111. Memorandum for the Record1


  • Defense Review Panel Meeting, Wednesday, November 24, 1976–11:00 a.m.


  • White House Situation Room


  • The Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, as Chairman of the NSC Defense Review Panel, Acting Secretary of State Charles Robinson, Deputy Secretary of Defense Wm Clements, Director of Central Intelligence George Bush, Chairman, JCS General George Brown, Director of OMB James Lynn, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Holloway, Deputy Director ACDA John Lehman, Associate Director of OMB for National Security and International Affairs Donald Ogilvie, OSD/PE Peter Aldridge, NSC Staff Richard Boverie, Randy Jane, Howard Eldredge, Intelligence Community Staff Admiral Bergin, OSD/ISA/DASD James Wade, ACDA, Robert Behr, Deputy Director, PM James Goodby


  • (1) DRP Study on the Future of Naval Strategy and Shipbuilding Program2
  • (2) NSSM 246 US Strategy and Force Postures3

Navy Study

Secretary Rumsfeld said he wanted views on three issues: (1) the relationship of the Navy Study to NSSM 246; should the President be briefed on the Navy study; how to handle the Congressional request for a study on the Navy shipbuilding program. Secretary Rumsfeld then asked Mr. Aldridge to present the briefing charts (see attached charts—Tab A).4 Referring to the second chart (which described present maritime capabilities in a NATO war), General Brown said that the JCS believed the claimed capabilities were somewhat overstated.

At the conclusion of the briefing, Secretary Rumsfeld said that there was an obligation to give Congress something on the Navy study but there was no specific time period for this. He noted that the paper [Page 467] would be useless to Congress in declassified form and that a SECRET version was being prepared by Defense. He asked Mr. Scowcroft for his opinion on briefing the President. Mr. Scowcroft replied that the President should definitely be briefed on the study and that it should be done in conjunction with a briefing on NSSM 246. Mr. Lynn thought that the Navy briefing must come after the briefing of NSSM 246 since the latter study had the broader focus; also some issues were surfaced in NSSM 246 which had not been identified in the Navy study. Secretary Rumsfeld said he had no problem in beginning with a briefing for the President on NSSM 246 and then following with the Navy study.

After a discussion about possible dates for briefing the President, Secretary Rumsfeld said he understood it was agreed that the Navy study would be briefed to the President sometime after NSSM 246 and that an early December date would be sought for briefing NSSM 246 to the President; the Defense Department would seek to produce a modified classified version of the Navy study, but no decision would be made about submitting the study to Congress until after the President has been briefed. Responding to Mr. Scowcroft’s reservations about providing Congress an NSC decision paper, Secretary Rumsfeld said that the paper would be called a Defense Department report to Congress.

Mr. Wade asked whether he could assume that the study was finished. Secretary Rumsfeld said that he could, although there were a lot of areas requiring further study since the paper was not the ultimate answer to the country’s future shipbuilding program.

Mr. Scowcroft said that he had one problem with the paper: it implicitly assumed that to improve the Navy you simply add more carrier task forces. Secretary Rumsfeld said that a lot of that material had been taken out of the report, but Mr. Lynn said that he didn’t think the report had been changed all that much. Admiral Holloway thought that the paper indeed had been changed to be more like what Mr. Scowcroft wanted. Secretary Rumsfeld said that this was true, but it could be argued that the paper still lacked a classic low-mix, non-big carrier option. There was something close to it, but it wasn’t there. If anyone wanted to offer a low-mix option, Secretary Rumsfeld added, he should provide it to Mr. Aldridge and it would be put in the briefing for the President.

NSSM 246—Briefing for the President

Secretary Rumsfeld said he wanted views on whether there should be another Defense Review Panel meeting to consider NSSM 246. This would be hard to do, given scheduling problems, but we could think about a meeting on November 30. He also wanted opinions on whether the report should be an informational or a decision paper; his own incli[Page 468]nation was to give a briefing to the President initially that was for decision purposes. Afterwards, Mr. Scowcroft could interact with the President on how he wanted to proceed. Mr. Scowcroft thought that the paper at least should be structured so that it could be the basis for decisions. Secretary Rumsfeld said that the paper already was cast in that form. It lacked only the boxes to be checked. However, Secretary Rumsfeld said that we should make sure that the first meeting with the President will not be a decision meeting. Mr. Lynn said that even if the President doesn’t consciously decide on some of the issues in NSSM 246, he will in fact be making decisions in the context of the budget and these will have some effect on overall strategy. Mr. Lynn said that in the preparation of the budget he had directed that where certain issues were discussed in NSSM 246, they should be held in abeyance; an example of this was what is our MX strategy. Secretary Rumsfeld said he had also been holding off on certain program decisions for the same reason. Mr. Lynn said that everyone will want to be heard and he would therefore suggest that as a separate effort we try to decide on what issues are ripe for decisions, or if certain issues are not ripe for decisions, what are the implications of various proposals.

NSSM 246—Budget Implications

Secretary Rumsfeld asked Mr. Wade to proceed with the briefing of NSSM 246. (See attached charts—Tab B.) Mr. Lynn pointed out that the budgetary figures used in the charts were based on DOD’s new Five Year Defense Plan (FYDP). It was wrong to show only those figures in his opinion, and a range of numbers would be better. Mr. Aldridge said that the difficulty with using the previous Defense budget was that Defense would have to guess at what the five-year projection would be. Mr. Lynn said that if the study did not use OMB’s figures, it should at least use numbers consistent with what the President had previously approved. Mr. Wade said that the current program was consistent with current policy. Mr. Lynn said that his people had given him different advice. They had told him that there were new or accelerated programs in the budget beyond those previously approved by the President. This was specifically the case with respect to the M–X missile. Secretary Rumsfeld and Mr. Clements both interjected that that decision had not yet been made. Mr. Lynn said that while that might be so, NSSM 246 included in its budget estimates funds for that accelerated program. Mr. Scowcroft wanted to be sure he understood that the base used in the NSSM 246 was the Defense Department’s FY 78 budget submission. Mr. Lynn confirmed that that was the case. Secretary Rumsfeld said that perhaps a range of numbers would be the right answer. Mr. Lynn said that it would also be possible not to show any numbers but Mr. Scowcroft thought that a yardstick would be helpful. Secretary Rums[Page 469]feld asked Mr. Scowcroft, Mr. Lynn and Mr. Wade to get together to solve this problem.

NSSM 246—Strategic Forces

Mr. Lynn asked if it would be possible to beef up the description of the capabilities represented by the various strategic force options. For example, the description “no specific counter-silo capability” was too vague. Could the matter not be quantified more precisely? Secretary Rumsfeld said that one could trick oneself by being too precise. Mr. Lynn agreed but thought it would be possible to be more precise than the report had been about capabilities. Mr. Lynn also asked whether if the US moved towards an improved counter-silo capability, the Soviets would stand still for that or would they not begin to build missiles which would not be so vulnerable. Mr. Wade said that probably they would move toward mobile missiles, which the US should do also. Secretary Rumsfeld, commenting on current strategic policy, said that people are most important to save, but our whole strategic approach was different. We were aiming at destroying the Soviet recovery base by destroying factories on the theory that this would avoid killing populations while hindering national recovery. However, factories could be reconstructed relatively quickly if people were available to do it, while without the people to reconstruct the economic base it would take a country a generation to recover.

Speaking of civil defense, Mr. Lynn said that if the Soviets were not so far ahead of us as we thought, and we accelerated our civil defense preparations, the USSR would probably also accelerate its civil defense programs. Mr. Lynn asked whether it would not be possible to provide under each of the options a few lines suggesting what the response of the Soviet Union might be to the US proposed programs. Secretary Rumsfeld asked if that meant something on the order of an action-reaction description. Mr. Lynn said this was what he had in mind and said that something also might be said on SALT and Arms Control. To provide only a paragraph at the end of the whole discussion of options tended to blur the action-reaction cycle. Secretary Rumsfeld said that perhaps a little on action-reaction could be put in but he cautioned against discussing SALT implications in the report. Returning to the question of mobile missiles, Mr. Lynn asked whether it could be assumed that the Soviets would go for mobile missiles if the US did. He wondered if the Soviets might retain their silo-based missiles for the higher accuracy they provided and use mobile missiles for a second strike.

NSSM 246—General Purpose Forces

Secretary Rumsfeld said that he didn’t buy the terminology on the General Purpose chart. He said that US forces have to be prepared for [Page 470] more than the short-warning type of attack. Mr. Lynn agreed, saying that in addition US forces should be prepared to meet a feint by the Soviets and find the real attack coming somewhere else. Acting Secretary Robinson asked whether the US might not inspire a particular kind of attack by preparing only for one scenario. Secretary Rumsfeld said he thought it likely that if the US prepared for only one scenario the Soviets would indeed pick another one. The US had to have a variety of capabilities to deal with a variety of attack scenarios.

Mr. Lynn asked whether it would be possible to have two or three sentences beefing up the commentary on US General Purpose Forces in other parts of the world (i.e., apart from Europe). Secretary Rumsfeld agreed.

Secretary Rumsfeld went on to say that he would not characterize the ninety-day supply criterion for US forces in NATO as our current strategy because in fact we are not yet up to a 30 day supply level for our own forces.

Mr. Lynn said that we should not fool the President that this report has told us what our force requirements are or that the cost figures for major programs are at all solid. Turning to Gen. Brown, he said “your people” could not possibly support them, they are so low. Secretary Rumsfeld agreed that the report could contain a range of figures.

NSSM 246—Overall Strategies

Mr. Wade commented that the differences between the present budget and that required by the alternative strategies were not large. Mr. Lynn and Mr. Ogilvie both commented that the base figures used in the study were 8 billion dollars higher than what OMB was talking about just to begin with. Mr. Lynn said that the figures were very rough. Gen. Brown agreed that they were “terribly” rough. Mr. Wade said what he was trying to point out was that the fiscal disparity between present programs and larger alternative programs did not represent a large percentage increase. Mr. Ogilvie disagreed. He said there was still six billion dollars difference between the lower options and the larger options, even using the DOD numbers. Mr. Wade agreed but said that he would have expected even bigger variations. He did not consider them large by comparison with a $120 billion defense budget. Secretary Rumsfeld said there was a difference in perspective because Wade was looking at the numbers in the light of what these forces would do in terms of policy and OMB was looking at it from the standpoint of what it would cost the taxpayers.

NSSM 246—Next DRP Meeting

Turning to the question of the next DRP meeting, Secretary Rumsfeld asked whether we should plan on a meeting on the 30th of November. Mr. Lynn said that we should tentatively schedule the [Page 471] meeting, but hope not to have it. Mr. Robinson said that a meeting should be held if the report was to be in any way regarded as a decision document. (Note: This was in response to remarks that the report might become a decision document even though not so described). Mr. Scowcroft said this was a very important point because if the report were to be a decision paper then we should be thinking about it in that way. Secretary Rumsfeld said that the report would not be a decision paper when first presented to the President. Acting Secretary Robinson emphasized that he would want to know what specific issues might be put to the President for decision. Secretary Rumsfeld asked whether another DRP meeting was needed before the information meeting with the President. Acting Secretary Robinson said that if some issues were up for decision we ought to know what they are. Mr. Lynn agreed that these issues should be written up now so we would all know what they are. He asked whether there could not be a separate paper on this. Acting Secretary Robinson said it would be useful to have a DRP meeting because it might be necessary to argue about the issues in the paper. It was agreed to review schedules and propose a date for the next DRP meeting on NSSM 246.

The meeting adjourned at 12:30 p.m.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Robinson Records, Lot File 77D117, Box 8, NSSM 246. Top Secret. Drafted by Goodby on November 26. This memorandum is a record of the DRP meeting held on November 24 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the White House Situation Room. Handwritten minutes of the meeting are in the Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box 116, 11/24/76 DRP Meeting.
  2. Document 110.
  3. Document 102.
  4. All the charts referenced herein are attached, but not printed.