113. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld to President Ford1




  • Response to NSSM 246—US Defense Policy and Military Posture

Attached hereto is the National Security Council Defense Review Panel’s response to NSSM 246.2 It addresses the current and projected threat, arms control, and resource considerations associated with our military posture. It also highlights a number of critical unresolved issues which impact on present and projected strategies and require further studies and analysis. Changing military and political considerations identified during the study make it questionable that our current policies and programs will be fully consistent with our national security requirements during the 1980s.

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We have therefore developed a range of options in the form of notional alternative strategies for our strategic and general purpose forces, some of which merit further refinement and detailed analysis. Additional analysis is particularly needed to reduce the current uncertainty in the elements of each major strategy alternative, along with the force structure requirements and cost implications of each. These cost estimates are extremely rough and the figures are not agreed among your advisers.

Donald Rumsfeld


Response to National Security Study Memorandum 246 Prepared by the National Security Council Defense Review Panel


The last comprehensive NSC review of national defense policy which articulated overall defense strategy and military posture (NSSM 3)3 took place in 1969. Since then, the international political, economic, and military environment has changed substantially. For example: the war in Indochina has ended; our relationship with the Soviet Union has broadened; the Soviets, through great effort, have achieved a rough equivalence in strategic forces; we have established a dialogue with the People’s Republic of China; and the United States and its allies have become more dependent on higher-priced OPEC oil. Defense policy has evolved to keep pace with these changes; however, there has not been an interagency study addressing the full range of US strategy in the interim. As a result, on September 2, 1976, the President issued NSSM 246, directing a new comprehensive review of our national defense policy and military posture and the development of a range of alternative strategies for our strategic and general purpose forces, taking into account their security, foreign policy, arms control, and budgetary implications.

The NSSM 246 study has been conducted within the NSC Defense Review Panel process. The basic elements of the study were developed by seven interagency Task Forces and an interagency Integrating [Page 479] Group reporting to the Defense Review Panel Working Group. The Interagency Task Forces were as follows: (1) Foreign Policy, (2) Intelligence, (3) Fiscal/Economic, (4) Strategic Forces, (5) General Purpose Forces, (6) Preparedness, and (7) US Military Strategy Review.

This report addresses current US defense policy, the international situation (including the threat), preparedness policy, notional military strategy alternatives and rough cost estimates, and some national fiscal considerations.

During the course of the study, a number of areas were identified which require further analysis. Some of the more significant areas are summarized in Section VII.


Strategic Nuclear Forces

NSDM 16,4 issued in 1969 as a result of the NSSM 3 study, stated that US strategic forces would be planned to meet four criteria. In brief, they were: (1) maintain an assured retaliatory capability; (2) avoid encouraging a Soviet first-strike emphasis; (3) not permit the Soviets to cause significantly greater urban/industrial damage to the United States than they themselves would suffer; and (4) develop a light area ABM defense of the United States (overtaken in 1972 by the ABM treaty).

Issued in January 1974, NSDM 2425 (amplified by subsequent implementing Defense Guidance) provides the following strategic nuclear employment guidance:

—Should conflict occur, the most critical employment objective is early war termination on terms acceptable to the United States and its allies at the lowest level of conflict feasible. This would require a wide range of limited nuclear employment options for use in conjunction with supporting political and military measures (including conventional forces) to control escalation.

—Plans for limited employment options should enable the United States to conduct selected nuclear operations (in concert with conventional forces) which protect vital US interests, limit enemy capabilities to continue aggression, and demonstrate a desire to exercise restraint. The options would be designed to hold some vital enemy targets hostage to subsequent destruction by survivable nuclear forces and provide time to allow the enemy opportunities for reconsideration.

—Force employment guidance, in the event escalation could not be controlled, calls for maintenance of survivable strategic forces in re[Page 480]serve; continued emphasis on destruction of political, economic, and military resources critical to the enemy’s postwar power and recovery; and limitation of damage to those resources critical to the continued power and influence of the United State and its allies.

—The US nuclear force posture should deny an opponent a significant military advantage from a first strike, evidence the capability to counterbalance force posture changes that could alter the military balance, be structured so it cannot reasonably be interpreted by the USSR as threatening a disarming attack, and conform with provisions of arms control agreements.

These principles are reflected in the current Defense Guidance, which requires that strategic nuclear forces provide:

—An assured retaliatory capability across a full range of alert, survivability, and deployment postures, so that there would be no perception of significant USSR advantage in a first strike.

—A clear capability to conduct nuclear operations across a full range of conflict intensities.

—A visible capability to counter Soviet force improvement initiatives which alter the military balance and to induce Soviet adherence to current arms control agreements and negotiation of equitable follow-on agreements, while avoiding provocation of Soviet nuclear force deployments.

General Purpose Forces

NSSM 3 described four general purpose force alternative strategies for NATO and three for Asia. From this range, the President, in 1969, selected a strategy for NATO Initial Defense or Joint Defense in Asia (Korea or Southeast Asia) and designated it as US policy in NSDM 27.6

The forces for an initial defense of NATO under this strategy were predicated on the scenario (obviously only one of several possible) of a full-scale Warsaw Pact attack following a period of political crisis, mobilization, and military build-up on both sides. These forces were not planned for a Pact attack following concealed mobilization or for conventional defense beyond 90 days. Further, it was assumed that such deployed NATO forces could cope with a smaller or more slowly developing attack. In Asia, this strategy required planning for a full-scale PRC attack in either Northeast Asia or Southeast Asia but not both simultaneously. The possibility of war starting in Europe after US engagement in Asia was recognized, and the strategy called for giving priority to Europe and a disengagement in Asia.

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To this strategy was added the requirement for meeting two minor contingencies (the so called “1/2” war). The Middle East and the Western Hemisphere were mentioned as areas in which contingencies might occur. In addition, this strategy included forces for a strategic reserve and for antisubmarine forces to protect shipping between the United States and its allies.

Evolution of defense strategy guidance since 1969 has resulted in the following changes:

—An increase in focus on the Warsaw Pact threat to NATO and away from a conflict with the PRC.

—Acknowledgement of the prospective worldwide aspects of conflict with the USSR and guidance to be able to fight for as long as the Soviets and their allies are capable.

—Force sizing based on the requirement to meet a worldwide conflict against the USSR/Warsaw Pact which follows a limited US commitment (no more than three divisions) elsewhere.

—Recognition (for force sizing only) that while US planning assumes an initial Warsaw Pact mobilization which lasts 30 days and a NATO mobilization of 23 days to meet a Pact attack of 86 divisions, a smaller-sized attack following a shorter mobilization time is possible.



The central objective of US national security policy is to insure the physical security of the United States, its economic well-being, and the preservation of its institutions and values.

A major challenge to this objective has resulted from the policies of the Soviet Union. Since the end of World War II, the most significant development in the international security environment has been the USSR’s steady growth as a military power, posing the principal threat to the United States and the international system with which it is associated. After 30 years of developing its industrial, technological, and military capabilities, and maintaining consistently high levels of defense spending, the USSR has reached military superpower status, equivalent in many respects to the United States.

While the Soviet Union has been and will continue to be our paramount security problem, other elements of the international security environment, some new, some old, also bear on our defense policy and military posture: (1) the danger posed by nuclear weapons and their proliferation, (2) the increasing dependence of the United States and its friends and allies, on each other and on the Third World for raw materials and energy, (3) continuing tension and disorder (including ter[Page 482]rorism) in much of the underdeveloped and parts of the developed world, (4) the rise of the PRC as a factor in the security balance between the industrialized democracies and the Soviet Union, the implications of which must be kept under constant assessment, and (5) the sometimes conflicting pressures in the Middle East brought on by the growing dependence of the United States and its allies on Middle East oil.

In this unsettled environment, the cornerstone of our security policy is—as it has been for a generation—our partnership with the industrial democracies of Europe and with Japan. The system of collective security created in the wake of World War II has been remarkably successful. For the indefinite future, it should continue to be the basic framework for our security policies. While we have important commitments and obligations elsewhere, notably in the Middle East and in Northeast Asia, it is the NATO Alliance which has the greatest influence on the sizing and disposition of all but our strategic nuclear forces.

The USUSSR Relationship

The issue of how to deal with the Soviet Union has been a central feature of American foreign and defense policy for three decades. A significant favorable change in Soviet policies affecting US security interests is unlikely, even with changes in Soviet leadership. Soviet military budgets will remain high to insure security of the USSR, to enhance its international image, and to support its foreign policy. This effort will provide the USSR over the next few years with the military capabilities to exploit opportunities which may arise in distant areas.

US security objectives toward the USSR will be:

—To deter a Soviet nuclear or conventional attack on the United States, its allies, and countries important to the United States, and to protect their territorial and political integrity should deterrence fail.

—To provide a strong base for resisting and thereby deterring attempts by the Soviets to coerce the United States, its allies, and other nations important to US interests.

—To prevent or to offset the expansion of Soviet power and influence in areas important to the United States.

—To reduce areas of tension that could give rise to US-Soviet conflict, while improving mechanisms for maintaining stability and control should a crisis develop.

—To seek to persuade the Soviet Union to limit, and if possible reduce, military forces through arms control negotiations.

—To seek to encourage constructive Soviet collaboration on such international problems as nuclear proliferation, arms control, and Law of the Sea that affect our mutual security interests.

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Regional Factors

While some US security interests and objectives, such as strategic nuclear deterrence and strategic arms control, will be pursued in a bilateral US-Soviet context, all will involve at least consultation and, when appropriate, close interaction with allies and other friendly governments around the world.

The priority of regions and nations of the world in relation to US national security is determined by a combination of their strategic importance to the United States and the threat facing them. Under current circumstances, the first priority is the security of the United States and North America. The security of Western Europe is the second priority. Next is the security of Japan, to which is related the security of Korea, and US interests in the Middle East, South America, and the Pacific. Following these are US security interests in Africa and South Asia. There are in addition a number of security interests not related specifically to regions. These include security of lines of communication and space-based systems, proliferation of nuclear weapons, and Law of the Sea.

Hemispheric Defense. A conventional attack on the United States and its territories is not likely as long as US extrahemispheric commitments remain firm and no Soviet bases or staging areas are opened in the Western Hemisphere. US security objectives with regard to hemispheric defense include the continuation of close cooperation with Canada in defense matters; the maintenance or improvement of relations with other countries of the area, especially in the Caribbean Basin; and resolution of the issue of control of the Panama Canal in a manner consistent with US economic and security interests.

In Europe, where US political and economic interests are highest and the Soviet threat the most heavily concentrated, the focus of our security policies will continue to be the NATO Alliance. There are five important security issues that affect US strategy and forces for Europe:

—The nature of the basic US approach to the United States-European relationship and the relative emphasis given to: (a) the bilateral United States-FRG relationship and (b) European defense cooperation and the European share of the NATO defense burden vis-a-vis the United States.

—The degree of cooperation the United States should expect from its NATO allies in dealing with non-NATO contingencies.

—The impact of potential Communist participation in some governments in NATO.

—Whether the United States should plan forces and logistic reinforcement for the flanks.

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NATO’s theater nuclear posture and doctrine in the face of a rapidly changing Soviet posture and allied sensitivities to changes in theater nuclear forces.

Other important questions relate to the possibility of strengthening French military cooperation with NATO and possible NATO membership for Spain. In regard to France, the United States can encourage the French to continue their pattern of special arrangements in NATO defense planning and with the FRG, as well as help foster the symbolic cooperative measures which the French are willing to take themselves. With respect to Spain, it continues to be US policy to favor full Spanish membership in NATO. Until such time as the allies come around to this point of view (and assuming that the Spanish wish to join NATO), the United States will want to encourage the maximum coordination of US-Spanish and NATO defense arrangements.

In East Asia, our fundamental security interest is to maintain a balance which insures that the area will not be dominated by any country or combination of countries hostile to the United States. The principal elements which shape the current major power balance in Asia include the United States-Japan alliance and PRC-Soviet rivalry and tension. The current equilibrium is relatively favorable to the United States, but it depends to a considerable extent on maintaining effective American military power in the Pacific.

The PRC has now entered the period of post-Mao succession, which could eventually produce major changes in Chinese policy and orientation. While foreign policy does not appear to have been a major subject of dispute between the factions contending for power in China, our relations with the PRC are nevertheless subject to the influence of internal Chinese forces. The fundamental characteristics of Chinese foreign policy are likely to persist including at least deep suspicion of the USSR and some community of interest with the United States. While China’s basic policy objective—to counter or at least defuse the military threat it perceives from the USSR—will continue, Mao’s passing opens up the possibility of changes, both in the perception and the policies based on it.

There remain fundamental differences between the United States and China in policy, ideology, and outlook. In addition, China is developing a nuclear capability which represents a potential threat to our interests and those of our allies. A manifest inability of the United States to meet a direct PRC challenge in the Pacific would have serious effects on our alliance and other significant relationships there, and on the general credibility of US interest in Asian security.

All the Asian non-Communist powers, as well as China, look to the US as the only near-term counterweight to the Soviets’ nuclear capability and as a deterrent to any Soviet use of its military forces in the [Page 485] area. US military presence in the Western Pacific will continue to be viewed by others as important for this reason. However, specific issues in our relations with the countries of East Asia will influence our peacetime force posture there. For example:

—With respect to Japanese military capabilities, while there is a case for a greater Japanese defense effort, inhibitions on Japanese rearmament will continue, and the acquisition by the Japanese of significantly larger offensive capabilities would pose greater uncertainty and risk to our bilateral relations and to Japan’s Asian neighbors. The Japanese have the inherent ability to strengthen greatly key elements of their self-defense forces. However, even were they to undertake an increased defense effort, it is unlikely that they could develop a self-sufficient defense capability in the next decade.

—With respect to US efforts to forge constructive ties with the PRC and US interest in a continuation of Chinese-Soviet political tension, several issues will have implications for US defense policy and posture in the Western Pacific: (a) the future US role with regard to Taiwan’s security, (b) whether to help improve the PRC’s military strength through such actions as the sale of military technology and equipment, and (c) whether to hedge against a deterioration in US relations with the PRC.

—With respect to Korea, the basic issue is whether the United States can deter conflict and at the same time reduce US military involvement there. Developments in Korea are of concern to other major Asian powers, notably Japan, not only for their direct impact on these countries but also because of the possible effects on their relations with the United States.

—Elsewhere in the Pacific region—Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Oceania—US security interests, apart from the continuing need for access to the area and through it (including access to key bases and facilities), are relatively modest; there is less prospect of local events affecting the major power balance, and the potential threats to US interests are less immediate.

In the Middle East, US interests in insuring uninterrupted access to Middle East oil for the United States and its allies and the US commitment to Israeli security sometimes conflict. This area will remain one of tension and potential conflict that could severely threaten important US interests. For that reason, increasing attention should be given to contingency planning (taking into account such factors as force structure, access to basing, and staging and overflight rights) related to measures needed to:

—Deter or counter Soviet intervention.

—Intervene on behalf of a friendly state.

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—Meet the possible demand on US defense resources of a formal security guarantee to Israel, or to Israel and its neighbors, as part of a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In Latin America, US interests tend to be economic, and the prevailing conditions are such as to restrict the utility of US forces in dealing with most potential local threats to US interests. The United States has other political and economic instruments to be used in dealing with problems in Latin America. Roles for US forces in the area could include monitoring and, if necessary, defending key lines of communication, deterrence of hostile intervention in areas the United States deems important, and unilateral intervention with US combat forces. But requirements do not appear to be so demanding as to necessitate significant changes in US strategy and force posture.

In South Asia and Africa, US interests are also primarily economic, particularly in Africa, with its vast reserves of raw materials, notably in the Persian Gulf/Indian Ocean area. US strategic concerns focus primarily on lines of communication. The immense social and economic problems of these areas will continue to create conditions of local disorder and tension, which will be both disruptive in themselves and may offer opportunities for exploitation by the Soviet Union and other countries hostile to the United States. The role and utility of US forces, however, is bounded by political constraints and by the nature of US interests in these areas.

The Danger of Nuclear Proliferation

Despite on-going efforts to arrest the proliferation of nuclear weapon capabilities, the possibility exists that several countries can achieve such a capability over the next 10–15 years. Possible candidates are: [less than 1 line not declassified], Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, The Republic of Korea, Pakistan, Egypt, and Iran. It is and will continue to be US policy to try to prevent further proliferation of nuclear weapons. The requirement for the United States to hedge against failure of this policy is mitigated by the fact that all of these countries now are friendly, or at least not hostile, to the United States; that US interests may not be directly threatened; and that their nuclear arms capacities would not pose strategic dangers to the United States itself. However, some of them are in positions of potential confrontation with each other or with third countries, which could create dangerous situations in which the United States could quickly become involved.



Impressive developments in Soviet strategic and general purpose capabilities signify the persistence with which the Soviets seek to de[Page 487]velop a military force sufficient to meet perceived threats and to exploit opportunities for advancing their interests. Major defense programs have been generously supported even in periods of economic setback, and the military sector continues to command the best of the USSR’s scarce high-quality resources. Soviet leaders believe that the growth of their military power, along with political and economic trends, has helped create a new “correlation of forces” more favorable to the USSR than at any other time in its history.

In their perception of the military balance, the Soviets would be especially concerned about the specter of a two-front war, with the fear that a heavy Soviet engagement in China could lead to aggressive moves by NATO. Conversely, barring a radical improvement in Sino-Soviet relations, the Soviets probably would feel compelled to maintain strong forces along the border even during a NATO-Warsaw Pact conflict.

In the Third World, where the Soviets continue to support the spread of Communism, pragmatism and opportunism will be the Soviet guide in seeking new military relations. Threats to US interests may arise in third countries with no direct instigation by the Soviet Union. Such threats include military conflicts and shifts in relative economic power; they may occur in nations that are hostile to, neutral, or even allied with the United States. The Arab-Israeli and intra-Arab conflicts could affect US energy and trade policy, whether or not the Soviet Union sought to turn these disorders to its advantage. The Greek-Turkish conflict shows how historic distrust and current points of tension can outweigh formal alliances and normal assumptions of strategic national interests. The economic and military environment in which the United States pursues its goals also could be affected by major changes in policy on the part of the PRC, Japan, the larger Latin American nations, and any of the European allies.

Intelligence Interpretations

Although intelligence has developed a good insight into the nature of the Soviet threat, there are differing interpretations of information which could impact significantly on US decision-making. These derive principally from a lack of specific data on Soviet objectives and strategy. Of immediate concern to US force planners are:

—Whether the Soviets are seeking to develop a war-winning superiority over the United States.

—The future pace and extent of Soviet modernization of strategic and general purpose forces.

—The potential for technological breakthroughs in Soviet military-related research and development efforts.

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—The manner in which the Warsaw Pact would initiate war, the amount of warning time NATO would have, and the length of war the Soviets could sustain.

These issues are of major concern to the intelligence community. Some are under active consideration, and others will be addressed during the coming year.

Trends in Soviet Military Programs

The rapid growth in quantity and quality of Soviet intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missile forces in the late 1960s and early 1970s effected a fundamental shift in the USUSSR strategic balance. From an earlier position of clear inferiority, the Soviets have achieved a rough equivalence in strategic offensive power when compared with US forces. The Soviets also have made vigorous and continuing efforts to improve their strategic defensive capabilities, but with less success than in the case of offensive capabilities.

During the past decade, the Bear and Bison Long-Range Aviation (LRA) bomber force has been virtually unchanged. In 1974, the BACKFIRE bomber was introduced into LRA and Naval Aviation, representing the first modernization of bomber forces in over a decade. A versatile aircraft, the BACKFIRE is well-suited for use in various theater and naval missions. It has capabilities for operations against the continental United States, but there are differing views concerning the nature of these capabilities and about Soviet intentions for using the aircraft in an intercontinental role.

Since the mid-1960s, the Soviets have carried out a major expansion and renovation of their general purpose ground and air forces. Soviet ground and tactical air force weapon systems have become increasingly sophisticated, although Soviet tactical aircraft still lag behind US aircraft in sophisticated weapon systems and avionics. One of the most important improvement trends has been toward greater mobility of ground forces’ air defense systems, which will adapt these weapons to the fluidity of modern battlefield operations and enable tactical air forces to direct more of their resources to offensive missions.

Over the past decade, there have been significant improvements in USSR naval capabilities. The Soviet Navy has evolved from a force oriented almost exclusively to the defense of Soviet coastal regions to a force with growing capabilities for combat in more distant areas, and it has been increasingly used to support Soviet foreign policy in peacetime. With the addition of the Kiev carrier in the summer of 1976, the Soviets for the first time took tactical aviation to sea.

Since its inception, the Soviet space program has had a military orientation, and the majority of space vehicles have had military missions. The Soviets have improved their reconnaissance and command and [Page 489] control capabilities, including the dedication of major space resources to these areas. They have also demonstrated a nonnuclear capability to destroy a low-altitude satellite on the interceptor’s first revolution.

Soviet defense expenditures in rubles are estimated to have grown every year since 1970, and growth has been evident in all of the major resource categories—investment, operating, and RDT&E costs. It is estimated that the average annual rate of growth in ruble expenditures during 1970–1975 was some 4–5 percent. The annual growth rate in 1973–1975, however, was about 5–6 percent, reflecting primarily the deployment of a new generation of strategic missiles. There is a divergence of opinion in the intelligence community on the share of Soviet gross national product (GNP) going to defense. Some estimate that defense absorbs 11–13 percent of the Soviet GNP, while others believe that the percentage of GNP devoted to defense spending could be substantially higher.

Strategic Forces

Soviet expectations for the next 10 years evidently reach well beyond a capability for intercontinental conflict that merely assures retaliation sufficient to deter an all-out attack.

—Some in the intelligence community believe that the Soviets do not presently expect within the next decade to achieve a capability for intercontinental conflict which would enable them to devastate the United States, while preventing the United States from devastating the USSR. This belief reflects in part the high Soviet respect for US technological prowess and Soviet concern that recent developments in US strategy and weapons programs could affect their own strategic position adversely. However, the Soviets are probably striving for a warfighting and war survival posture that would leave the USSR in a stronger position than the United States if war occurred. The Soviet leaders probably hope that their forces will give them more latitude than they have had in the past for the vigorous pursuit of foreign policy objectives and that they will discourage the United States and others from using force or the threat of force to influence Soviet actions.

—Others in the intelligence community believe the Soviets aim to achieve such a degree of military superiority over the West as to permit them to wage and win a nuclear war. Such a position would allow Moscow to exert military pressure to deter US initiatives, thereby advancing overall Soviet objectives of gaining a dominant position in the world. They also believe Soviet force developments over the past several years, and prospective programs for the next several years, indicate the Soviets see those objectives as practical and achievable.

—Still others believe that Soviet military objectives are not fully discerned and therefore are differently interpreted, while intelligence [Page 490] estimates of current and projected Soviet capabilities are more clearly defined. As a consequence, assessments of Soviet military objectives should not be used as the primary basis for US force planning.

Current Soviet forces for intercontinental conflict include:

—An ICBM force of about 1500 deployed launchers, virtually all in hardened silos, and almost 800 SLBM launchers on about 60 nuclear submarines.

—About 850 bombers, missile carriers, reconnaissance aircraft, and tankers in Soviet Long-Range Aviation (LRA). This includes about 40 long-range Bison bombers plus 45 Bison tankers and about 100 long-range Bear bombers. (In addition, LRA has some 20 BACKFIRE bombers; Soviet Naval Aviation has about 600 bomber-type aircraft, including about 25 BACKFIREs.)

Despite Soviet capabilities for intercontinental attack, the prob-lems the Soviets could face if they currently contemplated attacking the United States would remain formidable:

—They would be uncertain about the outcome of an attack on the United States, probably expecting a considerable number of ICBMs and bombers to survive, and they would almost certainly consider their ASW forces to be unable to destroy more than a few US ballistic missile submarines at sea.

—They would not have high confidence in their ability to defend against US bombers and short-range attack missiles, and their ABM defenses are severely limited.

—They have a large passive defense program, and they would probably expect their civil defenses to be able to preserve a political and economic cadre and to contribute to the survivability of the Soviet Union as a national entity, but they would have to expect heavy casualties, industrial destruction, and a breakdown of the economy.

During the next 10 years, current and prospective development could markedly increase Soviet strategic capabilities. Soviet R&D programs are held by some to be consistent with both a desire to avoid slipping behind the United States and a desire to gain the lead in the technology of strategic offensive and defensive weapons if US programs falter. An opposing view is that there is little reasonable doubt that the Soviets are striving for general strategic superiority over the United States and that, if the current massive Soviet R&D programs achieve the breakthroughs being sought, an important shift in the USSR’s favor in the strategic balance could occur by 1985.

The Soviets are steadily deploying new types of ICBMs and SLBMs. In about 1980 they will have a total force of about 2,300 missiles, of which about 1,400 will be new missiles, with about 800–900 of these MIRVed. These systems will incorporate major qualitative im[Page 491]provements, including higher accuracies, and will probably pose a major threat to US Minuteman silos in the early 1980s. A more rapid increase in this threat is possible but unlikely.

The extensive Soviet strategic R&D program includes two new SLBMs and a possibly larger missile submarine. They also have the potential to improve bomber defense and ASW capability and will probably initiate efforts to develop a long-range bomber as well as improve their antisatellite (ASAT) capabilities.

New large phased-array radars oriented toward US ICBM fields are under construction in the northwestern USSR. If they have an ABM battle management capability and many such radars are deployed, and if development of the rapidly deployable ABM–X–3 system is carried to the point at which it is ready for deployment, then widespread ABM–X–3 deployment could be accomplished within several years. Such a deployment would abrogate the ABM treaty.

Directed by the Ministry of Defense, the ambitious Soviet civil defense program is intended to mitigate the damage which the United States could inflict on the Soviet economy and leadership. Soviet civil defense priorities appear to be construction of hardened and dispersed shelters for party and government leaders, industrial hardening and dispersal, and in-place protection for essential workers. However, there is currently insufficient information to assess the pace and effectiveness of future Soviet efforts.

General Purpose Forces

Out of a total of 4.4 million men under arms, the Soviet Union has about 2.3 million men in its general purpose forces, and its Warsaw Pact Allies have another 1.2 million. The Warsaw Pact has 225 divisions, highly mechanized and in varying states of readiness; 5,700 tactical aircraft; and a naval strength which includes some 230 major surface combatants and 260 general purpose submarines.

The Soviet Union’s 170 divisions have a total of some 45,000 tanks. Production of the new T–72 medium tank is expected to increase markedly in the next year or two, allowing the Soviets to deploy it widely. The most significant change in Soviet tactical aviation has been the introduction of a new generation of aircraft with substantially improved payload-range capabilities and more sophisticated avionics systems; however, the majority of aircraft in the tactical inventory are still older models.

Opposite NATO in Central Europe and the western USSR there are about 1.5 million men under arms—89 divisions at varying strengths with some 24,000 tanks, and 3,000 tactical aircraft. Elements of the Pact’s navies, as well as strategic attack and defense forces, would also be used in a European war.

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Forty-nine Soviet divisions and some 1,400 Soviet tactical aircraft are in the Soviet military districts east of the Ural Mountains and in the Mongolian Peoples Republic. These forces are intended mainly for the contingency of war with China, and, barring a radical improvement in Sino-Soviet relations, most of them would probably be retained in the Far East even during a Soviet war with NATO.

The Soviets have a variety of systems capable of delivering lethal and incapacitating chemical agents, and there is good evidence that toxic chemical munitions are available to the Soviet Forces in Eastern Europe. In addition, Warsaw Pact forces emphasize chemical-biological-radiological (CBR) environment more than NATO and can operate more effectively under CBR conditions than can NATO Forces.

New weapon systems currently known to be under construction or development will add to general purpose force capabilities of the Soviet ground, naval, and air forces in the next decade.

A follow-on armored personnel carrier, a new large-caliber self-propelled gun, and new types of antitank missiles have been developed, and there is evidence that the Soviets probably have developed nuclear artillery rounds for their larger artillery pieces. Soviet capability to engage in tactical nuclear warfare will also be enhanced by deployment of new short-range ballistic missiles. In addition, there is good evidence that a considerable variety of new electronic counter-measures (ECM) and counter-countermeasures (ECCM) equipment has been introduced in recent years.

Improvements expected in Soviet ground forces by the mid-1980s include the development of a new small arms family, follow-on antitank missile systems (ground and helicopter launched), a follow-on tank, battlefield surveillance systems, and possibly a tactical ABM system.

Four classes of major surface combatants, including another Kiev-class carrier, are under construction, and a significant but limited program for construction of modern naval auxiliaries is underway. The combat units feature an emphasis on ASW and air defense systems. At least two new fighters are currently being tested, and a variety of air deliverable weapons are being developed.

Deployments by the Soviets of the mobile MIRVed SS–X–20 ICBM and BACKFIRE bomber over the next few years will significantly enhance the survivability and accuracy of their forces for attacking European land targets and US naval forces in forward areas.

There are those who believe the momentum of the Soviet drive to maintain military superiority of theater forces in Europe seems likely to lead to a gradual expansion and further technological improvements in Soviet theater forces through the end of the 1970s. Another view is that [Page 493] the Soviets are less confident about the balance and that their force improvements will be directed at specific deficiencies.

There are also obviously real questions as to whether the USSR would wish to hazard its security by initiating a European attack. If it did, a major uncertainty for the United States is the manner in which the Warsaw Pact might go to war with NATO. With respect to the NATO Central Region, options range from an attack with minimum preparation, attempting to achieve both tactical and strategic surprise, to one preceded by extensive mobilization and reinforcement. Although longer warning times are anticipated, some believe that at least 48 hours of warning time would be available to NATO, while others hold that certain unreinforced attack options would give little or no warning. Further, there are gaps in intelligence and continuing uncertainties as to how long the Pact could sustain a war in Europe and how much effort it might devote to the flanks.

Reliability of Soviet and US Allies

A question mark for Soviet military and political leaders would be the reliability of East European forces. While Soviet leaders may have doubts whether the Pact cohesiveness would withstand the strains of war, they have committed themselves to relying on East European forces to carry out wartime functions potentially critical to the Pact’s prospects of success in a war with NATO.

As to NATO allies, the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), our principal ally in the critical Central Region, is militarily powerful and could be expected to put up a resolute defense of its territory. France probably will not, in the foreseeable future, reenter integrated military commands. However, based on France’s actions and statements since its withdrawal from the NATO command, it is probable that the French forces would participate with NATO forces against a Warsaw Pact attack on Europe, but the time it might take for them to become fully involved in the planning functions reduces their value.

Although their effectiveness does not match that of the FRG, the forces of the other NATO allies contribute in varying degrees to forward defense. They can be expected to defend to the limits of their capabilities against an attack which could threaten their security.

Soviet Military Policy for the Third World

The Soviets see the Third World as a promising arena for competition with the West and with China. They have assigned priority to areas of strategic importance such as the Middle East but have also taken advantage of opportunities in areas as far flung as Cuba and Angola. The Soviets are convinced that, despite major setbacks, their efforts in the Third World have significantly increased Moscow’s pres[Page 494]tige and influence in world affairs and have contributed to Soviet national security.

Military aid has been Moscow’s principal instrument in the Third World, and its use is likely to increase. In recent years the Soviets have been exporting increasingly sophisticated weapons which require Third World clients to rely more heavily on Moscow for spares, credits, and advisers to train local personnel. The Soviets also continue to regard insurgencies as instruments to advance their position.

Since the commencement of Soviet naval operations in distant areas in the mid-1960s, the USSR has established continuous peacetime warship deployments of varying size in a number of ocean areas adjacent to the Third World—the Mediterranean Sea, the Arabian Sea-Indian Ocean, and West Africa waters. The USSR also conducts periodic deployments to the Caribbean. While the Mediterranean force is deployed in good part to oppose NATO should hostilities break out, Soviet naval presence in all distant areas generally serves to enhance the perception of the USSR as a superpower in the eyes of the Third World.

In addition, use of facilities in distant areas could enhance Soviet military capabilities. For example, air and naval bases in Berbera and Conakry give the Soviets a potential, in the event of hostilities, for interdicting oil lines of communication from the Middle East to Europe and the United States.

The Soviets have increasingly used Military Transport Aviation (VTA) to deliver high-priority items of military equipment and emergency resupplies to client forces. The VTA can also deploy limited combat forces overseas. The increase in numbers of aircraft comparable to the American C–141s will significantly enhance VTA’s capability to carry large cargoes and increased numbers of troops over long distances. The AN–22, the only Soviet aircraft which can carry outsized equipment such as medium tanks, is no longer in production. Soviet heavy airlift capacity will therefore be limited unless a follow-on is produced.

Soviet ground, airborne, and amphibious forces are designed to operate primarily in the contiguous areas of the Eurasian land mass. Although the Soviets have not developed combined arms assault forces comparable to a US Marine Amphibious Force, they do have a limited capacity to send forces to distant areas in crisis situations, and their capabilities are growing slowly. Any Soviet involvement in conflicts in the Third World is likely to take the form of interpositioning naval forces, providing advisers to combat units, and introducing air defense units to assist a client.

People’s Republic of China

PRC strategy will continue to focus on the Soviet threat, with deterrence its primary objective. In pursuing this strategy, China will try [Page 495] to avoid direct confrontation with either the Soviet Union or the United States.

The Chinese have a small nuclear force of missiles and bombers which includes a limited-range ICBM possibly capable of reaching Moscow. This force provides a modest deterrent against attack and permits the employment of a countervalue strategy against several USSR cities and Asian nations, including several US allies.

An ICBM capable of attacking targets in the continental United States could be available for initial deployment in very small numbers by the early 1980s. An SLBM system capable of being used against targets in the Soviet Far East, US military installations in East Asia and the Western Pacific, and possibly against targets in Hawaii and the US west coast probably will be available for initial deployment in the early- to mid-1980s. Neither system is likely to have a capability to attack hard targets.

China will not become a naval power capable of opposing the United States or USSR on the high seas within this period; however, its general purpose submarine force and cruise-missile-equipped ships would be a significant threat to naval operations in contiguous waters. The armed forces, which consist of some 4.3 million men, will remain large, but for both the ground and air forces the technological gap with the United States and USSR will continue to widen.

North Korea

Although the current leadership in North Korea has proclaimed its intention to reunite Korea and will continue to develop a military option for its reunification policy, North Korea is currently deterred from attacking the ROK by a combination of: (1) lack of clear-cut superiority over US and ROK forces, (2) the United States-ROK Mutual Defense Treaty, and (3) uncertainties about Soviet and Chinese support. The impact on deterrence of a reduction or withdrawal of US forces is difficult to judge. If such a move were made by the United States, timing and collateral measures to reassure the ROK and discourage North Korean aggression would be crucial. Even if executed perfectly, unilateral US withdrawal without ROK improvements in their capabilities would likely be destabilizing.


The Soviets view science and technology as an important, if not the decisive, element of military capability. Technological superiority in deployed weapons is the ultimate goal of a Soviet RDT&E program that is second in size to no other. For example, it is estimated that the dollar costs of the Soviet military RDT&E program have exceeded those of the [Page 496] United States for every year since 1970 and were about two-thirds higher than the comparable US effort in 1975. In addition, the Soviets have devoted major resources to build up military industrial technology in support of R&D goals for defense and space programs. In their efforts to close the “technological gap” with the United States, the Soviets have consciously sought to reduce the closure time and cost by direct acquisition of advanced Western products and production technology.

In their approach to weapons development, the Soviets have traditionally emphasized long-term evolutionary development of existing system concepts or narrowly focused efforts to develop specific types of systems. While some of their programs have involved innovative concepts and some of their deployed systems are technically advanced, they have tended to concentrate on programs that have a clearly defined near-term product. In recent years, however, the Soviets have evidently embarked on a broader range of exploratory military R&D programs. This would give the Soviets increased flexibility in future weapons development, a better base for the evolutionary development of existing systems, and a better basis for assessing US threats. On the other hand, the pursuit of revolutionary technology introduces greater risks and chances for failure, as well.

Recent Soviet statements reflect special attention to the impact of technological developments on the strategic military balance. The Soviets apparently believe that only the appearance of new types of weapons is likely to alter the existing strategic balance. They are concerned by the potential US developments in this area and are themselves conducting R&D programs of broad scope and considerable vigor in fields in which significant and perhaps novel weapon systems may emerge.

Prime examples of Soviet interest in revolutionary technological concepts are in the areas of ASW sensors and directed-energy weapons. In both cases the Soviets have an extensive R&D effort in progress, even though the potential in terms of practical weapons development is uncertain. The ASW efforts involve investigation of a variety of techniques that seemingly have limited prospects for success—detection of submarine wakes with radar, infrared, and nuclear-trace detectors; extremely low-frequency electromagnetic sensors; and lasers. Efforts possibly related to the development of directed-energy weapons include extensive basic research in areas that would support the development of exotic weapons such as charged-particle beam weapons and nonnuclear electromagnetic pulse generators. The development of any of these systems for practical applications in the near term is considered unlikely, although one view within the US intelligence community holds that this judgment underestimates the impetus of Soviet directed-[Page 497]energy programs and that these programs could have a major, if not decisive, impact on the strategic balance before 1985. Development of other types of directed-energy weapons, such as lasers, is being actively pursued by the Soviets and could result in even earlier successful weapons application.

On the other hand, even evolutionary improvements not involving “breakthroughs” could significantly affect force capabilities of both the United States and the USSR. Ballistic missile accuracy and reliability will improve to the point that any fixed target (except deep underground installations) will have an essentially zero probability of survival, and in time even SLBMs can become serious threats to hard targets. Air defenses can be improved with look-down shoot-down fighters and SAMs with low-altitude capability against subsonic targets. Perhaps ballistic missile defenses to protect all except massively attacked high-value targets can be evolved from SAM technology. In the area of conventional weapons, precision guided munitions will permit one-shot kill (with a launch and leave capability); precision emitter location of radars and communication sites will enhance the effectiveness of strikes; and electronic counter-countermeasures could overcome US advantages in tactical jamming. Individual capabilities of Soviet aircraft will match those of the United States. Somewhat surprisingly, however, Soviet exploration of cruise missile technology has lagged behind that of the United States despite their earlier recognition of the potential of such weapons and the deployment of early, short-range versions. In particular, cruise missiles are a formidable threat to carrier task forces.

Similarly, there are potential developments in US technology which at the extreme could dramatically affect our overall posture or which less extremely would affect individual programs, perhaps significantly. Examples of the former include breakthroughs in space-borne laser weapons, sensors, and data processing which would make an effective ballistic missile defense both realizable and cost-effective. In the second category are such possibilities as airborne (or even space-borne) surveillance/strike systems to supplement aircraft carriers in their sea control role, hypersonic low-altitude cruise missiles to supplement penetrating bombers, or accuracy improvements in SLBMs which could decrease dependence on ICBMs for attacking hard targets. None of these appear imminent enough, however, to influence the next generation of force modernization.

In general, the underlying foundation of basic scientific knowledge on which the Soviet RDT&E program rests is considered equivalent to that of the United States, although many specific areas are characterized by substantial leads by one nation or the other. For example, the United States is considered more advanced in microelectronic cir[Page 498]cuit theory, while the Soviets are the acknowledged leader in high-pressure physics and magneto-hydrodynamic power generation. There appears to be either a general parity or an unclear picture in such basic areas as high-energy lasers and particle beam research.

A similar mixed, roughly equivalent overall condition exists in those R&D areas being explored with definite military applications in mind but not yet deployed as weapons. The United States leads in such areas as computer simulation of aerodynamic effects, composite materials, turbo-jet and turbo-fan design, and engines designed for use in tanks. The Soviets, on the other hand, are ahead in such areas as wing-in-ground effect vehicle design, storable liquid propellant technology, and high-frequency radio wave propagation.

Perhaps more important than the size and sophistication of a nation’s military R&D program is its ability to transfer its technology into deployed weapon systems. Despite the greater allocation of resources to R&D activities and an overall comparable scientific base, the Soviets have been less successful, at least until recently, than the United States in fielding technologically advanced weaponry. This shortcoming may be due, in part, to inferior production technology. More probably, however, it is due to governmental policies that limit the full exploitation of technological capability. For example, a reliance on a conscript army means that weapons must be designed so that maintenance and operation procedures are performable by minimally trained soldiers. In addition, a traditional emphasis on large quantities of deployed weapons reduces the sophistication feasible within realistic economic constraints. Moreover, this may be a manifestation of the compartmentation and secrecy that shroud the entirety of Soviet defense establishment, and in particular their military RDT&E, activities. It may well be that the opportunities for Soviet technological advancement in the long run rest as much in institutional, organizational, and managerial reform as in the continued allocation of massive amounts of resources to RDT&E.

The paucity of scientific information about military programs released by the Soviets obviously limits our vision and understanding of Soviet scientific achievements and the successor military capabilities. Given the current environment of an eroding US lead in overall technology and an expanding Soviet dedication to technology, the closed features of the Soviet society may provide the greatest opportunity for technological surprise.



The build-up in Soviet strategic forces which began in the late 1960s has continued unabated through the mid-1970s even though [Page 499] some limits on these programs have been established through SALT. Current Soviet modernization efforts will come to fruition by the mid-1980s but will continue the improvement in their total force effectiveness through the decade. The most recent Presidential guidance issued on force sizing was in 1969 (NSDM 16) and on employment policy in 1974 (NSDM 242). In the course of the current review of strategic force policy, a range of proposals has been considered for achieving US strategic deterrence objectives and maintaining the strategic balance with the Soviet Union through the modernization of US strategic capabilities. An effort has been made, however, not merely to reflect alternatives that would be logical, incremental extensions of current forces, but also to conduct a basic review of the criteria by which deterrence, escalation control, and postconflict security can be assured in the face of a growing Soviet strategic threat, a more dynamic balance of forces between the two superpowers, and the constraints and opportunities of SALT.

While the Soviet Union constitutes the principal strategic threat to US and allied interests, US strategic force policy must also consider PRC strategic capabilities and, eventually, a world in which considerable nuclear proliferation may have occurred. Current US policy is to assure a capability to attack strategically important targets in the PRC, either during or after a major nuclear conflict with the Soviet Union. PRC strategic nuclear forces probably will grow increasingly capable of operations affecting US interests, particularly in Asia, but the likelihood of major Chinese aggression against US interests is small, so long as the PRC continues to see advantage in the continuation of a stable regional balance among the United States, USSR, PRC, and Japan. Accordingly, US day-to-day strategic alert forces include only limited capability to strike critical PRC targets, and any further requirements would be met by the additional US forces that would go on alert when generated during the crisis.

The central question regarding strategic forces is what capabilities are required for deterrence and to provide military options to fight a war should deterrence fail. A range of credible military options is important to maintaining deterrence, as well as to escalation control, satisfactory war termination, and postwar recovery. Seven aspects of this question are treated below, as separate issues. Two are particularly significant: Issue #1, on basic military deterrence criteria, and Issue #2, on political criteria for deterrence.

Issue #1: Deterrence Criteria. What criteria for US offensive and/or defensive forces will assure achievement of the fundamental objectives of deterring nuclear attack on the United States and its forces, and of contributing to the deterrence of conventional and nuclear attacks on [Page 500] US allies? Views on which criteria to emphasize tend to fall into three categories:

Postwar Recovery Retaliation. One view holds that maintaining a highly survivable capability to inflict high levels of damage against political, economic, and certain military targets related to postwar recovery is sufficient to make the prospective consequences of a nuclear attack unacceptable to Soviet leaders. In this view, it is neither necessary nor desirable to base requirements on relative US-USSR capabilities. Presently programmed US forces have more than adequate population/industrial damage-inflicting capability and possess hard-target capability useful for limited-response options, but short of an effective countersilo capability. Seeking to assure a favorable military outcome or significantly to limit damage to the United States would cost too much, would hinder arms control, and is probably not attainable. Moreover, in this view, US strategic forces designed to “assure” a favorable war outcome through damage limitation would be destabilizing because they would give the Soviets incentives to preempt in a crisis.

Military Gain Denial. A second view holds that US forces capable of retaliating only against post-war recovery targets lack the credibility necessary to inhibit Soviet coercion, to deter attacks on US forces, or to back up conventional and theater forces in deterring attacks on or coercion of US allies. Limited options lack credibility if the outcome of an all-out exchange would be perceived to be militarily favorable to the Soviet Union. The US must have serious military targeting options, of a kind respected in Soviet military doctrine, in order to persuade Soviet leaders that no military advantage can be secured through counterforce attack or nuclear escalation. This implies offsetting Soviet capabilities for attacking military targets, and other hardened targets, including silos. Since the Soviets are believed to be planning for the possibility of an extended war in which nuclear weapons are used in conjunction with conventional military operations, the United States must confront them with highly survivable strategic reserves over and above essential retaliatory forces, which would preserve a satisfactory military balance during and after a nuclear conflict.

Postwar Political-Military Advantage. A third view holds that enhanced offensive targeting capability would assure a relatively superior US position at every stage of a nuclear exchange. Only such a posture, it is argued, can make retaliation truly credible, particularly for deterrence of attacks on US allies. This implies taking Soviet civil defense into account in planning US strategic offensive forces and in assessing alternative SALT proposals. It also implies developing a US defensive capability, including civil defense, to assure a mix of surviving [Page 501] population, industries, and resources equal to or better than Soviet recovery capability.

Issue #2: Political Perceptions of Sufficiency. What force size and characteristics are necessary to avoid Soviet, US, or third-country perceptions of a strategic imbalance, perceptions which could result in greater Soviet risk-taking and coercive behavior and increased accommodation to Soviet pressures by allies and neutrals? Our declaratory policy can and does influence perceptions within limits. There are different views on those limits and the approach we should take to the balancing of asymmetries. The main alternatives are:

Declaratory Policy. One view is that a declaratory policy which explains our own reasons for regarding any aggregate asymmetries as militarily insignificant will meet basic political sufficiency requirements. Buying forces specifically to satisfy political requirements is costly and stimulates arms competition. Arms control agreements which provide equal aggregate deployment rights tend to reduce the political effect of asymmetries in actual forces.

Offsetting Capabilities. A second view holds that political requirements can be met through an overall strategic balance, in which Soviet advantages in some categories are offset by US advantages in others. Satisfactory new US advantages can be developed as current margins in ballistic missile accuracy and warhead numbers wane. This would be more cost-effective and more stable than matching Soviet strengths one for one and would exploit historic Soviet (and European) respect of US technological powers. This position requires that US capabilities offset Soviet advantages in fact and not merely in appearance.

Match or Better Soviet Strengths. A third view is that significant imbalances in major static indicators of strategic balance (e.g., missile throw-weight, numbers of warheads, hard-target kill capability, and civilian damage capability) would have serious adverse political consequences. Peculiar US advantages are not significant enough to offset Soviet advantages and do not carry sufficient weight in the Soviet’s own nuclear calculus. Soviet forces must be systematically matched or exceeded to avoid a perception that the balance is eroding.

Issue #3: Force Diversity. How much force diversity and redundancy is necessary to provide adequate confidence that US strategic forces can perform as required, even in the event of unexpected technological breakthroughs or catastrophic failures, and to complicate any Soviet plan for disarming attack? In examining this question, it has been found that in the postulated threat environment the cost of an additional weapon on target is substantially the same whether the delivery system is a bomber, ICBM, or SLBM. Thus, for a given basic level of capability the total cost of strategic forces (except for the nonrecurring development costs) is the same regardless of the degree of diver[Page 502]sity, so the incremental cost of achieving diversity is relatively small. Nonetheless, there are different views on hedging, as follows:

Augmented Dyad. One view is that a survivable Dyad of SLBMs and bombers, augmented in size and effectiveness as land-based ICBMs become vulnerable, would be adequate to provide the diversity and capability needed to maintain a credible deterrent in terms of assured retaliation, limited options, and, if necessary, countersilo capability. This structure would avoid the costs of developing and deploying a new survivable ICBM, would avoid SALT verification difficulties and possible domestic opposition that a mobile missile force could raise, and would avoid the potentially destabilizing countersilo potential of a new ICBM. Silo-based ICBMs could be retained or retired in favor of more SLBM and bomber capability; if retained, however, they would tend to contribute to crisis instability. A variant of this approach would be to modernize the ICBM and SLBM forces only.

Triad. A second view holds that the diversity of the present force, based on three different survivable components, should be maintained by developing a survivable ICBM force to replace some or all of the increasingly vulnerable fixed-silo ICBMs. A Triad is a cost-effective hedge against unexpected failure or vulnerability of any single component since such a failure would reduce the capability of a Triad by only one-third, whereas it would reduce a Dyad by one-half. A continued Triad would complicate Soviet strategic counterforce efforts; preserve the special flexibility, communications security, and time-urgent capability of ICBMs; avoid military or political disadvantages that might result from Soviet dominance in land-based ICBMs; and provide increased security against technological breakthrough affecting other legs of the Triad.7

Issue #4: Countersilo Capability. How much capability should the United States have for attacking Soviet hard targets, in particular Soviet missile silos? Although the assessment of the capabilities of current US strategic forces for countersilo attack is very scenario-dependent, in a first strike US forces could place at risk approximately one-third of Soviet ICBM missile throw-weight. There is a wide range of opinion on this crucial issue, but the main viewpoints are the following:

No Specific Countersilo Emphasis. One view holds that forces with the size and diversity to deter major war will automatically provide [Page 503] sufficient numbers and adequate flexibility to respond to potential Soviet hard-target improvements and to deter limited attacks, including pure countersilo attacks. In this view, the United States will in the future continue to have the capability to destroy a portion of the Soviet ICBM force. Acquiring greater capability to attack Soviet strategic forces, particularly a capability based in fixed silos to match the USSR, would lead to instability by creating grave pressures for preemption in a crisis (including possibly the adoption of launch under attack doctrines) and could lead to arms race instability by forcing new Soviet deployments of mobile ICBMs. Proposals for limited countersilo capability do not avoid these dangers because the Soviets could not be sure the deployment would remain limited. In this view, increasing the survivability of US strategic forces, but not their counterforce potential, is the preferred offset to increased Soviet counterforce capabilities.

Limited Additional Countersilo. In this view, developing survivable US ICBM forces with some improved countersilo capability is necessary to prevent the Soviets from having war-fighting options not available to the United States and to impose penalties on them if they continue with fixed-silo ICBMs. In this view, the United States should be capable of confronting the Soviets with the prospect of a reliable, highly effective countersilo attack against their residual land-based ICBM force after a first strike against the US land-based ICBM force. Such US capability need not match Soviet preattack countersilo capability, since the more survivable US force will present less of a target to the USSR. Crisis stability would not be greatly endangered if this limited US countersilo force is clearly inadequate for a US first strike and is also very survivable. Giving the Soviets an incentive to move out of fixed ICBM silos would also enhance crisis stability, since their survivable mobile basing would present the United States with no incentive to strike first. Moreover, permitting the Soviets to enjoy a dominant position in fixed ICBMs, while the US is forced to move unilaterally to more costly mobile basing modes, would provide them significant political and economic advantage.

Full Countersilo. Another view is that the United States must have an efficient countersilo capability to match any Soviet counterforce attack with a response in kind. A capability to respond to an attack on our silos with only a partial attack on Soviet silos is inadequate to provide high confidence deterrence. Only a full countersilo capability can force the Soviets to choose between launching all their ICBM forces in a first strike or no attack at all. Thus, by denying them limited options and assuring ourselves of high confidence damage limitation, deterrence is strengthened.

Issue #5: Defensive Damage Limitation. What measures should the United States take in civil defense, industrial hardening and dispersal, [Page 504] air defense, ABM defense, and counter-SSBN capability to limit damage in a nuclear exchange? (Illustrative civil defense programs which fit this definition are in the forthcoming NSSM 244 response.) Three basic positions are identifiable. There are, of course, other valid arguments for modest defensive deployments such as for peacetime air sovereignty. The current issue covers only significant deployments.

Nominal Defensive Damage Limitation. One view holds that any large effort at defensive damage limitation will be costly, ineffective, and destabilizing. It will encounter widespread public resistance, stimulate arms competition, and jeopardize the ABM Treaty. The appropriate response to Soviet damage limitation efforts is not to match them but to negate them as necessary with offensive programs. This might include highly survivable strategic reserve forces to offset evacuation programs. This view also holds that modest defensive improvements are unnecessary to provide hedges, that they waste money, and that they would be seen as leading to larger, destabilizing programs.

Enhanced Planning for Defensive Damage Limitation. A second view holds that present efforts at population protection with a modest expansion will provide contingency civil defense capabilities that could usefully save lives in case of a failure of deterrence, and could provide some basis for matching a rapid Soviet breakout of substantial civil defense capabilities. Similarly, in air and ABM defenses, planning and R&D could make available a rapid contingency breakout response to any major Soviet force build-up or ABM treaty abrogation. The basic US response to Soviet damage limitation efforts, however, should be improved US offensive capabilities, as necessary, with emphasis on survivability.

Major Defensive Damage Limitation. A third view holds that deterrence will be weakened unless the United States improves its capability for active and passive defense to limit damage, to reduce US casualties significantly in a limited nuclear attack, and to avoid suffering damage any greater than that which the United States can inflict on the Soviet population and economy. Offensive force improvements alone cannot compensate for an asymmetry in damage limitation.

Issue #6: Peripheral Attack Forces. Should the United States strengthen its forces for peripheral attack in response to the Soviet build-up in “gray area” systems? There are two basic positions on this issue:

No Enhancement Necessary. One view is that apart from doctrine and declaratory policy there is little necessity to make specific changes in force posture to counter Soviet peripheral attack systems. Threats posed by new Soviet systems to the survivability of theater forces do not significantly weaken strategic deterrence, since the linkage between strategic and theater nuclear forces is not strong. However, [Page 505] making changes in nuclear force deployments in Europe, substituting systems based outside the theater for ones based on allied soil, or raising questions about the theater balance will only arouse old European fears that the United States plans to reduce its tactical nuclear weapons in Europe substantially and weaken the theater deterrent.

Enhancement Required. The second view holds that the prospective growth in Soviet peripheral attack capabilities (BACKFIRE, SS–X–20, and nuclear-capable tactical aircraft) threatens the survivability of US theater nuclear forces and the political credibility of the coupling to the strategic deterrent. Enhancing the survivability and augmenting the numbers of peripheral attack forces would persuade the Soviet Union of the continuing escalatory risk of a nonnuclear attack and reassure our allies of the continuing US capability to provide a strategic nuclear deterrent. This could be done through some combination of assigning additional Poseidon RVs, and new theater-based systems such as medium-range cruise missiles, longer-range Pershing, or intermediate-range tactical aircraft (F–111 type).

Issue #7: Flexibility for Escalation Control (Limited Nuclear Options). How much strategic force flexibility is necessary to deter counterforce or other forms of limited nuclear attack and to control escalation?

It is generally assumed that forces with the size and diversity to deter major war will provide sufficient numbers of weapons to deter limited attacks other than counterforce attacks. However, this may not be enough to provide special capabilities that may be important for escalation control through limited nuclear options (LNOs). These special capabilities are dealt with elsewhere in the paper:

—Special command and control capabilities such as flexible retargeting, secure communications, or manned reconnaissance (related to diversity, Issue #3);

—Countersilo capability (Issue #4);

—Forces with special flexibility and recallability—bombers (Is-sue #3);

—Defenses for limited conflict (Issue #5);

—Enhanced peripheral attack capabilities (Issue #6);

—Counter-SSBN capabilities (Issue #5).

While the capabilities which provide flexibility are derivatives of decisions on other basic issues, alternatives can be varied to emphasize or deemphasize this characteristic. Thus, in making decisions on other key issues, attention should be paid to consequences for flexibility and the relative importance of LNOs to the strategy.

In addition, some argue that improved combinations of high-accuracy, low-yield nuclear delivery systems could improve our ability to limit escalation and influence negotiations by controlling collateral [Page 506] damage from nuclear strikes. Others argue, however, that high accuracy, once achieved, could be rapidly transferred from low- to high-yield weapons, thereby giving us a perceived, if not real, disarming first-strike capability. In this view, LNOs can be carried out using current systems and targeting selectively to reduce collateral damage.

Alternative Strategies for Strategic Forces

Decisions on most of these issues are not completely independent of one another. Some choices might be incompatible, while others automatically relate. For example, a decision that we should match the Soviets in all major areas for political sufficiency reasons tends to preclude a decision to procure only an augmented Dyad. At the same time, many compatible choices on issues can be formed, particularly in combining defensive and offensive issues, although there are differences over interpretation of issues and force implications. Accordingly, choices on particular issues do not necessarily translate into unique strategy or force posture alternatives.

To provide a range of options for policy review, choices on key issues have been combined in consistent and representative ways to form five notional alternative strategies which are indicative of the range of policy choices. Each of these describes a general illustrative posture which would have to be refined for actual force and budget decisions. Each of the alternatives would provide a basic capability, after withstanding a full-scale Soviet attack, to destroy those resources critical to the Soviet Union’s postwar recovery and influence as a major power. Each also has some capability for limited nuclear options. While the pace of force modernization becomes more rapid under the stronger options, some acceleration could also occur under the more modest options even though the overall force goal is lower.

While average costs over the next 5 years are identified for each alternative, the full impact of the proposed force changes in many options occurs in the mid- to late 1980s.

Alternative S–1: No Reserve/Postwar Recovery Retaliation/Dyad

This alternative would deter major attacks through a basic assured retaliation capability (day-to-day ability to attack recovery targets) and provide deterrence against limited attacks. However, it does not permit a response in kind to a major countersilo attack. Specific flexibility advantages of the survivable ICBM force would be given up, although inherent capability to execute limited nuclear options with all components would be developed as much as possible. Strategic reserve forces would not be specifically provided, but the basic force is postured on some conservative assumptions which could provide forces for extended conflict.

[Page 507]

The US strategic force posture would be an Augmented Dyad rather than the current Triad. Bomber and SLBM forces would be modernized at a deliberate pace, but not the ICBM force. (A variant would be to modernize ICBM and SLBM forces only.) Low-cost fixes to MINUTEMAN survivability would be sought, and ICBMs, as they age or become vulnerable, would be replaced with additional bombers or SLBMs. Also, forces would not be bought specifically for counterforce or flexible response options, but forces procured for the basic assured retaliatory mission would possess some hard-target capability. Forces for damage limitation would not be bought.

This alternative reflects the view that being able to inflict high levels of damage is adequate for deterrence and that an augmented Dyad provides sufficient hedge against technological surprise and sufficient flexibility for reasonable limited options without the danger of creating instability with heavier, hard-target kill ICBMs. It also reflects a belief that political sufficiency can be provided by a declaratory policy which emphasizes the potency of this capability, US warhead and accuracy advantages for as long as they continue to exist, and the advantages of foregoing vulnerable silo-based forces. In this view, current strategic and theater nuclear forces provide sufficient flexibility for plausible limited options; counterforce and damage limiting are rejected as destabilizing.

A variant of this alternative would be to buy a larger Augmented Dyad sized against the targeting requirement of S–2 below. This would considerably increase the reliability of the coverage of the basic target systems plus provide a dedicated postattack reserve. As with the basic S–1, it would avoid the potential for crisis instability of a new hard-target ICBM, but it would also not provide the force diversity assurance or the flexibility for escalation control of S–2, and would probably cost as much.

The estimated average annual cost for this alternative over the next 5 years would be roughly $2 billion less than the current base program. A brief description of the methodology for deriving these cost estimates is included in Section VI.

Alternative S–2: Reserve/Postwar Recovery Retaliation/Triad

This alternative would provide, through the timing of force modernization, for a high-confidence assured retaliation capability in the mid-to-late 1980s. With additional hedging and a reserve, US forces would be able to execute limited nuclear employment options to deter limited nuclear attack and control the corollary escalation, while providing for war termination should such attacks occur. Hard-target capability would be limited so that the Soviets could not construe it as a first-strike countersilo force. If the US force suffered a Soviet first-strike [Page 508] countersilo attack, the surviving ICBM force would have only a minor countersilo potential in response.

In this alternative, the Triad would be maintained and would be sized for day-to-day ability against recovery targets. Force modernization would continue across-the-board at a deliberate pace. The M–X would be developed for initial operational capability in a mobile mode in the mid 1980s, replacing Minuteman III. M–X characteristics and force size would be developed on survivability, not countersilo criteria. The B–1 and Trident II would go forward, but specific hard-target capability for the Trident II and counter-SSBN programs would be retained only in R&D as options. Damage limitation would be incidental, not a major goal.

This alternative reflects essentially the same choices as Alternative S–1 except on the critical point that it chooses to maintain a survivable Triad as the most cost effective hedge against technological surprise or catastrophic failures. As a consequence of developing a new land-based component, this option would also provide somewhat greater flexibility. This option also might provide greater hard-target kill capability, although this would not be a specific objective, and, in fact, efforts would be made to limit this capability (e.g., retain Trident II hard-target capability in R&D).

The estimated average annual cost for this alternative over the next 5 years would be roughly $1 billion less than the current Defense base program.

Alternative S–3: Offsetting USSR Strengths/Military Gain Denial

This alternative would be designed to enhance the credibility and war fighting capability of the US strategic deterrent in the face of growing Soviet strategic forces by assuring an outcome of overall military equality at all levels of nuclear conflict. The United States would offset rather than match Soviet advantages. It would strengthen the survivable force in reserve for protection and coercion during and after a major nuclear conflict. It could involve improved civil defense planning to limit damage to US population and industry.

This option would seek to neutralize any prospective Soviet advantages from war initiation by assuring the survivability of adequate nuclear forces throughout a series of possible nuclear exchanges and by acquiring capabilities adequate to execute a high-confidence attack on the Soviet silo-based force ICBM force and to attack special targets such as Soviet general purpose forces or hardened command and control facilities. In addition to providing continued diversity through a modernized Triad, including the B–1, this option would emphasize a survivable but limited countersilo capability. M–X would be developed for survivable basing modes; planning would continue for an accurate Tri[Page 509]dent II. This option would require development of new advantages in such areas as ICBM survivability, long-range conventional capabilities, or improved peripheral attack capabilities, including new systems such as cruise missiles to replace prior advantages in such areas as MIRVs and accuracy as they decline. An enhanced civil defense program to improve protection of population and industry would also help offset Soviet strategic strength, but no major attempt would be made to limit damage.

This alternative makes the same decision about diversity/survivability as Alternative S–2, but it reflects a belief that credible deterrence requires confronting Soviet planners with persuasive war fighting options and a belief that political sufficiency calls for some substantial offset to projected increases in Soviet strategic and theater capabilities. This offset could in part consist of capabilities for executing a wider range of limited attacks over the course of a longer conflict, including a limited capability to counterattack Soviet silos and improved peripheral attack capabilities.

The current Defense program moves in the direction of this alternative as a response to Soviet strategic force improvements. In funding terms, this alternative now corresponds essentially to the current Defense base program through FY 1982. Strategic spending would continue to increase after the Five-Year Defense Program period.

Alternative S–4: Matching Soviet Strengths/Military Advantage

This alternative would be designed to persuade the Soviets that they would lose any strategic war even by a strictly military standard. We would seek a balance with them in important areas of possible advantage, particularly hardtarget counterforce capability.

A mobile M–X would be developed as expeditiously as possible, replacing MM III with a new, larger throw weight missile to match Soviet hard-target kill capability. This alternative would also proceed with an accurate Trident II for countersilo capability and would develop rapidly deployable contingency ABM systems, a maneuvering reentry vehicle (MARV) for penetration and a contingency air defense system using AWACS and tactical fighters; civil defense would be strengthened. Some forces would assume a counter-SSBN role. Peripheral attack forces would be upgraded and also augmented with CONUS- and sea-based nuclear forces to counter the Soviet BACKFIRE and SS–X–20.

This alternative reflects similar assumptions as Alternative S–3 about the need for a Triad of forces and for a credible deterrent, but it calls for more clearcut demonstration of political sufficiency and war fighting capability by matching Soviet growth, particularly countersilo capability. The range of available limited options would be increased [Page 510] by providing limited counter-SSBN and counter-bomber capabilities. This option assumes that the Soviets would have difficulty responding by increasing their current efforts or that if they did so, it would reduce their effort in conventional forces. This alternative would include improved civil defense.

The estimated average annual cost for this alternative over the next 5 years would be roughly $2–3 billion above the current base program, with substantial additional increase beyond 1982.

Alternative S-5: Clear Military Advantage/Damage Limitation

This alternative would be designed to assure that no matter what the circumstances, the United States would emerge from any strategic conflict with a clear military advantage and with losses sufficiently low to permit survival and recovery of the nation.

The Triad would be maintained and augmented with long-range cruise missiles. Modernization programs (e.g., B–1, M–X, Trident II) would be accelerated to protect against near-term imbalances and vulnerabilities resulting from the current Soviet force build-up. A dedicated air defense would be provided, as would a significant civil defense. Counter-SSBN programs would be improved and expanded. Without abrogating the ABM treaty a rapidly deployable ABM system would be developed. ABM Treaty modifications could also be considered to permit light area ABM defense. Maneuvering reentry vehicles would be deployed as a hedge against possible Soviet ABM Treaty abrogation. Peripheral attack forces would be modernized, given longer range and greater survivability, and augmented with CONUS- and sea-based nuclear forces.

This alternative reflects a belief that credible deterrence of attacks on ourselves and our allies requires serious capability to limit damage to the United States in the event of a Soviet retaliation and a belief that the United States can acquire such capabilities at acceptable cost. Substantial diversity and clear-cut political sufficiency result automatically from this choice. Arms race and crisis stability considerations are considered of secondary importance.

The estimated average annual cost of this alternative over the next 5 years would be roughly $8–10 billion above the current base program. Major additional cost increases would occur beyond 1982 as programs reach fruition.

Foreign Reactions and Arms Control Implications

There is a general agreement that Soviet reactions to US force posture initiatives cannot be specifically predicted or defined. The extent to which Soviet behavior and force posture decisions are substantially affected by US initiatives is not clear. Perhaps the most that can be said is [Page 511] that US decisions leading to a diminished US strategic force capability, as might be perceived to be the case under Alternative S–1, could lead to Soviet attempts to exploit resultant asymmetries. US willingness to consider such initiatives may offer incentives for the Soviet Union to enter into meaningful arms control agreement. For example, US willingness under Alternative S–1 to reduce ICBMs and to modernize bomber and SLBMs at a moderate pace could be used to seek comparable constraints on Soviet systems. In a similar manner, US decisions to strengthen its strategic capabilities could bring positive pressure to bear on the Soviets to bargain more productively in SALT. On the other hand, too forceful a strengthening of US strategic force capabilities, as might be perceived under Alternative S–5, could cause the Soviets to forego arms control as a viable activity and lead them to attempt to match or outstrip US initiatives, resulting in continued strategic competition and perhaps, strategic instability. The general policy problem for the US is how to seek Soviet cooperation without diminishing national security or stimulating a Soviet strategic build-up.

US allies feel comfortable with current US strategic policies. They could be made uneasy, at least initially, by any significant departure from current US policy with respect to strategic forces. Any potential adverse effects could be mitigated by careful and timely consultations. To some extent, Allied perceptions of the adequacy of the US strategic posture are based on expressed US judgments on its own strength vis-à-vis the Soviet Union and resulting Allied perceptions of US resolve in crisis situations. An alternative such as S–1, which could be perceived as moving toward a less capable strategic posture, would probably be disturbing to the allies, who would fear that US security guarantees might become less reliable and Soviet influence greater. A credible declaratory policy, coupled with prior consultations in NATO and bilateral channels, could do much to reassure allied governments on this point. Alternatives such as S–5 could be viewed by the allies as likely to lead to increased USUSSR tensions, possibly complicating their efforts to normalize relations with Eastern Europe. The PRC in general seems to view a high level of USUSSR tension as in its own interest.


General purpose forces form the core of the Free World collective security system and also provide the United States with the capability for unilateral military action. Current US strategy governing general purpose forces focuses on the Soviet threat to US interests. While the major military threat is centered in Europe, military confrontation in other areas of the world could ultimately involve both NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

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While the size and structure of most US general purpose forces are determined by military requirements, the forces that result serve other than purely military ends. As in the case with strategic forces, general purpose forces convey an important political message to the world at large. They present an image of US interest and involvement in world affairs. They demonstrate the depth of US commitment to the alliance system and, more generally, to free world security. And they make clear the intention of the United States to play a responsible great power role in the world, its readiness and ability to respond to unexpected crises, and its willingness to maintain a balance of power with its major adversaries. The adequacy of general purpose forces in supporting US national objectives, therefore, cannot be measured solely in terms of their capabilities for dealing with specific conflicts.

Barring unforeseen developments, the United States will continue its collective security arrangements in Europe, and the requirements of this commitment will continue to be a major determinant of general purpose forces’ structure and posture. This is not to say that the structure of NATO, the nature of our commitment, or the nature and relative share of the European allies’ contribution to their own defense should not be altered. It is merely to recognize that the predominant US political and economic interests, aside from territorial security, reside in the industrial democracies of Europe; that the Soviet Union is certain to continue to pose an imminent political and military threat to these nations; and that the scale of this threat far exceeds all others presently identifiable.

Our political and military interests in, and mutual security commitments to, Japan and the related commitment to Korea will also continue. Although the USSR will remain the major threat to US and allied interests in Asia, the United States must consider Chinese capabilities and intentions. The likelihood of Chinese aggression against US interests is small, and, so long as overall relations among the four major powers in Asia do not alter significantly, the likelihood of coordinated Sino-Soviet aggression is even smaller.

The United States has significant interests and obligations in other areas of the world, but these interests and the possible threats to them are not as clearly definable or as generally agreed upon as those in Europe and Northeast Asia. Nevertheless, much of the rest of the world is unstable, and there has been a significant increase in the military capabilities of Third World countries. It is reasonable to assume that future situations could arise in, for example, the Middle East or the Caribbean which would warrant the use of military force.

The discussion which follows will address factors influencing conventional military strategy. Possible conflict with the Soviet Union and its allies will be discussed first in terms of the Central Front in Europe [Page 513] and the Atlantic lines of communication, then the NATO flanks, and then possible related actions outside the European theater, including limited conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union. Other US military requirements are discussed, including the defense of Japan and Korea, possible minor or unilateral US military actions not involving the Soviet Union, and US peacetime military presence.

As it progresses, the discussion identifies the major issues with which the policymaker must deal and suggests different approaches to these issues. After the discussion, six strategies are posited which combine varying military capabilities deriving from alternative approaches to the issues.


The US choice of strategy in NATO is not a unilateral decision, since US allies have firm views of their own on this subject. While it cannot plan on a strategy greatly divergent from allies, the United States clearly is in a position of leadership in the Alliance, and therefore its views on strategy carry considerable weight.

Current US goals are to encourage NATO allies to improve their forces, increase the level of resources devoted to defense, standardize military equipment, adopt common doctrine, improve the interoperability of forces, and rationalize the allocation of resources in order to increase the effectiveness of the collective defense effort. Moreover, the United States encourages host nations to guarantee wartime support to US forces in order to allow more rapid build-up of US combat forces and seeks agreements for the establishment and expansion of the lines of communication in Europe required for the wartime support of NATO forces.

The currently agreed NATO strategy is a strategy of flexible response which includes three stages: forward conventional defense, deliberate escalation, and general nuclear response. As rough strategic nuclear parity has developed, the United States has given increasing weight to NATO’s capability to execute the first option. Allied views on this matter have been ambivalent and vary somewhat among the various allies. Although reluctantly accepting the US lead in improving the conventional defense option, most of the allies continue to put principal reliance on nuclear deterrence, even though they recognize the altered nuclear equation. This view is in accord with allied interests in avoiding the costs of improving conventional forces and avoiding making Central Europe the battleground for any protracted conflict.

In the strategic alternatives for worldwide conflict with the USSR and its allies, there are four major interrelated considerations: (1) conflict in Europe and the North Atlantic, (2) conflict on NATO’s flanks, [Page 514] (3) conflict outside the NATO area, and (4) opportunities for US/allied initiatives. These are addressed in the following paragraphs.

The most important and complex area is a conflict on the NATO Central Front and in the North Atlantic. Three major factors influence the adequacy of NATO’s conventional posture in Europe: the size of both total and forward-deployed forces, response capability, and sustainability. These three factors are interrelated. For example, it generally takes fewer total forces and less sustaining capability to hold territory initially than to retake it, but to be successful, much of the total force must be in-place or rapidly deployable. Issues on each of these factors are discussed below.

Issue #1: Adequacy of Forward Force Deployment. [8 lines not declassified]

The question of the adequacy of the size of the US and NATO military forces is most clear-cut when applied to forces in Europe in peacetime. There is some concern that if the Soviets were successful in launching a very rapid, short-warning attack on NATO, Warsaw Pact forces which are stationed forward in larger numbers than those of NATO in peacetime could gain a significant military advantage before NATO could mobilize and deploy adequate forces to counter them. It is not at all clear what the Pact capability is to execute such a complex attack, and there is widespread agreement that the Soviet Union is unlikely to launch an attack in Europe unless an unstable political situation prompts it. Such a situation should, in itself, provide some warning. Therefore, the issue is whether the Warsaw Pact’s latent capability for unmobilized attack is sufficient to warrant a build-up in the size of NATO’s peacetime in-place and dual-based forces.

There are three basic alternatives for the size of US peacetime deployments in Europe:

The Present Plan. This will deploy 5 division equivalents and 24 tactical fighter squadrons in Europe, which includes a net increase of 2 brigades and 3 squadrons.

Increased Forward Deployment. This would deploy additional ground and air units to Europe. Such a change would require an increase in manpower in Europe with implications for MBFR. In order to provide an adequate rotation base, this plan could also require an increase in the total number of active Army divisions, which could necessitate return to a peacetime draft.

Decreased Forward Deployment. This would involve lower US force levels in Europe. Substantial US reductions would necessitate compensating allied increases and therefore would have major long-term foreign policy and arms control implications.

Issue #2: Response to Limited Warning. In the past, US planning focused on defense against a Warsaw Pact attack of about 85–90 divisions [Page 515] following about a month of mobilization and reinforcement of both sides (the so-called 23/30 scenario). The Pact now has the capability for military operations prior to major reinforcement. To hedge against unreinforced attack, recent defense guidance has recognized that a conflict might begin at any time after the Pact begins preparation, although an early attack would involve fewer Pact forces. There are serious uncertainties about the rate at which Pact forces would build up over time, NATO’s capability to detect this, and NATO’s capability to react to such warning, particularly in the political sphere. Pending clarification of these questions, some steps have been taken or are planned to improve our capability to respond to such attacks.

There are two basic alternatives for planning US response capability:

Continue with Current Defense Guidance. This would keep the focus of US force planning on a reinforced Pact attack following a period of warning, while continuing to hedge against earlier, smaller attacks.

Adopt a More Rapid Response Capability. This alternative would change the focus of defense guidance from a specific scenario toward the concept of insuring that forces and their reinforcements can move into battle at a rate roughly equivalent to that of the Pact forces under any scenario. This concept demands that the response capability of NATO forces in peacetime not be significantly less than that of the Pact and that the rate of mobilization and deployment of additional NATO forces also be comparable to that of the Pact. Implementing this concept could require further improvements in the rapid response capability of US forces in Europe and in the rate of reinforcement from the United States, including some mix of additional pre-positioned material and enhancement of mobility forces. If chosen, such a concept would have to be closely coordinated with our NATO allies.

Issue #3: Sustainability. The Soviets are clearly planning for a fast-moving war in which they would hope to achieve their objectives in a few days or weeks at most. However, their accumulation of a significant amount of older military equipment and ammunition and their maintenance of central reserve forces raise serious concerns that they may be able to sustain a major conventional conflict much longer than previously assessed and that failure of NATO to plan for a conflict of comparable duration could entail significant risk. While there are major uncertainties in the US estimate of Pact sustaining capability, particularly in areas such as equipment maintenance, the Pact appears to have adequate supplies for several months of combat.

US planning is complicated by widespread reluctance of non-US NATO countries to plan for supporting their own forces for more than about 30 days of intense conflict. In the event of Warsaw Pact attack [Page 516] and failure of the allied defense, US forces would be compelled to withdraw from Central Europe. US sustaining capability would have to exceed that of its allies only long enough to permit successful evacuation. This raises questions concerning the gap between allied sustaining capability and the current US defense program to fund a 90-day sustaining capability for forces for Europe. Further, funding an industrial mobilization base in excess of that available as a result of routine peacetime military production is also at issue. One solution is US funding of sustaining munitions for NATO Allies, as we now do for the Republic of Korea. Another solution would be to encourage US allies to increase their own sustaining capabilities to 90 days. Resolution of the complex and long-standing NATO problem of standardization and interoperability of equipment and supplies would greatly facilitate adoption of alternatives for improving European sustainability.

There are four basic alternatives for funding US sustaining capability for conflict in Europe. US funding of munitions stockpiles for US allies so that they could fight as long as could US forces is a sub-option. This would be successful only if the allies funded stocks of equipment to replace losses and had the necessary manpower programs to maintain their force structures.

[2 paragraphs (12 lines) not declassified]

180 Days. Such a capability, if also adopted by our allies, would probably enable us to outlast the Pact.

Indefinite. [2 lines not declassified] Such a capability would insure that we could fight as long as necessary if the allies were to develop a similar capability.

Issue #4: Conflict on the NATO Flanks. How much combat capability and support should the United States provide for operations on NATO’s flanks?

The flanks of NATO overlook the means of Soviet access into the open ocean areas which constitute the internal lines of communication of the Atlantic Alliance. Moreover, Norway and Denmark overlook areas of direct military and economic significance to the Soviet Union, as well as a source of petroleum which will become increasingly significant to Western Europe.

[1 paragraph (10 lines) not declassified]

[1½ lines not declassified] Further study is needed to determine how the United States might best participate in the collective defense of the flanks.

At present, the basic alternatives are:

Continue Present Planning. This alternative would continue current planning for US capabilities on NATO’s flanks.

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Increase Capabilities. This alternative would provide additional US capability and would consider stockpiling munitions for sustaining support to flank allies.

Issue #5: Conflict Outside the NATO Area. How much combat capability should the United States possess for conflict with the Soviet Union and its allies outside the NATO area?

A NATO/Warsaw Pact conflict might spread outside the NATO area. US planning has long recognized the probability of worldwide naval conflict. The United States must consider potential Soviet efforts to interdict lines of communication to US overseas territories and allies or to impede the rapid transit of US ships from the Pacific to the Atlantic for the reinforcement of NATO.

US allies outside of NATO should also be expected to contribute to the defense of their own interests, including sea lines of communication. The relative future contribution of US allies to regional defense requires careful examination. [5 lines not declassified]

The most critical threat posed outside Europe by Soviet forces is to the free world’s oil supplies in the Persian Gulf region. Soviet interdiction of Middle Eastern oil would have a much more immediate and direct impact on Europe and Japan than on the United States. If conflict in Europe stalemated into protracted conflict, a Soviet attack in Iran to interdict NATO oil could significantly divert US resources. With US assistance, Iran has initiated a major build-up in its defense capabilities.

Moreover, the prospect of bilateral USUSSR conflict not involving NATO or the Warsaw Pact must also be considered. As the Soviet Union improves its abilities to project influence worldwide and demonstrates a willingness to exploit instabilities where its interests are served, the prospects for conflict with US interests increase. US economic well-being depends upon worldwide resources and commerce, and any Soviet action which seriously threatened these interests could necessitate a reaction. While such confrontations could remain isolated, they could also spread to a wider NATO/Warsaw Pact conflict. The United States maintains multipurpose forces which can be employed either in this context or within the context of a worldwide conflict with the USSR.

The basic alternatives are:

Retain Present Capability. Continue current capabilities and planning emphasis.

Improve US Capability. Provide additional capability for US operations worldwide, including the Persian Gulf area.

Reduce US Capability. Alternatively, planning could emphasize the transfer of a greater share of the worldwide defense burden to US allies.

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Issue #6: US/Allied Initiatives. What capability should the United States and its allies possess for initiatives subsequent to a Warsaw Pact attack?

The forces which confront the main Pact attack will be limited initially to defense. However, Pact resources are not infinite. Massing for attack on one front will require thinning capabilities in others, creating vulnerabilities which may be exploited. Early allied combat successes will strengthen allied resolve and contribute to insuring continued worldwide support and availability of resources. Allied initiatives against Soviet/Warsaw Pact vulnerabilities could: tie down Pact Forces; reduce Soviet ability to interdict reinforcement of Europe; seize Pact territory; and exploit Pact internal disaffections.

Capabilities for such initiatives would be inherent in an increased capability for conflict worldwide against the Soviet Union and its allies. However, the implications of such objectives for US defense planning have not been carefully studied. The specific question is therefore one of planning emphasis. The basic alternatives are:

Continue Current Planning. This course would continue only basic planning for the exploitation of opportunities which might present themselves.

Increased Emphasis. This alternative would place greater emphasis on planning possible US/allied initiatives which could contribute to termination of conflict under conditions favorable to the United States and its allies.

Other Military Requirements

While the focus of defense planning is on the defense of NATO, the current US military posture possesses an inherent flexibility for dealing with a diverse range of other military requirements. However, such flexibility must be balanced against the political and military need for overseas deployments and by the economies realized by specializing some forces. The major question encountered in this area concerns the risk we should be willing to take in our major war capability in order to cover a simultaneous or preceding conflict of a lesser nature. Given the large uncertainties in requirements for major conflict, it is difficult to distinguish between efforts which reduce risks relative to conflict with the Soviet Union and those which increase capabilities relative to possible additional small conflicts. There is a direct linkage between a broad or a narrow definition of the planned worldwide NATO/Pact conflict and the degree of risk associated with using these forces in non-Soviet conflicts.

The US commitment to the security of Japan and Korea is important because these nations serve as a barrier to the projection of Soviet influence into the Pacific Basin. Japan is especially significant econom[Page 519]ically. While the threat to Japan’s security is currently remote, the US-Japanese relationship will probably depend upon Japanese perceptions of US resolve—and capability—to provide a secure shield. At present, US naval and air forces based in Japan support the US commitment to the security of Japan and Korea as well as US presence in the Western Pacific. There is, however, the question of what Japan’s role in her own defense should be, particularly regarding air defense and the security of her long sea lines of communication, which was discussed under Issue #5.

Issue #7: US Forces/Support for the ROK. How much assistance should be provided to the ROK?

Korea is important to the United States because of its relationship to the security of Japan and the regional balance of power. The United States presently maintains forces in the ROK (an additive requirement) and plans to provide both additional air and naval forces and logistic support in the event of a NK/ROK conflict. While ROK improvements have in large measure eliminated the requirement for US ground combat forces, the ROK will probably depend on US air, naval, and logistic support for the foreseeable future. If the USSR or the PRC were to support a North Korean attack, the United States could expect a lengthy conflict. Significant reductions of US sustaining capability in Europe would probably make support of a lengthy war in Korea impossible, unless the US stockpiled specifically for that contingency.

The alternatives are:

No change: Continue US forces in, and support for, Korea at present levels.

[1 paragraph (3½ lines) not declassified]

Issue #8. Unforeseen Contingencies. What additive contingency capability should be provided to hedge against minor conflict prior to or simultaneous with a major NATO/Pact war?

While the principal threat to US security is the Soviet Union, actual commitment of military force in the recent past has been for other reasons. Since World War II, the United States has required the exercise or show of force on more than 60 occasions throughout the world, varying from disaster relief and evacuation to subtheater conflict (e.g., Indochina).

Developing PRC capabilities could threaten US interests in Asia, and a real Sino-Soviet rapprochement could drastically alter the world balance of power. But so long as Sino-Soviet hostility persists and other major power relationships remain stable, the likelihood of PRC aggression is considered small, and the probability of coordinated Sino-Soviet aggression is even smaller. Consequently, no additional forces for action against the PRC are planned at this time.

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The United States will retain interests worldwide in the years ahead. While the threat to these interests is at present uncertain, growing world population, mounting competition for resources, increasing socio-economic problems, proliferation of modern weaponry, emergence of increasingly independent regional powers, and Soviet willingness for opportunistic exploitation are all factors which will affect US security interests.

Military requirements for dealing with lesser powers are, of course, much smaller than those for conflict with the Soviet Union or PRC, although an increasing number of lesser powers are being equipped with high-quality equipment. For this reason, US planning primarily attempts to insure that the overall forces generated for major conflict have the inherent capability to engage in the full spectrum of plausible lesser conflicts. A price is paid for this by maintaining some forces which are not ideally suited for a major Europe-centered conflict of limited duration. Chief among these forces are some naval forces and those ground forces characterized by high mobility and versatility—largely USMC and Army airborne units. While such units could be used in the European theater in some situations, their main value lies in their ability to be moved relatively rapidly to locations of actual or potential conflict not needing heavily armored forces, and where prepositioning is not warranted. The same is true of some naval carrier task forces, the major attribute of which is the flexibility to concentrate tactical air power in littoral areas where maintenance of land bases is not warranted. However, as many of these forces are also required for prospective conflict with the Soviet Union and its allies, there is a question as to what additive requirement is necessary for other worldwide interests.

The alternatives are:

Reduced Capability. Provide for no additive capability. Insure that forces planned for the defense of NATO include forces sufficiently flexible for commitment to unforeseen contingencies worldwide, and plan on accepting increased risk in Europe whenever forces are actually engaged elsewhere.

Current Capability. Continue to provide roughly the current level of additive capability—limited ground, tactical air, sea-based projection, and mobility forces sized for force interposition in the Middle East.

Increased Capability. Provide increased strategic mobility, sea-based projection and multipurpose ground and tactical air forces.

Peacetime Presence

United States forward-deployed and afloat forces serve both military and political purposes. In the main, our peacetime presence capability is an inherent benefit derived from conventional forces structured [Page 521] and justified on the basis of warfighting requirements. Moreover, US forces overseas may act as a deterrent to potential enemies by increasing their risk of direct involvement with the United States. However, changes to US peacetime deployments are widely viewed as signals of change in US foreign policy. Thus, forward deployments are occasionally continued (or changes deferred) for reasons which are more political than military. US Army forces in Korea and the continuing commitment of two aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean area are cases in point. To the extent that such force presence is not justified in terms of military requirements, it creates an additive requirement for consideration in determining the total US force structure. However, the overall military implication of any changes in the US defense program which would change peacetime deployment patterns would need to be thoroughly understood by our major allies before such changes were implemented.

Options for changes in US peacetime presence in Europe and Korea are presented in Issue 1 and 7, respectively. Decisions on Issues 4 and 5 could require decreases or provide opportunities for increases in peacetime deployments, particularly in carrier and amphibious forces.

Other Considerations

Additional subjects which must be considered in the development of a comprehensive strategy include the role of tactical nuclear weapons, possible arms control measures, and security assistance. While the illustrative alternatives do not address explicit changes in these areas, some will have an impact. For example, reduction of US sustaining capability in Europe could imply an earlier reliance on nuclear weapons.

Alternative Strategies

Described herein are six notional strategy alternatives, each of which possesses a differing range of military capabilities related to the major issues identified earlier. They could be combined into a variety of other permutations. For example, “Europe-30 days” could be combined with worldwide initiatives against the Soviets, or presence in Korea could be deleted from “Increase NATO and Worldwide.” These notional strategies can, at best, portray only a general indication of budgetary impact, as supporting force structures have not been developed or analyzed in detail. In planning general purpose forces, two types of risks are incurred. One type is made explicit in the statement of the strategy. For example, if we bought supplies for only 90 days of combat, we would run the risk that the enemy has prepared for longer war. The second type results from uncertainty in the calculation of requirements for the strategy selected.

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The alternatives reflected in the table8 address those capabilities required for conflict with the Soviet Union and its allies and those additive capabilities which are necessary for meeting US security requirements other than, but concurrent with, war with the USSR/Warsaw Pact.

Alternative G–2: Current

The current strategy is the starting point. [1½ lines not declassified] For conflict with the Soviet Union and its allies, the current defense program, when completed, provides the capability (after about a month of mobilization and reinforcement for both sides) for an “initial defense” of NATO for about 90 days. Such a posture is now assessed as adequate to deter Pact attack. If the Pact does attack, it is assumed that beyond 90 days: (1) a political settlement will have been reached, (2) the Soviets will have reached the limit of their conventional offensive capability, or (3) the war will have escalated to nuclear conflict. The current strategy provides for worldwide attrition of Soviet submarines and limited reinforcement of the NATO flanks. The current defense program also provides for peacetime presence (e.g., in Korea and Japan and afloat forces in the Mediterranean, Caribbean, and Western Pacific) and limited additional forces for unilateral military action.

At present, NATO’s prospects for recovering initial territorial losses are limited. However, Soviet planners could not have high confidence of rapidly taking large amounts of important NATO territory. But, because of limited allied sustaining capability, it is possible that the Pact could now outlast NATO.

Alternative G–1: Europe-30 days

This alternative provides for a briefer but stronger initial defense of Europe. US Forces for Europe, strengthened by prepositioned equipment and rapid reinforcement to meet a minimum warming time criterion, would be provided approximately the same 30 days of sustaining capability as our allies, under the assumption that such a posture is adequate for deterrence and that an actual conflict would either terminate or escalate to nuclear war within that time. US capabilities to conduct unilateral military action elsewhere in the world would be diminished. US ground combat forces in Korea would be phased out while continuing to provide air, naval, and logistic support. Full implementation of a 30-day strategy would fundamentally change the current rationale for a significant fraction of US naval forces.

This option may encourage greater allied preparation for their own defense but provides little capability to recover NATO territorial [Page 523] losses or to counter Soviet initiatives on the flanks or worldwide. Additionally, the NATO defense could require an earlier decision on the use of nuclear weapons. Moreover, forces for unilateral action must be drawn from those planned for the defense of NATO, increasing risk in the event of concomitant requirements.

The average annual cost for this alternative over the next 5 years would be roughly $6–12 billion below the current base program.

Alternative G–3: Increased Worldwide

Alternative G–3 would continue the current approach in support of the defense of NATO but would give greater emphasis to US interests elsewhere. However, US ground combat forces in Korea would be phased out while continuing to provide air, naval, and logistic support. Naval, strategic mobility, and US-based forces would be increased.

While this alternative provides for an initial defense of Europe and increased flexibility for dealing with Soviet or other threats worldwide, the prospects for recovering initial territorial losses in Europe would be limited during the first 90 days, beyond which point it is assumed that conflict would terminate or escalate to nuclear war. US capabilities would be improved not only for responding to worldwide requirements but also for reinforcing NATO or conducting initiatives against the USSR/Warsaw Pact, unless forces were already committed to unilateral military action.

The average annual cost for this alternative over the next 5 years would be roughly $1–3 billion above the current program.

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Alternative G–4: Increased NATO, Reduced Worldwide

Alternative G–4 would increase US contribution to the defense of continental Europe. This alternative would increase forward-deployed land-based forces and prepositioned equipment in Europe as well as mobility forces. US sustaining capability would be retained at current levels, and US sustaining support could increase allied sustainability. US capabilities to conduct unilateral military action elsewhere would be reduced, and US ground combat forces in Korea would be phased out, while continuing to provide air, naval, and logistic support.

This alternative provides a relatively high assurance of retaining defended NATO territory. However, it might be perceived as a build-up of NATO offensive capability and precipitate a build-up of Pact Forces. This option would increase vulnerabilities outside Europe and would require drawing forces for unilateral military action from those planned for the defense of NATO.

The average annual cost of this alternative over the next 5 years would be roughly $0–4 billion below the current program.

Alternative G–5: Increased NATO

This alternative would provide the same capabilities as the current strategy except that it would increase forward-deployed forces, prepositioned equipment, and mobility forces for the conduct of a forward defense of NATO for 90 days. As a variant, US support could increase the allied sustaining capabilities to US levels. Presence, unilateral capability, and support to Korea would be continued at current levels.

As in Alternative G–4, a forward defense in Europe would provide a relatively high assurance of territorial integrity unless the Pact felt compelled also to increase their forward-deployed forces. US capability for response to worldwide requirements would be at today’s levels, wherein forces for a significant unforeseen contingency may have to be drawn from those planned for the defense of NATO.

The average annual cost for this alternative over the next 5 years would be roughly $2 billion above the current program.

Alternative G–6: Increased NATO and Worldwide

Alternative G–6 would provide warfighting capability for 180 days or for indefinite conflict in Europe in addition to a stronger early response. It also would provide additional forces to strengthen defenses on the flanks or elsewhere or for US initiatives to exploit Soviet vulnerabilities worldwide. Presence, unilateral capabilities, and support to Korea would be continued at least at current levels.

This alternative provides the greatest range of capabilities and high assurance of retaining NATO’s territorial integrity. However, it is costly and could require US support to increase allied sustainability to match US levels. There would be little encouragement for allies to increase their participation in their own defense. Moreover, unless implemented gradually over time, it could be politically destabilizing.

The average annual cost for this alternative over the next 5 years would be roughly $14–21 billion above the current program.

Possible Longer-Term Strategy

For the longer term, it may be desirable to examine a strategy which would reduce force levels in Europe but would improve the US capability to reinforce after an attack began. Such a strategy would exploit military technology to provide greater flexibility for employment of forces from a CONUS-based strategic reserve against a Pact attack anywhere in Europe, or against threats to the interests of the United States and its allies any where in the world. In addition to requiring dramatically improved strategic mobility, such a strategy would, of necessity, require a greater contribution by the NATO Allies to their own defense. Evolution toward such a strategy would necessitate very closely coordinated foreign and defense policy.

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Foreign Reactions and Arms Control Implications

General Observations

All alternatives except G–2 and G–3 would involve a departure from current NATO strategy and would require extensive consultation with NATO Allies before implementing. Alternatives G–4, G–5, and G–6 require accommodating additional forces and equipment on European soil. This would be of particular importance in the case of the FRG. Such consultations could also do much to alleviate allied concerns over the apparent changes in US policy and strategy.

Alternative G–1

This alternative would tend to limit the US ability to act as a global counterweight to Soviet power. The major impact of this strategy would be in Asia. It would probably have a significant impact on key US relationships with Japan, the ROK, and China, all of whom would likely view such developments as upsetting the major power equilibrium in Asia to the detriment of their security. In Europe, the increased ability to prevent loss of territory in Central Europe would bring our strategy more in line with European views, although the strategy might increase concerns in the flank countries due to diminished capabilities for US reinforcement there. However, this alternative could require the earlier use of tactical nuclear weapons.

It is likely that the Soviets would continue current programs in the expectation that US overall reduced capability would make it easier for them to project their influence worldwide.

The reduction of general purpose forces worldwide (other than NATO) would place a premium on arms control and stabilization measures which would enhance stability in the Third World, constrain Soviet power projection capabilities (e.g., “zones of peace” such as the Indian Ocean proposal), or limit the impact on theater nuclear forces needed to support this alternative in the NATO theater.

Alternative G–2

This alternative is essentially a continuation of current US strategy. It would do little to allay concern among US allies, primarily in Western Europe and to a lesser degree in Japan, about the adequacy of NATO forces to implement current strategy in the face of Soviet force improvements.

The Soviets would probably not reduce their current programs and would see themselves in a position of continuing to improve their relative war fighting potential. This strategy calls for a continuation of our present arms control policy.

[Page 526]

Alternative G–3

In broad terms this strategy would provide increased support for a US policy of countering Soviet attempts to increase their influence on a global basis. There would be no fundamental impact on US relationships with the NATO allies, although increased forces for unilateral military actions, to the extent they were available for European contingencies, would tend to strengthen our Alliance relationships. In Asia, the adverse impact on our relations with the ROK and Japan could be mitigated by appropriate consultations and demonstrations of increased US capabilities in the areas of strategic mobility and sea-based force projection.

Withdrawal of forces from Korea before planned ROK force improvements are completed could be potentially destabilizing. The Soviets and the PRC could see this strategy as an opportunity to further their influence in East Asia, especially if they questioned the credibility of the United States to reinsert forces into Korea in a crisis.

Increased commitment to an ability to cope with global contingencies would allow the United States to deal from a position of strength in many areas. This could advantageously enhance US possibilities for regional arms control measures while continuing to pursue ongoing arms control negotiations.

Alternative G–4

As in Alternative G–1, this strategy would reduce our ability to act as a global counterweight to Soviet power. Strengthened US capabilities in Europe could be viewed as threatening Pact security. The effect on our Asian policy would be generally the same as in Alternative G–1.

The Soviets would recognize this alternative as an increased concern for European defense and could respond to improvements in US forces in Europe. This could lead to a further build-up in Pact forces, if Soviet resource constraints and priorities permit.

The build-up of US forces in Europe and the probability of a comparable Pact reaction could negate any possibility of an MBFR agreement. However, it might also motivate Pact nations to move forward on meaningful negotiations. The reduction of US forces worldwide other than NATO would place a premium on efforts to achieve arms control which would enhance stability in the Third World and constrain Soviet power projection capabilities.

Alternative G–5

This alternative would have a minimal effect on our global position vis-a-vis the Soviet Union. In Europe, reactions would be similar to those under Alternative G–4. There would probably be no direct impact on US policy in Asia, although an increase in NATO strength [Page 527] which did not result in decreased US capabilities in Asia would indirectly support the US relationship with the PRC.

The impact on MBFR would be essentially the same as in Alternative G–4. Maintaining our present worldwide capability should entail no change in our present arms control policies outside the US-USSR and NATO/Pact negotiating arenas.

Alternative G–6

This alternative could have a significant impact on US-Soviet relations signaling a US commitment to maximum flexibility in general purpose forces. Although reassuring to both our European and Asian allies, as well as to the PRC, this strategy would at the same time signal to them a major change in US perceptions of the Soviet threat.

This strategy could provide an incentive for motivating the Soviets to agree to substantial and meaningful arms control measures if the Soviets were not prepared to match US programs and force deployments.


Theater nuclear forces (TNF) complement the strategic deterrent and provide a powerful backup to the conventional deterrent. They serve as a hedge for theater defense should conventional defenses fail; deter Soviet theater nuclear attack; and provide a linkage to strategic forces, a particularly important element in our NATO posture. A credible TNF posture compels a potential enemy to consider the possibility of limited nuclear warfare and hence adds another element to his calculus of risks. The tangible presence of forward-deployed TNFs also serves to reassure those allies to whose defense we are committed.

In Asia the role of TNFs differs from their role in Europe. On the whole, Asian allies, especially Japan, rely on the US strategic umbrella for deterrence. But our theater nuclear forces in East Asia and the Western Pacific give a small extra margin of assurance to our allies and have a dampening effect on the incentive for potential proliferators such as the ROK or Taiwan to produce their own nuclear weapons. In Korea they constitute a part of the basic deterrent against attack on South Korea. Because of the difference in the nature of the threat in Asia and our commitments there, the TNF link to strategic forces is of lesser importance in planning forces for the Asian theater than in Europe. In recent years there has been considerable consolidation and reduction in the Asian forward-deployed posture.

In NATO, theater nuclear weapons must be able to contribute to deterrence by providing: (1) credible theater first-use options to deter Soviet conventional and nuclear attack, (2) a hedge against failure of conventional defense, (3) a viable link to the US strategic deterrent, and [Page 528] (4) a visible presence to reassure the Alliance of US commitment to European defense.

In assessing the adequacy of the US and NATO posture to meet these objectives for the future, policymakers will have to confront a wide range of issues. The list below is not intended to be exhaustive.

Survivability of the NATO Nuclear Posture. [7 lines not declassified]

Modernization/Reduction of the US Forward-Deployed Nuclear Stockpile in Europe. An issue related to reduction of vulnerability is whether the United States in modernizing its current nuclear posture in Europe should at the same time reduce the total stockpile. The European allies are sensitive to any reduction in the current level of weapons for TNFs, believing that such reductions would be perceived by the Western public and possibly by the Soviets as evidence of a declining American nuclear commitment to Alliance defense. To be acceptable to the allies, any such reductions would have to be offset by the addition of survivable, efficient, and flexible systems which also meet European political and military requirements.

Significance of SS–X–20/BACKFIRE in Theater Nuclear Balance. The Soviets are making a significant modernization and improvement in their survivable, long-range theater second-strike capability which may tend to further erode the credibility of NATO first-use options. The ambiguity of the SS–X–20/BACKFIRE function may require a strong US reaffirmation of the coupling of the US strategic deterrent with NATO’s conventional and nuclear defense posture, as well as an examination of what might be required in US strategic forces to preserve this coupling. European concern for the implications of these systems also raises an issue as to whether there should be specific counterpart systems based in Europe.

Identification of Credible First-Use Options. NATO requires a full range of limited first-use options for theater nuclear forces from effective battlefield support through longer-range interdiction requirements. Some progress is being made within NATO in planning such options, but the planning mechanisms and familiarization/consultation processes are still far from set. Moreover, for all of these potential options there are problems of command, control, and communications; intelligence; and political measures both within NATO and vis-a-vis the Soviets.

Identification of LNOs that Enhance the Perception of US Strategic Coupling. This is an important issue at a time when the scope and pace of Soviet modernization programs for strategic and peripheral systems may tend to cause doubts among our European allies about the credibility of the American strategic nuclear umbrella. It is generally felt in the Alliance that the flexibility of US targeting doctrine has enhanced coupling and deterrence.

[Page 529]

Within the framework of the current study, specific alternatives for theater nuclear forces in Europe have not been developed because the issues associated with TNFs must be resolved as part of a complete general purpose force strategy. For this reason, the alternative GPF strategies suggest only the relative importance of TNF as an element of each alternative. A GPF alternative with relatively limited sustainability in conventional capabilities implies greater emphasis on TNFs, but this does not necessarily mean greater investment in TNF capabilities. Greater or lesser emphasis on TNFs could mean simply giving current forces a higher or lower profile and/or adopting a stronger or more muted declaratory policy.


The linkage between US nuclear forces and conventional forces is a critical aspect of our security policy. For example, although the United States places primary reliance on US and allied conventional capabilities to deter conventional aggression, US planning does not preclude the use of nuclear weapons against conventional attack. Both the US force posture and declaratory policy are designed to reflect this approach, thus enhancing the conventional deterrent.

Looking at the choices of broad strategies to deter, in a global context, both nuclear and nonnuclear war, it is apparent that a powerful conventional capability, even backed by substantial theater nuclear forces, does not provide an adequate deterrent if US strategic capabilities are uncertain. At the opposite end of the spectrum, given our security objectives and commitments, a strong strategic deterrent does not fulfill US requirements if we lack a credible conventional defense in critical areas. Between these extremes a variety of combinations of strategic and conventional force postures can be selected depending on national objectives with regard to military requirements, political perceptions, importance of different geographic areas, resource constraints, and the like. Furthermore, in influencing Soviet perceptions of the power balance, it is important to note that they consider an overall correlation of forces that includes the whole spectrum of nuclear and conventional forces. Finally, maintenance of a “rough equivalence” between the nuclear forces of the United States and USSR places increased emphasis on the importance of an adequate conventional force posture if the nuclear threshold is to remain high.

Six illustrative overall strategies, consistent with key US security objectives identified in Section IIIA and combining elements of the alternative strategies for strategic and general purpose options described earlier, are discussed below. Other combinations clearly are possible. Thus, the following should be considered as examples only and are not intended to constrain the range of choices.

[Page 530]

Overall Strategy A (S–4, G–1)

This strategy assumes that the major build-up of strategic forces by the Soviets compels the United States to improve its strategic force posture substantially and rapidly, denying the Soviets the opportunity to use their strategic forces for coercion, and assuring a military advantage to the United States in the event deterrence fails. With respect to general purpose forces, this strategy accepts greater risks associated with the possibility of a long conventional war in Europe and elsewhere, but provides for a briefer but stronger initial defense of Europe. This frees resources for strengthening US strategic forces.

Therefore, in Overall Strategy A strategic forces are designed to match most USSR strengths, provide a full countersilo capability, and allow for a contingency deployment of ABM and large-scale air defenses if required. US general purpose forces would be postured for a short (30 days) war with minimum warning in Europe, reducing US sustaining capability to that of its NATO allies. Army combat forces would be withdrawn from Korea, and US capabilities elsewhere outside Europe would be reduced.

The estimated average annual cost in total obligational authority (TOA) for this alternative over the next 5 years would be roughly $3–10 billion below the current base program.

Overall Strategy B (S–2, G–4)

This alternative assumes that the priority near-term problem confronting US security interests is the build-up of Soviet forces for possible attack in Europe. It also assumes that the growth of Soviet strategic capabilities can be met with acceptable risk by a slower rate of modernization in our strategic nuclear forces.

Therefore, this alternative increases general purpose force, logistic, and readiness levels in Europe to respond to either a surprise or mobilized Warsaw Pact attack, and also supports increased allied sustainability. It reduces other capabilities worldwide and withdraws Army combat forces from Korea. For strategic forces, it continues an emphasis on forces sized for retaliatory attack on Soviet postwar recovery targets plus a reserve, and modernizes the Triad at a deliberate pace leading to full modernization in the mid-to-late 1980s.

The estimated average annual cost (TOA) for this alternative over the next 5 years would be roughly $0–5 billion below the current base program.

Overall Strategy C (S–3, G–2)

This alternative assumes, unlike Overall Strategy B, that the pace and timing of the Soviet strategic force build-up require more rapid achievement of key USstrategic force capabilities to prevent the Soviets [Page 531] from obtaining a significant advantage over the United States in the early to mid-1980s. This alternative judges that countering the build-up of Soviet forces in Europe is of a lower priority and that it is not necessary to increase NATO’s currently planned capability. The possibility of a surprise Warsaw Pact attack in Europe is an acceptable near-term risk in the current political environment.

In this alternative, strategic nuclear forces are sized to assure continued deterrence in the face of improved Soviet forces by early procurement of offsetting capabilities, particularly for countersilo attack against residual Soviet ICBMs. For general purpose forces, the alternative continues today’s policy and force posture for a 90-day defense of Europe with a limited capability for unilateral military action worldwide. It also continues the current US force presence in Korea.

The estimated average annual cost (TOA) for this alternative over the next 5 years is the current DOD base program.

Overall Strategy D (S–4, G–2)

This strategy assumes that the major build-up of strategic forces by the Soviets compels the United States to improve its strategic force posture substantially and rapidly, denying the Soviets the opportunity to use their strategic forces for coercion, and assuring a military advantage to the United States in the event deterrence fails. With respect to general purpose forces, this alternative judges that countering the build-up of Soviet forces in Europe is of a lower priority and that it is not necessary to increase NATO’s currently planned capability. The possibility of a surprise Warsaw Pact attack in Europe is an acceptable near-term risk in the current political environment.

Therefore, in this alternative, strategic forces are designed to match most USSR strengths, provide a full countersilo capability, and allow for a contingency breakout for ABM and large-scale air defenses. The alternative continues today’s policy and force posture for a 90-day defense of Europe with a limited capability for unilateral military action worldwide. It continues the current US force presence in Korea.

The estimated average annual cost (TOA) for this alternative over the next 5 years would be roughly $2–3 billion above the current base program.

Overall Strategy E (S–3, G–3)

This alternative assumes that the pace and timing of the Soviet strategic force build-up require more rapid achievement of key strategic force capabilities to prevent the Soviets from obtaining a significant advantage over the United States in the early to mid-1980s. This alternative judges that the Soviet European force build-up does not require change from current US strategy for Europe but that growing [Page 532] instability in other parts of the world requires the United States to enhance its capabilities worldwide, except for withdrawal of Army combat forces from Korea, which is considered an acceptable risk.

In this alternative, strategic forces are sized to assure continued deterrence in the face of improved Soviet strategic forces by early procurement of offsetting capabilities, particularly for countersilo attack against residual Soviet ICBMs. This alternative continues today’s policy and force posture for Europe but improves US capability to meet worldwide contingencies. (Increased general purpose manpower requirements could necessitate a return to the draft.) Army combat forces are withdrawn from Korea.

The estimated average annual cost (TOA) for this alternative over the next 5 years would be roughly $1–3 billion over the current base program.

Overall Strategy F (S–4, G–5)

This strategy assumes that the United States must respond vigorously to both the increasing Soviet strategic capabilities and the increasing Warsaw Pact capabilities in Europe.

This strategy, therefore, designs US strategic forces to match most USSR strengths, provides a full countersilo capability, and allows for contingency deployment of ABM and large-scale air defenses. It provides increased force, logistic, and readiness levels in Europe to meet any possible Warsaw Pact attack, and logistically supports increased allied sustainability. Other capabilities worldwide, including Korea, would remain unchanged. (Increased general purpose manpower requirements could necessitate a return to the draft.)

The estimated average annual cost (TOA) for this alternative over the next 5 years would be roughly $4–5 billion above the current base program.


There currently exist a number of manpower and industrial mobilization plans and programs designed to improve US responsiveness to major wartime requirements; they receive varying degrees of institutional and budgetary support and, for the most part, are not well integrated. In general, they do not focus adequately on possible manpower and materiel requirements in a variety of potential conflict scenarios.

Moreover, recent defense planning emphasis, in focusing on shorter intense conflicts, has led to a deemphasis of preparedness programs, which generally affect manpower and materiel levels only after the initial 3–6 months of mobilization. Recent changes in Selective Service, trends in Guard/Reserve retention, and the growing technical [Page 533] complexity of US forces have further diminished our manpower and industrial mobilization responsiveness.

In view of the range of alternative strategies suggested in the previous section, there is a requirement for further study of US manpower and industrial mobilization preparedness—not only to support the anticipated requirements of future wars as currently visualized but also to identify the requirements for more protracted conflict. The following considerations apply:

—First, US capability to conduct and support sustained conventional warfare may be an important factor in deterring Soviet attack. In crisis situations, the ability to mobilize rapidly and demonstrate strong prospective combat sustainability could be an important element of deterrence. Beyond an initial conflict period of high consumption and attrition of resources, the nation possessing the superior capac-ity for regeneration of military capabilities will enjoy a strategic advantage.

—Second, there are plausible conventional war scenarios in which relative abilities to mobilize men and industry to sustain extended conflict (i.e., beyond 3–6 months) could be decisive. There may be some affordable hedges, beyond present levels of preparedness expenditures, which should be taken against the possibility of such protracted conflict.

—Third, US capacity to conduct standing-start all-out production of strategic offensive and defensive weapons depends on maintain-ing “warm” production capabilities. Projected US assembly line status is a key element here, as is Soviet capability for similar strategic mobilization.

—Fourth, the nation’s ability to recover from nuclear attack may be augmented by preparedness plans and programs, and such postwar reconstitution capability may act as a deterrent.

—Fifth, the nation may become involved in military operations following either a conventional war in Europe or a nuclear strike, which involve building or rebuilding a force structure larger than that presently programmed.

While current preparedness programs provide some capability for enhancing mobilization rates, the relative lack of emphasis on these programs by the United States and their somewhat unclear relationship to other aspects of current strategy imply that the United States will continue to have gaps in its mobilization capacity. A comprehensive review of overall preparedness requirements and alternative capabilities through the NSC process is necessary to complement our earlier analysis and decisions on a related issue, the Strategic and Critical Ma[Page 534]terials Stockpile (NSDM 337, August 1976).9 NSDM 337 provided policy guidance for stockpiling strategic raw materials for extended conflict scenarios. Complementary analysis of manpower and industrial mobilization should be accomplished to allow the development of alternative preparedness strategies.


The difficult choices on defense strategy must be considered in the context of Government-wide fiscal policy and the competing demands for tax policy reform and non-defense spending.

Fiscal Policy Assumptions

Anticipated economic performance critically affects the fiscal picture. The current Administration economic forecast for the 1978–82 period assumes a 5% average annual real growth rate in the economy. Inflation is assumed to remain at an average annual rate of 5% through 1979, declining to 2.5% in 1982. The unemployment rate is projected to drop to about 6.4% during FY 1979.

Two sensitivity checks were made on the current forecast:

—Private economic forecasts project a 4% average real growth rate and a 6% average inflation rate for 1977 and 1978. The net effect on receipts of the lower real growth and higher inflation compared to the current Administration forecast is minimal.

—The impact of a 6% average annual growth rate through 1979 with attendant higher inflation of 6% was also examined. The faster growth would increase 1979 receipts by over $30 billion, with little change in outlays.

Using the assumptions of “5% growth, 5% inflation” a 5-year Government fiscal projection was prepared which included current Presidential proposals to reduce taxes and non-defense programs and allowed for increases in real defense purchases from the 1977 program.

A summary of the projection follows:

Actual ($ billions)
1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982
Base receipts (President’s program) 300 358 397 447 502 559 607
Projected Outlays 366 411 449 472 498 524 550
Difference –66 –53 –52 –25 –4 35 57
[Page 535]

Defense, Non-Defense, Tax Receipts Options

Within the context of the President’s expressed intention to submit a balanced budget in 1979 and using the current economic forecast, a number of variants from the “base program” of outyear projections can be considered.

Defense Outlays

Cost Methodology. Within the compressed study schedule, inadequate time was available to develop detailed force changes and their cost implications fully supporting each alternative. All strategy cost estimates are based on notional force and modernization changes to the base program required to accomplish given general purpose and strategic force strategy alternatives. When uncertainty exists as to the specific force adjustments required to accomplish a given strategy, a range of force level changes were specified and cost estimates prepared for lower and upper bound totals. Funding was phased over the FY 1978–82 period based on the following ground rules: general purpose force reductions and increases were accomplished over this same time period; procurement adjustments were explicitly related to force changes and feasible production capabilities. Strategic force changes extend over a considerably longer time period. The principal impact of the funding changes associated with the general purpose force alternatives occurs in the 1978–82 period, while in the strategic force alternatives the maximum funding impact occurs in 1982.

DOD Baseline Program. A difference exists between DOD and OMB on the total 1978–82 resources required to fund the baseline DOD program. Both DOD and OMB agree on the major force levels included in the Five-Year Defense Program: 16 active divisions, 26 active Air Force wings, 3 active Marine division/wing teams, 12 carrier task groups, and strategic forces within current SALT limitations. The disagreement occurs in identifying the funding for modernization of these forces. The OMB outlay projection is essentially based on the approved 1977 budget after Congressional action plus 4% annual year growth on purchases in the outyears. The DOD outlay estimates, which are about $5 billion higher in FY 1978 and $10 billion higher in FY 1979 and the outyears, reflect recent 1976 Program Decision Memoranda changes in the rate of DOD modernization but do not include the effects of the ongoing budget review. Thus, the real differences between OMB and DOD funding projections are less than those cited above.

Assuming DRP/OMB baseline program differences will be resolved separately, the outlay impacts of the combined strategic and general purpose force (overall) strategies A through F can be consid[Page 536]ered as changes to this baseline. For funding purposes, Overall Strategy C is the baseline.

The incremental outlay impacts of the other notional strategies in 1979 and 1982 from the baseline program follow:

Incremental Outlays
($ billions)
1979 1982
Overall Strategy A (S–4, G–1) –8 –6
Overall Strategy B (S–2, G–4) –2 –4
Overall Strategy D (S–4, G–2) +1 +4
Overall Strategy E (S–3, G–3) +1 +3
Overall Strategy F (S–2, G–5) +1 +2

Non-Defense Outlays

The base program projection includes a series of proposed reforms and reductions to Federal domestic programs:

Incremental Outlays
($ billions)
1979 1982
Health care programs –8 –16
Human resource programs –7 –6
Veterans benefits programs –3 –7
Grant programs –4 –9
All other –2 –2
TOTAL –24 –40

These proposals would sharply reduce non-defense programs. Congress, in the past, has shown little enthusiasm for domestic program reductions, and legislative inaction has steadily eroded potential savings. The next Congress will also be reluctant to enact these proposals. Possible non-defense program reductions include:

—Restraints on programs providing benefits to individuals. Specific candidates include tighter limits on Medicare payments, a cap on future Social Security cost-of-living increases, elimination of the social services program, and assorted reductions in education, training, and veterans programs.

—Reductions in selected grant programs to state and local governments. Specific candidates include termination of the non-interstate highway programs, cutbacks in environmental protection and water [Page 537] resource projects, and reductions in community development grant programs.

—Reductions in general Government operations. Specific candidates include elimination of the postal subsidy, Government-wide constraints on employment and pay increases, and cutbacks in foreign and domestic subsidy programs.

The dollar implications of these further non-defense reductions follow:

Incremental Outlays
($ billions)
1979 1982
Benefit programs –11 –17
Grant programs –9 –12
General Government operations –5 –5
TOTAL –25 –34

Conversely, within any given budget total, consideration could also be given to some increase in non-defense outlays above the base projection. If this approach were followed, the highest priority domestic spending increases would probably be to restore some of the base program reductions. Full restoration of these non-defense program reforms would increase 1979 outlays by $24 billion.

Tax Receipts

The base projection for receipts assumes that temporary provisions of the 1975 tax cut (which has already been extended four times and appears to be a well-established part of the tax structure) will become permanent and that deeper income tax reductions of $17 billion in 1979 proposed by the President will be enacted. If further tax reductions were considered desirable, total tax receipts could be held to the 1977 constant level of GNP, thereby reducing 1979 receipts by another $11 billion.

1979 Fiscal Options

Of the overall strategies identified in this paper only one, Overall Strategy A, has a significant impact on 1979 outlays. Overall Strategies B through F fall within a range of ± $1 billion in 1979 and minimally impact the anticipated 1979 deficit. Thus, two broad fiscal options can be identified to achieve the target of a 1979 balanced budget.

Overall Strategy A

Achieve the 1979 balance by an $8 billion reduction in defense plus a combination of tax increases and further reductions in non-defense [Page 538] programs. Again, some or all of the $17 billion in “base program” tax reductions could be deferred. Further non-defense program reductions could range from $3–20 billion.

Overall Strategies B Through F

Achieve the 1979 balance by a combination of tax increases and further reductions in non-defense programs only. Some or all of the $17 billion in “base program” tax reductions could be deferred. Reductions in non-defense programs could range from $8–25 billion.


The study has identified a number of issues which require urgent attention. In certain of these areas, additional analysis should provide information of immediate utility in assessing in more detail this study’s notional strategies. Other issues identified are more subjective in nature, and continuing analysis is considered important. The following list is not exhaustive but does indicate major areas for follow-on work:

—Soviet objectives and intentions, including their concept of the interrelationship of strategic, theater nuclear, peripheral attack, and conventional forces.

—Relations with the Third World, focusing on the increasing US/allied dependence on overseas raw materials, particularly Persian Gulf oil, and the implications for military forces and strategic stockpiles.

US and Soviet preparedness programs designed to increase combat staying power, enhance post-attack recovery, and facilitate capabilities for emergency expansion of strategic and general purpose forces.

—Determination of the force posture required to control escalation if deterrence fails.

—Target base growth, dispersal and hardening, and population targeting.

NATO/Warsaw Pact conflict warning time and its implications for US/allied security planning.

—Warsaw Pact sustaining capability and its impact on US/allied security planning.

—Requirements, including strategic mobility and power projection, for non-Soviet conflicts, presence, and crisis management.

—Role of our NATO and non-NATO allies in collective defense, including the role of security assistance.

—Theater nuclear policies and force posture for the 1980s.

  1. Source: Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box 47, NSSM 246 (1 of 2) (8). Top Secret. NSSM 246 is Document 102.
  2. The response was not found attached to Rumsfeld’s covering memorandum, but is in the Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 330–79–0050, 381 (1 of 3). It has been printed as an attachment. Holcomb forwarded the response to Scowcroft under a November 29 covering memorandum. Davis then forwarded it under a covering memorandum, also November 29, to Robinson, Clements, Lynn, Ikle, General Brown, and Bush for review prior to the DRP meeting scheduled for November 30. Holcomb’s and Davis’s memoranda are ibid.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 66.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 4.
  5. Document 31.
  6. See footnote 3, Document 21.
  7. Another view holds that Soviet missile accuracy and hence US ICBM vulnerability are likely to increase more slowly than usually predicted. Therefore, the fixed-silo ICBM force may remain viable for some time and the US should modernize this force with a new heavier-payload missile. The support for this view is declining, however, and its principal argument now is that any new land-based ICBM might be temporarily deployed in silos while mobile basing is developed. This type of silo-based ICBM modernization would, however, tend to create preemptive instabilities in a crisis as Soviet accuracies increase. [Footnote in the original.]
  8. The table, “Alternative Strategies for General Purpose Forces,” is not printed.
  9. Document 99.