27. National Security Study Memorandum 501

  • TO
    • The Secretary of Defense
  • SUBJECT
    • A Review of U.S. Naval Forces

The President has directed that a study be undertaken of U.S. Naval Forces.2 The study should be conducted in two parts:

  • Part I will be a comparative analysis of U.S., Soviet, other NATO, and other Warsaw Pact naval forces from 1961 to the present. This analysis should include a comparison, to the extent possible, of numbers, types, capabilities, ages, unit costs (for those built since 1961 in U.S. dollars), and deployments of naval forces by major mission, including strategic forces. Projections of this information into the foreseeable future should be made to the extent possible. Part I should be completed and forwarded to the President by June 1, 1969.
  • Part II will consist of an analysis of U.S. requirements for naval forces in the 1970s, including the overseas bases necessary to support them. This analysis should be related to the extent appropriate to the results of the U.S. military posture review being conducted under NSSM 33 and should reflect decisions that may result from NSC discussion of the NSSM 3 study. Part II should be completed and forwarded to the President by September 1, 1969.

NSC discussion of the results of the overall study effort will be scheduled at a later date.

This study will be conducted under the direction of the Secretary of Defense. He will be assisted as appropriate by the Secretary of State, the Director of Central Intelligence, the Director of the Bureau of the Budget, and other agencies whose assistance he may need. Close [Page 91]liaison should be maintained in all phases of the study with the office of the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.4

Henry A. Kissinger
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 365, Subject Files, NSSMs, Nos. 43–103. Secret. Copies were sent to Rogers, Helms, and Mayo.
  2. The study had its genesis in early April, when the President became concerned after reading a column by James Kilpatrick claiming that the aging U.S. Navy was losing its edge to its Soviet counterpart. Laird responded on April 14 by sending President Nixon a rough comparison of the two fleets. The Secretary of Defense noted that the United States had maintained force levels since World War II “without debating seriously the size and composition of our Navy.” (Ibid., Box 709, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. I) Nixon approved Kissinger’s recommendation, contained in an April 21 memorandum to the President, that a full comparative analysis of U.S. and Soviet naval forces be conducted. (Ibid., Vol. II)
  3. Document 2.
  4. Under an October 21 covering memorandum, David Packard sent the Department of the Navy’s two-part response to NSSM 50 to Kissinger. The study’s first part compares the U.S. and Soviet navies; the second deals with the needs of the U.S. Navy in the 1970s. In his covering memorandum to Kissinger, the Deputy Secretary of Defense wrote that he saw “no reason” for the NSC “to address this report.” In a November 21 reply to Packard, Kissinger wrote that he too was “reluctant” to forward it to the President, despite Nixon’s “specific interest in this study.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–149, NSSM 50) In his memoirs, Kissinger recalled that bureaucratic resistance by the military establishment meant that this specific directive from the President “inquiring into the rationale of naval programs was never answered satisfactorily in the eight years I served in Washington. The response was always short of being insubordinate but also short of being useful. Despite semiannual reminders [NSSM 50] was listed as incomplete on the books when we left office.” (Kissinger, White House Years, pp. 216–217)