44. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson) to Secretary of State Rogers1

    • NSC Meeting on NSSM 3—U.S. Security Strategy and Force Posture. INFORMATION MEMORANDUM


Last January the President directed on interagency study of alternative U.S. security strategies and military forces for the post-Vietnam period.2 Dave Packard has been Chairman of the “Steering Group” on which I represented the Department. The portion on strategic forces was previously completed and considered by the NSC.3 The portion on general purpose forces, a copy of the summary of which is attached, is presently scheduled to be discussed by the NSC on September 10.4

The work on the military and budgetary aspects of the study has been done primarily by Systems Analysis in DOD, and as a general proposition the JCS feels that it understates the requirements (and therefore the cost) by about 40 percent. It should also be noted that the entire study and cost are based on a post-Vietnam situation and therefore, as far as FY ‘71 budget, which Defense will have to start working on very soon, the Vietnam increment will have to be added.

The study examines five strategies. The cost of Strategies 4 and 5 are so high (i.e., involving defense budgets of $90 and $100 billion annually) as to make further examination of them academic. The first three strategies differ only in the size of U.S.-based Army and Air forces for reinforcement in Asia in the event of a war there. In all five strategies, the U.S. peacetime posture in the Pacific would approximate that prior to Vietnam. The three strategies of greatest interest are summarized below: [Page 170]

  • Strategy 1—Would retain the present U.S. combat forces for Europe, which are designed to permit a 90–day initial conventional defense against a Warsaw Pact attack. In Asia the force would not provide reinforcements needed for a defense against a major attack by China or the USSR. (Prior to Vietnam, six divisions were held in the U.S. for this purpose.) The average annual cost of this strategy is $72 billion (the cost of GP forces together with presently programmed strategic nuclear forces). It requires an active military force of 1.9 million men as compared to 3.5 million today.
  • Strategy 2—Envisages the same 90–day defense strategy for Europe, but would permit a defense in either Korea or Southeast Asia against a major aggression. (Mobilization would be required to generate forces for a counter-offensive and evict the invader.) It would not permit us to fight a major war in Europe and Asia simultaneously. This strategy adds 5 U.S.-based divisions and 540 aircraft over Strategy 1 for Asian contingencies. The average annual cost of this strategy in the early 1970’s is $76 billion. It requires an active military force of about 2.0 million men.
  • Strategy 3—Provides the forces sufficient to meet simultaneously a major Asian and European attack (as in Strategy 2, mobilization would be required for a counter-offensive). Annual cost of this strategy is $81 billion. It requires two divisions and 840 aircraft more than the Strategy 2, for an active military force of 2.3 million men.

The forces and costs associated with these strategies are laid out on the attached table.5 (More details and comparisons with our present forces are contained in the table following page 35 of the study.)

The study points out that the fiscal impact of these 3 Strategies on Federal domestic programs would be quite marked. If U.S. domestic programs are ranked in four tiers to reflect their priority and the Administration’s commitment to them, Strategy 1 would permit funding of most of the first three tiers; Strategy 2 would permit funding of two tiers, whereas Strategy 3 would provide funds only for the highest priority programs in the first tier.


I have privately discussed the study and the concepts it contains at some length with Dave Packard. I have told him that as far as ground forces are concerned, it seemed clear to me with the development of the situation between the Soviet Union and Communist China it was [Page 171] no longer essential that we think in terms of being able to fight a major ground action simultaneously on both the European and Asian fronts. As I saw the situation in Asia in the post-Vietnam period I did not feel we should be thinking in terms of larger forces than we had before Vietnam; that is, two Army divisions in Korea and one Marine division in Okinawa. In fact, I hope that we could reduce our strength in Korea to one division. With respect to Korea, I proceeded on the assumption that with sufficient MAP support the South Koreans were capable of dealing with the North Koreans on the ground if the North Korean Air Force was knocked out. It was probably not practicable nor should we seek to give the South Koreans the full capability to deal with the North Korean Air Force and therefore we should maintain sufficient capability in the area to do this. I also thought it important that we maintain a U.S. “plate glass” presence on the ground in Korea, as well as some capability to exercise real influence on the South Koreans and felt that this should be in the order of one American division.

As far as the Soviets and Communist Chinese were concerned, I felt it very unlikely that as long as we maintained a sufficient “plate glass” of American presence in Korea, the Soviets would directly intervene and participate in a renewal of the attack on South Korea in conditions short of general war. Given the Soviet-Chinese situation as well as relations between North Korea and China, I thought it almost equally unlikely the Chinese Communists would directly and openly participate in a renewal of an attack on South Korea. The danger of such intervention would probably lie in a situation in which the South Koreans had defeated the North Koreans and were advancing deep into North Korean territory.

Thus, as far as the Korean situation was concerned, I did not see the necessity of a large U.S. ground force reserve. We certainly could not justify a reserve on the basis of rescuing the South Koreans if they got into trouble by a deep advance into the North.

If contrary to our expectations there was a major Chinese Communist invasion of Korea, I could not see our again fighting a massive ground battle with American forces, but felt that we would face the decision of either using tactical nuclear weapons to deal with the situation or abandoning the enterprise. With the change in relations between Communist China and the Soviet Union, and the possession now by the Chinese of nuclear weapons, I felt that inhibitions on the use of such weapons on the battlefield against Communist China would, under such circumstances, be somewhat less than they were in the 1950s. On the other hand we would have to weigh the capability of the Chinese to use nuclear weapons against us. I was assuming that during the 1970 time frame this capability would still be very small and that our strategic deterrence would be effective.

[Page 172]

As far as Southeast Asia was concerned, I also found it difficult to think in terms of a massive Chinese Communist invasion as long as the Chinese continued to face the situation they now do on their Northern frontiers with the Soviet Union. If, nevertheless, this turned out to be wrong, I also found it difficult to visualize the use of large American forces on the ground to oppose the Chinese. Under these circumstances, we would again face the issue of the use of nuclear weapons which for various reasons I felt would be more difficult in Southeast Asia than in Korea and also militarily probably less effective. Thus, again I did not see the necessity of a large American ground reserve for Southeast Asia.

However, in the case of both Korea and Southeast Asia we would not face the same constraints on our use of conventional air and naval power and this led me around the point of what I felt was the extreme importance and urgency of developing conventional air and naval capabilities that were really pertinent to the situation that we had, and probably in the future would continue to face in Asia. I felt that this was a field that had been badly neglected. We had and were continuing to develop ever more sophisticated and ever more expensive air weapons systems to deal with the sophisticated Soviet threat primarily in Western Europe. The use of these weapons systems in the environment of Southeast Asia was not only stupendously wasteful and expensive, but systems themselves were not designed to do the kind of a job that needed to be done. For example, it was my understanding that the multi-million dollar radar bomb sights on our attack aircraft were less accurate in dropping iron bombs than were our World War II bomb sights, and it seemed to me ridiculous to use $4 and $5 million supersonic aircraft to attack ox carts and guerrillas hidden in the jungle. If our air (both Air Force and Navy) was really to be pertinent to the situations we had and would continue to face in the area, what was needed was a weapons system that could approach what the Air Force called “interdiction” but which was presently only harassment. In other words, we needed an air weapons system that could come at least close to establishing what might be called a “land blockade”. Air weapons systems and doctrine that required ever enlarging the area of hostilities, as was presently the case, had and would continue to meet with strong political resistance from any government in Washington. I fully recognized and accepted the problem of developing such a weapons system but thought that we should immediately seek to devote at least a significant portion of resources now going into the development of more sophisticated systems to such an effort. It was not a question of stopping the development of sophisticated systems, but rather of relative weight of effort.

Similarly, I felt that attention should be paid to the question of carriers. While we undoubtedly need some highly sophisticated carriers to [Page 173] deal with the Soviet threat, we were undoubtedly going to run into increasing problems with land-based air abroad. Carriers would not have the problems of land-based air, they are flexible. Instead of reducing the number of carriers as is contemplated, I would like to see more, but with some of them of a less sophisticated and less expensive design, for use in situations short of general hostilities with the Soviet Union. Also, I felt that our ASW capabilities were very important and again, to the degree possible, thought that these should be designed around weapons systems which were not dependent on foreign land bases.

In sum, I felt that as far as land forces were concerned Strategy 2, under which we would have a single reserve for use either in Europe or Asia, was a prudent course of action.6 It also seemed to me that the kind of air and naval capabilities that I had discussed should be possible within the budget levels contemplated by Strategy 2.

However, all of the foregoing is very much based upon a high level of MAP support for the countries of the area. The report itself assumed a Mutual Assistance Program of about $1 billion annually, which in fact is only about half of the $2 billion now scattered through the DOD budget for support of allied forces in Southeast Asia. Together with the MAP appropriation, this means our present level of actual MAP is about $2.4 billion.

I had the feeling that Dave Packard’s thinking is not too different from my own. He indicated that as far as the NSC meeting is concerned he would be seeking only a guide on the general budget level that he should expect for FY ‘71 and the broad outlines of the force structure toward which DOD should work. He felt that the Vietnam aspects of the budget would be “manageable” but we did not discuss in detail how this could be done.

As I told you previously, those of us who have been dealing with this matter would welcome the opportunity of discussing it with you prior to the NSC meeting.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, S/S–I Files: Lot 80 D 212, NSSM 3. Secret. No drafting information appears on the memorandum.
  2. See Document 2.
  3. The NSSM 3 Interagency Steering Group submitted its report on May 12. A summary prepared by the NSC Staff is printed as Document 34. The NSC Review Group and the full NSC considered the paper during its discussions of strategic policy held on May 29 and June 13 and 18; see Documents 32, 35, and 36.
  4. The NSSM 3 Interagency Steering Group submitted the final version of the “General Purpose Forces” section of its report on September 5. See Document 45. The referenced summary, a 55–page working draft dated August 28, is attached but not printed. For the NSC discussion on September 10, see Document 48.
  5. The referenced page-length table, entitled “List of Strategies,” is attached but not printed.
  6. On August 27, Ronald I. Spiers, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Politico-Military Affairs, commented on the NSSM 3 Interagency Steering Group’s draft report in a memorandum to Johnson. Spiers held that the report—while a useful guide to understanding “the fiscal impact of various DOD budget levels on other federal programs, and for setting broad, long-range goals”—placed “too little emphasis on political and psychological factors and the security implications of the alternative strategies are assessed only in very broad terms.” Consequently, Spiers favored either the second or third strategy options. While strategies 4 and 5 “probably cost too much to be realistic,” strategy 1, “if carried out too rapidly (i.e., in the next two or three years) and without consultation, could result in reactions by our allies and the Communist states that would be adverse to US foreign policy and security interests.” (National Archives, RG 59, S/S–I Files: Lot 80 D 212, NSSM 3)