203. Letter From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to Secretary of Defense Laird1

Dear Mel,

The President has reviewed carefully your recent memorandum on the FY 73 Defense Budget.2

As you know, he fully shares your view that it is essential that we preserve a strong defense posture during this period of new diplomatic initiatives. For this reason, the Defense budget to the Congress should, as you suggest, clearly demonstrate a substantial increase compared to previous years’ requests.

In this regard, the President has decided that a FY 73 budget authority request of approximately $82 billion and outlays of $78.6 billion will meet our security objectives while permitting us to attain our economic objectives.3 These amounts include the effect of the President’s decision to defer the pay raise scheduled for October 1972 until January 1973. Thus, you will be able to allocate additional outlays (estimated at about $360 million) to highest priority needs.

The President has reaffirmed the detailed FY 73 program decisions outlined below and shown on the enclosed tables.4

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  • —Planning a four-site Safeguard program pending the outcome of SALT. Following the successful completion of SALT, further reductions may be in order.
  • —Reductions in our Strategic Air Defense interceptor and missile forces consistent with providing a defense against a small Soviet bomber attack with one to two days’ strategic warning and surface-toair missile defense of Washington, D.C. only.
  • —Reductions of about $350 million of additional All Volunteer Force funds pending assessment of the effects of the recent military pay raise5 on enlistments and identification of most productive programs to attract added recruits. If needed to attain our All Volunteer Force objectives, a request for additional funds will be favorably considered later.
  • —Reductions in intelligence funding consistent with the savings the President directed in his memorandum on Intelligence Community Improvement.6 Some reductions will also be necessary in research and development as well as other support programs.

The President’s earlier decision on funds for air operations in Southeast Asia is revised to reduce the funds by about $100 million instead of the $190 million he approved originally. With the additional funds the President wishes to ensure we have the needed forces to fly at least 8,000 sorties monthly during FY 73 thereby providing adequate forces to react to unexpected threats. However, he has decided that planning for lower actual sorties levels during periods of poor weather and reduced enemy activity should enable us to achieve budgetary savings. FY 73 budget decisions should not limit the President’s later consideration of a wide range of FY 73 programs.

In view of the estimated savings of $360 million from the pay raise deferral, the $78.6 billion level will permit you to finance new initiatives or programs you consider to have high priority. From these funds you should provide for any employment support actions. Also, you should provide $135 million for the strategic submarine building initiative. The specific submarine program to be pursued will be determined later by the President based on a careful review of the issues.

I recognize that you may have to make some further changes to the Defense Program to reach the $78.6 billion outlay target. As you know, however, the President is deeply concerned over the force reductions we have had to make over the past three years. Therefore, [Page 899] further budgetary reductions should not reduce significantly our current forces or their readiness.

In approving this Defense Program for FY 1973, the President wishes to reaffirm his conviction that such a substantial budget increase should provide for a strong defense posture fully capable of supporting his foreign policy. I know that he can count on your full support in ensuring that this capability is provided.

Warm regards,

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–76–207, 110.01, Budget. Top Secret; Eyes Only. The letter bears a note indicating that Laird saw it on January 6, 1972.
  2. Laird sent Nixon a memorandum on December 8 recommending FY 1973 Defense Department outlays in the range of $79.5 to $80 billion. (Ibid.: FRC 330–77–0094, 337, White House)
  3. During his telephone conversation with Shultz on December 24, President Nixon confirmed these figures and discussed the budgeting process. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Recording of Conversation between Nixon and Shultz, White House Telephone, Conversation No. 17–5)
  4. Two page-length tables are enclosed but not printed. The first details the adjustments to the FY 1973 Defense Department budget approved by the President. The second, “The FY 73 DOD Posture,” outlines the strategic and general purpose forces purchased by that budget.
  5. See footnote 2, Document 185.
  6. On November 5, Nixon issued a memorandum ordering a reorganization of the U.S. intelligence community. For the text, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume II, Organization and Management of Foreign Policy, 1969–1972, Document 242.