224. National Intelligence Estimate1

NIE 11–12–72



This Estimate addresses the potential of Soviet military research and development. It first appraises the general magnitude and rate of growth of resources available for this purpose—i.e., the facilities, men, and money, and how efficiently these are used. It then assesses how effectively Soviet military research and development meets military requirements. It does not attempt to predict specific Soviet technological advances. This aspect of the problem is addressed in part in the series of NIEs on the various components of the Soviet military forces.2

Summary and Conclusions

The USSR has long accorded high priority to research and development (R&D) on military weapon systems and related supporting technologies, including space programs. It has made substantial increases in the resources devoted to such R&D and has maintained a relatively satisfactory level of efficiency with which the resources are used. Comparable results have not been achieved in R&D related to civilian pursuits, but the Soviet leadership now appears to be giving it greater emphasis and attention.
Concerning resources, we have made estimates of what the Soviets are spending each year on their military R&D programs. But we recognize that such estimates cannot be compared, except very roughly, with estimates for similar expenditures in the US because of myriad problems including different currencies, price structures, economic priorities, and strategic goals. Paragraphs 15 to 26 of the text pages 7 to 10, present our approach to the estimates, which involves two complex [Page 1011]and independent methodologies, and the results that it yields.3 The results could understate or overstate the true magnitudes by a wide margin. Nonetheless, the two independently-derived estimates are broadly consistent; they indicate that during the 1960s the growth in Soviet expenditures for military R&D plus space has been predominantly in support of the space effort. In this same period the estimated rates of increase in R&D facilities and manpower slowed; these rates of growth are now less than that for R&D expenditures as a whole.4
It is virtually impossible to measure the effectiveness of Soviet military R&D. Although the Soviets have demonstrated the ability to solve advanced technical problems, we do not know whether their end products reflect fully the original requirements for performance or not. We believe that the Soviets have established their own approach to military R&D which seems to emphasize the expeditious development of systems that will do a job simply and reliably.
This expeditious approach is followed within a vast R&D bureaucracy which tends toward conservatism. New ideas and concepts are subject to a variety of planning constraints and must be justified through numerous levels and agencies. And the Soviets often rely upon redundancy of effort, judging that the hedge against failure outweighs the greater expense involved.
We foresee little change in the way the Soviets go about carrying out their military R&D. The success that they have enjoyed will probably work against any major changes in procedures, at least in the near future. The various systems we expect them to introduce in the future will, for the most part, continue to represent improvements on present systems through subsystems upgrading or the continuation of [Page 1012]established developmental trends. In general, the Soviets appear to favor this approach as contrasted with the search for radically new and untried concepts.

[Omitted here is the 15-page Discussion portion of the estimate, including the following four sections: The Soviet View of Research and Development, Approaches to Quantifying Resources, Efficiency in Use of Resources, and The Approach and Performance of Soviet Military Research and Development. Also omitted are four annexes: Soviet Scientific and Engineering Manpower, Estimating Soviet Expenditures for Military Research and Development, Organization for Soviet Research and Development, and Soviet Performance in Key Technological Areas.]

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, NIC Files, Job 79–R01012A. Top Secret; [codewords not declassified]. The CIA and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State and Defense and the NSA participated in the preparation of this estimate. The Director of Central Intelligence submitted this estimate with the concurrence of all members of the USIB with the exception of the representatives of the FBI and the Department of the Treasury, who abstained on the grounds that the subject matter was outside their jurisdiction. According to a Post Mortem, approved by the USIB on December 13, NIE 11–12–72 resulted from an urgent request from the Director of the DIA for such an estimate. (Ibid.) The table of contents and four annexes are not printed. The full text of this NIE is in the CIA FOIA Electronic Reading Room (www.foia.cia.gov).
  2. See Documents 38, 46, 52, 105, 160, 178, and 198.
  3. According to the Post Mortem of December 13, analysts used two approaches to gauge Soviet military R&D: “one started with Soviet financial data, and the other relied wholly on costing Soviet military R&D directly in dollars.” Because each rested upon numerous “assumptions” and “uncertainties,” chief among them ruble/dollar ratios, analysts lacked “sufficient confidence in the data, assumptions, or analysis used in either one to rely on it alone. It was hoped that if the results of the two methods were roughly the same, confidence in the analysis would be increased. There was disagreement about whether and to what extent this was accomplished.”
  4. For the views of Vice Adm. Vincent P. de Poix, USN, the Director, Defense Intelligence Agency; Maj. Gen. Phillip B. Davidson, the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Department of the Army; Rear Adm. Earl F. Rectanus, the Director of Naval Intelligence, Department of the Navy; and Maj. Gen. George J. Keegan, Jr., the Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, USAF, on estimates of Soviet expenditures for military R&D, see their footnotes to paragraph 20, page 9 of the text, and to paragraph 65, Annex B, page 45. [Footnote in the original. These officers, according to the first referenced footnote, did not “believe that the general consistency of results obtained from the two methodologies should encourage the presumption stated above. They believe that neither methodology produces very credible results, but they have considerably more confidence in the direct-costing approach.”]