92. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Wheeler) to Secretary of Defense Laird1
Washington, November 6, 1969.
- U.S. Military Readiness Tests—Worldwide
- Early in October, in response to direction from higher authority, I tasked the Joint Staff to prepare an integrated plan of actions which would physically test our military readiness in selected areas worldwide. The actions were to be discernible to the Soviets but not threatening in themselves. Additional limitations were that only U.S. forces would participate, no change in DEFCON status would be made, and actions would be accomplished within current budgetary levels. The tests began 13 October 1969 and were terminated on 30 October 1969. At Enclosure A is a display of the various actions accomplished in each CINC area.2
- It is difficult to measure the success of this operation since, other than the stated reason to test readiness, the objectives of the test are unknown. Added to this problem were the aforementioned restraints which introduced a certain degree of artificiality. I am sure you realize [Page 297] that in no way was this exercise a test vehicle permitting an evaluation of U.S. forces’ ability to respond to a threat by increasing readiness. Considering that Soviet awareness was a goal, the number of unusual or unexplained Soviet actions observed by the intelligence community indicates a degree of success. Tangible benefits resulting from the tests generally fall in the command and control area as evidenced by the professional competence and flexibility displayed at all levels of command and staff. Noteworthy was the cooperation between the operations and intelligence participants. The CINCs expressed satisfaction with experience gained in a number of areas. Some of the benefits accrued included: (a) an opportunity to highlight managerial problems at all command levels, (b) the exercise of command and staff techniques for crisis management, and (c) an opportunity to achieve, within prescribed limits and unencumbered by normal day-to-day activities, a maximum attainable readiness posture.
- It is evident that the Soviets were aware of certain of the U.S. activities, [6 lines not declassified]. Details concerning these and other Soviet activities which may have been in reaction to our operations have been reported to you in a series of Special Intelligence Reports prepared by DIA and are summarized in Enclosure B.
- The U.S. intelligence agencies were afforded a unique opportunity to test their procedures under realistic conditions. DIA believes that this operation confirms the validity of certain day-to-day procedures designed to maintain a continuing intelligence watch over Soviet actions and reactions, [2½ lines not declassified].
- I would be remiss if I did not elaborate on some of the problems and possibly counterproductive results which this test generated. The first, and probably foremost, was my inability to furnish the CINCs with more definitive guidance as to the objectives and goals of the operation. It seems prudent if maximum benefit is to be gained from an operation of this type that at least you and I and the senior commanders are informed of the objectives and goals. Second was the loss of vital flight training caused by the flying standdown. Third, although difficult to assess, was the possibly bruised feelings of our allies, especially in Europe and NORAD, because they were excluded from both the planning for and execution of the tests. Finally, in the same area of good relations, were the diplomatic problems caused by abrupt ship departures from foreign ports and the unexplained cancellation of longstanding, scheduled port visits.
- As noted in Enclosure B, any additional intelligence acquired on this subject or on related Soviet activities—if significant—will be published in a supplemental report.
Earle G. Wheeler
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 351, Subject Files, Exercise High Heels—69. Top Secret; Sensitive; [codeword not declassified]. A stamped note indicates that Laird saw it on November 10. Pursley forwarded the memorandum to Haig under a covering memorandum of November 10 that reads as follows: “Secretary Laird asked the Chiefs to evaluate the recent ‘Military Readiness’ exercise. Attached is General Wheeler’s report. Secretary Laird felt Dr. Kissinger would find the report interesting.” (Ibid.)↩
- Enclosed but not printed.↩
- Top Secret; [codeword not declassified]; No Foreign Dissem/Background Use Only/Limited Distribution.↩