[Page 28]

8. Memorandum for the President’s File by Raymond K. Price, Jr.1

SUBJECT

  • CABINET MEETING Friday, March 9, 1973

PARTICIPANTS

  • At Cabinet Table

    • The President
    • The Vice President
    • Secretary Rogers
    • Deputy Secretary Simon
    • Secretary Richardson
    • Atty General Kleindienst
    • Under Secretary Whitaker
  • Unable to Attend

    • Secretary Shultz—Europe
    • Secretary Morton—California
    • Secretary Brennan—California
    • Secretary Butz
    • Secretary Dent
    • Secretary Weinberger
    • Secretary Lynn
    • Secretary Brinegar
    • Director Ash
    • Counsellor Armstrong
    • Ambassador Scali
  • Others

    • Honorable George Bush, RNC
    • Honorable Donald Johnson, VA
    • Honorable Wm. Ruckelshaus, EPA
    • Honorable Herbert Stein
    • Honorable Russell Train, CEQ
  • Staff

    • John D. Ehrlichman
    • H. R. Haldeman
    • Peter M. Flanigan
    • Wm. E. Timmons
    • Ronald L. Ziegler
    • Herbert G. Klein
    • Leonard Garment
    • Raymond K. Price, Jr.
    • William Baroody
    • Richard A. Moore
    • Patrick J. Buchanan
    • Ken W. Clawson
    • Lawrence M. Higby
    • David R. Gergen
    • David N. Parker
    • Stanley S. Scott
    • Kenneth Cole, Jr.
    • Frank Gannon
    • John Guthrie
    • Tod R. Hullin
    • Frederic V. Malek
    • Arthur Sohmer
[Page 29]

MEETING OF THE CABINET

The Cabinet was called for 10:00 on what was an exceptionally warm, sunny March morning; besides the Cabinet itself, an unusually large number of staff members were included.

The President’s entry at 10:10 opened the meeting; he said that he had wanted all the Cabinet to be here not only for Bill Rogers’ report on the Vietnam aid situation, which would be the second matter on the agenda, but also for a discussion of what we need in the way of an operation to fight the battle of the budget. He asked John Ehrlichman to make the presentation. John went to a lectern at the end of the table, explained that he’d like to use the “music stand,” set a sheaf of papers on it, and the papers promptly fell to the floor.

“I’ve always told you—just one page!” said the President, laughingly, as John bent down to retrieve his notes.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to national security policy.]

The President: You’ll also hear about priorities—why not cut defense by $10 billion? People say—in 1972 we had the China summit,2 the Russian summit,3 arms limitation,4 and just days after the year was over we ended the war in Vietnam5—so why not cut defense by $10 billion?

The most important answer is: Why were we successful?

In China, and in Russia even more so, it was because we were strong—and because we had something we wanted to give as well as get.

This year we’ve got another meeting with the Russians6 that will be even more difficult—involving the mutual reduction of forces in Europe. If Congress prior to this unilaterally cuts our budget, it will be down the tube. We do arms control because we want to limit arms; they do arms control because they’re afraid we’ll get ahead of them.

[Page 30]

In the last four years we doubled the amount of the budget going for domestic—we held defense even, which means that we’ve cut it. “That’s the razor’s edge. There cannot be any significant cuts in the arms budget.”

Rogers: We reduced our armed forces from 3.5 million to 2.2 million.

Richardson: And that’s the lowest level since 1950.

The President: That means it’s the lowest level in a quarter of a century. And another point: it means not only that we’ve made that kind of reduction, but that no young Americans are being drafted.

[Omitted here is discussion of assistance to Vietnam.]

Richardson: About the defense budget—there are facts—the overall manpower level is the lowest since 1950; the defense proportion of the total budget is the lowest since 1950, etc.

But also—we’re confronting problems arising from the success of our foreign policy initiatives—MBFR, etc. But these successes were achieved so far because we had the strength. It was possible to negotiate on a basis that allowed us to give for what we got. For us to cut below the levels in the budget would take away the very tools that have achieved what has been achieved. We’ve had SALT I, but we’re going into SALT II. MBFR is at the earliest stage. We need to be able to ensure observation of the peace agreements, etc.

The Vice President: Another point—to have diplomatic credibility, we must have strength, and to negotiate on trade, we’ve got to have diplomatic credibility.

Richardson: I’ve seen encouraging signs lately among liberal commentators of an awareness of the connection between military strength and our foreign policy successes. Our Carrier Task Force in the Mediterranean performs a peace-keeping function—and it maintains a presence which in itself contributes to preserving a balance. And among the American people, if the balance shifts against us, we’ll see a cornered rat syndrome—and then we’ll see a surge back in the other direction.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to national security policy.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, Staff Member and Office Files, President’s Office Files, Box 91, President’s Meetings File—Beginning March 4 [1973]. Administratively Confidential. Not initialed by Price. There is a tape recording of this entire conversation. (Ibid., White House Tapes, Cabinet Room, Conversation No. 117–7)
  2. Nixon met with and Chairman Mao Tse-tung and Premier Zhou En-lai in the People’s Republic of China, February 21–28, 1972.
  3. Nixon met with Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev in Moscow, May 22–28, 1972.
  4. Reference is to the “Interim Agreement Between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America on Certain Measures with Respect to the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms,” better known as SALT I, signed between President Nixon and Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev in Moscow on May 26, 1972. For the full text of the treaty, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Vol. XXXII, SALT I, 1969–1972, Document 317.
  5. Secretary of State Rogers signed the “Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietanm” in Paris on January 27, 1973. For the full text of the Agreement, see Department of State Bulletin, February 12, 1973, pp. 169–188.
  6. See footnote 2, Document 7.