16. Minutes of National Security Council Meeting1

Packard: Complex problem. No simple rationale or basis for going ahead.

Area defense:

PAR—1500–2000 mi range.

Spartan—kill radius of 20 mi. (later said 12 mi for soft targets, 4 mi for hard targets) Fallout not a problem.

Quite a large number of missiles can be handled. MSR can handle 20 targets, control 10 missiles.

PAR components tested. No test prior to 1st installation.

MSR Operating unit at Kwajalein.

Spartan being flight tested [with] 4 MT warhead; some test problems, but not serious.

In 1962, Soviets tested ABM warhead in the air. Nixon noted. We had done nothing in this field.

Sprint: 2KT warhead, 55 mi max range.

1967 Threat

4–8 Chinese ICBMs by 1972.
Soviets level off at 1482. High estimate.
Adequate warning predicted for bombers.

Threat changes

3MT Chinese warhead tested; their missile test facilities expanded; 20 ICBMs by 1975. (None operational now)
Soviets ICBM build-up continuing; additional SS–9s good against our missiles; development of MIRV. Evidence suggests threat against land-based missiles.
Soviet Y class BMS in serial production.
Soviets have tested FOBS; depressed trajectory flight development continuing.

Summarizes our forces, Soviet forces now and in 1976. Mentions that we should maintain bombers, get a new one.

Nixon: Compelling argument for bombers is that they can be put on alert.

[Page 55]

Lynn note: you can’t say you have expansion for defense of Hawaii and Alaska, no expansion for cities.

Packard: Weakness is that they take a long time to get there. We will want a multiplicity of capabilities.

Mentions 10 1 MT bombs, do same damage as 1 25 MT bomb.

Your capability depends on hardness of targets.

Also, only a fraction of your force is needed for deterrence.

Don’t have to protect 90% of your force. Not the same with protection of population; can’t protect just 20% of population.

Reviewed alternatives.

Modified Sentinel

Oriented toward protection of our retaliatory capability

Provides for defense of Minuteman sites. 4 radars in MM sites plus Sprint & Spartan missiles. Giving attention to protection of SAC bomber bases. Not feasible to provide hard point defense of bombers; they are soft targets. Key is SLBM threat, short warning.

Protection of NCA is very important problem.

Nixon: Take out of discussion term “Washington, D.C.” Use words National Command Authority.

Packard: Provides for expansion. Provides protection in increments. “Does not provide option to defend major cities with Sprints (except Washington).” Will not provide that foundation. Maybe some locations close to cities. But orientation is not toward protection of major cities.

Nixon: Don’t use term “initial investment.”

Mayo: Isn’t it true that cash savings are less than TOA savings?

Packard: We could take another 3 month delay to completion and save another $200 million in TOA. We recommend going ahead without further delay. We’re a little late now.

We recommend proceeding with modified system. Can’t be justified on basis of defense of bombers only or missiles only. We believe we need multiplicity of elements in system. Won’t complicate talks with Soviets.

Nixon: Why not just build more offensive capability?

Packard: This move would encourage continuation of the arms race. It would be more provocative.

Agnew: Won’t Soviets still be able to damage our cities? If so, what good does this do?

Packard: We have no damage limiting capability. We depend on retaliating capability as a deterrent.

Agnew: Is this giving us added retaliatory capability?

General assent from Nixon, Wheeler and Packard.

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Agnew: Isn’t it at a high cost?

Packard: Shows chart2 on Alternatives to Minuteman Defense. No alternative is as attractive as system we are proposing.

Wheeler: We do not stress enough the Chicom ICBM threat. I look at it as reverse deterrence. Chicoms could defer [deter] you from assisting in defense of Taiwan with no ABM.

Nixon: How long would we have credible first strike capability against Chicoms?

Wheeler: Through 1970s.

Helms: Wheeler’s right.

Laird: I would say much longer, into 1980s.

Nixon: Our desire here is for its political effect. We won’t trade off any city here against anything out there.

Packard: This deployment would put uncertainty into any Chinese calculation.

Agnew: Emphasis misplaced. I can see people on hill objecting to going ahead and not providing complete protection.

Laird: People on hill impressed with need for a retaliatory capability.

Agnew: Don’t we have enough with Polaris and the bombers?

Laird: Polaris can’t destroy their missiles. Our backgrounders will put China first.

Nixon: Where is Soviet ABM directed?

Helms: Soviet ABM is directed entirely against U.S.

Nixon: Soviets are moving ahead at an escalating rate, is that right?

Helms: Yes.

Mayo: We have an important budget problem for FY 70. I would hope that you could keep options open with respect to budget reviews a few days or at most a week! If we want Sentinel, where else can we save? Other agencies aren’t taking budget stringency that seriously. I wish there were something between $6 billion and 0.

Nixon: Your argument should be considered. I would urge that never publicly indicate option was held open for budget reasons.

Mayo: I feel that very strongly.

Richardson: Can it be made clear that option precludes population defense? Would system as proposed for retaliatory protection be the same if bomber protection were left out?

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Packard: This deployment does not provide rational base for going to thick system. We can state this categorically.

Smith: I must testify tomorrow. It would help if I could state that there is no consideration to going with a thick system.

Nixon: Leave thick system hanging out there a bit and let’s come down from it. You could say you strongly oppose it. It didn’t disturb me that Bill and Mel came out differently on ABM.3 But matter is still up for consideration.

Packard: To Richardson’s second question. We could consider lesser deployments: command only, missiles only. No capability against China unless we have complete area defense.

Nixon: I may want to meet with all of you again.

Packard: Talking points on p. 17. I stressed retaliating here partly because this is a new feature. Public statement puts China first, retaliatory protection second.4

Nixon: Thick system wouldn’t provide any protection against surprise attack?

Packard: Only a little.

Nixon: That’s the point.

Agnew: Could we push this off a little in the interest of flexibility?

Packard: We concluded it would be unwise to delay the deployment.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–109, NSC Meeting Minutes, Originals, 1969. Top Secret; Sensitive. No drafting information appears on the minutes. The meeting lasted from 8:42 to 10:32 a.m., was held the Cabinet Room of the White House, and was attended by the President, Kissinger, Vice President Agnew, Rogers, Laird, David Kennedy, Lincoln, Wheeler, Helms, Richardson, Gerard Smith, Mayo, Lee A. DuBridge, Packard, Lynn, and Haig. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary)
  2. Not found.
  3. In his February 20 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Laird stated that the United States should deploy a missile defense system because of the “very rapid” progress made by the Soviet Union in the strategic arms race. Rogers, in his testimony of February 18 before the same committee, had advocated delaying further deployment of an ABM system pending the outcome of arms control negotiations with the Soviets. (New York Times, February 21, 1969)
  4. See footnote 3, Document 15.