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124. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft)1


  • NSSM 244, U.S. Civil Defense Policy2

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and I have reviewed the Response to NSSM 244, U.S. Civil Defense Policy. We believe that the Response provides an adequate basis to address the key issues which affect the choice of a future U.S. civil defense policy and program. We believe, however, that it would be useful to hold an NSC meeting to discuss the NSSM Response, inasmuch as it addresses issues which should be considered in the evaluation of options for U.S. strategy in NSSM 246, and about which there are differing views among the agency participants in NSSM 244.

The Department of Defense concurs with the Response recommendation that “U.S. policies should be continually assessed as we learn more about the actual Soviet civil defense program.” In our opinion, although we currently lack sufficient intelligence to make confident assessments about the effectiveness of Soviet civil defense, Soviet CD potentially could have significant implications for the U.S. deterrent, and therefore should be a priority intelligence target.

The Department of Defense is concerned about the potential impact of Soviet civil defense measures on U.S. retaliatory capability and escalatory control capability in the future. We believe our current and projected weapons acquisition and employment policies and programs are adequate for SIOP execution through the mid-1980s. However, we are concerned that significant improvements to and expansion of those parts of the Soviet civil defense program concerned with dispersing and hardening industrial capacity and protecting political and military leadership could require changes in these policies and programs later on.

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We believe that the Response fairly represents the differing interpretations of the purpose of Soviet civil defense efforts. It is our opinion that when viewed in conjunction with the Soviet counterforce efforts, active defense programs, and continuing ABM RDT&E efforts, the Soviet civil defense efforts suggest that the Soviets are pursuing a comprehensive damage-limiting strategy.

While strategic offensive forces are today the prime determinant of our ability to maintain deterrence, we believe the relative survival and recovery capabilities of the U.S. and USSR can also affect the strategic balance. As you know, the U.S. does not use Soviet fatalities as a measure of U.S. ability to deter attack, but rather depends upon its ability to destroy those political, economic, and selected military targets critical to Soviet post-attack power and early recovery as a major power. Although population fatalities are not a measure for judging the effectiveness of our NSDM 242 strategy,3 DOD believes that they are politically significant and that our ability (or lack of ability) to protect the U.S. population could affect U.S. decision-making at the thresholds between non-use, limited employment, and full-scale employment of nuclear weapons in situations short of retaliation against a full-scale attack on the U.S.

We are concerned that a significant Soviet advantage in crisis relocation capability could provide the Soviets with an effective crisis coercion capability against the U.S. We recognize that the U.S. could mitigate the effectiveness of a Soviet evacuation by bringing its strategic forces to full alert status and that the Soviets could not maintain an evacuated posture indefinitely. However, even if we were to bring U.S. forces to full alert status, we believe that U.S. population vulnerability would remain high without an effective U.S. crisis relocation capability. It is this vulnerability which could affect U.S. actions or Allied support of the U.S. Furthermore, the Soviets would only need to maintain an evacuated posture for a limited period of time if it provided an effective crisis advantage.

The Department of Defense believes that the Response adequately reflects the range of civil defense policy and program options for population protection, but believes that population protection by itself could be inadequate to assure a rapid post-attack recovery. We recommend as a priority item a follow-on study of the requirements for enhancing national recovery.

With respect to the civil defense policies outlined in the study, the Department of Defense recommends that the U.S. adopt enhancing post-attack survival and recovery as its CD objective. We recommend [Page 591]that the U.S. focus on developing a civil defense program which provides for a “one-week” surge capability for crisis relocation coupled with a nationwide fall-out protection capability. While further work is required and recommended by DOD to refine the costs and requirements for these capabilities, DOD believes that, if after review of this study, the U.S. should opt for a one-week surge capability, a modest increase in funding for CD above the currently projected FY 78 budget would be warranted so that the U.S. could progressively develop an effective crisis surge capability. As planning progresses and the requirements for a crisis surge capability become better understood, we would recommend full funding for the measures necessary to achieve this one-week surge capability (currently estimated at 215 million federal dollars annually).

We believe that programs which depend upon massive blast protection are likely to be economically and politically unacceptable in the U.S. Furthermore, we think they could be destabilizing to the stra-tegic balance if the Soviets believed they were integral to a U.S. shift toward a first-strike strategy. Therefore, we recommend against such programs.

With respect to the relationship between CD preparedness and natural disaster preparedness, DOD believes that Option 3 (managing CD as a predominantly attack-oriented program which permits Federal assistance to State and local natural disaster activities which benefit attack preparedness) is the most politically practical approach.

Finally, DOD supports the Response recommendations for further study of Soviet civil defense and comparative U.S./Soviet recovery capability, review of federal management arrangements, and recodification of Executive Orders.

Donald Rumsfeld
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 330–79–0049, 384, 17 Dec. 1976. Secret. No drafting information appears on the memorandum. McAuliffe and the Director of the Joint Staff, JCS, Lieutenant General Ray B. Sitton forwarded another version of it to Clements under an undated covering memorandum with the recommendation that Clements sign it. Clements, however, wrote on the covering memorandum: “Don [Rumsfeld] has been talking with the President on this subject—he should sign!” (Ibid.)
  2. NSSM 244 and the response to it are Documents 95 and 117, respectively.
  3. Document 31.