219. Minutes of Defense Program Review Committee Meeting1
- NSSM 69—Asia Strategy and Forces
- Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
- U. Alexis Johnson
- Ronald Spiers
- Les Brown
- Michael Armacost
- James Wilson
- Kenneth Rush
- Gardiner Tucker
- Paul Brands
- Adm. Thomas Moorer
- Lt. Gen. Vernon
[name not declassified]
- Lt. Gen. Vernon Walters
- Ezra Solomon
- Kenneth Dam
- Vice Adm. John Lee
- Capt. Charles Allen
- Edward David
- Philip Odeen
- Col. T.C. Pinckney
- Cmdr. John Knubel
- Mark Wandler
SUMMARY OF CONCLUSIONS
It was agreed that:
- —Defense, JCS and CIA should prepare a joint paper, plotted over a ten-year period, on a nuclear disarming strike of the PRC. The paper should show growing numbers of weapons on both sides during the ten-year period. It should also indicate what weapons the Chinese would have left after the strike and what targets the Chinese would hit with these weapons.
- —A briefing will be held within the next two weeks for the DPRC principals to discuss the use of tactical nuclear weapons.
- —The Defense deployment study should be sent to the White House and State for comment. No action on deployments will be taken until the White House and State have reviewed the paper.
Mr. Kissinger: This discussion grows out of a session we had last December,2 which grew out of a session some time before that3—when you [Mr. Tucker] tried to prove that South Vietnam and Thailand could defeat China. Let’s try today to pull together some of the basic issues. The starting point is NSDM 27,4 which calls for a strategy of defending against a PRC attack in NEA or SEA, while providing some aid to our Asian allies against a non-PRC attack.
Mr. Johnson: What NSDM is that?
Mr. Kissinger: NSDM 27.
Mr. Johnson: That’s right. I had forgotten about it.
Mr. Kissinger: There are several major questions we have to discuss. First, what ground force capability should we plan for to support our Asian strategy through the 1970s? What tactical nuclear strategy should we plan against a large-scale Chinese conventional attack? We should also consider how these questions relate to our strategic nuclear strategy. For example, should we seek an improved capability to limit damage from PRC retaliation or to initiate an attack on the PRC, if necessary?
All of the questions depend on the considerations we make at the outset of the study: for example, the likelihood of war, the capabilities of our allies and the risks of using nuclear weapons. The major strategy options, as I understand them, are:
- No land forces for any Asian contingency.
- Plan land, sea and air forces against a PRC attack in NEA only. We would follow this option because we assume that a Chinese attack in SEA is too unlikely.
- Plan land, sea and air forces against a PRC attack in SEA or NEA.
- Plan land, sea and air forces against a PRC attack in NEA or SEA, plus aid to Asian allies against a non-PRC attack.
I think it was also agreed that with our current Security Assistance levels, our allies in both SEA and NEA could resist a non-PRC attack—if no insurgency accompanied the attack. But the allies would still require our air and naval support. (to Mr. Tucker) Is that a correct presentation of the strategy options?
Mr. Tucker: Yes. I should point out, though, that if a major insurgency accompanied a non-PRC attack, up to four U.S. divisions might [Page 983]be required. And against a PRC attack, substantial U.S. ground forces would be required.
Mr. Kissinger: Have I identified the issues?
Mr. Tucker: Yes.
Adm. Moorer: You should realize that each one of these strategy options calls for air and naval support.
Mr. Kissinger: Yes, I realize that. I’m going to ask Gardiner [Tucker] and Tom [Adm. Moorer] to comment on the study.5 But before I do that, I want to say that the force-level decision we are facing is theoretical. We’re really talking about a deployment decision because no matter which option we choose we will still maintain 13-2/3 divisions, and we will have the capability to intervene if we want to, especially if we have withdrawn forces from the forward defenses in Asia. And even if we do not deploy from Asia, no one is advocating that we reduce our total ground forces. So what we’re really talking about is a deployment decision, not a force-level decision. Is that right?
Mr. Tucker: Yes, it is. We might choose a strategy which would call for reductions in our military deployments in Asia. But we might not want to make those reductions for political reasons. We might feel, for example, that the reductions would result in our allies losing confidence in us. So we have to think about both considerations, political as well as military.
Mr. Kissinger: Okay. Gardiner, do you want to brief us on the study?
Mr. Tucker: After the last meeting, you called for more work: to explain the methodology used in determining how many ground forces would be needed for the SEA and NEA contingencies; to understand the differences between the JCS analysis and ours; to review the tactical nuclear weapons concept, in order to see whether we should plan to use these weapons as part of our defense against a conventional PRC attack. You also wanted us to look at the strategic nuclear strategy—at the possibility of a disarming strike. Finally, you wanted us to look at a deployment plan so that we could tell our allies where we are going as we withdraw from Vietnam. These are the political and military requirements you tasked us with. We’ve done all of them except the long-range deployment study, which is still in the works.6
Mr. Kissinger: Is State involved in that study?
Mr. Tucker: No, not yet.[Page 984]
Mr. Kissinger: State should be involved in it because the political impact may be more important than the military impact in some of the Asian countries.
Adm. Moorer: I agree. State will get a chance to work on the study. But we first wanted to establish the military requirements, and we have just about done that now.
Mr. Kissinger: Okay.
Mr. Tucker: First we had to get the facts. JCS is looking at these now so it can determine what the military requirements will be to implement the various strategies. When that’s done, State and ISA will look at the political implications of the strategies. I expect this whole process will take another couple of months.
On the other studies, we’ve gone over the requirements and done the analysis. The analysis, as you said earlier, depends on the assumptions you start out with, especially the assumption about insurgency. When JCS starts out with the same assumptions we do, the difference in our net result narrows.
I have a table7 here which summarizes all the results. [Hands out table to the principals.] After we take a look at it, we can talk about the capabilities we need to meet each of the requirements. At the left, we show the situation in NEA. First we show the threat from North Korea alone, and then the threat from North Korea and the PRC.
Mr. Kissinger: What is a DFE?
Mr. Tucker: That’s a Division Force Equivalent. You can also see that we show moderate and high attacks with the Korean/PRC threat. The moderate threat, which CIA thinks is the most probable, postulates an attack of ten to fifteen Chinese and North Korean divisions on South Korea. We also assume in this case that most of the Chinese troops on the northern border remain there during the attack on Korea. The high threat, which DIA classifies as the maximum threat, assumes that the Chinese are able to take many of their troops away from the Soviet border and that they are able to overcome the mobilization constraints which affect them in the moderate threat.
Mr. Kissinger: In the high threat the Chinese will be pulling many troops away from the border area, right?
Mr. Tucker: Right.
Mr. Johnson: In all of these cases, our divisions are supplementing the local forces. Isn’t that correct?[Page 985]
Mr. Tucker: Yes, it is. And we’re talking about one to four U.S. divisions. JCS used a different methodology, and it concluded that we would need four to eight divisions.
In SEA, we have the pessimistic and the optimistic approaches. In the pessimistic approach, there is no improvement in the capabilities of our allies, and insurgencies tie down all the local forces. The U.S. is left, therefore, to face the conventional threat alone. In the optimistic approach, we assume the RF/PF in Vietnam and the National Police in Thailand can handle the insurgencies. We also assume the Security Assistance programs bring the ARVN and Thai regular forces to a point where they equal six and two DFEs.
Mr. Kissinger: What about the combined North Vietnamese-PRC threats to SEA?
Mr. Tucker: The total ground threat in SEA is limited by the logistical constraints for the enemy. If an intense effort were made, we think there would be one dry-season campaign throughout SEA. On the other hand, if the Communists planned a year-round campaign, they would build up a big enough logistical base during the dry season to support their forces during the rainy season. I want to emphasize that the constraint is from logistics, not men.
Mr. Johnson: And you are assuming they will launch a general attack throughout all of SEA?
Mr. Tucker: That’s right. In this analysis we would not plan to defend Burma, either. If all the local forces are tied down with insurgencies, the U.S. force requirement would be four divisions. The Chiefs agree with us on that. With the high threat, we believe the requirement will be for eight divisions, while the Chiefs think the requirement will be for 8-2/3 divisions. The JCS did not address the best case in either SEA or NEA because they only deal with worst case analysis. They did say, however, that if they made a best case analysis and used the same assumptions we did, they would come out with the same figures we did. There are no divergent figures on SEA.
Once we came up with these force requirement figures, we compared them to the current plans for force levels. We refer continually to our ability to deploy 16-2/3 divisions to NATO if nothing is going on in Asia by M plus 113 days. That is an arbitrary figure which we arrived at by adding 90 days of combat to 23 days of warning. If we are at peace and we want to go to Asia, we could call up the reserves and deploy seven divisions to Asia, while still getting seventeen divisions to NATO on schedule. If we don’t want to call up the reserves, we can still deploy 3-2/3 divisions to Asia and get 15–2/3 divisions to NATO by M plus 113. But we would have a harder time supporting these forces if the reserves were not called up. By sharing the support burden, we could probably get some more divisions to Asia, to give a [Page 986]total combat capability there roughly equivalent to five divisions with full support. However, if we did that, we would be reducing our NATO deployment capability to about twelve divisions by M plus 90.
In each Asian theater, we will have adequate Tac Air without calling up the reserves. If greater threats were to develop, we could always call on the reserves or temporarily drawdown NATO-oriented forces in CONUS.
Even if we are faced with the worst case in Asia, a case where we would need 8 or 8–2/3 divisions, I think we’ll be able to meet the crisis pretty well with our current force levels.
Mr. Dam: That’s encouraging.
Mr. Kissinger: (to Adm. Moorer) Tom, do you agree?
Adm. Moorer: I’d like to make a few comments on this study when Gardiner is done with his presentation.
Mr. Kissinger: Fair enough. Go ahead, Gardiner. But first let me ask you if we would have any forces left in CONUS if we go ahead with the deployments you suggest in the worst case analysis?
Mr. Tucker: No, not if we make these deployments without calling up the reserves.
Mr. Kissinger: Does Mel [Laird] have a division earmarked for NATO stashed away on Okinawa?
Mr. Tucker: There is a division on Okinawa which has at certain times been earmarked for NATO duty.
Mr. Johnson: I never heard that before.
Mr. Tucker: We would be faced with a number of questions in deployment terms if we moved that division to CONUS. Besides, it’s good that we keep the division on Okinawa because it shows that we are maintaining a presence out there.
Mr. Kissinger: But we count it as part of NATO. How would we count the division if it were stationed here? Would it be part of the 3-2/3 divisions scheduled for deployment to Asia if it were stationed here?
Mr. Tucker: Yes, it would be. A mobile division would take its place in the NATO count. Let me outline, if I may, the positions we took in our planning guidance. First, we said that we had to have the capability to conduct a forward defense, as put forth in NSDM 27. Second, we said we would run the Security Assistance program with the top priority of giving our allies the capability for handling indigenous threats by themselves. Then we would give the allies the ground capability for handling, with U.S. air and naval support, non-PRC attacks. Then we would give them the balanced capability for handling all aspects of a non-PRC attack. Finally, if all that were done, we would give the allies the initial capability for defending against a Chinese attack.[Page 987]
It’s not rational to think that we can do all of this. As I said, it’s just planning guidance. We say that we want to have the capability to implement the NSDM 27 strategy of a forward defense in Asia against a moderate threat. And we want to do this without undue drawdown of our NATO-oriented forces. In addition, we would like to do all of this without calling up the reserves. If the threat is more serious than we had anticipated, we could do a number of things: call up the reserves; drawdown our NATO-oriented forces, and call on our allies for help. In other words, we have additional resources to bring to bear on the problem if the NSDM 27 strategy does not work out.
We want to maintain all our ties to NATO, but we also want to help our Asian allies. As our Security Assistance program succeeds, we hope to reduce the forward deployments in Asia.
Mr. Johnson: I take it that these requirements are what we need for a conventional war.
Mr. Tucker: That’s right.
Mr. Kissinger: Of course, we could also decide to have more divisions.
Mr. Tucker: Yes, that’s possible. But the first investment we make in reserve divisions should be for an increase in readiness so that our NATO effort can be improved. And we have a problem in creating more active divisions now because we are trying to rely on an all-volunteer army. The guidance I outlined is well-hedged to our current posture.
In the theater nuclear study, I think we have clarified some of the issues, but there are still several questions which were not analytically and systematically answered. The Secretary told us he had agreement on this as a policy matter. His guidance was that we should maintain the theater nuclear weapons. He said we should have adequate conventional forces to defend against a conventional attack and theater nuclear weapons to deter the threat of a nuclear attack. We are not relying on nuclear weapons to offset a conventional attack. The consensus of the people working on the study was that this policy is preferred and feasible, but we didn’t go very far in analyzing its effects. We didn’t want to give the President a plan where he would have to choose between going nuclear and losing an ally in Asia.
Mr. Kissinger: You have never given the President the option to choose. I’ve never even seen a plan where the President is given the choice of using tactical nuclear weapons or losing an ally.
Mr. Tucker: That’s right.
Mr. Kissinger: You’ve never given the President the choice.
Mr. Tucker: I know. We’re convinced we can’t do that with a high degree of confidence. We don’t want our policy to go in that direction, but we still want to analyze it.[Page 988]
Concerning the strategic nuclear strategy, we had CIA study the possibility of locating all the Chinese nuclear weapons.8 The consensus was that in the next decade it would not be technically feasible to mount a disarming strike against the Chinese. There will be some weapons what we won’t be able to find. For example, some weapons could be on aircraft moved to different bases. Other weapons could be on submarines, and some missiles could be hidden at clandestine sites. Since a complete disarming strike would not be available to us, we didn’t feel it would be very fruitful to make extensive changes in our strategic nuclear weapons. We already have a substantial capability to disarm and deter the Chinese.
Mr. Kissinger: With all due respect, isn’t that the answer you were looking for?
Mr. Tucker: Yes, in a way. But we looked hard for other answers, too.
Mr. Kissinger: We went through this exercise in the 1950s, and I was in charge of much of the work. First, we said that we couldn’t destroy all the other side’s nuclear weapons. Given that fact, we then said we couldn’t use our weapons. Even if the other side had two or three weapons left after a disarming strike, these weapons would be delivered over here. We didn’t want that, and we concluded that we couldn’t take the risk of using our weapons first.
There are two aspects to this problem. First, as I was telling Dick Helms yesterday in regard to a Vietnam study,9 there is no time element in the analysis. I would like to see how the analysis would go over a period of time.
Second, what decisions do the Chinese leaders have to take over a period of time? Those men are not irrational. In fact, they are very calculated. Right now they are drawing drastic consequences from the number of Soviet divisions on their border. How many Soviet divisions are there? Forty-two?
Gen. Walters: Forty-four.
Mr. Kissinger: What we have to analyze right now is the percentage of the Chinese nuclear force we can take out with a disarming strike. Then we have to find out where they would retaliate with the remaining missiles. We also have to analyze how the Chinese leaders would be affected by the possibility of facing a disarming strike. It’s not all important that we destroy every one of their nuclear weapons [Page 989]in a disarming strike. If we base our thinking on that condition, we won’t even be able to consider the possibility of launching a preemptive strike in the next decade.
Mr. Tucker: I didn’t mean that we couldn’t launch a pre-emptive strike. I said that we could probably not carry out a complete disarming strike. During the next decade, we won’t be able to take away their ability to retaliate.
Mr. Kissinger: You are saying the Chinese will be able to retaliate with something, however ineffective it may be.
Mr. Tucker: That’s right. But we will be able to take out most of their weapons. We also think our disarming capability will improve if we get better detection of the enemy’s weapons, as well as improvement in our weapons.
Mr. Kissinger: It would be interesting to plot over a period of time what percentage of the Chinese nuclear weapons we can take out with a disarming strike. What improvements do you think we should make in our strategic weapons?
Mr. Tucker: For one thing, we should try to get better accuracy.
Mr. Kissinger: By what degree would the percentage of weapons we can take out with a disarming strike be increased if we had more accurate weapons?
Mr. Tucker: I don’t know for sure. It’s clear, though, that the final result will be more sensitive to improvements in detection than to improvements in weapons.
Mr. Kissinger: That may be true. What about our Minutemen over-flying the Soviet Union? Would we want to do that?
Adm. Moorer: It would make the Soviets happy if we were hitting China.
Mr. Kissinger: But the Soviets would see the missiles coming at them first.
Adm. Moorer: We could tell the Soviets that the missiles were going on to China. Anyway, the Soviets would see that we were in a tension-filled period with the Chinese.
Mr. Johnson: Quite frankly, I wouldn’t want to rely on doing that.
Mr. Tucker: We assume that the Minutemen would not overfly the Soviet Union. We would rely on Polaris and the B–52s. We will also have an overwhelming edge over the Chinese during the next decade. And, if need be, the number of warheads, particularly on the submarine-carried missiles, can be significantly increased.
I’ve just given you the status of the work we’ve done so far. I would be pleased to pursue the strategy question further, if you wish.
Mr. Kissinger: Yes, please do. If I may, I would like to sum up your conclusions, as I understand them. With our present forces, we could [Page 990]meet at least the moderate threat in SEA and almost the high threat in NEA (we would be one division short if we are willing to drawdown NATO-oriented forces). But that part of the discussion is doctrinal rather than force level since nobody is advocating that we cut our forces.
If we decide to defend against the high threat, we wouldn’t necessarily add to overall force levels. On the other hand, if we decide not to defend against the moderate threat, we wouldn’t necessarily reduce force levels because our active force levels are determined principally by NATO needs. Is that correct?
Mr. Tucker: Yes.
Mr. Kissinger: (to Adm. Moorer) Tom, do you want to make any comments now?
Adm. Moorer: Yes. First of all, Gardiner’s study needs further refinements. We are going to look at it, and then State will have a chance to go over it.
Mr. Kissinger: You are talking about the deployment study, right?
Adm. Moorer: Yes. One major point I want to make is that if we are fighting a NATO war, we will be fighting the Soviets. But remember that the Soviets have a large force in the Pacific. Therefore, it’s impossible for me to think that we will be fighting a NATO war without engaging in heavy air and sea activity against the Soviets in the Pacific. It doesn’t work the other way around. If we are fighting the Chinese, we won’t necessarily also have to be engaged in Europe.
Mr. Kissinger: Isn’t it possible that the Soviets could decide to keep the war confined to Europe?
Adm. Moorer: I wouldn’t count on that. Among other things, they have 108 submarines in the Pacific, and I don’t think they would let us move about as we wish.
Mr. Kissinger: That depends on the assumptions we make. If a NATO war is going to lead to a general global war, then we would expect to engage the Soviets in the Pacific. However, if a NATO war is confined to Europe, it may be in the Soviets’ interest not to sink our ships in the Pacific—or even the Atlantic. If the Soviets think they can win a conventional war very quickly—if they think they can do to France what Germany did to France during World War II—they may use restraint with us, so as not to trigger off a general war.
Adm. Moorer: If the Soviets give us a Pacific sanctuary, that would be great. But I just don’t think they would do it.
Mr. Kissinger: Would it really be great if the Soviets attacked Europe with ground forces and said they didn’t want to go on to general nuclear war? Suppose they suggested to us that the outcome of the war be determined by the battle in Europe. Would that be great?[Page 991]
Adm. Moorer: No, that wouldn’t be great. Still, I feel it would be disastrous to think that we wouldn’t have to contend with the Soviets in the Pacific.
Mr. Kissinger: I agree with you that we should plan to contend with them. I’m just saying that it might be in their interest not to go to general nuclear war if a NATO war starts.
Adm. Moorer: I knew I shouldn’t have gotten into this discussion with you. I was just rereading Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy10 last week.
Mr. Kissinger: Do you know what a British reviewer said about the book when it was published? He said, “Dr. Kissinger may not be a good writer, but anyone who finishes the book is a good reader.”
Mr. Tucker: NSDM 27 doesn’t mention anything about a forward defense in Asia, as it does about a forward defense in Europe. I understand the President doesn’t want to fight a forward defense in both theaters.
Mr. Johnson: What about fighting in Alaska?
Mr. Tucker: We obviously fight to defend Alaska and Hawaii. But I was referring to Asia proper. The defense of Asia is not primarily a question of ground forces.
Adm. Moorer: We have two divisions in Korea, and we would find it very difficult to abandon them. We would have to get involved. That in turn would mean that we have to contend with Soviet air and naval forces.
Mr. Kissinger: What is your conclusion?
Adm. Moorer: When we consider the force levels involved in re-deploying troops to NATO from Asia, we don’t have the flexibility assumed in the studies. I am confident that we will have active opposition from the Soviets.
Mr. Kissinger: But the opposite case is not necessarily true.
Adm. Moorer: That’s right.
Mr. Kissinger: We can send the European troops to Asia, but we can’t do it the other way around.
Mr. Tucker: That’s correct. In fact, we assume the forces already in Asia will stay there.
Adm. Moorer: Concerning the tactical nuclear weapons, I see them primarily as a deterrent. But we can use them following certain developments and if we are in extremis. On the strategic aspects of the [Page 992]study, I agree that we can take out a large percentage of the Chinese nuclear capability. Our capability will also grow greater as time goes on.
Mr. Kissinger: The strategic study should be a joint DOD–JCS–CIA paper, plotted over a period of time with growing figures of weapons on both sides. What will the Chinese have left after a disarming strike? What targets would they then hit? Plot all this out over a ten-year period.
Adm. Moorer: Finally, I agree with our current deployments and force levels. At this time, NSDM 27 still fills the bill. It is compatible with the JSOP and the Nixon Doctrine. Now is not the time to burden the President with changing strategies again.
Mr. Kissinger: Does anyone else have other observations to make?
Mr. Kissinger: I’ve been trying to get a handle on the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe and Asia since my first week in office. I’ve never seen anything about the timing of their use—so that they will make a plausible difference in the outcome of the battle. I’m not saying, though, that we won’t consider using them.
In NATO, the [less than 1 line not declassified]. But why do we have so many nuclear weapons in Europe? After we are defeated in a conventional war, can we still turn the tide with the use of tactical nuclear weapons? On the other hand, if we use the weapons before we are defeated, who is hurt more—the defender or the attacker? I’ve never seen a concept about the use of these weapons. I don’t know what they are designed to accomplish. Accordingly, I think this is a big lacuna in our plans. Perhaps you don’t want to talk about this subject before such a large group.
Adm. Moorer: Why don’t we schedule a meeting on this subject for the principals?
Mr. Kissinger: I can’t conceive that the Chinese will attack anybody in the next two or three years. It’s not conceivable, unless there is a drastic change in the leadership, that they will move troops away from their northern border. Therefore, I think we have some time to consider the use of tactical nuclear weapons.
Adm. Moorer: You can make the same statement about Europe. The Russians are watching the Chinese, too.
Mr. Kissinger: But one side may be getting ready to jump the other.
Adm. Moorer: I agree that we have the time to talk about how we would use these nuclear weapons.
Mr. Kissinger: Okay. Let’s schedule a meeting on this for the principals. Let’s have the meeting within the next two weeks.
Mr. Johnson: Good.[Page 993]
Mr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Odeen) Phil, will you take care of this?
Mr. Odeen: Yes.
Mr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Rush) Ken, do you agree that there will be no unilateral defense deployments until the White House and State have a chance to review the study?
Mr. Rush: Yes.
Mr. Johnson: We’ve already talked to some of our allies about the FY–73 decisions.11
Mr. Kissinger: I believe that the President should not make any strategy decisions before the election. But we should do the work now so that we can be prepared to go forward with it after the election.
On deployments, we want no unilateral decisions. We’ll set up a meeting on tactical nuclear weapons within the next two weeks, but we won’t make any decisions on their use during the meeting.
Does everyone agree?
- 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 Situation Room of the White House. All brackets except those that indicate omitted material are in the original.↩
- See Document 202.↩
- See Document 189.↩
- Document 56.↩
- A summary of the interagency response to NSSM 69 is printed as Document 218.↩
- The referenced studies have not been found.↩
- Not found.↩
- See footnote 3, Document 218.↩
- An apparent reference to a
Washington Special Actions Group meeting held on July 20 to discuss
Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume VIII, Vietnam, January–October 1972, Document 210.↩
- Kissinger published his book, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, in 1957.↩
- On July 26, Johnson reported to Secretary of State Rogers that, during the meeting, he had “emphasized the political importance of our Asian general purpose force deployments and our interest in discussing FY 74 deployments with allies” as had been done the previous fiscal year. (National Archives, RG 59, S/S–Files: Lot 80 D 212, NSSM 69)↩