42. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Ford
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Dr. James R. Schlesinger, Secretary of Defense
  • The Joint Chiefs of Staff:
  • Gen. George S. Brown, USAF, Chairman
  • Gen. Creighton W. Abrams, USA
  • Adm. James L. Holloway, III, CNO
  • Gen. David C. Jones, USAF
  • Gen. Robert E. Cushman, Jr., USMC
  • Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

President: I gave a real pitch to McClellan. He was sympathetic but scared of floor action. There are some pretty hard noses to crack on the Committee—Case, for example.

Number one, it is nice to see you, George [Brown], and your associates. I have had wonderful experience in the 12 years on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee where we had tough problems to solve [Page 200] and a chance to know, love and admire our military. I hope that message gets out to the forces.

If we are to make headway in meeting our responsibilities for defense, we must keep the leadership and money. I am worried about the money. A $5.5 billion cut is too deep. I would hope the cuts would be different from the House so we could get a $1 billion restoration. Anything we can do ought to be a major effort.

Schlesinger: We expect to get back to about $4.2 billion.

President: Let’s do better than that. My comments about being Commander-in-Chief2 were not said routinely but people expect to hear it.

As for the workings of the NSC or the system. If you object to actions of the JCS, the Secretary, or a Service Secretary, you have the right to come to me. I affirm that, but the best way is through the Secretary and the NSC to me. If that breaks down, exercise your legal right. But I reemphasize the system ought to work. How about a rundown on where we are?

Gen. Brown (Chairman, JCS): We appreciate your thoughts. The openness and communication in the Department is the best in 15 years, so your contingency shouldn’t arise. [He takes out charts on US military forces:]3

Chart number 1: We have 2.1 million men in uniform or in support of these units.

Chart number 2 shows 1.5 [million?] people in the reserves.

Chart number 3: Forces divided into US commands.

Chart number 4 shows foreign forces.

President: What is our strength in Korea?

Schlesinger: 38,000.

President: Are there any plans to change it? There have been changes in the situation there and you will want to examine the whole situation in Korea—the political problems.

Gen. Brown: The current plan in Thailand is to draw down from 30,000 to 7,000 forces in two years.

Chart Number 5 shows 191,000 personnel in Central Europe.

We can’t count on French forces, but we have private assurances about their availability. It’s five divisions, 3,000 tanks, 600 aircraft. The [Page 201] strategy is defensive; we think it is adequate but we are prepared for two months.

Chart Number 6: We watch the Soviets in the southern flanks. We have forces that could evacuate Cyprus and supervise the Suez clearing operation.

Chart Number 7: The 82nd Airborne can move out in 18 hours.

Kissinger: How about the other divisions?

Gen. Abrams (Army): Any of the seven can be moved in 18 hours.

President: But we don’t have the airlift.

Gen. Abrams: Navy, MAC, and TAC have been working with the divisions very well over the last year to try to improve our lift ability. We have reduced lift tonnage by ten percent.

Kissinger: How long would it take to move one division to the Middle East?

Gen. Abrams: It depends on basing. I can’t give you a specific answer.

Gen. Brown: Our NATO commitment is 10 days for the first division into Europe. We could beat that if we got the planes in there.

Schlesinger: With Lajes4 it would take upwards of a week.

Brown: We planned a light Division last October and wouldn’t have had much staging power. The Second and Third fleets.

Chart number 8: We are revising the SIOP to provide a range of limited options. Theater nuclear forces augment the conventional forces.

Some of our Minutemen are being modernized to carry three warheads and Polaris are being converted to Poseidon.

Chart Number 9 shows four submarines in the Pacific Command; 149 bombers; 11 subs in the Atlantic Command and four in CINCEUR.

Adm. Holloway (CNO): The Navy is flexible, mobile and multi-purpose.

Chart number 11 shows Naval postures and contingencies for limited war and general war (either with general-purpose forces or nuclear). All our major ships can operate either conventionally or nuclear.

Chart number 12: To protect NATO’s southern flank or any US contingencies. We have 21 ballistic-missile submarines on patrol. One tactical nuclear sub is usually in the Barents Sea for reconnaissance.

Chart number 13: To support our Asian allies and national tasking. Since World War II, the 7th Fleet has been combat ten years.

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One nuclear sub is on reconnaissance off Vladivostok or Petropavlovsk. There is a Persian Gulf Task Force. We now know we can stay in Bahrain.

Chart number 14 shows our augmentation capability. Since October we have put a major force into the Indian Ocean for three or four quarters. It is difficult to support.

Kissinger: The Chinese are a great supporter of this deployment.

Adm. Holloway: It is difficult to do; that is why we want to see Diego Garcia upgraded.

President: Did the authorization5 knock out the limitation?

Scowcroft: Stennis put in $14.8 million which put it in the door.

President: But the authorization didn’t prevent it?

Scowcroft: No.

Kissinger: This Indian Ocean deployment is crucial for our foreign policy.

President: Is the harbor adequate?

Adm. Holloway: No. Even with dredging it could take only the oiler. We have only carrier ports like Mombasa. But we have a force going in in November for bilateral operations with the Iranian Navy. We go around South Africa once a year.

Chart number 15 shows the payoff in a crisis.

Chart number 16: If we want to give more we could immediately deploy 75 percent of our ships.

Chart number 17 shows the decline. It’s growing again now, but slowly.

Chart number 18: As we decline, Soviet strength grows, especially their capacity for blue-water operations.

President: What is the range of ship missiles?

Adm. Holloway: Early missiles were 350 miles, now about only 70–75. Our big concern is the 25-mile missile, because of the problem of detection time.

Cushman: To complement the Navy are the Marines—196,000 of them.

Chart number 20 shows three balanced Division-Wing teams.

President: What strength is a Marine Division?

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Gen. Cushman (USMC): 17,000 about. The East Coast team is earmarked for NATO. There is a reinforced battalion in the Mediterranean. One Division-Wing Team in Okinawa. A Third Division team on the West Coast—for any contingency.

Chart number 21: Our sea projection force.

We have fought with the Army twice in twenty years. Our logistics services can meld with either the Navy or the Army.

President: How long would it be to mobilize the 4th Division?

Gen. Cushman: Sixty days to get to the West Coast to train.

President: Do you have any trouble recruiting for the reserves?

Gen. Cushman: Yes. There are a few incentives.

President: Are you up to strength?

Gen. Cushman: We are down about 10,000. It will get worse not better.

Gen. Abrams: Chart number 24 shows four and a third divisions in Europe. It was torn up during the Vietnam war. It has turned around now. The General now is Davison.6 Discipline and leadership are back.

The Jackson-Nunn Amendment7 wants us to take out support and replace it with combat. We are working on it and are in favor of it. I think we can do it.

The emphasis now is on anti-tank capability. We are trying to improve that.

President: Is the problem a shortage of tanks?

Gen. Abrams: I’d like to come back to that.

Chart number 25: Japan was probably what the Korean war was fought about, and what we do there [in Korea] relates to Japan.

The Division there has about 2,500 Koreans in it, but it is an elite, well-led Division.

President: What uniforms do those Korean forces wear?

Gen. Abrams: Ours. They are identical except for pay.

President: I don’t want to take the time now, but do they stay 20 years?

Gen. Abrams: Only three years, because the Korean Government wants to process the maximum through that Division.

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Chart number 26: We have a brigade in Panama. We are cutting Headquarters.

Chart number 27: Eight reserve Divisions not shown.

We are after 875,000 in end-strength and bring it from 13- to 16-division force.

President: Can you do that?

Gen. Abrams: Yes. I can do it.

President: Where will you put them?

Gen. Abrams: Ord, Polk, Stuart. There is no population pressure except at Ord.

President: It gives you more flexibility.

Gen. Jones (USAF): I’d like to concentrate on two issues: strategic forces and NATO.

Adm. Moorer left SAC in good shape and we are unmatched.

President: Who is the Commander in Chief?

Gen. Jones: Dougherty.8 We are trying to expand the mission, like in the maritime area. We are trying to give you more options and more flexibility. The Minuteman is kept open. With improved RV’s.

Kissinger: What is the yield?

Gen. Jones: [1½ lines not declassified].

President: What about the accuracy?

Gen. Jones: We’re working [less than 1 line not declassified].

We call this Missile X.

Next month we will drop a Minuteman from a C–5 by parachute. We also have an air-launched cruise missile.

President: Is there a mobile missile with rail or car?

Gen. Jones: We’re looking at both.9 The rails are fewer now.

President: I remember a rail one in the early ’60’s.

Gen. Jones: We have 500 aircraft in NATO and can double it in 96 hours and increase rapidly from these. We exercise into Boulder. It takes 24 hours. We are looking at an airlift enhancement program, in cooperation with wide-bodied airliners.

President: Is that CRAF?

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Gen. Jones: Yes, but we want to expand cooperation.

President: How quickly can you commandeer it?

Gen. Jones: On an agreed basis, within 24 hours.

President: Did you use it in the Middle East?10

Gen. Jones: No. The airlines were worried about Arab retaliation.

Gen. Brown: We had an arrangement for them to take up the slack around the world while we did the Israeli bit.

Gen. Jones: The lightweight fighter. We are working for standardization with the Allies. In NATO, no one service or country can solve the problem. NATO air has balance, but with each going his own way, we can’t exploit it. It is an inefficient operation which hurts. There is much to be done.

Gen. Brown: We are all mindful of the great pressures of inflation and manpower, and we have got to modernize.

President: We have to get you enough money. Anything I can do, I will.

Thank you, and I reiterate that you can come to me on anything through Jim [Schlesinger] and the NSC if they stop it.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser Files, Memoranda of Conversations, 1973–1977, Box 4, August 13, 1974—Ford, Kissinger, Schlesinger, Joint Chiefs. Top Secret. The meeting, held in the White House Cabinet Room, lasted from 3:11 to 4:20 p.m. (Ibid., Staff Secretary’s Office, President’s Daily Diary) All brackets are in the original memorandum.
  2. See Document 41.
  3. The referenced 32 charts and maps are in the Ford Library, National Security Adviser Files, Presidential Agency Files, Box 14, Joint Chiefs of Staff—Presidential Briefing, 8/74.
  4. Lajes Field in the Azores was a United States Air Force, Army, and Navy base.
  5. PL 93–636, as passed by both houses of Congress on December 18, authorized $3.1 billion for FY 1975 military construction. The measure included no funding to expand the U.S. base on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia as requested by the administration. It did, however, permit the Navy and the Air Force to divert construction funds to Diego Garcia, provided that the requirements of the authorization bill were met. (Congress and the Nation, Vol. IV, 1973–1976, p. 162)
  6. General Michael S. Davison, Commander-in-Chief, United States Army, Europe and Commander, Central Army Group, NATO.
  7. The FY 1975 defense authorization measure (HR 14592—PL 93–365) included a provision making a 12,500 cut in overseas troop strength, reducing the total to 452,000. The final bill also included an amendment requiring a cut of 18,000 in non-combatant support troops stationed in Europe, but allowing the substitution of an equal number of combat troops. (Congress and the Nation, Vol. IV, 1973–1976, pp. 160–161)
  8. General Russell E. Dougherty, CINCSAC from August 1, 1974.
  9. In a memorandum dated December 20, 1973, Moorer informed Clements that the Air Force was studying the M–X Advanced ICBM Technology Program, a mobile ICBM deployment option. The Air Force considered the M–X program to be “a sound approach for maintaining the option to permit a full scale development decision for a follow-on ICBM system, which could include mobile basing options, in FY 1977/78.” (National Archives, RG 218, Official Records of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Moorer, CM File, 3007–73 to 3072–73)
  10. Reference is to the U.S. airlift of military equipment during the October 1973 Arab-Israeli War.