129. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (James T. Lynn) to President Ford1


  • Civil Defense—NSSM 244

In July 1976, you directed a comprehensive review of US civil defense policy.2 During your recent review of the FY 1978 Defense budget, you deferred decision on the civil defense program pending completion of the NSSM 244 study. That effort is now completed and was reviewed by the NSC Senior Review Group on December 21.3

The Senior Review Group reached a consensus on the following points:

—Our present civil defense efforts are relatively ineffective.

—We should begin focusing on feasible survival options and consider reorienting our current program.

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—The U.S. civil defense program should consider the order of priorities in the wider context of attack preparedness and post-attack recovery. Industrial protection in particular may be important to post-attack recovery and needs to be studied.

—A significant beginning toward a more effective, reoriented program can be achieved without any significant funding increase at this time.

A 1978 funding level of $90 million, $6 million more than 1977, was recommended by the NSC Senior Review Group (you tentatively approved the $88 million recommended by OMB; Defense had originally requested $108 million). This level will include $15 million for improved planning which is directed toward possible reorientation and selection of priorities. Although the Senior Review Group did not explicitly address management options, it was implicit in their discussion that the civil defense program should move away from supporting natural disaster-related activities and concentrate on nuclear attack preparedness.

Follow-On Studies

NSSM 244 also identified a number of priority items for additional emphasis and examination. A follow-on study is recommended to review post-attack recovery requirements. In addition, the Intelligence Community should be directed to give increased attention to additional and more definitive examination of Soviet civil defense efforts. A draft NSSM is being prepared for your consideration which would direct these further efforts.


Based upon the NSSM 244 reports and the interagency consensus reached in the Senior Review Group meeting, we recommend that you now:

a. Direct that the civil defense program be reoriented to practical survival options.

b. Approve a 1978 funding level of $90 million for civil defense to include $15 million for improved planning which emphasizes needed reorientation and prioritization.

c. Reaffirm your decision that the civil defense program exclusively support nuclear attack oriented programs.


  1. Source: Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box 45, NSSM 244 (1 of 3) (5). No classification markings. A note at the top of the memorandum reads: “The President Has Seen.” Boverie forwarded the memorandum to Scowcroft under a covering memorandum, December 23, with the recommendation that he sign it. (Ibid.)
  2. See Document 95.
  3. See Document 125.
  4. Ford initialed his approval.