115. Memorandum From the Deputy Secretary of State (Robinson) to Secretary of State Kissinger1


  • NSC Meeting Thursday, December 2—Review NSSM 246

An NSC meeting was held today, Thursday, December 2, to brief the President on the NSSM 246 study on our strategic and general pur[Page 543]pose force policies.2 DOD summarized the NSSM 246 report and the related report on Naval Force Requirements.3 Copies of these reports are attached.

Although the discussion was general in nature, Don Rumsfeld and Jim Lynn pushed for a presidential decision on the various strategy and force options. Rumsfeld made the point that this was important as a basis for the President to “articulate” a new defense posture even though it could only be implemented in part at this time.

I explained that the State Department viewed this as a worthwhile effort in defining some key issues and in the development of various alternatives; however, it should not serve as a basis for fundamental decisions on our defense posture. I also stressed that there had been no review of foreign policy issues as a basis for developing the strategic and force alternatives outlined in the NSSM 246 study. Furthermore, I indicated that if the President were to consider selection of strategy options and articulation of this decision as a new defense policy, it was essential that this should reflect prior consideration of the foreign policy implications of these options.

The President acknowledged the necessity for a prior analysis of foreign policy considerations but gave no indication as to whether he would opt for a new strategy decision as recommended by Rumsfeld and Lynn.

The question of Presidential choice of a strategy is tied also to four budget proposals that both Lynn and Rumsfeld, for different reasons, wish to settle in the context of a strategy change. The issues are: (1) the M–X missile; (2) civil defense; (3) sustaining capability in NATO forces; and (4) naval shipbuilding. Rumsfeld wants the President to articulate a more ambitious strategy as a way of defending his larger budget for the four programs; Lynn wants a strategy choice that permits cutting the budget back. Our own view is that the current strategy is consistent with a budget decision in either direction on these programs. The civil defense increase is only $30 million. The issue is not money, but what we say publicly about why we are spending it. The NATO sustaining capability (DOD wants to put more money into building up 90 days of supplies) reaffirms a long-standing NATO objective. The shipbuilding issue—whether we go ahead with another nuclear carrier—involves $4 billion, not a strategy departure. (It keeps the carrier inventory level for the next 20 years, but may restrict future choice on our naval posture.) Only the acceleration of M–X to a 1983 deployment date raises a potential strategic issue—how much and how fast do we build to a counter[Page 544]silo capability? But even here M–X is still an R&D program, not a firm commitment to procure and deploy.

Since the President will consider these programs on Saturday morning, perhaps with a strategy change in mind, it would be helpful if you could weigh in on both the budget (M–X is the most important) and on the wisdom of articulating a new strategy directly with the President. Talking Points are attached.4

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 314, National Security Council, Meetings, National Security Council, May—Dec. 1976. Secret. Cleared by Vest, Thomas J. Hirschfeld (S/P), and Leon S. Fuerth (C). This is a record of the December 2 NSC meeting, of which no minutes have been found. Robinson attended the meeting in lieu of Kissinger, who traveled to Mexico to attend the inauguration of President Lopez Portillo, November 29–December 2.
  2. Document 113.
  3. Document 110.
  4. Attached, but not printed. Ford held a lengthy meeting on Saturday, December 4 to discuss the FY 1978 budget. Kissinger, however, did not participate in the meeting, of which no record was found. (Ford Library, Staff Secretary’s Office, President’s Daily Diary)