216. Minutes of Defense Program Review Committee Meeting1

    • Strategic Policy
    • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
    • State
      • U. Alexis Johnson
      • Leon Sloss
      • Seymour Weiss
    • DOD
      • Kenneth Rush
      • Dr. Gardiner Tucker
      • Archie Wood
    • JCS
      • Vice Adm. John P. Weinel 2
      • Major Gen. John H. Elder, Jr.
    • CIA
      • Lt. Gen. Vernon A. Walters
      • Bruce Clarke
    • OMB
      • Caspar Weinberger
      • Kenneth Dam
    • CEA
      • Ezra Solomon
    • ACDA
      • Vice Adm. John Lee
      • Dr. David Leestma
    • AEC
      • James Schlesinger
    • NCS
      • Philip Odeen
      • Hal Sonnenfeldt
      • Col. Jack Merritt
      • David Aaron
      • Jim Hackett


It was agreed that:

  • —The Working Group will prepare before the end of summer a paper which describes conceptually and practically what our strategic policy should be. It should include a discussion of targeting policy, force levels, possible differences from present force levels and technical developments that may be necessary. It should also address the question of whether our strategic forces can play a role in the defense of our allies.
  • —The JCS will submit a paper explaining and justifying its support of strategic objective No. 6, which states that the United States should maintain the capability to emerge from nuclear warfare in a position of relative advantage.
  • —The Working Group will prepare a study of our counterforce capability against the PRC.

Mr. Kissinger: This meeting is dealing with a paper3 that has been somewhat overtaken by events, but I thought we should have a preliminary meeting to see what the various views on this subject are before the paper is updated. Some aspects of the paper have been overtaken by the SALT agreements and require no further discussion, however, we have two key issues to address: 1) to see if we can refine the strategic objectives defined by NSDM 164 and, 2) to see if we can narrow the range of choices of alternative strategic objectives in light of the SALT agreements. Now much of this involves targeting information and targeting policy, which I don’t want to discuss here in detail, but rather in general policy terms.

There were four criteria laid down by NSDM 16. They are listed in the executive summary5 and you may want to refer to them if you have it with you. The four criteria are:

Maintain high confidence that our second strike capability is sufficient to deter an all-out surprise attack on our strategic forces.
Maintain forces to insure that the Soviet Union would have no incentive to strike the United States first in a crisis.
Maintain the capability to deny to the Soviet Union the ability to cause significantly more deaths and industrial damage in the United States in a nuclear war than they themselves would suffer.
Deploy defenses which limit damage from small attacks or accidental launches to a low level.

Number four is no longer applicable in light of the SALT agreements. Now has everybody agreed to the six principles of U.S. policy regarding strategic forces? Does everyone have them?

Mr. Rush: Where are they listed?

Mr. Odeen: Everyone has them. There is a list of strategic objectives on page three of the executive summary.6

[Page 957]

Mr. Kissinger: Alex (Johnson), have you had a chance to review them?

Mr. Johnson: Yes, I have. The first five present no problem for us, but we disagree with the sixth, the one that reads “Maintain the obvious capability to ensure that the United States would emerge in a position of relative advantage from any level of strategic nuclear warfare.” We have had a fundamental disagreement with Defense on that issue for a long time.

Mr. Kissinger: What I would like someone to tell me is what “relative advantage” means. Does anyone know what it means? Can anyone give me a definition of that term?

Mr. Johnson: I’d like to hear that definition, too.

Mr. Kissinger: The JCS supports this objective, can you (Adm. Weinel) give us a definition?

Adm. Weinel: Well, I don’t know that there is a specific definition of that term. The view of the JCS is that after a nuclear exchange some life will continue and that it is important who would have a relative advantage at that time, or how fast one side could recoup vis-à-vis the other.

Mr. Johnson: The value of that advantage would be for deterrence, not for actual planning for a post-exchange resurgence.

Mr. Schlesinger: Of course, the whole idea is deterrence. If we have the ability to recover faster, it helps deter our opponent.

Mr. Kissinger: If I understand the President’s instincts, he would not object to this kind of policy objective, providing you can give it some operational meaning. For example, how much will it cost? What does it mean for our next defense budget?

Mr. Johnson: Yes, the cost is the real key to this objective.

Mr. Schlesinger: It means $50 to $100 million a year for a civil defense program. We would have to revive the whole issue of civil defense, which has been dormant for years.

Adm. Weinel: That’s right.

Mr. Schlesinger: In any case, we should now reconsider the whole civil defense question in light of the SALT agreements. If the Soviets’ [Page 958] capabilities both offensively and defensively are frozen by SALT, we have an opportunity to make important progress in the civil defense area.

Mr. Johnson: They’re not that frozen! We’re talking here about strategic forces, not civil defense. How does civil defense translate into strategic forces?

Adm. Weinel: It translates into a second strike capability.

Mr. Kissinger: You can’t translate civil defense into a second strike capability! Item No. 6 says you must emerge from a nuclear assault in relative advantage to the other side. How do you translate that into anything? Since the JCS has wanted this point, let’s have the JCS explain it to us, rather than have Jim (Schlesinger) invent answers for them.

Mr. Rush: Your suggestion is a good one. Let’s have the JCS do a paper explaining it. The implication of item No. 6 is that we would be going for superiority rather than sufficiency. Are we prepared to do that?

Mr. Kissinger: Sufficiency means superiority.

Mr. Johnson: Let’s not overlook item No. 2, which reads: “Prevent coercion of the United States and its allies with nuclear threats.” The reference to our allies is very important. Sy (Weiss) do you want to comment on this?

Mr. Weiss: This is important. The credibility we can convey to our allies concerning our defense commitment and the possible use of nuclear weapons in that connection diminishes as Soviet strength, particularly in ballistic missiles, continues to grow. The credibility of our willingness to rush to their defense is being eroded by the growth of the Soviet missile force.

Mr. Kissinger: What do you think we should do about it?

Mr. Weiss: Well, for the sake of conversation, we might develop in our strategic forces elements that are not targeted toward urban/industrial targets. Our commitments to our allies might seem more credible if we had an enhanced counterforce capability. I’m not arguing for it; I’m merely stating a view that is gaining currency in Europe.

Adm. Lee: It’s important to remember that the urban/industrial city-busting concept is not just an anti-population strategy. It includes all kinds of targets; military installations, air bases, etc.

Mr. Kissinger: I want to make clear that the SALT talks did not create this situation. It was caused by the continuing development by the Soviets of their strategic forces. Now we must ask ourselves if our strategic forces can play a role in defense of our allies under objectives 1, 2, 3 and 4. If we decide that they can, we will have one range of answers, while if not, we will have another. But this is a key question that we must consider.

[Page 959]

Mr. Tucker: If we talk about the defense of our allies with nuclear weapons, we must expand the scope of the study.

Mr. Kissinger: I’ve been trying to find out for years precisely what tactical nuclear weapons are and why we need 7,000 of them in Europe. 200 might be enough.

Mr. Tucker: Sure, it might. But it would be a signal to the Soviets if we were to reduce them.

Mr. Kissinger: I accept that premise.

Mr. Weiss: Even if we are persuaded that it is in the U.S. national interest to go to war in Europe with nuclear weapons, could we persuade the allies that it would be in their interest? They may not feel that it is.

Mr. Kissinger: I’m worried that we are sliding along with our strategic forces without a clear picture of where we are going or even where we want to go. We are building up on one side and at the same time may be moving policy-wise in another direction. We may suddenly find that we don’t have the political support we need to do what we have been planning for. I can only say that we are lucky that we have never been really close to the threshold of nuclear confrontation. The same question was asked in the Kennedy Administration and it was resolved in favor of CONUS based forces.

Mr. Weiss: We have to look at the configuration of strategic forces with these questions in mind.

Adm. Weinel: I don’t see any big problem of political support. The President is the Commander in Chief and has the authority. If he wants to shoot one at a cathouse in Murmansk he can go ahead and do it.

Mr. Kissinger: Yes, but then what scenario do you follow? How do you limit the exchange? How do you control it? I have never seen a study of how this would be done. I don’t think anyone knows how it would be done. Do we have the best forces to do this sort of thing? Is that what we should have? Just what are we trying to do with our strategic forces?

Adm. Lee: Much more planning needs to be done in this area. Most nuclear planning has concentrated on the tactical forces.

Mr. Schlesinger: The Soviets are not restrained by an ACDA, as we are.

Mr. Kissinger: Gen. Grechko7 told me his ACDA is under his direct control.

Mr. Schlesinger: You may want to include in your discussions with the Soviets at SALT II the point that piling up payload at a limited [Page 960] number of points may permit us to knock out 65% of their payload with one strike.

Mr. Kissinger: Then where would we be?

Mr. Schlesinger: I’m not saying we should do it. This is not something to be implemented, but rather an illustration to present a position of relative strength to the Soviets in the negotiations.

Mr. Weiss: If we are considering an increasing scale of nuclear activity, Jim’s (Schlesinger) option, i.e., his scenario of taking out a large chunk of their missile force, would be better than hitting cities. Some people will argue that a force targeted against cities is the best deterrent, but others will claim that it is so inconceivable to do so that it is really no deterrence at all.

Adm. Lee: You don’t have to hit cities. Instead of hard targets, you can hit other military and industrial targets.

Mr. Kissinger: What is your point?

Adm. Lee: It is a matter of record that we are not going against hard targets, so I am saying that population centers are not the only alternative.

Mr. Schlesinger: We ought to have a counterforce force if the Soviets continue developing the SS–9.

Mr. Kissinger: Well, I can see that we won’t settle this today, but we should review these various positions. We need some idea of the level of forces each position requires and a general strategic posture for it. Until recently, we had such superiority that we had a series of options and were not forced to seriously consider these various postures. Now we have to do it.

Mr. Johnson: I agree. Until you see how these concepts translate into forces, they really don’t mean much.

Mr. Kissinger: What we are talking about is targeting and the doctrinal issue of what we are going to use these forces for. The Soviets must now realize that there is a changed strategic situation, but it took them a long time to reach that realization. We have had a free ride for years now on their memory of the previous strategic situation.

Mr. Johnson: We can’t leave the PRC out of our consideration.

Mr. Kissinger: That’s the next question on the agenda. How long do we want to maintain a counterforce capability against the PRC? We wrote off our superiority over the Soviets much too early. In 1961–62 we were talking of parity with the Soviets when we still had superiority and they in effect acknowledged our superiority for years thereafter. We don’t want to make the same mistake with the Chinese. What we have to do regarding the PRC is determine how long we can go without a counterforce targeted against it. Should we target our missiles to overfly the Soviet Union against the PRC, or to overfly the PRC against the Soviets? We have to consider these issues.

[Page 961]

Mr. Johnson: That would mean no more summits.

Mr. Schlesinger: We have [less than 1 line not declassified] warheads, but we are going to need larger warheads for the PRC. We could start with the Trident missile and back-fit to Poseidon.

Mr. Weinberger: A year ago I heard that a lot of our missiles were targeted against empty holes. Do we know how many of them really are?

Mr. Kissinger: I don’t believe we have any more precise information on that than we did a year ago. The question hasn’t been resolved, so far as I know. We probably would be hitting some empty holes.

Mr. Clarke: The previous comments suggested that we have a counterforce capability against the PRC. Do we have a counterforce capability against them right now?

Mr. Kissinger: That’s a good question. Would you please address it in a paper for us?

Mr. Clarke: Yes, I will. I think the question here is whether we can get all of the Chinese TU–16s and missiles. If not, it is then a question whether we really have a counterforce capability against them.

Mr. Kissinger: As I said before, we were wrong in figuring our counterforce capability against the Soviets. If one side has only ten missiles and the other has overwhelming force, the side with ten missiles has no counter-city deterrent for all practical purposes. It would be nuts for such a country to strike against a power with overwhelming force, or with an effective ABM defense, for that matter.

Adm. Lee: It hasn’t inhibited the French. With a Force de Frappe of ten subs Pompidou takes a tough line.

Mr. Kissinger: Maybe so, but I don’t think anyone takes his Force de Frappe seriously. What we must do in preparing our papers is avoid the liturgical line such as I was writing when I was doing work on this issue. (to Mr. Odeen) Do we have enough now to do a working group paper?

Mr. Odeen: Yes.

Mr. Kissinger: Now, I don’t want any waffling. Let’s get together your pristine versions in detail; targeting policy, force levels, differences from present force levels, what technical developments are necessary—let’s try to get it done this summer, before we get into another budget. I would like to have it finished at least by the end of the year.

Mr. Weinberger: I understand that Scoop Jackson is fighting the ABM and the National Capital Defense tooth and nail.

Mr. Kissinger: Secretary Laird says that’s all under control. The Secretary of Defense wouldn’t mislead us.

Mr. Tucker: I believe it is not as bad as it may appear.

[Page 962]

Mr. Kissinger: You should put down on paper conceptually and practically what you think should be done, avoiding any watered-down agreements.

Mr. Johnson: Are you (Mr. Schlesinger) going ahead with the new warheads on Poseidon?

Mr. Schlesinger: Yes, we are.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–118, DPRC Minutes, Originals, 1969–73 [2 of 3]. Top Secret. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room. On June 24, Odeen sent a memorandum to Kissinger informing him that the “basic purpose of the DPRC meeting on Strategic Policy is to force the bureaucracy to face the consequences of the SALT Agreements for the kind of strategic objectives and alternative force posture we can realistically plan for.” (Ibid., Box H–105, DPRC Meeting, Strategic Objectives Posture, 6/27/72)
  2. Member of the Strategic Planning Staff, JCS.
  3. See Document 204.
  4. Document 39.
  5. See footnote 1, Document 204.
  6. Page 3 of the Executive Summary of “U.S. Strategic Objectives and Force Posture,” January 3, 1972, listed the following six U.S. strategic objectives: deter strategic nuclear attacks against the United States and its allies; prevent coercion of the United States and its allies with nuclear threats; contribute to the deterrence of tactical nuclear and conventional attack on vital U.S. security interests; maintain strategic stability with the Soviet Union, both in terms of discouraging a first strike during a crisis and in minimizing the incentives for an arms race, thereby reducing the likelihood of nuclear war; if deterrence fails, limit damage to the United States and its allies to the extent possible and terminate nuclear warfare as quickly as possible on terms favorable to the United States; and maintain the obvious capability to ensure that the United States would emerge in a position of relative advantage from any level of strategic nuclear warfare. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–105, DRPC Meeting, Strategic Objectives Posture, 6/27/72)
  7. General Andrei Antonovich Grechko, Soviet Minister of Defense.