advantage in exploitable, usable military power, i.e., military forces that can survive and be committed to action across a full range of attack options. This would require a range of forces, weapons, and associated command and control, usable for controlled, selective, and discriminating attacks.

Section D. Objectives in Limited Strategic Nuclear War

1.
(TS) The foregoing discussions suggest that an essential characteristic of limited strategic nuclear war is the close relationship between military actions and political objectives. Military actions would be paced by diplomatic and political events—their effectiveness being related to roles of allies, international and domestic opinion, and national objectives. These operations would require the coordination of military plans and action with political and diplomatic effort to achieve a set of objectives far broader than strictly military ones. These coordinated activities must seek to reduce the opponent’s perceived national interest in the crisis versus the risks and possible losses. At the same time they must increase his awareness of the depth of US interest and US commitment to employ military force. They must seek, where possible, to gain domestic and international support for US action and to develop such pressures against the opponent. They must seek to insure for the United States, and to deny to the opponent critical military support from other nations. They must emphasize to the opponent his vulnerability to US operations and that continuing hostilities will be increasingly to his disadvantage. They must communicate to the opponent what the United States desires him to do while signalling both the intent to limit actions and the readiness to terminate on reasonable terms. Finally, they must consider the long-term effects of a limited strategic nuclear war on the United States as a world power.
2.
(TS) To achieve these objectives implies, on the military side, the discriminate and controlled application of force to communicate [Page 459]clearly demands and intentions and to achieve precisely specified effects—effects reflecting and supporting the objectives of the national authority.
3.
(TS) Stated in broad terms, the military objectives would be: to deter limited strategic nuclear attacks on the United States; if deterrence fails, to defend against such attacks and to respond by coupling limited strategic nuclear attacks to support political objectives and maintain relative advantage; to limit damage to the United States and allies, and to terminate hostilities at the lowest possible level under conditions advantageous to the United States.

Section E. Deterrence in Limited Strategic Nucler War

1. (TS) Introduction

a.
The focus thus far has been upon the needs to which our overall US strategy must respond in changing world strategic relationships and upon the role of a broadened nuclear capability within that larger framework. The question arises: how should such a capability be constructed and in what ways should the US nuclear policy be adjusted if we are to satisfy those needs? New criteria for deterrence in the limited strategic nuclear war context are indicated.
b.
General war has been deterred by the prospect of broad devastation of the entire homeland of the United States or the USSR which would result from massive nuclear attacks. The measures of effectiveness of such attacks and the basis for deterrence has been damage to the urban-industrial base of each nation. Deterrence has been viewed as a preinitiation condition and as having little relevance after execution. However, for limited strategic nuclear war, a full range of factors which affect deterrence should be considered before and during the course of the conflict.

2. (S) Deterrence Criteria

a.
The Soviet Union could be deterred from a contemplated limited strategic nuclear attack on the United States by a single influence or combination of influences sufficient to make the expected consequences of the attack disadvantageous. These deterrent influences can be grouped as follows:
(1)
Those Which Decrease the Incentive to Attack. One measure which the United States could take is to avoid confronting the Soviets with a situation in which limited strategic nuclear attacks would appear appropriate and instrumental for achieving some objective. A related measure is to avoid postures and force dispositions which appear to the Soviets as extremely threatening or particularly vulnerable.
(2)
Defense Military Influences. ASW, missile, and air defense, depending on their size and effectiveness and extent of deployment, could [Page 460]deny or limit the prospect of success in limited strategic nuclear attack or create substantial uncertainty as to whether specific targets could actually be hit. Depending on the scope of attack, the Soviets might anticipate substantial losses of attacking vehicles to achieve attack objectives with any degree of certainty. If the forces required could be seen as disproportionately large relative to the overall strategic resources or potential gain, Soviet leaders might be deterred from such an attack. Effective defenses against both bombers and missiles would appear to be especially appropriate for defeating a limited attack because the defense would not be complicated or degraded by the conditions likely to exist in strategic nuclear war. While it is unlikely that defenses could prevent the Soviets from attacking certain targets, defenses could provide for preferential protection of those targets having the greatest political or military significance. Awareness of the difficulty and cost of attacking such targets would help deter the Soviets.
(3)
Offense Military Influences. Offensive capabilities provide the basis for deterrence in its most familiar form—the threat of retaliation by inflicting unacceptable damage. This damage may be inflicted on countervalue targets or it may be directed against military forces. The threat of military losses adds to deterrence, e.g., the prospect that the surviving military balance may not favor the aggressor; the prospect of the loss of military forces essential to national independence and survival. Finally, there is the prospect that the defender’s retaliatory counterforce attacks may reduce the aggressor’s remaining offensive forces sufficiently to prevent or make highly uncertain the attainment of future objectives. Also, highly survivable offensive systems not only contribute to deterrence but also greatly reduce the incentive for and likelihood of small attacks aimed at eroding US retaliatory capability. Probably the most pervasive deterrent to nuclear attack of any scope is the prospect that it would lead to some form of offensive retaliation and carries the risk of escalation to general war. Whatever gains might have been sought by the initial attack would be far outweighed by the resultant losses.
(4)
Other Military Influences. Given a gross comparability of parity in numbers between opposing strategic forces, what would be required to deter limited nuclear attacks is a qualitative superiority on the part of the United States in terms of technological improvements in existing systems and in the long term, development of improved weapons systems. Foreknowledge on the part of the Soviet leaders of the qualitative superiority of US forces across a full range of limited nuclear operations would most likely deter the USSR from initiating a limited attack.
b.
Summary of Deterrence Criteria. The foregoing discussion suggests that the following criteria for strategy, force development, and force posture would contribute to deterrence of limited strategic nuclear or disarming attacks. The United States should: [Page 461]
(1)
Maintain a qualitative superiority in offensive and defensive capabilities so that Soviet leaders will believe that US forces would be more effective than Soviet forces and more efficient in achieving objectives in any limited strategic nuclear conflict.
(2)
Maintain command and control systems to permit the controlled and flexible employment of forces in limited strategic nuclear war and to limit the possibilities for uncontrolled escalation.
(3)
Make it clear to the Soviet leaders that any limited strategic nuclear attack would result in US reaction with its strategic forces which would be relatively disadvantageous to the USSR.
(4)
Avoid emphasizing force compositions, postures, and dispositions which appear to the Soviets as first-strike oriented or which are vulnerable to limited strategic nuclear operations.
(5)
Maintain forces of such a quality and quantity that the Soviets could never calculate, with any reasonable degree of certainty, that a limited strategic nuclear attack on the United States or our allies would lead to an outcome favorable to the USSR.

3. (TS) Stability

a.
Development of a capability to support a limited strategic nuclear war strategy would probably be apparent to the Soviets. It raises the question as to whether any improvements would be destabilizing. The question cannot be answered with assurance and arguments can be made on both sides.
b.
Major force improvements could be considered as destabilizing. However, the same arguments do not necessarily hold for improvements in command and control.
c.
Soviet force improvements indicate an increasing counterforce capability, whereas US defenses and capability for damage-limiting counterforce strikes are limited. This disparity between the United States and Soviets is increasing and is destabilizing. US development of a capability for limited strategic nuclear war across a range of options could tend to counter this disparity.
d.
It would be unacceptable to place the United States in a position where there is a serious possibility of a successful Soviet disarming attack, where the United States would have no credible response, and where the United States might have to accept conditions imposed by the Soviets. The possibility of such a situation could be minimized by appropriate force postures and measures to reduce vulnerability to disarming attacks by the Soviets.

Section F. Attack/Response Options

1. (TS) Strategic Significance of Levels of Attack

a.
Nuclear capable forces employed could be considered as a measure of the level of attack. However, such a measure may be misleading [Page 462]in that the most important factor is determining the objective of the attack.
b.
Further, the use of nuclear weapons is most likely to achieve decisive results when some level of military effectiveness is achieved. Use at some lower level is least likely to be conclusive, and may be wasteful of resources. Economy in force employment is an important military consideration in selecting targets and establishing targeting objectives in limited strategic nuclear war.
c.
Because the ultimate goal in warfare is political, demonstration attacks to indicate resolve or to warn may have a place as a strategic option. However, these are excluded from detailed analysis in this study as not being either measurable or militarily significant in determining US capabilities.
d.
There is a requirement for small scale attacks to provide some economical return in damage achieved. Conversely, if large numbers of weapons were employed in response to a small scale attack, the attacker risks misinterpretation and escalation. This risk of escalation is the principal argument for keeping attacks at a low level.
e.
An objective is to limit attacks to low numbers of weapons, while retaining the capability to advance to higher levels of attack. Thus, the concept of limited strategic nuclear war implies a war-fighting strategy with the capability of employing forces incrementally. Because US strategic offensive forces and associated command and control have been designed for massive attacks, incremental employment of forces introduces additional requirements for endurance of force command and control.
f.
For pragmatic reasons, maximum deterrence would rest on US strategic capabilities for absorbing and applying a full range of limited strategic nuclear attacks, including major disarming attacks. Consequently, this analysis emphasized attack/response options in which military objectives are foremost, with major emphasis on militarily significant counterforce attacks.2

2. (TS) Counterforce Strikes

a.
Counterforce attacks as discussed in this paragraph are attacks on targets which are a direct nuclear threat—primarily strategic offensive weapons systems including controls and weapons storage.
b.
Noting the previous discussion of the credibility of assured destruction, large Soviet counterforce attacks may not be deterred. Projected Soviet force developments could be evidence of a move toward [Page 463]a counterforce first strike capability with favorable exchange ratios. The possibility of a Soviet counterforce attack at some level to gain relative strategic advantage over the United States must be considered in US strategic planning.
c.
To accomplish US objectives in response to a counterforce attack, response in kind might be appropriate. A counterforce response may be preferred because it should not inflict high casualties and damage to nonmilitary resources. Such nonmilitary losses might strengthen the opponent’s resolve and risks escalation to general war. Because of this, counterforce attacks might be more politically acceptable than countervalue attacks and therefore would be a credible option in limited strategic nuclear war.

3. (TS) Nuclear Strikes Against Other Military Targets (omt)

OMT includes all military assets except strategic forces, their controls and nuclear storage sites. OMT should be targeted to the extent possible considering political objectives and the competing military objectives of counterforce and countervalue. Targeting OMT may have value by itself in some circumstances. If the United States can gain no advantage in strategic counterforce or countervalue attacks, consideration should be given to OMT as appropriate targets to gain or maintain relative advantage.

4. (TS) Countervalue Strike

a.
Countervalue attacks are an option in limited strategic nuclear war. Attacks on certain war-supporting resources, while minimizing collateral fatalities, would exact a high price and could give some assurance of preventing escalation. However, city attacks as such might be undesirable in countervalue targeting in limited strategic nuclear war because of long-term political and psychological effects and the probability of escalation.
b.
In view of the above, this study has not treated countervalue attacks in which high civilian casualties were a likely result.

[Omitted here are 32 pages comprising Part II, “Information, Decision, and Control;” Part III, “Capabilities of Programmed Forces;” and Part IV, “Force Capabilities Requiring Improvement.”]

PART V. SIGNIFICANT FINDINGS AND OBSERVATIONS

Section A. Significant Findings

1. (TS) Capability to Deter and Respond

Through the 1970s, the US capability to deter or respond to a limited strategic nuclear war becomes less credible. In general, military objectives of achieving relative advantage are not attainable and the United States is unable to control or force termination of conflict. The [Page 464]US ability to deter is directly related to our ability to respond. Further, the US command and control structure was not designed for timely and flexible response in limited strategic nuclear attacks on a large scale.

2. (TS) Capabilities for Conducting Limited Strategic Nuclear War

The United States possesses a good capability to execute a pre-planned attack, but does not have an adequate capability to control forces in multi-exchanges. This inadequate capability is the major limiting factor in conducting this type warfare.

3. (TS) Survivability of Command and Control

Vulnerability to nuclear attack is the primary limitation on the capability of our command and control systems. Existing command and control systems, which were designed for preattack and for support of SIOP cannot be relied upon for continuing effectiveness in multi-exchange limited strategic nuclear war.

4. (TS) Information

The gathering and employment of timely, accurate, and reliable intelligence are vital to the successful conduct of limited strategic nuclear war. Timely knowledge of the condition and location of targets and defenses is required. In addition to the more common prestrike intelligence requirements, selective and efficient employment of forces requires continuing damage assessment of strikes by the United States and the Soviet Union.

5. (TS) Target Categories

There are selective Soviet and US target categories which can be attacked which result in relatively few urban casualties. Targets may be selected for attack to achieve either political or military objectives.

6. (TS) Defenses

Currently the Soviets have a defensive advantage over the United States. Ballistic missile and air defenses can have a significant impact on limited strategic nuclear war and on the selection of the optimum system for a particular attack. In addition to limiting damage, defenses require the offense to attack to a proportionate level to insure attainment of desired objectives. The magnitude of the attack against defended targets is subject to misinterpretation and risks escalatory reaction. The US position could be improved if strategic defensive forces included a mix of complementary and mutually supporting defenses in-depth.

7. (TS) Alert Rates

Alert bombers and submarines tend to prevent the initiator of a counterforce strike from gaining a decisive advantage. The survivability of these alert forces tends to lend stability in a crisis and helps to [Page 465]preserve an assured destruction capability, thereby reducing the likelihood of war. There is little margin for improving alert/non-alert ratios of programmed forces over a sustained period.

8. (TS) Bomber Hard Target Kill

In our missile force, neither current nor programmed reentry systems have the desirable CEP-yield combination for effective employment against hard targets. An arriving bomber is presently the most effective hard target killer in our strategic arsenal. Current and programmed bomber weapons with relatively low CEP and high yield are very effective against targets such as nuclear storage sites and missile silos. In some circumstances, the time sensitivity of certain targets such as missile silos may militate against employment of the bomber.

9. (TS) Mobility Concept

Mobile forces tend to prevent the initiator of a counterforce strike from gaining a decisive advantage. The relative immunity of these forces to disarming attacks enhances stability and could improve force potential.

10. (TS) Force Improvements

Qualitative and quantitative improvement in programmed forces can be made which would enhance their capabilities in limited strategic nuclear war. Further improvements in force capabilities, especially command and control, can be achieved by addition of redesigned or new systems.

Section B. Observations

1. (TS) Advantage After an Initial Attack

At the end of an initial disarming attack, the side attacked may deduce that it has superior offensive forces remaining. In this event, it is possible to conceive a situation in which the side attacked may perceive an advantage in refraining from a response and attempting to negotiate war termination from a position of presumed relative strength.

2. (TS) Survivability of Presidential Authority

Although survivable command centers can be available to the Presidential authority, the broader problem of insuring survivability of Presidential Authority must be addressed at the highest levels.

PART VI. ISSUES FOR DECISION

Section A. Fundamental Issues

There are two fundamental issues identified by the NSSM 64 study. The first is whether the concept of limited strategic nuclear war is valid in light of the present and projected strategic balance of power between [Page 466]the United States and the Soviet Union. The second is whether the United States should develop a credible capability for engaging in limited strategic nuclear war.

Section B. Validity of the Concept

1. (TS) Questions for Consideration

a.
When debating the validity of the concept of limited strategic nuclear war, there are questions which should be considered. Some of these are:
(1)
What evidence is there that the Soviets might be considering limited strategic nuclear war as a viable option?
(2)
If a US capability were developed, what impact would this have on the credibility of SIOP and the assured destruction capability?
(3)
Is the ability to conduct limited strategic nuclear war capable of being countered by an opponent developing a similar strategy and capability?
(4)
What effect would development of this capability have on our allies and other nuclear powers?
(5)
If the concept is considered valid, what are the fiscal implications in relation to other national programs?
(6)
If the concept is not credible, how is this fact communicated to the Soviets in a convincing manner?
b.
In treating the question of the validity of the concept, the options available are acceptance or rejection. Under either option, risks are encountered.

2. (TS) Risks in Rejecting the Concept

Some of the risks inherent in rejection of the concept are:

a.
The Soviets may develop the capability. This would provide them with a range of options in the strategic use of nuclear weapons which the United States could not match. If they chose to make a large-scale limited attack, the United States would then be faced with the following immediately available courses of action: response with SIOP; negotiate the problem; do nothing. If they make a small-scale attack, the United States additionally could respond using an extemporaneous selective employment of either nuclear or other weapons. All of these options may fail to deal properly with the situation.
b.
It may close the door on resolution of crises by use of nuclear weapons at levels less than strategic nuclear war.

3. (TS) Risks in Accepting the Concept

Some of the risks in accepting the concept and developing a capability are that these actions may:

a.
Encourage Soviet acceleration of strategic arms development;
b.
Degrade the credibility of the assured destruction capability;
c.
Prove too costly to support;
d.
Be construed as encouraging the use of nuclear weapons;
e.
Be used as justification by smaller nuclear powers for their employment of nuclear weapons;
f.
Tend to be destabilizing in certain crisis situations;
g.
Tend to make more likely an ultimate escalation to general war through progressive steps in a sustained conflict.

Section C. Development of the Capability

1. (TS) Courses of Action

a.
If the concept is considered neither valid nor necessary at this time, there is no basis for a strategy embodying the concept and development of a capability.
b.
If the concept is considered valid but not necessary, a choice of developing or not developing a capability exists.
c.
If the concept is considered valid and necessary, capability to conduct limited strategic nuclear war should be developed.

2. (TS) Guidance for Development of a Capability

If a capability for limited strategic nuclear war is to be developed, appropriate strategic guidance is required. Modification to the criteria for strategic sufficiency3 could provide the basis for refinement of the strategy and the development of the capability. The following would appear to provide appropriate additional guidance:

a.
Change Criterion #4 to read: “Deploy defenses to assist in deterrence of limited strategic nuclear attack or, in the event deterrence fails, to limit damage from such attacks as well as accidental launches to a low level.”
b.
Add as fifth and sixth criteria:
(1)
Criterion #5. “Maintain the capability to insure relatively favorable outcomes if deterrence fails. (This means a capability for a relatively favorable ratio of fatalities, industrial damage, and residual military assets, as well as for the destruction of a comprehensive military target system under a wide range of war-initiation, war-waging and war-termination situations).”
(2)
Criterion #6. “Maintain forces and supporting command and control systems to permit the enduring controlled employment of forces in limited strategic nuclear warfare.”

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–75–103, 320.2, Strategic (28 Nov 69). Top Secret. The JCS prepared this three-volume study in response to NSSM 64, Document 41. Volume I, printed here, is a summary of the entire study. Volumes II and III are entitled “Rationale and Discussion” and “Analysis, Methodology and Basic Data.” The JCS submitted the study to Laird under a covering memorandum, November 28, 1969. Packard later sent the study to Kissinger under a March 2, 1970, covering memorandum with the following commentary: “The major issue posed at this time is doctrinal in nature—does the concept, or the threat, of limited strategic nuclear warfare (LSNW) warrant further exploration in order to develop alternative force requirements and their estimated costs?” While the response to NSSM 64 contained “information and logic to support useful deliberation on this conceptual question,” Packard continued, it failed to “contain enough system definition and cost information to produce program decisions.” If the concept of LSNW warranted further consideration, he concluded, the JCS response would “provide a foundation for the next stage of DOD study and analysis including system requirements and costs.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–156, NSSM 64)
  2. An unidentified hand wrote in the margin next to this paragraph, “Could be wrong tgts [targets].”
  3. See Document 39.