151. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1

  • SUBJECT
    • August 19 NSC Meeting on the Defense Program

Background

On June 2, you directed (see Tab A)2 the DPRC to review the implications of the issues raised by the Secretary of Defense in his memorandum of May 31, 1970 (see Tab B).3

I presented a preliminary review of the DPRC work to you in San Clemente on July 28.4 At that time you had a number of questions. Subsequently, I conveyed these questions to the DPRC (see Tab C).5 The paper we will be considering in the NSC was revised to address the issues you raised.

Much thoughtful work has gone into preparing this paper and, while we continue to have a number of basic questions, we can act with much greater confidence as a result of exploring the issues in depth as we have.

It is generally agreed that the Department of Defense can and must accept some budgetary reductions for FY 72. Following are the major issues:

All Volunteer Force

It is agreed that there can be reductions of $700 million in FY 72, and perhaps more, without seriously affecting the credibility of your commitment to the All-Volunteer Armed Force.

Strategtic Force

The DPRC agreed that we must not make visible reductions in our strategic forces which would undermine our position in SALT.6 [Page 555]However, there are ways of reducing costs without seriously affecting the visible force and without serious loss to our strategic capabilities.

Strategic Bombers. The Department of Defense Current Program reduces B–52 bombers by 76 aircraft while adding about 40 FB–111s, giving a force of 503 bombers in FY 72 as compared to the existing 540 bomber force. If we accept that there can be no visible reductions to the strategic bomber force, we may still be able to develop options which reduce operating costs for the retained force.

Titan Missiles. Ultimately, we intend to phase out Titan missiles since they are both inaccurate and unreliable.

Safeguard. If we get a SALT agreement by July of 1971 which limits or bans ABM, we would be able to save more than $1 billion for the NCA option or about $2 billion for the zero option.

If SALT discussions continue beyond January 1971, however, we must send up the next phase of the program in the FY 72 DOD budget. We can consider a full-speed-ahead program for Safeguard in FY 72, or we can select the option of zero, one, or two new sites for FY 72, which will mean smaller outlays. However, slowing down the program delays the completion of Safeguard two to four years and increases total costs $1 to $3 billion.

Air Defense. There is general agreement that we can make significant reductions in CONUS air defenses. Not only is our defense relatively ineffective against Soviet low-level attack techniques, there is also the question as to the value of building air defenses without having a missile defense.

We may want to make some qualitative improvements in our air defense at a later date, but no decisions are needed now.

General Purpose Forces

The DPRC looked at reductions of $2.4, $3.0, and $5.0 billion in outlays for General Purpose Forces. It was generally agreed that a reduction of $5 billion would seriously impair the capability of our General Purpose Forces and should not be considered.

The likely reductions appear to be in the area of tactical air forces, attack carriers, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) forces, and amphibious task forces.

While we can probably make these reductions without serious risk, we do not have a good understanding of the role of tactical air forces and their contribution to our capability. It may well be that some of the missions for tactical air forces do not make an important contribution (we believe this to be so in Vietnam), but I believe much more thoughtful work needs to be done.

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Similarly, we do not to my satisfaction understand the role and capabilities of our ASW forces. This will be covered in the Defense review I am starting at San Clemente.

Ground forces remain the same in all the feasible alternatives. We will have about 830,000 men in the Army, the lowest level since the Korean War. Yet, there are serious questions about the adequacy of our NATO posture and many argue that we should put more reliance on our nuclear deterrent. However, with a balance in both strategic and tactical nuclear forces, which now exists, if we reduce our General Purpose Forces too far, we may be inviting exploitation in the area of our greater weakness.

In summary, I think we have reasonable understanding of our strategic forces and have developed sensible options, although some additional work has to be done. While there is much less certainty surrounding our General Purpose Forces, I think we have identified suitable areas for reduction, given that reductions must be made.

The NSC Meeting

I recommend that:

  • —you defer decision on specific items during the NSC meeting;
  • —you state that, after deciding, you will provide revised budgetary guidance and your priorities for shaping the defense posture.

Your talking points are in your book.7

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–29, NSC Meeting—Defense Budget 8/19/70 [1 of 2]. Top Secret.
  2. Nixon’s June 2 memorandum to Rogers, Laird, Helms, and Kissinger is attached but not printed.
  3. Laird’s memorandum, sent on May 30, is Document 143.
  4. See Documents 147 and 148.
  5. Kissinger’s August 4 memorandum to the DPRC is attached but not printed.
  6. See Document 149.
  7. Nixon’s briefing book for the NSC meeting included his talking points, a 1-page paper prepared by the NSC Staff that scripted the President’s opening and closing remarks. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–29, NSC Meeting—Defense Budget 8/19/70 [1 of 2])