120. Minutes of National Security Council Meeting1


  • NSSM 246—U.S. Defense Policy and Military Posture


  • The President
  • The Vice President
  • Secretary of State Henry A. Henry A. Kissinger
  • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
  • Director, Office of Management and Budget, James T. Lynn
  • Acting Director, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, John Lehman
  • Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, General George S. Brown
  • Deputy Director of Central Intelligence Enno Knoche
  • Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Brent Scowcroft


  • White House
  • Mr. Richard Cheney, Assistant to the President
  • Mr. William G. Hyland, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Defense
  • Deputy Secretary William Clements
  • Dr. James P. Wade (Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Plans and NSC Affairs)
  • NSC Staff
  • Brig Gen Richard T. Boverie

President Ford: I’ve looked at the NSSM 246 study.2 It is obviously a very well done effort, particularly in view of the time pressures. It has been helpful to me, and should be helpful to the next Administration. I’ve looked at the various alternatives. Don, [Rumsfeld] should we start with the six overall strategies, or perhaps go first with strategic forces and then general purpose forces?

Secretary Rumsfeld: We have the strategies on the boards here today. We could start with the strategic forces and then discuss them; then turn to the general purpose forces. Or we could take them together at one time and then have our discussions.

President Ford: Let’s start with strategic forces, then see if we can turn to the general purpose forces.

[Page 569]

Mr. Hyland: The boards that are up there now show the overall strategies.

Secretary Rumsfeld: That presumes that we have worked our way through the strategic forces and general purpose forces issues and strategies.

Dr. Wade: (Briefing from the boards on overall strategies.) These overall strategies are notional in character. They are examples only, and they are not the only variations which are possible. (Typed copies of the charts are at Tab A of these minutes.)3

Option A assumes that the major buildup of strategic forces by the Soviets compels the U.S. to improve its strategic force posture substantially and rapidly. With respect to general purpose forces, this strategy accepts greater risks, and frees resources for strengthening U.S. strategic forces.

President Ford: Do the figures there mean that we would save from $3 billion to $10 billion?

Dr. Wade: Yes.

Director James T. Lynn: Over what period of time?

Secretary Rumsfeld: These are average annual costs over a period of five to ten years, but they are inaccurate and soft, and they work off a higher base than that recently approved by the President.

Director James T. Lynn: The only things we should really pay attention to are the plus and minus signs.

Secretary Kissinger: Is the base the same for all alternatives?

Director James T. Lynn: Yes.

President Ford: But all are related dollar-wise to one another.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Right.

Dr. Wade: Alternative B assumes that the priority near-term prob-lem confronting U.S. security interests is the buildup 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 forces.

Alternative C is basically the current DOD program as expressed in the latest FYDP (Five Year Defense Plan).

Secretary Kissinger: What is the theory behind each of these alternatives?

Dr. Wade: Alternative A assumes that priority must be given to countering the Soviet strategic buildup. It also assumes a short war in Europe.

[Page 570]

Secretary Kissinger: What does it do that we are not doing now?

Secretary Rumsfeld: In this alternative, we would have to stop doing some things we are doing now.

Secretary Kissinger: What about in the strategic forces area?

Dr. Wade: It would accelerate the modernization program. It would bring M–X in in 1984. We would move faster on TRIDENT II. There would be a significant improvement in our counter-silo capability. And we would have improved civil defense and air defense.

General Scowcroft: And basically it would give us a full counter-silo capability.

Dr. Wade: You have some hand-outs in front of you which will help as we go through the strategies. (A copy of the hand-out is at Tab B4 of these minutes.)

Alternative D assumes that our conventional strategy is adequate, but that we have to do something about the Soviet strategic forces buildup.

President Ford: What about our supply of stocks in Europe for 90 days?

Dr. Wade: Our plan is for 90 days but we are not there yet. The Allies are around 30 days.

Secretary Kissinger: Under strategic strategy S–4, you talk about military advantage. What is this?

Dr. Wade: That at any level of determination, if war breaks out, we would insure that there would not be a Soviet military advantage.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Henry, each term is explained in the NSSM 246 report. This one is on page 24.5

Secretary Kissinger: I still don’t know what it means.

General Scowcroft: It is hard to say in realistic terms.

Secretary Kissinger: What about in terms of the SIOP?

General Brown: This was a hurried study, and there are no hard numbers.

President Ford: It assumes that if we have more, we are better off.

Secretary Kissinger: If we choose Alternative A, but this is certainly not the DOD preference, nor mine. Unless we can establish overwhelming military advantages in strategic forces, we are asking for it in Alternative A. Option A would magnify every problem we have.

[Page 571]

Dr. Wade: In Option E, we would have a moderately increased strategic emphasis, today’s strategy for Europe, and increased worldwide capabilities.

For Option F, we have increased emphasis on strategic deterrence, increased capability in Europe, and today’s capabilities worldwide.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Just to refresh your memory, we first analyzed the strategic forces. We came up with about eight key issues, each of which could be addressed in two or three different ways. Then we combined these issues in various ways to give us alternative strategies for our strategic forces. Then we did the same thing with general purpose forces. The important thing is not whether we are talking about Option “S” or Option “G,” but the issues.

President Ford: On the chart for Option C, you refer to “current defense policy.” Please relate that to Option E, for example. What is the corresponding line for Option C? Is it consistent with the Navy ship building study?6

Secretary Rumsfeld: We looked at various alternatives for sustaining capability in Europe such as 30 days, 90 days, and so forth and we considered other such factors.

Secretary Kissinger: How was it computed? By German standards? When we say we have 90 days capability, they say we have 50 days. Conversely, using our standards for computation, their 30 days is really 60 days.

General Brown: We are a long way from solving that problem. It is a national problem.

Secretary Kissinger: But what way is it computed? Does Haig know what he has got?

General Brown: Yes.

Deputy Secretary Clements: Henry, I don’t care how we compute it. We simply don’t have it over there.

Secretary Rumsfeld: No. Plus the Middle East has changed our estimates for attrition rates.

Secretary Kissinger: This leaves us with other problems. We will be driven by the lowest days of the critical item.

Deputy Secretary Clements: There are several of those critical items, not just one.

General Brown: This is no secret. It is well known. We took it into account in the FY 78 budget for the first time.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Never before did we have a program to get well. This time we have such a program.

[Page 572]

Deputy Secretary Clements: At least now we are talking about it.

Secretary Rumsfeld: If we don’t get well, it lowers the nuclear threshold.

Dr. Lehman: The Soviet figures don’t look that good either. Their situation is not better.

General Brown: Our knowledge of their situation is limited. It relates to how we estimate they fill up their buildings. The estimates are pretty soft in many areas.

Secretary Rumsfeld: This forces the Services to continue to reassess the situation.

Secretary Kissinger: I am strongly in favor of that.

Vice President Rockefeller: Mr. President, let me ask two questions, please. Were these plans developed with a budgetary ceiling in mind?

President Ford: No.

Vice President Rockefeller: Then why don’t we have an Option G where all three areas (strategic, Europe, worldwide) are improved.

General Scowcroft: You are right. It stops at Option F.

Vice President Rockefeller: [less than 1 line not declassified] That is bad.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Not if you take Option E.

General Scowcroft: You have no option that improves strategic forces, Europe, and worldwide.

Vice President Rockefeller: That is why we need an Option G.

Secretary Rumsfeld: What we should do is look at the issues. Why don’t we take a look at the issues?

Vice President Rockefeller: I didn’t make up the charts.

Secretary Rumsfeld: An interagency group prepared the charts.

Vice President Rockefeller: Why don’t we have an option for improvements in all three areas?

Secretary Rumsfeld: Maybe there should be one. We don’t have to take any of these options that are shown on the chart. We can take a look at the issues, and then come up with the strategy we think is best.

Vice President Rockefeller: Then why are we doing it this way?

Secretary Rumsfeld: There are an infinite number of combinations possible. These are only illustrative.

Vice President Rockefeller: But none of them includes all three areas for improvements.

Director James T. Lynn: With respect to today’s policy, I think we are moving from S–2 to S–3 for strategic forces. For general purpose forces, [Page 573] this assumes we are trying to do better in Europe with our stockpile and the like.

Secretary Rumsfeld: The current general purpose forces strategy is G–2.

Director James T. Lynn: That has the United States at 90 days sustainability and the Allies at 30 days.

Secretary Kissinger: What is the rationale for that?

Director James T. Lynn: The Allies don’t get it up there.

Vice President Rockefeller: The plan today is inadequate, based on the analysis in the report.

President Ford: Nelson, we had a drawdown in Vietnam. We had a drawdown for the Yom Kippur War. We have had Congressional cuts in the budget over 10 years. It is very easy to say “let’s turn the switch on and get it right,” but where are we going to get the money? We have problems with inflation and taxes. It’s great to go for all of it, but goddamn it, we can’t do everything. We should show these charts to Mr. Carter, with all his talk.

Secretary Rumsfeld: The strategies are for illustration only. The way it ought to be done is as follows. Let’s take one of each of the strategic and general purpose options and modify them. Let’s keep the differences in mind. We have to think about what we have now, what policy we have in mind, and what budget plan is necessary for that guidance.

Vice President Rockefeller: But somebody thinks that each of these options is right.

General Scowcroft: But we didn’t put up the minimal option either.

Vice President Rockefeller: The poor President of the United States is responsible for the defense of the country.

Secretary Kissinger: The question isn’t what the human mind can conceive. First, the problem is with the Soviet strategic buildup. The second point is that it is unlikely for us to be able to develop a decisive military superiority in strategic forces, of the kind we had in the 1950s. Third, we should not permit perceptual discrepancies; we have to consider what drives the political and perceptual problems. These considerations could lead us to an unspecified increase in strategic forces.

Next, the overwhelming strategic problem we will face over the next 10 years is the Soviet capability for regional attack—in Europe and elsewhere. And we have to consider what the U.S. position would be with respect to peripheral attack.

Therefore, we should have a strategy to augment our strategic forces, plus what is needed for worldwide capability, plus we have [Page 574] the special problem of Europe since it has a more explicit nuclear threshold.

For example, what if the Soviets put four divisions in Damascus in a Middle East war, or in Iran, or real forces in Africa. That is the real problem.

Secretary Rumsfeld: That is what the Pentagon has concluded and what the Vice President is saying. I think we should go with strategy S–3 with some elements of S–4, and strategy G–3 with elements of G–4 or G–5. This includes worldwide capabilities. We would not add troops to Europe, but we would put stocks in, and there would be increases in the strategic area.

Now the debate is about what pieces to add in. We have discussed most of the issues except for civil defense. For civil defense, I think we should go from something which is practically non-existent to some better planning. We have no base for civil defense plans, and I am not talking about going back to bomb shelters.

Vice President Rockefeller: There is nothing wrong with bomb shelters.

Secretary Rumsfeld: You’re for bomb shelters? (Laughter)

Vice President Rockefeller: I just built one at my home.

General Brown: We can pick and choose through the charts. As for the JCS, we come out somewhere between three and five in each case.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Then we have to determine what pace to do it.

Secretary Kissinger: Then we have the Vice President’s question. We have no budgetary figures for the Defense preference. If it’s from three to five, then the budget would go up.

Secretary Rumsfeld: This is not a budget exercise.

Vice President Rockefeller: I still don’t understand why we have no option which improves all three areas.

Secretary Rumsfeld: DOD was acting as the Chairman of an NSC subgroup. It tried to do the work in a reasonably orderly way.

Deputy Secretary Clements: Mr. Vice President, you are right. Ultimately, we must manage all of this, and figure out what it costs.

Secretary Rumsfeld: You can forget some strategies like G–1 and G–2. We ought to think about improving our worldwide capabilities. We can do the studies identified at the end of the study. And we can cost out those strategies which look particularly interesting to us.

Vice President Rockefeller: And explain what the reasons are.

Secretary Rumsfeld: We have another question, Mr. President. Mechanically, given the electoral situation, we must determine physically how to handle the study. Would you want to speak to it? Hand it off? Pursue it further?

[Page 575]

President Ford: I’m reminded of the first debate in the House I attended in 1950. The Administration was cutting back on defense following the post-war period. Carl Vincent7 took up the cudgel for DOD. But George Mahon gave a speech in which he used the following analogy. He said he was for defense. His record for 1950 was good on this. But then he took his son to the Smithsonian. He came to a man in armor surrounded by a coat of iron. His son bumped into it, and it toppled over. His son asked him why it toppled over. And George replied, “Because it had no bone and muscle inside.”

My point is this. The country can put a coat of iron around it, but if it has no economy and will, it is no good. Sometimes I think we want to put a coat of iron and steel around us, and let the economy go to hell. The country would not be worth a damn internally.

We must take a rational view to meet the challenge militarily. This has been a damn good exercise, but we must be realistic. I’m a little fed up when I see what we try to do but see what the next generation will be doing. We cannot go through an unrealistic exercise. Let’s see what is reasonable and go from there.

Vice President Rockefeller: Mr. Carter wants to spend $10 billion on public works; if we want to spend it on the military, I think it would be just as good.

President Ford: That is why I vetoed the public works program. I see none of his solutions aimed at military strength. Jobs, cities, public works—but not one penny for defense of the United States.

Secretary Rumsfeld: As Mr. Carter was leaving the Pentagon after his briefing, someone asked him whether he still intended to cut the Defense budget. He said yes.

General Brown: That’s not exactly what he said. He said: “I’ve seen something about the Soviet forces but I’ve not yet seen the U.S. forces.”

President Ford: He is as inaccurate as I know, but we must be realistic. If we do not have a healthy economy, we can’t do anything.

Secretary Rumsfeld: The Mahon analogy would fit if the case were that the present burden of defense on society is dangerous. But this is not the case. Defense is the lowest percentage of the federal budget and the gross national product in many years. This goes to macroeconomics. Does an incremental increase of defense spending of X percent do damage to the economy? No! I believe that. Of course, Mr. President, you could find some economist somewhere who takes the other side. But I say there is no danger of damaging the economy.

[Page 576]

President Ford: In keeping programs the way they are.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Yes, sir. You must begin with the fact that the United States is not an economic enterprise. The first function of government is freedom and security of our people. Therefore, it is not a question of what spending level we should have, but what is the right policy or strategy.

I got in this debate in Europe with some of the people after the meeting. They say they can’t afford increased defense. But that is false. Look at Israel; look at the United States in World War II. It is a matter of priorities.

General Scowcroft: But we have to ask what is politically sustainable year after year after year. We either do that or we have to get into a frenzy with the threat.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Where are we in a frenzy with the threat?

General Scowcroft: Look at Vietnam.

General Brown: And in the late 50s when we talked about the missile threat.

Director James T. Lynn: I don’t really see a lot of changes from the overall strategies vice what we determined in the study in 1969.8 We are looking at how many days we should provide for sustainability in Europe and issues such as this. These should be identified and we are doing this. We have to look closely at the idea of fighting for 90 days in light of attrition rates, prepositioning, and the like.

Secretary Kissinger: Particularly when we put our prepositioned stocks all in one depot to save money.

Secretary Rumsfeld: General Haig is working his can off to fix this.

Director James T. Lynn: There are very few things we want to change. We must consider non-exclusive reliance on sea lanes, given the vulnerabilities of sea lanes. We are moving that way. If I can convince Congress to slow down domestic programs, we ought to also be able to make our case for defense.

The strategy should be, Mr. President: (1) Address the problem hard in the State of the Union Address. Put out a very strong signal. (2) We should address it in the Defense Posture Statement, that we are moving to strategy S–3. I wouldn’t go to S–4, though, if someone paid me.

President Ford: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Director James T. Lynn: Third, we could prepare a draft NSDM. You would not have to sign it; just give it to Mr. Carter. He can then compare his [Page 577] ideas against that sheet. The turnaround you have made over the past two years has been remarkable. To keep it going, discipline on domestic programs must be imposed.

And then we can do some other things. For example, with Japan, there is some room for ASW and air defense improvements on their part.

Secretary Rumsfeld: And even economic aid in the region.

Director James T. Lynn: This is confusing. Current defense policy has words such as “increased,” “improved.” We are now moving to S–3, now moving to counter-silo capability.

General Scowcroft: A partial counter-silo capability.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Right. A limited counter-silo capability.

Director James T. Lynn: I am not that sure that Henry would want to signal this. I hope the M–X program we have is good enough for the signals we want this year.

Secretary Rumsfeld: I presume Henry’s views are in the study since the State Department has been involved throughout the entire process.

Secretary Kissinger: I have no quarrel with the study.

Secretary Rumsfeld: A draft NSDM is being prepared. I can give it to Brent.

General Scowcroft: I am not sure I wouldn’t sign it.

Vice President Rockefeller: When the General says sign, that is good. Also, you can give a strong signal and sign the NSDM. You can say these are the details. These are the essential things to say to the American people. If you, Mr. President, pull back, he’ll pull back from that. We should plant the flag on a field where it is sound and right.

Secretary Kissinger: The most important thing is to explain this to the American people. You can do this, Mr. President, in a valedictory occasion, such as the State of the Union Address. You can say that we have been focusing on the long-term problems over 15 years, so it doesn’t look like you’ve neglected anything.

Basically, in the 1960s we stopped all strategic programs, so we gave the Soviets an opportunity to get ahead. It wasn’t until SALT ONE that we did something about it. And about four years ago we got our force programs moving again. These programs are just now coming into the force.

Also, we can talk about Vietnam, how we had to draw down the stockpiles to support the war in Vietnam.

However, this has not been the result of a sudden Soviet buildup. They have been building up at a steady pace year after year.

[Page 578]

Also, we should worry about the way we allocate our money. We spend a disportionately large amount for personnel.

However, it has not been a sudden Soviet buildup, but a steady buildup. You were the first President who has had a chance to meet this. We would not just want to be sticking the new Administration, but making sure that there is not a chance that they could say that you failed.

In 15 or 20 minutes of your speech, you could say this, and how you would conduct our defense policy. There should be both some theory and some numbers in the speech.

President Ford: I think that is a good approach. My comments were aimed at trying to get well yesterday, and feeling we haven’t done the job. We have done the job! What worries me is that they say they will do a better job with less money. That simply is not possible.

Secretary Kissinger: We would want to put the necessity in terms of forces, not dollars. We could talk about the need for forces for intervention. Then, if stated conceptually, it would be much harder for him to cut.

Secretary Rumsfeld: There is an advantage in stating it that way. Then we could add the next comment: They can cut, but we will slip. This is exactly what happened in Vietnam, and with the Congressional budget cuts.

The President is left with the tools from his predecessors. If Carter makes the cuts of the kind he is talking about, he will compound the problem and we will not get well from the Vietnam and Congressional cuts.

Secretary Kissinger: You can put this before the American people. You can talk about the problems you see over the next 10 years. You have had a tremendous record over the past two years.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Right. And only if his record is sustained in the future will things be right.

President Ford: Let’s take a look at Strategy E. It talks about a moderately increased strategic emphasis. Haven’t we done that?

General Brown: Yes!

Secretary Rumsfeld: Except for civil defense.

President Ford: I don’t like the idea of bomb shelters in backyards. It reminds me of the time I was in Michigan and some shyster salesman tried to sell me one. It was a bunch of crap.

Vice President Rockefeller: The salesman must have been from New York. (Laughter)

President Ford: I am down on civil defense—not one penny for it. Forget it!

[Page 579]

Secretary Rumsfeld: Then you are for S–3 minus civil defense, if I understand you correctly.

President Ford: Amen. Cross civil defense out. We are going ahead strongly with F–15s, F–16s, and A–10s. We are improving our capabilities.

Secretary Kissinger: If General Brown would like to give me a going away present, he can give the F–15 a nuclear capability.

President Ford: We are doing everything we can in Europe. We are going to fix up our stockpiles over a six year period. We are increasing our worldwide capability. Look what we are doing with the shipbuilding program.

General Scowcroft: And we need some airlift.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Right. We need some airlift.

President Ford: On the other issues: We are going to stay in Korea. We are augmenting our Navy shipbuilding.9 If Carter cuts Korea, he is cutting off from what I would do. We are going for a responsible worldwide capability that we have endorsed.

Secretary Kissinger: You can say that in your valedictory, plus you can look four to five years ahead. You can say you see the need for building up regional forces against an increasing danger; but this is a 10-year steady program. We can’t go through peaks and valleys. You can say that this is your best judgment.

Deputy Secretary Clements: We can emphasize the steadiness of the program.

Secretary Kissinger: You have supported many levels.

Vice President Rockefeller: Where do we go from here now?

Secretary Rumsfeld: We can come up with a paper. You can identify areas for further study and direct that these studies be taken. You can draft up the essence of what you have said. We can draft a NSDM. And you can take a draft of your statement from that NSDM. We can erect this in the defense report, and the State of the Union Address or some other valedictory. You can plant the flag down the road, so if they deviate from it, they must admit it.

President Ford: Or they can accept it, and the peril that goes with it.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Yes.

President Ford: Let’s do this.

Obviously, I favor S–3. I favor today’s strategy for Europe. I favor the Navy shipbuilding program. I favor keeping forces in Korea. And I favor a regional capability.

[Page 580]

Secretary Kissinger: That includes increased worldwide capability.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Are there any other issues we haven’t looked at?

Director James T. Lynn: NATO.

General Scowcroft: G–3 is too general for NATO.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Mr. President, as I understand it, you favor no increase in manpower for Europe but you do want to increase our stocks, keep our modernization program going, and have a war-fighting capability.

President Ford: Yes.

Secretary Rumsfeld: You favor, as I understand it, a more flexible response concerning warning time. That is, an ability to defend against an unreinforced attack with little warning, or reinforced attack with more warning.

President Ford: What about the 90 days sustainability?

General Scowcroft: We can increase our prepositioned supplies.

Deputy Secretary Clements: Definitely.

Secretary Rumsfeld: We would not give U.S. money to the Allies for sustainability, but rather prod them to do more. Also, we should look at the NATO flanks.

President Ford: I’m not clear on the flanks. What are we talking about? Troops? Materials?

General Brown: Basically, we’re doing better. You gave us sealift and airlift mobility.

President Ford: If we have the Navy shipbuilding and airlift, we should be able to handle that.

General Scowcroft: To increase our worldwide capability, we need strategic mobility.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Yes, we need strategic mobility.

General Brown: Are we talking about G–3?

Director James T. Lynn: We ought to put this in writing.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Mr. President, where do you stand on civil defense? (Laughter)

President Ford: Mr. Carter can put his moleholes around here. (Laughter)

Vice President Rockefeller: Does the study address adequate training?

General Brown: We’re getting better in this, although the O&M dollars are still a little thin.

Vice President Rockefeller: Isn’t this the guts of the matter? It ought to be here. This is another illustration of the man-in-armor analogy.

[Page 581]

President Ford: We are doing what we can to recover from Vietnam and the Yom Kippur War.

Vice President Rockefeller: How much money is involved?

General Brown: I don’t know.

President Ford: Approximately $2 billion in O&M. We are up to 18 percent growth in O&M, which is what you wanted. We are up to 14 percent on other accounts.

Vice President Rockefeller: This will fit into Henry’s projection for the future.

President Ford: These things are in the budget, not for five years, but over a six-year period.

Director James T. Lynn: The reason it is hard to be that final, is that we disagree on attrition rates, strategies the East might use in an attack, and so forth. We can do our best at this time and when further facts are available, then we can always adjust.

Vice President Rockefeller: All the Services are way behind on training. But this is not my business.

General Brown: You are going in the right direction, but the problem is a little overstated.

Dr. Lehman: Israeli statistics show a direct relationship between flying hours and kills. If a pilot had ten times the flying hours, he had ten times the kills.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Henry said to me, jokingly, before the meeting that I was going to scare everybody about the Russians ahead.

Secretary Kissinger: I said that?

Secretary Rumsfeld: Jokingly. But this does affect the pace.

Vice President Rockefeller: I am concerned. I read the intelligence reports every day.

Secretary Kissinger: I am concerned by statements that the Soviets will engage in a Hitler-like attack. What they have done is the same thing they have done all along; that is, increase their budget about 8–10 percent a year for defense. As their economy increases, their military grows. We have to live with this.

Secretary Rumsfeld: What I don’t like is the impression that this is not that serious. The President’s paper must say that it is serious. Had the President not demonstrated his concern, we would be in an unstable situation.

President Ford: But I don’t think you can realistically say that they have all of a sudden done this. The problem is not what they have done, but what we haven’t done over a period of years.

General Scowcroft: We must do this on a sustaining basis.

[Page 582]

Secretary Rumsfeld: We can’t run a war and drain off our supplies to somewhere else.

Deputy Secretary Clements: We need to be realistic in a simple way. We have to be steady with this. In the past some have talked about Cloud 9 plans that we can’t meet. We must project this in a simple, honest way. We must say that we can’t do it in NATO because of our stocks.

General Brown: We have talked about two things: our muscle and our will. But there is a third thing. This is our relationships with others. How can we talk about a contingency in the Middle East and have no base agreements in Turkey? This is true around the world.

General Scowcroft: One thing that we have overlooked is the depth of the study. It has been a very fine study, but we must consider its depth. Jim Lynn mentioned the coincidence with the 1969 study. There was nothing on 90 days versus 120 days. Also, we really haven’t addressed theater nuclear war. With regard to strategic forces, we have to consider what we mean by such things as parity. Don says casualties are important. We talk about people, but our last document said that we should not kill people. Maybe we need a people-targeting doctrine, to show the Soviets that they could not get away with anything if they attacked.

President Ford: How does this compare with the 1969 study in depth?

Secretary Rumsfeld: This one was done in 60 days. Henry, you ran the last study. How long did you have, six months?

Secretary Kissinger: Yes. But the strategic problem today is not all that different. In 1969, with Congress cutting the budget, we could only turn our doctrine around. However, we eventually went with MIRV, TRIDENT, B–1, and other programs but not until 1971 or 72. It is not that amazing that the doctrine is about the same. What is different is the Soviet forces’ buildup, as some predicted in the 1950s.

In 1961, I was a consultant on the Kennedy plan to send a battalion down the autobahn. It was a crazy plan, but we could think about it because we had a clear strategic superiority. We could take out whatever missiles they had very easily. But if the same situation faced us tomorrow, what would we do? Go to nuclear war? Execute the SIOP? Kill 120 million people? What will we send down the autobahn? This is no reflection on anybody.

What would we do in the next Middle East War if the Israelis decide to go to Damascus, and the Russians drop paratroops in Damascus?

Secretary Rumsfeld: They have improved their airlift and their tactical air.

[Page 583]

Secretary Kissinger: With regard to the future, we are ahead in strategic forces and this may last from four to five years. But there is no way to deal with strategic superiority. This is why I want SALT. We could never have enough for an overwhelming capability in strategic forces. This is why we should build up our conventional capability.

General Brown: This is why the JCS are 100 percent for SALT.

Secretary Rumsfeld: But we are forgetting that strategic forces are not a big percentage of the budget.

Deputy Secretary Clements: People are the high cost item.

President Ford: Let’s prepare to go along these lines.

Vice President Rockefeller: I would hate to leave these options on the chart that cut the budget. Carter could say that President Ford gave serious consideration to cutting the budget.

President Ford: Thanks very much.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 86, National Security Council, Meetings, NSC, Feb.–Dec. 1976. Top Secret; Sensitive. The meeting was held in the White House Cabinet Room.
  2. See Documents 105 and 113.
  3. A chart entitled “Overall Strategies” is attached, but not printed.
  4. Not found attached.
  5. Page 24 of the response to NSSM 246, Document 113, discusses three criteria for achieving deterrence: maintaining the capability for postwar recovery retaliation, for military gain denial, or for postwar political-military advantage.
  6. Document 110.
  7. Carl Vinson served as a Democratic Representative from Georgia from 1914 to 1965 and chaired the House Committee on Armed Services during the 81st, 82nd, and 84th through 88th Congresses.
  8. References to the NSSM 3 study and the decision memorandum that resulted from it, NSDM 27. See footnote 2, Document 66 and footnote 3, Document 21, respectively.
  9. See Document 110.