110. Summary Paper Prepared in the National Security Council1

Final Review of the Navy Study


The NSC study on US Strategy and Naval Force Requirements was initiated early in 1976 and conducted within the DRP process. An interim report was made to the DRP on April 292 and to the NSC on May 2.3 Based on the NSC meeting, the President submitted a supplemental budget request to the Congress. The Congress failed to act on the majority of the items in the supplemental.

When the last formal review was conducted, the study was seen to be weak in several areas: there was intellectual concern with the notion that the size of the Navy is principally driven by the number of carriers; the implications of emerging technology were not addressed; Allied capabilities were not taken fully into account; and the capabilities of other services to aid in carrying out the Navy’s mission were not evaluated. All of these deficiencies have been satisfactorily addressed in the final report.

Fundamental Issues Involved in the Study

For more than a decade the military indicators which are used to evaluate maritime power have shown an adverse trend when the US Navy is compared with that of the USSR. These adverse trends have been recognized. The current Five-Year Defense Plan (FYDP) calls for building a total of 111 new ships to reach a fleet of 535 ships by 1985, an increase of 50 ships over current force levels. Something significant is already being done to reverse the adverse trends now in the US/Soviet maritime balance. Thus, the questions now are:

—Should we be doing still more?

—Should the force mix of ship types stress expensive, highly capable ships, or should we concentrate on numbers, building less expensive ships of lower individual capability?

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—Should the program stress new construction or should it proceed in a more balanced manner, assuring the readiness of existing units while adding more slowly to the size and strength of the fleet?

Detailed discussions of these issues are included in the study on pages 54–64.4

Alternative Naval Force Structures

The study examined a range of alternative force structures bounded by a reduced force level and a major build-up of force levels to those contained in the JSOP. The reduced force (which dropped down to a ten-carrier fleet) was rejected as providing too little capability. The study also rejected major carrier build-up options as involving too great an investment in an increasingly vulnerable asset. The study settled on three force structure options. In the most basic terms, Option 1 deletes the additional large-deck carrier presently included in the FYDP and reprograms the FYDP funding level to build more low-mix ships; Option 2 includes the FYDP large-deck carrier and additional low-mix ships; and Option 3 includes the FYDP large-deck carrier and a mix of additional ships whose number approximates Option 2 but includes more high-mix ships. A more detailed discussion of the three options is included on pages 65–67 of the study. A graphical summary of the current FYDP and the three options is attached at Tab II–A.

Selection of an Option

Defense considers the President’s submission of a shipbuilding supplemental to be a decision that growth should be accelerated beyond the FYDP. More specifically, the inclusion of long-lead funds for the large-deck carrier in that package is viewed as an Administration commitment to the construction of that ship. Thus, they can be expected to argue that Option 1 is effectively ruled out. The President’s remarks at the November 16 initial budget review5 for FY 78 indicate that he disagrees with that interpretation and that all options remain viable. OMB clearly considers that the question of growth remains unresolved.

Option 3 is clearly the high road, further growth in numbers and a richer mix of ships. Options 1 and 2 look better to us since they provide additional force level growth, a commitment to R&D on advanced pro [Page 463] grams, and a mix of individual ship capabilities. The fundamental choice turns on whether or not we build one more large-deck carrier.

The principal study rationale for construction of an additional large-deck carrier is to sustain the active carrier force at twelve while the carrier SLEP conversations are being conducted, and to hedge against the failure of V/STOL technology to provide an alternative to the large-deck carrier. The final version of the study differs significantly from earlier drafts in moving away from dependence on the large-deck carrier. This is perhaps the most significant development in the course of the study—the strong implicit commitment to push V/STOL technology and to examine other alternatives to large-deck carriers such as improved surface combatant anti-air capability, the cruise missile, and the use of land-based air for sea control operations.

The choice between Option 2 and Option 3 concerns qualitative mix. Option 3 builds 4 VSS and 2 additional CSGNs at the high end and deletes 5 FFG–7 frigates at the low end. Our opinion is that VSS construction can be delayed until V/STOL technology is better developed and the expensive CSGN program can be stretched out to provide funds for low-mix ships. Option 2 provides growth in numbers of ships using proven technology, which is the most urgent need.

Study Conclusions

The study concludes that:

—There exists a widely recognized need to improve our naval forces, and our current Five-Year Defense Plan already includes an ambitious program to raise both the quality of our ships and our overall force levels.

—The options presented in the study provide a means to accelerate and expand the current Five-Year Defense Plan.

Courses of Action

There are essentially two courses of action available at this time:

—Call for an NSC meeting in the near future to submit the document to the President for decision.

—Delay Presidential review until NSSM 2466 is completed.

We recommend that we wait until NSSM 246 is completed before taking the study to the President.

The study is sound and the rationale supporting the force options well developed. A copy of the study is attached at Tab II–B.7

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Distribution of the Study

A secondary issue is further distribution of the study. Although the study is an NSC document, Secretary Rumsfeld has committed himself to making it available to the Congress. An attempt to deny access to the study would probably be highly counterproductive, giving rise to charges of reneging on a commitment, withholding judgments of value to the legislative process, and excessive Executive Branch secrecy. There exists a general consensus that action is required in the shipbuilding area. Failure to provide access to the study will only serve to weaken existing Congressional support while strengthening the arguments of those who oppose a larger effort or would press for differing force mixes. An attitude of openness and cooperation seems likely to serve the nation’s best interests. This issue of distribution should be specifically addressed by the DRP to avoid future confusion and counterproductive Congressional pressure. The preferable “way out” of the “access to NSC documents” question would be a slightly revised document forwarded to the Congress by the President or Defense as a “report based on the NSC study.” Two courses of action are available, depending upon whether a Presidential decision on the options is made. If the President decides on an option, the “Program Options for a Decision” section (VI., B., pages 66–79) should be deleted and replaced with a section outlining the President’s decision and discussing the supporting rationale. Should the study be completed without a Presidential decision on an option, the report on the study would essentially follow its present form.

Outcome of the Meeting

The fundamental outcome of the meeting will be to recommend forwarding the study to the President for decision. The DRP should also resolve the question of further study distribution subsequent to Presidential decision.

[Omitted here is a list of the contents of Scowcroft’s briefing book for the November 24 DRP meeting.]

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Tab A

Table Prepared in the Department of Defense


TOTAL SHIPS 535 586 608 609
SSNs 88 93 95 95
SHIPS BUILT FY 77–81 111 142 162 164
SCN COST CHANGE FROM FYDP (FY 77–81 AVERAGE) +0.3B +0.3B +1.4B +1.7B
MANPOWER CHANGE FROM FYDP (IN 1990) 0 +51,000 +57,000 +73,000
  1. Source: Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box 22, Defense Review Panel Meeting, 11/24/76—Naval Study (NSSM 246) (2). Secret. This is a summary of a joint DODNSC study, U.S. Strategy and Naval Force Requirements, the final version of which is dated November 16. Boverie forwarded the entire study, 78 pages plus an annex, and this summary to Scowcroft under a covering memorandum, November 22, for review prior to the DRP meeting to be held on November 24. (Ibid.)
  2. See Document 83.
  3. No minutes of the meeting have been found, but see Document 84.
  4. The referenced portion of the paper discusses issues related to force levels and the composition of the Navy, specifically qualitative considerations, carriers and their cost, the nuclear/conventional power mix, the qualitative mix of other surface combatants, the future of sea-based air, and new technology.
  5. No record of the meeting was found.
  6. Document 102.
  7. Attached, but not printed. See footnote 1 above.
  8. Current plan: FYDP with repriced shipbuilding. [Footnote in the original.]