76. Minutes of Defense Review Panel Meeting1


  • SALT Contingency Plan and US Naval Force Requirements Study


  • Chairman
  • Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
  • State
  • Henry A. Kissinger
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt
  • DOD
  • William Clements
  • Dr. James P. Wade
  • E. C. Aldridge
  • Adm. M. Staser Holcomb
  • JCS
  • Lt. Gen. William Y. Smith
  • Adm. James L. Holloway
  • CIA
  • George Bush
  • Col. Henson DeBruler
  • ACDA
  • Dr. Fred Ikle
  • John Lehman
  • OMB
  • James Lynn
  • Don Ogilvie
  • NSC
  • Brent Scowcroft
  • William G. Hyland
  • Col. Richard Boverie
  • Michael Hornblow

Secretary Rumsfeld: This is the first meeting of the Defense Review Panel. This is being held on a trial basis. The NSC memo chartering this group has not gone out yet.

General Scowcroft: It should go out in a few days. It has been held up by the lawyers.

Secretary Rumsfeld: The DRP will be used for important issues which may eventually require the President’s attention and which require internal coordination. There will be a working group which will staff such issues as the Navy shipbuilding study.2 The DRP principals will meet when needed and review issues which then may or may not go to the President. Today we will be reviewing the SALT contingency paper3 and looking at some budgetary issues that are before Congress. Specifically we will discuss the possibility of the Minuteman III production line shutdown. At the end of the meeting we will have a briefing on the shipbuilding question and the shape of our fleet 5, 10 and 15 years out.

The SALT contingency paper is designed in the form of building blocks and is ready for the President to review. There are no known substantive differences between the agencies but Secretary Kissinger asked to have a meeting of the principals. The paper discusses a number of alternatives presented in a building block format. In the paper there are no specific contingencies laid out which would force US action. There is no discussion of legislative tactics. There is no discussion of public and press questions. The paper presents some thinking about what we might want to do in the absence of a SALT agreement.

Dr. Ikle: As I see it the paper presents options without definite choices.

[Page 313]

Secretary Rumsfeld: Right. I think it is satisfactory in its present form.

Dr. Ikle: There is no list.

Secretary Rumsfeld: The papers present a number of different kinds of things for the President’s consideration.

Mr. Clements: If Fred [Ikle] wants to add to the list he can. Is there something else?

Secretary Rumsfeld: It is too late for that.

Dr. Ikle: As I see alternative I it means more funds for the M–X program and for Minuteman III. The particular allocations are not discussed. Perhaps we don’t need to get into these technical decisions now.

Secretary Rumsfeld: No we don’t. The President asked for this paper some time ago.4 It is now ready and should go to the President.

Secretary Kissinger: I have a few questions. It seems to me that we need to increase our air defenses regardless of SALT and the resolution of the Backfire question. This is true even if we get our preferred position. Soviet acceptance of our strategic forces would consist of the Backfire. On the other hand an agreement excluding Backfire presents a real threat to our air defenses. We should not look at air defense as something to be put in only if there is no SALT agreement. We need something to counter Backfire.

General Scowcroft: That too is my point. We will need air defense in any event. There may be merit in putting that in the paper.

Secretary Rumsfeld: DoD is looking into this issue apart from the paper. We are looking at things that should be done regardless of SALT.

Secretary Kissinger: I am not in favor of an accelerated strategic program. However neither the United States nor the Soviet Union is pursuing SALT with energy and we may not achieve an agreement this year. I don’t want to waste money but I don’t see how we can avoid improving our air defenses.

Dr. Ikle: Perhaps we should add money for ABM R&D.

Secretary Rumsfeld: We are not here to make decisions. We are here just to talk about this paper. There is no question that there are some things that we may want to do regardless of what decision the President makes on SALT.

[Page 314]

Secretary Kissinger: I urge full support of the regular defense budget. We can hold up on these other items except for air defense.

General Scowcroft: In the memo to the President we can put in a reference that we will be looking into the adequacy of our air defenses.

Dr. Ikle: This would affect the ABM Treaty.

Secretary Kissinger: We are talking about a defense against their bombers, not their missiles.

General Scowcroft: Forty percent of the throwweight is in the Backfire bomber. We must return to an air defense system and force them to fly low.

Secretary Kissinger: Regarding the Minuteman III, why was it thought that making 1,000 Minutemen IIIs would be helpful? There are other more effective counterforce weapons—for example, a single large warhead. In the absence of ABMs what do you gain by making more warheads?

General Scowcroft: I don’t know the answer.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Where is that?

Dr. Wade: Here on page 3.

Secretary Kissinger: Why do we need more warheads in the absence of an ABM Treaty?

Secretary Rumsfeld: It says here we would continue production of the Minuteman III up to a force of 1,000. That is assuming no SALT agreement.

Secretary Kissinger: In the absence of SALT we are better off increasing the number of our missiles rather than the number of warheads.

Secretary Rumsfeld: They are not mutually exclusive. This paper just presents a set of building blocks.

Secretary Kissinger: I don’t have any fixed ideas on this subject. In the absence of a SALT agreement I definitely feel we should build up. We should look for something which gives a strategic effect and which would give the Soviets an incentive to come to a SALT agreement in the future. If we go above one thousand MK–IIIs we are busting the MIRV ceiling. If we accelerate the M–X program that would give the Russians some incentive to seriously negotiate down the road. We could also build more single warhead missiles.

Dr. Wade: There is the possibility of adding launchers and missiles right away. We could add to our Minuteman III production and to our other programs in stages. The question is when do we do it—what is the time frame?

General Scowcroft: What about silos?

Dr. Wade: We would not be adding to the numbers.

[Page 315]

Dr. Ikle: This would mean we would have big expenditures if we increased MK–III production or accelerated the M–X program.

Secretary Rumsfeld: We have to go the next step. We have to weigh all these considerations and see if we can encourage the Soviets to come back and negotiate. We have to be prepared for a breakout.

Secretary Kissinger: At some point we must break out. If we stay within the Vladivostok understandings the Soviets have the best of everything.

Secretary Rumsfeld: That might not be true if we can get an agreement by January or February.

Secretary Kissinger: I agree. There should be no breakout this year. But we owe ourselves one more major negotiating effort. Then if that effort fails we must break out.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Well we could ask the working group to go back and arrange things in different ways but I think we should send the paper in as is. Later on we can rearrange and look at what things would give the Soviets the greatest incentive to resume serious negotiating.

Now I would like to go into the second part of today’s meeting and take up five budgetary issues relating to actions taken by the House Appropriations Committee or the Authorization Committee in the Senate.

First they want to add funds for the B–1 bomber. $170 million more for research and development and $30 million more for procurement. DoD opposes this and would like to spend the money in other areas.

General Scowcroft: Why are they adding this money?

Secretary Kissinger: What does the Committee think it is buying with this $200 million?

Secretary Rumsfeld: It is a package of things.

General Scowcroft: What would $200 million do for the B–1?

Mr. Aldridge: In last year’s budget we had to take money out of our R&D accounts. This puts it back in. We can use it for more R&D testing. That’s all. It does nothing really for the program.

Secretary Kissinger: I have trouble understanding how $200 million worth of spending does nothing for the program.

Secretary Rumsfeld: I don’t think we should do it.

Secretary Kissinger: What is the purpose of this meeting?

Secretary Rumsfeld: Well the President has a budget which was drawn up with some care. Congress wants to make some changes in that budget affecting DoD. We believe it is good form for DoD to wash these proposed changes through the other Agencies to make sure we are all on the same wave length. We could do it on paper but that might [Page 316] take a month. Instead we can accomplish it all at this meeting. It won’t take long.

The second one involves funds for the M–X missile. Congress wants to add on $80 million and the Armed Services Committee has deleted $4 million from that.

General Scowcroft: I have no real objections. Maybe the Committee should look at the M–X separately.

Secretary Kissinger: What is it supposed to do? I have never seen it.

Secretary Rumsfeld: You have never asked.

Mr. Clements: It will go into the silos at first.

General Scowcroft: There is the possibility of it being mobile.

Mr. Clements: It will be able to use either multiple or single warheads.

Secretary Kissinger: What yield?

Mr. Clements: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Dr. Wade: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Aldridge: [less than 1 line not declassified]

General Scowcroft: We will have to consider the SALT MIRV counting rule.

Mr. Clements (to Kissinger): We will brief you at State and educate some of your associates at the same time.

Secretary Kissinger: You will scare them half to death.

General Scowcroft: What is the effect of the $80 million?

Dr. Wade: It would help achieve a 1983 IOC.

Mr. Hyland: What is the rationale for not accelerating it?

Secretary Rumsfeld: The President after a year’s work submits a budget to Congress. There are sufficient funds in that budget for an adequate Defense. We must ask ourselves—what has changed? Was our original budget proposal wrong? The answer is nothing has changed.

Dr. Ikle: What about alternate basing modes?

Secretary Rumsfeld: You are wandering around in other areas. We are caught in a bow wave on the need for added funds and we have to force ourselves to decide on launch modes.

Secretary Kissinger: The answer is that we want to see what happens with SALT.

Secretary Rumsfeld: We should see if the proposal makes sense in the first place without necessarily tying it to a SALT thermostat.

Secretary Kissinger: If there is a SALT deadlock the M–X could be speeded up. It would give us an additional card in our hands.

[Page 317]

Secretary Rumsfeld: The third item is the MK 12A warheads. In the present budget $36 million is allocated in R&D funds. The House Appropriations Committee has added $25 million. In our view that ought to be in there. I think we should agree to it.

Mr. Lynn: Why wasn’t it originally put in? What has changed since the budget was made up? What signal are we trying to give to the Soviets?

Secretary Rumsfeld: We should not just focus on the $25 million. It is something we want and are ready to do. It was not in there originally because this is a political year and we wanted to avoid the possibility of a gratuitous debate and to wait until after the election. But now I think we should give up our opposition to going ahead and we should respond favorably to the Committee initiative. It will contribute to the counterforce dialogue.

Dr. Wade: One problem is that if we continue Minuteman III production for 12 months there is the possibility of our running out of RVs.

Mr. Lynn: We have had remarkable success so far this year with Congress in getting them to approve our defense budget. But enough is enough. This is the Genghis Kahn approach. What has changed? Our domestic programs are very stringent and we expect real pressures in our 78–79 budget and a real battle next year.

General Scowcroft: We have to keep the MK–III line open. However if we keep it open and there are no RVs we defeat the purpose.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Let’s talk about the two together. The fourth item is the MK–III production line.

The President recognized that this was a close call in his FY 77 budget decisions. The production line will start falling apart in April. It is even now happening. The House Appropriations Committee wants to add $300 million to continue production of the MK–III. The President said a few months ago that he wanted to review his decision on this later and put a note to that effect in the budget. One option is to go ahead and leave it out. Another option is to put funds in in order to keep the line open. If the funds were put in, we would not have to decide until December how to spend them if at all. There are a number of variables. In the decision we could decide to buy MK–IIIs for depots or storage or we could upgrade the MK–IIIs or we could close the production line in order to accelerate M–X production or we could keep it going as is until after September.

In our view the President would be placed in an untenable position if the MK–III production line were closed and we lost these options.

Secretary Kissinger: I agree. We can’t close the production line while the SALT talks are going on.

[Page 318]

General Scowcroft: By keeping the line open does that mean we make more of them?

Secretary Rumsfeld: The issue is whether or not to ask for money for the FY 77 budget. If we fail to do this the line closes.

Mr. Lynn: Do we already have enough MK–IIIs?

Secretary Rumsfeld: Yes, more than enough. We would put 50 in storage.

Secretary Kissinger: Don’t tell me that. I want to go to Moscow in good faith.

Mr. Lynn: What you are really saying is that we should preserve the option. You are saying that the only way to preserve the option is to keep making them. Can we pay the producers to keep the capacity of production without having them actually produced?

Mr. Clements: Not really.

Secretary Rumsfeld: We are asking for money in the ’77 budget. We won’t make a decision until September.

Secretary Kissinger: If there is no SALT agreement by September, and I doubt there will be, we can’t have one before February or March. We have to keep the line open. We must keep that option.

Mr. Lynn: The SALT talks keep going on. This decision is being forced.

Mr. Clements: The most important part is to retain the capability by keeping the line open. There are thousands of subcontractors involved.

Mr. Lynn: I suppose we have no choice but we may end up with egg over our faces.

Mr. Clements: It is not simple to understand.

Mr. Lynn: After you have worked with me, you will learn I won’t cut anything that makes sense.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Let’s go back to our discussion of the MK 12As.

General Scowcroft: The MK 12RV is out of production. We would have no RVs for the missiles.

Mr. Lynn: There is reason to keep the capability open if you want to use it. There is a flashpoint in this country. The rationale of keeping the line open just to preserve it might not wash. We could be looking greedy.

Dr. Ikle: It might provoke a debate on counterforce inadvertently.

Secretary Kissinger: This is not a bad year in which to provoke a debate. We are living better than ever. Look at 1960 and 1961. You wait [Page 319] until after the election. The Democrats will not be in the posture they are this year.

General Scowcroft: The environment is better this year.

Mr. Lynn: Why send a signal before knowing how SALT concludes?

Secretary Kissinger: We want counterforce anyway to force them out of their silos.

Secretary Rumsfeld: It fits in with the MK–III and keeps the line open.

Secretary Kissinger: We have put forward programs and now Congress has put forward programs. If we turn down Congress just for the sake of purity how can we ever convince the Soviets of our seriousness?

General Scowcroft: If we now say to Congress—stick with the budget—and then come back to them later on asking for more money it will seem a little strange.

Secretary Rumsfeld: It could be reprogrammed later in the year.

General Scowcroft: I vote for the Mark 12A, along with the Minuteman.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Me too.

Secretary Kissinger: Me too.

Mr. Lynn: No.5

Secretary Rumsfeld: The last item is about civil defense. The President opposed the original DoD package. Now the House Armed Services Committee is recommending that we add $39 million.

Dr. Wade: The key is to provide increased funds for State and local Governments.

Mr. Lynn: It is a purely political program. It is stupid.

Dr. Ikle: It has no wide support.

Secretary Kissinger: I don’t think we need it.

(This portion of the meeting ended at 4:52 p.m.)

Naval Shipbuilding Briefing was then conducted by Mr. Aldridge.6

The meeting ended at 5:25 p.m.

  1. Source: Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box 25, Meeting Minutes—Defense Review Panel. Top Secret. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room.
  2. See Document 110.
  3. A reference to a draft OSD paper, “SALT Contingency Planning,” which Davis forwarded to DRP members under a covering memorandum, April 5, for review prior to the meeting. (National Archives, RG 218, Official Records of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Brown, NSC) The final version of the paper is Document 77.
  4. During a February 5 meeting in the Oval Office, Ford instructed Rumsfeld to “come up with what we need if we don’t have an agreement. What kind of additional funding will we need.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 221, Geopolitical File, Soviet Union, Rumsfeld, Donald, 1975–1976)
  5. On April 14, Lynn sent a memorandum to Ford requesting his decision on Rumsfeld’s request for a $322.4 million amendment to the FY 77 Defense budget to fund the production and deployment of 60 Minuteman III missiles and the initial production of the MK 12A reentry vehicle for the Minuteman missiles. Ford initialed his approval. (Ford Library, President’s Handwriting File, Box 18, Subject File, Finance—Budget: Defense Department (3))
  6. No record of the briefing was found.