47. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1

    • September 10 NSC Meeting on the NSSM 3 Review of U.S. Military Posture

Purpose of the NSC Meeting

The primary purpose of the September 10 NSC meeting is to review the alternative military strategies and defense budgets developed under NSSM 3.

At a meeting on June 19, 1969, the NSC reviewed that part of the NSSM 3 study concerned with U.S. strategic nuclear forces.2 At the September 10 meeting, we will review alternative strategies for general purpose forces—Army and Marine divisions, carrier-based and land-based tactical air forces, anti-submarine warfare forces, airlift/sealift forces, and tactical nuclear weapons.

This review will concentrate specifically on strategies for NATO and for Asia (Korea and Southeast Asia), because these are the major determinants of our defense posture and budget.

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In addition to presenting alternative strategies for general purpose forces, the report presents, for each strategy, the implied total defense budgets for 1971–1975.

General purpose forces account for over 60% of defense spending (strategic nuclear forces account for only 25%). Most of the interesting choices open to you with respect to our future defense posture and budgets are in the area of general purpose force strategies and forces. Thus, the NSSM 3 Steering Group chose to link general purpose forces issues and total defense budget issues in its final report.

The NSSM 3 Report

I have prepared a summary of the NSSM 3 Report and the issues it raises.3 I suggest you read this summary in preparation for the meeting.

Issues for Decision

Following is a summary of the decisions I believe you should make as a result of the study. However, I recommend that you postpone announcing your decisions and how they will be implemented until after the NSC meeting.

1. Strategy Guidelines and Budget Targets for FY 71–75.

The outcome of this meeting is of overriding importance not only to our future strategy and force structure but also to orderly defense planning.

The opportunity now exists to establish the framework for defense planning and budgeting for the next several years and set important precedents. In particular, perhaps for the first time, you and the NSC will have the opportunity:

  • —to consider rationally defense strategy options in light of our political and military requirements to maintain general purpose forces;
  • —to weigh the cost of each strategy in terms of its impact on priority non-defense programs and on tax policy;
  • —to make decisions on defense strategy and budget guidelines that will serve as a sound basis for force and financial planning within the Department of Defense.

Today, it is not possible to get a clear statement of the rationale for our defense posture from the Defense Department. Without Presidential guidance, the JCS, Services and OSD will continue to disagree about the strategy for which we should develop and maintain forces.

Moreover, in the absence of forward financial guidelines, the JCS and Services will continue to design weapon systems and establish requirements which are not disciplined by budgetary considerations.

The alternative strategies are explained in your backup papers. There are five strategies ranging in cost from $71 billion to $102 billion per year.

I believe you will want to end up with Strategy 2.

2. Five-Year Force Plan and Base Study.

The specific forces shown in the study report are illustrative only. There is no agreement within DOD that these are the “right” forces for each strategy.

Accordingly, you should ask DOD to submit a five year force and program plan consistent with this guidance. Such a plan should be completed in coordination with the Department of State so that any effects on our allies can be carefully planned.

Also, so that we can begin to resolve the many outstanding issues associated with our requirements for overseas bases, you should ask for a study of the overseas bases needed to support the strategy.

3. Establishment of Defense Program Review Committee.

I believe we should evaluate strategy and budgetary issues on more than a one-shot basis. We must insure adequate attention to these issues as a matter of routine for several reasons:

  • —we are now faced with the apparent necessity to cut the 1970 defense budget by almost 4%. Yet I am not aware of any basis for determining whether a $3 billion cut will affect our ability to meet our strategy objectives or how best to go about making cuts of this magnitude.
  • —aside from this specific case, given the likelihood of continuing limits on defense spending, together with the possibility that funds will be released from Vietnam, there will be intense competition among the Military Services for the limited resources. This competition will be accompanied by extensive military public relations efforts and lobbying on the hill. If not carefully supervised in the light of national priorities, such competition could lead to a return of the inter-Service battles of the 1950s and overwhelm any rational defense planning.
  • —the growing Congressional concern and involvement with defense issues is not likely to abate. We will face it again when your first defense budget goes to the hill next year. Congressional efforts could lead to a piecemeal dismantling of important parts of our military posture. We will be much better able to cope with Congress in a manner consistent with the national interest if we have not only a national strategy, a well-developed rationale for it, and a forward budget plan, but also a means for continuous review.
  • —there are many divergent views within the Administration on questions of threats, strategy, forces and defense budgets. The Budget Bureau, Defense, State, CIA and ACDA are all involved. These issues should be resolved in an orderly manner and under firm National Security Council direction.
  • —future cuts in defense budgets may have significant impacts on our relationships with allies. For example, it will be difficult to cut the budget further, given a continuation of the Vietnam war, without cutting NATO committed forces. We should plan cuts carefully in the light of their broader implications and not be put in a position of having to pick up the pieces afterward.

I do not believe major strategy, force and budget issues should continue to be resolved in bilateral negotiations between the Budget Bureau and the Defense Department. In a separate memorandum, I will recommend a framework for orderly reviews and decisions on such issues which will ensure that your thinking is fully reflected in the shaping of our strategy and military posture.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–23, NSC Meeting, September 10, 1969. Top Secret: Nodis. A September 9 memorandum from Lynn to Kissinger indicates that this memorandum to the President was drafted by Lynn. (Ibid.)
  2. The meeting was held on June 18; see Document 36. For the study, see Document 45.
  3. This 17–page summary prepared by the NSC Staff states that the choice of strategies turned upon whether to maintain U.S. forces sufficient to counter the Chinese threat, meet major threats in Asia and to NATO simultaneously or individually, and conduct a sustained or initial defense of NATO. Such judgments were complicated by expert disagreement about the proper mix of forces to achieve each strategy’s objective. The summary notes that the Pentagon’s “forces are typically designed without much imagination,” and had not “changed much since World War II, with the exception of our extensive use of helicopters.” The summary continues, “These forces are heavy, technically complex and expensive,” and not “well suited to areas outside of Europe.” Another important determinant of strategy, according to the summary, was “how much we can afford to spend for defense in the light of our non-defense priorities,” a judgment that depended on economic forecasts, tax revenues, and funding needed to fight the war in Vietnam. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–23, NSC Meeting, September 10, 1969)