105. Memorandum From Richard T. Boverie of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft)1


  • DRP Meeting to Review the Status of the NSSM 246 Study on National Defense Policy and Military Posture2—Friday, November 5, 1976, 10:00 A. M.

There will be a meeting of the Defense Review Panel Friday, at 10:00 a.m. The purpose will be to receive a status report on the NSSM 246 study on National Defense Policy and Military Posture and to review the draft summary report3 and its strategy alternatives.


On September 2, 1976, the President directed through NSSM 246 (Tab A) a review and analysis of US national defense policy and military posture. The DRP Working Group, which was charged with conducting the study, organized six interagency task forces. These task forces (chairing agency in parentheses) are: Foreign Policy (State), Intelligence (DCI), Strategic Forces (OSD/DDR&E), General Purpose Forces (OSD/P&E), Fiscal/Economic (OMB), and Preparedness (NSC Staff). In addition, two other ad hoc groups were chartered late in the study to examine Technological Surprise (OSD/DDR&E) and the Evolution of Current Policy (NSC Staff) (Task Forces membership at Tab B).4

The Task Forces are preparing detailed reports on their respective areas of responsibility. The degree of interagency involvement in the drafting of these papers has varied, as has the extent of agreement among the agencies as to the thrust and content of the task force reports. Because of the DRPWG’s desire to be responsive to the President’s November 15 interim and December 1 final report dates, it was decided that the task force papers would remain as working papers, and would not be subjected to formal agency review and clearance. [Page 451] However, the summary document prepared for Presidential review will be formally coordinated with the DRP principals.

In mid-October, as draft reports from the various task forces became available to the DRPWG, that group designated an Integrating Group to prepare a paper on alternative strategies which summarized the major inputs from the various task forces. The Integrating Group is preparing a draft summary paper (a strawman draft is at Tab C)5 outlining a series of alternative notional strategies for strategic and general purpose forces. Contained within these strategies are alternative approaches to the issues identified by the task forces as those warranting NSC attention in the strategy review. These notional strategies have been grouped into illustrative “overall strategies” which represent combinations of strategic and general purpose force structures and employment policies. Tentative costs are being computed for each strategy, and an overall analysis of the federal budget has been included to provide a perspective for examining the “overall strategies” along side non-defense demands for budget resources.

The strawman summary paper has been circulated by the Integrating Group, and a formal “first draft” is scheduled to be available late next week. Jim Wade’s proposed briefing to you at the DRP meeting will include a brief review of the notional strategies as they have tentatively been structured. Draft briefing charts are at Tab D.6 We will provide final versions when they become available, but we do not anticipate any major changes.

Issues for Discussion

Discussions within the DRPWG and with the various agency staffs indicate that the following two issues are likely to receive significant attention in the DRP meeting:

—Fundamental to the NSSM 246 effort is the question of where we go from here. The intent of the summary paper as it is now conceived is to provide for the President and NSC a set of notional alternative strategies as illustrative indications of possible future directions for US defense policy. Opinion on the question of what action should be taken on these notional strategies ranges from the possibility of a NSDM being issued selecting one of the strategies to the view that it is premature to take any such options to the President in the absence of more detailed [Page 452] analysis of associated force structures and costs. This latter view has been expressed by State and by some quarters in Defense.7

We believe that a middle ground is most appropriate in light of our desire to be fully responsive to the President’s timetable for the NSSM while at the same time not rushing to decision those aspects of our tentative strategy alternatives which could benefit significantly from further analysis. It would be particularly useful for the DRP to endorse the concept of asking for Presidential guidance on strategy directions; i.e., to highlight those aspects of strategy which the President wishes us to pursue further. Such an approach could provide an acceptable compromise between the two extremes noted above.

—The second issue which is likely to be raised at Friday’s meeting involves the relationship between the summary paper’s notional strategies and the major issues which form the basis for much of the individual task force analyses. There has been concern on the part of a number of the agencies that the strawman summary has not adequately highlighted the key issues identified by the DRPWG at the outset of the study, and has not reflected the degree to which these issues relate to (and to a significant degree define) the various notional strategies. This may be raised at your meeting. However, we believe that both the Integrating Group and the task forces have acknowledged this concern and are working to revise the draft to provide a more explicit treatment of the “key issues.” This revision should result in more precise definition of the strategies; e.g., it should be more apparent in the next draft of the summary paper as to the relationship between assumptions on issues such as NATO warning time and Warsaw Pact combat sustaining power and the alternative general purpose force strategies.

A more fundamental objection to the “strategies” approach has been voiced by State, and will likely be raised at the meeting. State sees some utility in the notional strategies as illustrative tools, but objects to any effort to ask for decisions based on such strategies. Instead, they would prefer an “issues paper” as the appropriate decision vehicle. It is our view, apparently shared by the majority of the DRPWG and Integrating Group, that the extreme approach of rejecting the strategies and focusing only on issues makes the intellectual problem of treating the subject matter quite difficult; i.e., it presents too many relatively discon [Page 453] nected variables simultaneously. More fundamentally, such an approach is not responsive to the President’s guidance in NSSM 246, which asks for “alternative strategies.”

A lesser issue which is scheduled to be raised for decision involves the selection of an appropriate budget base upon which to build costing data for the alternative strategies. OMB has used its spring update for the FY 1978 FYDP—basically a refined set of 1977 numbers. Defense has been using its significantly higher set of figures derived from the POM/PDM process for the FY 1978 budget process this summer. The issue is basically one of determining what the base case is, and this will set the size of the incremental cost associated with the alternative strategies.

Outcome of the Meeting. The fundamental outcome will be for the DRP to indicate what it believes to be the future direction of the study and to provide whatever guidance is appropriate, based upon our current approach and progress to date.

Conduct of the Meeting. Don Rumsfeld will open the meeting and will introduce Jim Wade’s briefing.

[Omitted here is the list of the contents of Scowcroft’s briefing book and a section summarizing the memorandum’s main points.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box 22, Defense Review Panel Meeting, 11/5/76—National Defense Policy and Military Posture (NSSM 246). Top Secret.
  2. NSSM 246, attached, is Document 102.
  3. A draft response, November 16, to NSSM 246 is in the Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box 22, Defense Review Panel Meeting, 11/24/76—Naval Study (NSSM 246). The final response is Document 113.
  4. Attached, but not printed.
  5. The draft summary, November 1, is attached, but not printed.
  6. Attached, but not printed.
  7. According to Vest’s memorandum, November 3, briefing Robinson on the DRP meeting: “The best that can be expected of the NSSM 246 effort is that it will introduce the President to some major unresolved problems in our defense posture and suggest to him a reasonable range of choice for their resolution.” As such, Vest wrote, the Department and “some elements of Defense hold that the ‘strategies’” outlined in the draft NSSM response “are at best illustrative and should not be considered for adoption as national policy until they have been developed more fully.” (National Archives, RG 59, S/S–I Files, Lot 80D212, NSSM 246)