43. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Ford
  • James R. Schlesinger, Secretary of Defense
  • Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
[Page 206]

Schlesinger: The Birch Society Congressmen are starting to work against Defense on economic grounds. I am going hopefully to join the Democratic study group. Dick Bolling2 I think can be good.

President: Bolling is good. Ullman3 is also good.

Schlesinger: I think we will do all right in the House. Even Joe Biden4 is getting educated.

[There is more light discussion of the Congressional situation.]

President: Virginia has a lot of Defense installations.

Schlesinger: Do you mind if I close some of them after the elections?

President: No. Which ones?

Schlesinger: The toughest is the Frankford Arsenal. It has been kept open because of Hugh Scott for 15 years.

President: How big is it?

Schlesinger: About 5,000 people. It is old and the mission is obsolete. The personnel are ill trained. I also proposed the Pueblo Arsenal. Senator Dominick5 called and asked me to keep it open until after November.

President: What is its mission?

Schlesinger: It is a depot. We have gone down from 6.3 million to 2.1 million people without shrinking the base structure.

One is in McFall’s6 and one is in Leggett’s7 District. We must shrink the Army system so we can get to 16 divisions. It has long been overblown.

President: Military bases?

Schlesinger: Fort Dix is the biggest one.

President: Clifford Case hasn’t helped us.

Schlesinger: He is okay on conventional forces. He’s a frail reed, but he hasn’t been too bad. We just don’t need all the training facilities. We are also closing Fort Monroe.

President: Can you show the cost-to-benefit ratio?

Schlesinger: Yes. They have cut manpower by 30,000. I can take that without cutting strength. We will consolidate the two in California [Page 207] in McFall’s district rather than in Leggett’s, though it will cost one-half million more.

President: We won’t have closings to help someone else. I heard an Army base closed in Omaha and one opened in Louisiana. If you have to move, ok, but don’t do it to help people out.

Schlesinger: I stopped the Navy from moving Suitland to Mississippi. Stennis is very nervous. Pastore wanted it moved to Rhode Island. The Navy wanted to help Stennis.

President: These districts who forgot to get bases are in the long run better off. I didn’t try to get any. It is a snare and a delusion. It’s much too uncertain.

Schlesinger: I agree. The facilities in Mendel Rivers’8 district are slipping away. But I need your support with Scott. He is a patriot.

President: On any of these, get me a 10-page paper showing all the background. Hugh [Scott] is a statesman if you show common sense and political savvy.

Schlesinger: I hope Dominick pulls through. The AFL–CIO said they wouldn’t forget Milton Young.9

President: Milton Young is very good. It’s just his age. How can the AFL—with Meany’s strength—support Hart10 in Colorado? Pete [Dominick] needs all the help he can get.

Schlesinger: The problem is Hart is going moderate.

President: The strange race is in South Dakota. Thorsness11 is likeable.

Schlesinger: McGovern is actually a moderate.

President: I’m hearing Javits is in trouble.

Schlesinger: I think he’s o.k. I will talk to the AFL about it. The Democrats have done well in the Governor races—a moderate does better than a radical. But they can’t do that in a Senate race unless they can get the Jews.

President: The Cuba trip12 didn’t help him.

[Page 208]

I am worried about tank production.13

Schlesinger: It’s a big problem. Basically the marginal foundries are being put out of business by the environmental laws.

President: If you had your druthers, how much would you increase it?

Schlesinger: From 260 to 1200. And despite all this Stratton14 isn’t satisfied at Water Vliet. We make gun turrets there.

We have trouble if we give 200 tanks to Israel. The Saudis complained they had to wait two years and Israel gets it right away.

President: If you started now, how long would it take to get going?

Schlesinger: We’re up to about 500 now; I had hoped to be to 800. But I am out of foundries and may have to get them in Germany.

President: Who builds them? And how much do they cost?

Schlesinger: About [$]35,000. Chrysler does it in an old World-War II plant.

President: Rhodes was after me to get some government-owned foundry on the market so GM could move in.

If Congress cut us $7 billion from $304 billion and the Department of Defense had to cut short, where would you get it?

Schlesinger: I would cut civil service. But O & M is the only way to get it quickly. I probably would have to cut Navy overseas deployment—in the Mediterranean, for example.

President: This would give an excuse to close those facilities. Would you cut military or civilians?

Schlesinger: I would slow recruitment, but wouldn’t reduce end strength. We took a cut in O & M this year.

I told you everything looked like $96 billion in ’76 outlays. It now looks like $95 billion. We are very thin on strength.

You can keep current levels. We are at 5.6% of GNP as compared to 9.6% ten years ago. We can’t keep on doing this and stay second to none. FY ’75 spending will be between $83 and $84 billion.

President: Where will the cuts come?

Schlesinger: From slowing procurement. The problem is we are coming into a lot of procurement from prior years.

[Page 209]

Inflation has cost us $9 billion. To repair the Department we have to face up to the costs.

I told Ullman our defense strengths in proportion to the share of GNP.

President: Can’t DOD help us over NPR No. 1 and No. 4? Number 1 would be very helpful now. Why won’t Eddie [Hebert?] go along?

Schlesinger: I think a deal is possible. Number 4 is tougher than Number 1. I think you can’t with 750 million go into a production base in Number 4 in terms of developing national resources. It would worry the producers.

President: You mean if we prove out Number 4 that that would ease the pressure on Number 1?

Schlesinger: No. We would continue to have resistance on production from Number 1.

President: Everyone on the California delegation is after me. They know the alternative is drilling in the channel. Can we get a deal with Eddie?

Schlesinger: We will work on it. Vinson15 advised Hebert against it unequivocally.

President: I don’t understand. It could help us right away.

Schlesinger: Conservation for the Navy is a secular religion going back to Pinchot.

President: With the Navy going nuclear, how can they need more oil than 20 years ago?

Schlesinger: It’s not rational, just conservative.

We are sending you a revised Unified Command Plan.16 It leaked and was embarrassing, in that it has been given to Bunker17 as a goodie in his negotiations.

President: Are the Panamanians against it?

Schlesinger: Yes. SOUTHCOM does serve a useful purpose politically. It was proposed in ’70 and rejected. Haig and Walters were opposed. On political grounds JCS now support it. I think it will get no support on the Hill.

[Page 210]

President: Will PACOM take it over?

Schlesinger: No. We would have forces take over the headquarters. It mostly handles MAP and we can do it from Washington. It is a colonial vestige. We also want to eliminate ALCAN [ALCOM?]. That is a Ted Stevens18 problem. It would become part of CONAD. It’s the only state having a separate defense command. They still worry about World War II. I can put 5 divisions into Alaska in five days. I think we can swing it if we can have a 3-star flag there.

We just can’t afford these luxuries anymore.

President: That will help your general officer problem.

Schlesinger: I think we have solved that problem. I think the Hill will turn to something else. I am optimistic on the Hill.

President: Again, we did well last year, but if we get 50 more liberals in the House and 5 or 6 more in the Senate, we’re in trouble.

Who will take Weyand’s place?

Schlesinger: The Army would recommend Kerwin.19 I am toying with the idea of saying to get someone under 54. I am trying to get the average age down. Kerwin is 58. The idea is he would be in for 18 months and then get a younger man. You would then decide whether to keep Weyand around after he’s 60 in 1976.

The Army is cooperating to reduce the age of 3 and 4 star people. The Air Force applies a 5-year/35 year rule. The Army hasn’t.

President: What do you think about the Vietnam situation?

Schlesinger: We need $2–300 million more. McFall thinks we can slip it through. The Senate doesn’t back that. Maybe I can use some drawdown.

On the ’76 budget, we are getting a low wave. Before, Ash and I had agreed on $94 billion. That is still a shrinking percentage of the GNP. I think we have to maintain that expenditures level if we want to stay second to none. Otherwise we would be second to one. We are operating on a procurement level which is half of what it was in ’68. We are 25% below the levels of ’58–65. We must push that back up. We are at the lowest level in procurement, manpower, and conventional forces since Forrestal.20

President: How about the Navy? How are they making out?

Schlesinger: We lost four frigates. Next year we may have to fight for the Navy. The Air Force is doing well. The B–1 may get some flak. [Page 211] The B–1 roll-out is October 26. There is a fight now between California and Texas for production.

President: The California delegation doesn’t help us much.

Schlesinger: California votes only for the B–1.

President: I would take Cranston and Tunney.21

Schlesinger: Cranston is more consistent and strong-minded than Tunney. Tunney can be persuaded.

President: Cranston headed some crazy Democratic alliance. He is a fighter and can help you if he is with you. Tunney is inconsistent.

Schlesinger: I talked to Tunney on the Azores and the Tunney Amendment.22 He said he would help if no one was told.

President: What is the present Portuguese situation?

Schlesinger: I talked to Kissinger about contingency planning—like [less than 1 line not declassified] You may be able to weather it because of the Israeli situation.

President: It would raise a UN problem. We would really catch the flak then.

Schlesinger: Even then you’d be surprised at the chariness to attack the UN then. We never fight back—if we start to, the better ones might change.

President: What is the Europeans’ attitude?

Schlesinger: They would welcome it if the case is strong.

President: I’d better go, unless you wanted to raise something else specific.

Schlesinger: I brought a book to discuss SALT about weapons characteristics—when a MIRV is not a MIRV.

President: How about next week? Possibly after next Thursday or Friday.

Schlesinger: How about Friday?

President: Personnel.

[Omitted here is discussion of military personnel.]

[Page 212]

President: The mission has changed. Civil Defense is now more a disaster thing.

Schlesinger: The Soviets have a formidable capacity in civil defense. I am trying to get some plans for evacuation.

President: The Chinese capability in that is even better.

[The Secretary and the President conferred for 5 minutes alone at the end.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser’s Files, Memoranda of Conversations, 1973–1977, Box 6, October 10, 1974—Ford, Schlesinger. Top Secret; Nodis. The breakfast meeting, held in the First Floor Private Dining Room of the White House, lasted until 8:58 a.m. (Ibid., Staff Secretary’s Office, President’s Daily Diary) All brackets, except for those included by the editor to indicate omissions in the text, are in the original.
  2. Representative Richard Walker Bolling (D–Missouri).
  3. Representative Albert Conrad Ullman (D–Oregon).
  4. Senator Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. (D–Delaware).
  5. Senator Peter Hoyt Dominick (R–Colorado).
  6. John Joseph McFall, Democratic Representative from California and House Majority Whip, 1973–1976.
  7. Representative Robert Louis Leggett (D–California).
  8. Lucius Mendel Rivers, Democratic Representative from South Carolina, 1941–1970, and Chairman of the House Committee on Armed Services, 1965–1970.
  9. Senator Milton Ruben Young (R–North Dakota).
  10. Gary Warren Hart, Democrat, elected Senator representing Colorado in 1974.
  11. Leo K. Thorsness, unsuccessful Republican candidate for a United States Senate seat from South Dakota in 1974.
  12. Javits and Pell traveled to Cuba, with which the United States did not have diplomatic relations, from September 27 to 30, where they met with Cuban Premier Fidel Castro. Javits, upon his return, told reporters that the Senators had found Castro to be “interested in working for better relations with the United States.” (New York Times, October 1, 1974, p. 8; October 2, 1974, p. 46)
  13. According to Scowcroft’s October 9 memorandum briefing Ford on the next day’s meeting with Schlesinger, “Heavy competition for the use of tank capacity to produce non-military goods and major shortfall in the inventory of tanks in US active forces have led DOD to propose Government intervention to establish tank production as a program of ‘Highest National Priority.’” (Ford Library, National Security Adviser’s Files, Memoranda of Conversations, 1973–1977, Box 6, October 10, 1974—Ford, Schlesinger)
  14. Representative Samuel Studdiford Stratton (D–New York).
  15. Presumably a reference to Carl Vinson, longtime Democratic Representative from Georgia and former Chairman of the House Committee on Naval Affairs and the House Committee on Armed Services.
  16. Schlesinger sent the proposed revision to the United Command Plan to Ford under a covering memorandum, December 17. The proposed revision called for the disestablishment of the United States Southern Command in the Panama Canal Zone, of the Alaskan Command, and of the Continental Air Defense Command, the latter to be replaced by a proposed Air Force Aerospace Defense Command. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Schlesinger Papers, Action Memoranda, December 1974)
  17. Ellsworth Bunker, Ambassador at Large from October 11, 1973.
  18. Senator Theodore F. (Ted) Stevens (R–Alaska).
  19. General Walter T. (Dutch) Kerwin. Jr., Vice Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, from October 1974.
  20. James Vincent Forrestal, Secretary of Defense, September 17, 1947 to March 28, 1949.
  21. John Varick Tunney (D–California).
  22. In 1973, Senator Tunney co-sponsored an amendment to that year’s foreign assistance legislation that suspended U.S. economic or military assistance used in direct support of Portugal’s war in Angola, a Portuguese colony until 1975. Congress failed to adopt that measure. However, in December 1975, following disclosures that the United States had secretly supplied arms and funds to factions fighting in Angola’s civil war, Tunney led a coalition of Senators that successfully added an amendment to the FY 76 Defense appropriations bill that banned the use of any of the bill’s funds for “any activities involving Angola.” The final bill (HR 9861—PL 94–212) was signed into law in January 1976 with Tunney’s language intact. (New York Times, November 14, 1973, p A2; Congress and the Nation, Vol. IV, 1973–1976, p. 867)