83. Minutes of Defense Review Panel Meeting1


  • Navy Shipbuilding Study


  • Chairman
  • Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
  • State
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt
  • George Vest
  • Defense
  • William Clements
  • Dr. James P. Wade
  • Edward C. Aldridge
  • JCS
  • Gen. George S. Brown
  • Lt. Gen. William Y. Smith
  • CIA
  • George Bush
  • [name not declassified]
  • ACDA
  • Dr. Fred Ikle
  • Robert Behr
  • NSC Staff
  • Brent Scowcroft
  • William G. Hyland
  • Col. Richard Boverie
  • Michael Hornblow

Secretary Rumsfeld: The purpose of this meeting is to move along in our review of the shipbuilding study.2 The House seems to possess a view of the world all its own. Senator Stennis has twice delayed the Senate Authorization Bill and expects me to testify on this. He has to have some guidance and wants our view. Clements is up there this morning talking with Stennis. Thus the purpose of this meeting is to review the working group’s work, to get the viewpoints of the different agencies, to discuss the options and see if we are close to a good paper. Then at the end of this meeting we should see if we need to have another NSC Meeting on this subject.

Mr. Aldridge: Reveals and explains chart I— US Naval Missions to Satisfy our Objectives.3

Secretary Rumsfeld: The Chiefs, Clements and I met with the Vice President recently to discuss this subject.4 It struck me, coming out of the meeting, that this paper should include some basic guidance under the law, NSSMs, NSDMs as to what our policy is. Then the alternatives as to what we need and what we can do should be identified.

Mr. Aldridge: Presents and explains chart #2—Five Basic US Naval Missions and chart #3 The History of Navy Shipbuilding in FY–77 constant dollars from 1962–1976. Because of rising costs the number of ships built per year has declined from 46 to 15 at the present time.

Presents and explains chart #4—The Size of the Active Navy. If there are no new ships authorized by 1985 we would then have a Navy of 433 ships. In the 1985–1990 period that would decline to 343 ships.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Does that include service life extensions?

[Page 348]

Mr. Aldridge: Yes, in the carriers but not in the other ships.

Gen. Brown: But that is an option we can consider.

Secretary Rumsfeld: The chart should have an asterisk.

Mr. Aldridge: Some of these ships are of relatively lower cost. It would not be cost-productive to extend the life of some of them.

Mr. Lynn: If we continue building at the present rate, how many ships would we end up with?

Mr. Aldridge: 539—The point of the chart is that we would have a Navy of 433 ships if we do nothing more. Anything that is added to the program increases that figure.

Mr. Lynn: The next time you do a chart like this it should take into account the decisions made in the ’77 budget.

Secretary Rumsfeld: That is one of the issues before us.

Gen. Scowcroft: The chart shows that the basic structure of the Navy is fixed.

Secretary Rumsfeld: It shows there is little handle to work with; 85% of the Navy structure is already predetermined.

Mr. Aldridge: Presents and explains chart #5—A Comparison of USUSSR Current Maritime Capabilities.

Dr. Ikle: These things can change.

Mr. Lynn: That chart presents a snapshot of where we are right now; it is not a prediction.

Mr. Aldridge: That’s right; it sets the base on which we are moving from.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: I don’t think the chart takes into account Soviet activity in the Indian Ocean. The Soviets are now able to keep their ships at sea for an extended period of time.

Secretary Rumsfeld: If you go back to the Angola situation you had a case of where the Soviets were able to put a surface combatant in the area and we were not. This was an example of the advantage of being an aggressor. The aggressor can move where and when he wants to move.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: The USSR has the ability of sustaining their forces away from land for increasing periods of time.

Mr. Aldridge: Our capacity also is increasing.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: Angola demonstrated the Soviets’ capacity to rotate and sustain ships at sea.

Mr. Aldridge: Presents and explains chart #6—Meeting the Soviet Submarine Challenge and chart #7— US/Allied Anti Submarine Warfare Capability.

Mr. Lynn: Are the Soviet submarines good in terms of radiation, noise, maintenance, etc.?

[Page 349]

Mr. Aldridge: That is hard to project.

Mr. Lynn: You are saying that by 1990 whatever problems there are would have been cured.

[name not declassified] The Soviets have a good sized investment in noisy submarines and missiles.

Mr. Aldridge: We are improving our technology across the board. Our ASW capabilities are also increasing.

Presents and explains Chart #8— US Nuclear Submarine Program and Chart #9—Minimum Surface Combatant Requirements.

Mr. Lynn: There is a basic assumption about the capacity of both sides to launch cruise missiles from say 250 miles out. I would like to know if by 1990 either side will have the capability to have submarine launched cruise missiles. In other words I am raising the very basic question of whether by 1990 surface combatants will mean a damn. We are now talking about 1990 or later. If either side has a good submarine launch cruise missile capability at that point it will totally revolutionize the idea of surface combat.

Gen. Brown: You sound like Malcolm Currie.

Mr. Aldridge: Our defensive technology is also progressing.

Mr. Lynn: I remember from your first chart that the Soviets are ahead in anti-ship missiles. I would like to see what happens if either side has those weapons.

Secretary Rumsfeld: I think this paper should end up with a section adding possible areas of interest apart from the budget. Such a question could be the one you just raised, Jim [Lynn], or the role of our Allies. It is difficult to talk about any of these subjects without getting off target. Each one of these subjects leads into other areas.

Gen. Brown: As I understand it, this current exercise is to discuss current Congressional actions. Jim’s point is worth looking into but it can’t be done before your testimony before Stennis. It is a long range thing and we don’t have the competency to discuss it in this room.

Mr. Lynn: The things the Hill is considering really won’t have much impact before the 1980’s or 1999 so you really can’t divorce the two.

Are the Soviets building any carriers?

Secretary Rumsfeld: Three have been started. Brent and I have discussed this study and we agreed that it should start with a discussion of what are our interests in the world and then go into options regarding the mix of ships and finally discuss budgetary and tactical questions. We should concentrate our energies in talking about things we can realistically deal with and get studies started on some of the other things. I hope that this paper, at least the beginning part of it, can be used as a base in doing other studies. Today our job is to make sure that the [Page 350] paper is moving along so that the options can be presented in the NSC Meeting in a fair and conclusive manner.

Dr. Wade: I agree with Jim’s point about devising options to provide for the new technology.

Mr. Lynn: Yes, we don’t want to have a Maginot-Line Navy.

Mr. Aldridge: Presents and explains Chart #10—“Meeting the Soviet Bomber Challenge (Possible Interceptor Capability—300/500NM ARCS).

Mr. Aldridge: There is no Backfire overflight of the continent in this chart.

Dr. Ikle: What if they came south from the Soviet Union? No, that would be a much further distance.

Mr. Lynn: We ought to use a map we are more used to seeing.

Gen. Scowcroft: You can use land-based air to protect the GIUK gap.

Mr. Lynn: I agree.

Mr. Aldridge: But there are a few places where the Backfire might slip through.

Mr. Ogilvie: Are our interceptors refueled?

Mr. Aldridge: No.

Mr. Ogilvie: Are Soviet aircraft refueled?

Mr. Aldridge: Yes.

Gen. Scowcroft: Looks like the Backfire can’t get through.

Mr. Aldridge: It is difficult. With AWACS, it becomes more difficult.

Mr. Hyland: Depends upon the bases he uses.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: And the situation. Convoys are not always at sea until later.

Dr. Wade: The Backfire threat shows why we must look at this problem as an all-Service role.

Mr. Lynn: I certainly agree. We need to look at sea-based versus land-based systems.

Gen. Brown: If you put F–14s at the same bases, it has very long legs.

Gen. Scowcroft: This is a fascinating chart.

Mr. Aldridge: The Navy thinks its terrible.

Mr. Lynn: You bet.

Secretary Rumsfeld: What’s the cost of putting a wing of F–15s in the UKR?

Mr. Aldridge: Each F–15 costs about $15 million.

Gen. Brown: One of the things the Navy is looking at for ship defense is the high energy laser.

[Page 351]

Mr. Lynn: The Soviets are busy tailing our carriers in the Mediterranean. What if all these Soviet ships suddenly get a signal to launch missiles at our ships. Do we have the capability to keep them away and to protect our own ships.

Gen. Brown: A lot of those Soviet ships don’t have offensive capabilities.

Secretary Rumsfeld: You are talking about a pre-emptive strike.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: In October 1973 we played out that scenario.

Gen. Brown: The ships are tightly defended and it would take a great number of missiles for even one to get through.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: In October 1973 we studied a worst-case scenario. Also during an exercise in 1973 one of our carriers took evasive action and slipped away from the Soviets for three days.

Mr. Hyland: The worst-case would be submarine-launched cruise missile attack.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: This is much more difficult.

Mr. Aldridge: The only way to defend against this would be with improved systems such as the Aegis.

Adm. Holcomb: The Soviets have exercised 75 times in 8 years. We would not expect a worst-case attack. More likely, we would be in a defcon with air cover over our ships, rather than be surprised.

Secretary Rumsfeld: I would like to reiterate what the purpose of this group and this meeting is. If any of the members of the DRP would like a briefing on any of these issues they should request one and it can be arranged. There is no way given the statutory responsibilities of State, DOD, NSC and OMB, for everyone to get into everyone else’s business on everything. This group was constituted to assign itself specific tasks and proceed with them. Any of these subjects can be walked into every other aspect of everything.

Mr. Lynn: There is no way we can get current decisions without making collateral decisions regarding our vulnerabilities.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Your assumption is that there will be changes in technology reflecting increased offensive capabilities. We can also assume increased defensive technologies.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: It is all very well to structure the Navy in terms of the Soviet threat but let’s not forget that the Navy has a large number of functions which are independent of the Soviet threat. Some of these functions are just as important as a confrontation with the Soviets.

Mr. Lynn: This may surprise you, but I agree totally. However, the question is: Given this five year plan is the Navy capable of performing these functions?

Dr. Wade: Well there is the second part of this whole question and that is the nuclear problem.

[Page 352]

Mr. Lynn: That is assessed in the paper.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Shall we proceed with the briefing.

Mr. Aldridge: Presents and explains Chart #11—“Allied Anti-Air-Warfare Capability”

Mr. Hyland: If there is a decision not to build new carriers, when would we fall below 12.

Mr. Aldridge: The year 2000. Presents and explains chart #12—Principal Force Issues

Secretary Rumsfeld: How important in the next 15 years will speed be?

Gen. Brown: It will continue to be important. There will be occasions when you want to get somewhere without shooting.

Gen. Scowcroft: Yes, in quick breaking contingency situations.

Mr. Aldridge: Presents and explains Chart #13—Carrier Program Options, and Chart #14—Advantages/Disadvantages of Nuclear Powered Task Forces, and Chart #15—Implications of Title VIII (constant five year budget) and Chart #16—Aegis Ship Force Levels (Equal Cost Mix) and Chart #17—Summary of Present Capabilities and Chart #18—Alternatives Considered A-E.

Secretary Rumsfeld: We should be looking at these options with a view to determining what should go to the President. Do we need this many options? Are the options presented in a fair way?

Mr. Aldridge: Presents and explains Chart #19—Capability in the Atlantic and Mediterranean (1985).

Secretary Rumsfeld: Does that include France?

Mr. Aldridge: Yes.

Secretary Rumsfeld: You should footnote that on the chart.

Mr. Lynn: I can see the purpose in peacetime in having ships in the Mediterranean. In a war situation would we need ships there—just how important would control of the Mediterranean be?

Gen. Brown: We would want to neutralize Soviet Naval power in the Mediterranean and keep them cooped up. There is a question of how much of this can be done from shore. The Turks and Greeks hopefully would be fighting and we could use shore-based installations there.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: If we abdicate in the Mediterranean that would lead to Soviet domination there and the whole southern flank (Italy, Greece, Turkey) gets rolled up.

Mr. Aldridge: Presents and explains Chart #20—Capability in the Pacific/Indian Ocean.

Gen. Brown: We should not get ourselves mixed up between the strategy in the Pacific which guides us now and the strategy we fought [Page 353] under during World War II. We are not going to refight WWII out there. [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Hyland: Can we buy changes in our carrier forces which would wipe out that possibility?

Mr. Lynn: What kind of an attack are we talking about. Is a carrier the best way to defend Japan? What can a carrier do against a nuclear attack sub?

Mr. Aldridge: There are barriers, SOSUS coverage, P–3s as well as surface combatants and our own submarines.

Mr. Lynn: But what does a carrier do for you in a situation like that?

Mr. Aldridge: It does carry ASW airplanes.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: Lets not let our images of WWII distort us. We are talking about two carriers in the Pacific, not ten. The carriers in the Pacific perform valuable functions in addition to protecting the sealanes to Japan. There would be a serious problem if the US Navy in the Pacific is seen to be without carriers. We need to have something more than ASW.

Gen. Brown: And this scenario we are talking about is only until the start of shooting.

Dr. Wade: Once we fix the level of our forces perhaps Japan could make a contribution.

Gen. Brown: This whole question of Japan can be addressed subsequently.

Mr. Aldridge: Presents and explains Chart #21—Summary of Alternative Force Capability.

Secretary Rumsfeld: I would suggest that after this meeting all of the principals take this paper and go through it and edit it and get it back to Jim Wade. Let’s get copies of the charts to everybody.

Mr. Aldridge: Okay.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Those figures do not include the cost of non-Navy expenditures?

Mr. Aldridge: Right. There is some additional cost on top.

Secretary Rumsfeld: The assumption one gets is that there is nothing the Army or Air Force could contribute that should be added in this context.

Gen. Scowcroft: That is a separate question getting into the whole subject of trade-offs.

Mr. Lynn: Do we have in the paper the question of projecting power? What is the relative importance of land based aircraft and carriers in projecting power?

[Page 354]

Gen. Scowcroft: It is in the paper. The carrier projection of power in Europe is low.

Gen. Brown: That is true except in Northern Norway and in the Mediterranean. There carriers make a very significant contribution.

Mr. Aldridge: What we are now trying to do is to narrow the options. Option B is the five year defense plan as it currently stands. It seems like most of the interest centers in the option B, C, D area. What do we take to the President?

Secretary Rumsfeld: This should be discussed at the working group level. They should look at the study from the President’s standpoint. What does he need to have before him?

Mr. Aldridge: We should take these three options (B, C, and D) and look at them closely.

Gen. Brown: We have to take the CNO’s position (option D) to the President. I just got some more material this morning from the CNO.

Mr. Hyland: I don’t think anyone favors reducing the size of the Navy! We should drop this option.

Gen. Brown: I would drop the high option. (option E). It was not designed for this purpose. It is pure pie in the sky.

Mr. Hyland: We have to be careful when we talk about reductions. There is a difference between reducing our carriers and our total force.

Secretary Rumsfeld: The problem with dropping Option E is that it is a document which exists.

Mr. Aldridge: Presents and explains the last chart—#21—Department of the Navy Total Resource Requirements.

Secretary Rumsfeld: In considering the budget we have to focus on expenditures. If we agree on goals and missions then we have to look at various ways of accomplishing them in terms of the mixture of ships.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: If it is a question of a mixture between carriers and other types, what are those other types?

Mr. Lynn: There is the strike cruiser. I would like to know what it does.

Mr. Aldridge: One carrier will buy 15 conventionally-powered surface ships.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: I would like to know what the mix is.

Dr. Wade: If the decision is that we want 12 carriers—we have to do some homework on it.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: This is an important piece of homework. The carrier has dual roles.

Gen. Brown: Only Holcomb can talk in specific terms about what specific components can and cannot do.

[Page 355]

Secretary Rumsfeld: Lets focus on the NSC function. What does the President need to know so that he can make some kind of a judgement? How can the paper be best presented so that he can make this kind of a judgement.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: We should agree on the role of the US Navy and then make our choices about hardware.

Secretary Rumsfeld: We need to have policy guidance from the President and the NSC. We are not meeting here to get into details and decide where widgets should be placed on frigates. We have to look at broad questions. You guys should look at these options and come back and tell us how to do it.

Mr. Hyland: I think some of the adjectives on the Pacific chart describing sea control (#19) should be added back. It provides information the President should know.

Secretary Rumsfeld: I agree. The working group should put themselves in the President’s shoes and ask themselves what does he need to know.

Gen. Scowcroft: We haven’t talked about ships in the House Bill.5

Mr. Lynn: None of these options match what the House is trying to do.

Gen. Scowcroft: We all intuitively think that what the House has proposed is cockeyed.

Secretary Rumsfeld: There is a lot of momentum in the House Committee behind this bill. The mix of ships in the bill reduces our non-nuclear power at an additional cost. Stennis and other members want our help. We have to decide if we are in a position to push the President’s plan and not oppose any other plan. Stennis has to get the Appropriation Bill through. We must arm Stennis so that he can go to Conference with a reasonable shipbuilding approach. Where are we now with this project?

[Page 356]

Gen. Brown: In two weeks we won’t be significantly further along than we are today. Maybe in two or six months we will have something. Maybe by Tuesday after Saturday’s discussion with the President6 we can give him some help.

Secretary Rumsfeld: I can at least tell him the way we want to go and the way we don’t want to go.

Secretary Rumsfeld: The working group should look at a single piece of paper—the issues raised by various Congressional Committees. It should make up an inventory of them and come up with some answers.

Mr. Hyland: We have to have information so that we can go down to the Hill and say—this is the budget we want. The only thing this paper provides is information about the number of carriers and strike cruisers. What about Trident?

Secretary Rumsfeld: I get several calls from the Hill every day saying that now is the time. You can get anything you want and you had better take it now because the situation may change. Both friends and foes call me and say this. I feel that we can roll the House back on some things if we do it right.

Gen. Scowcroft: We should come up with a page or something that we can give Stennis. Should there be an NSC Meeting on Saturday?

Secretary Rumsfeld: We have got to keep the ball rolling. The President should have a crack at this if I am to give a briefing on Tuesday. I need guidance but a firm decision won’t be necessary.

Gen. Scowcroft: I have some large questions about the study but see no reason not to brief the President on this.

Mr. Lynn: If you have to testify and give some signals other than sticking with the present budget, the President should participate in that decision. The linkage between technological assessments and the things we have talked about here should be discussed more carefully in the paper. The perception of the problems is important and so are the maneuvers but the question of what we would actually do under war conditions is also important. I still can’t get an answer about what the strike cruiser does.

Gen. Scowcroft: The areas of technology and tradeoffs have to be discussed in the paper.

  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. Also present at the meeting were James T. Lynn and Donald G. Ogilvie.
  2. A draft Defense-NSC study, “U.S. Strategy and Naval Force Requirements,” April 20, was the subject of discussion. A summary, prepared by the NSC Staff, of the final version of the study is Document 110.
  3. None of the referenced charts were found.
  4. No record of the meeting was found.
  5. The Ford administration included in its original FY 1977 defense budget request $3.8 billion for 16 warships. The House Armed Services Committee, which supported a large nuclear-powered Navy based on relatively expensive multi-purpose ships, rejected the administration’s request as inadequate and recommended instead $5.3 billion for construction or conversion of 23 ships, including funding for a fourth attack submarine and a down payment on another nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The Committee’s recommendation made its way into the House’s defense authorization bill (HR 12438), passed on April 9. The Senate Armed Service Committee, which sought cheaper single-purpose ships, recommended a shipbuilding plan similar to the administration’s original request, a recommendation included in the defense authorization bill passed by the Senate on May 26. The conference version of the measure, adopted by the House on June 20 and by the Senate on July 1, accepted the carrier down payment and the four attack submarines voted by the House. But it also included Senate proposals in authorizing eight frigates and four supply and repair auxiliaries. (Congress and the Nation, 1973–1976, Vol. IV, pp. 174, 176)
  6. The NSC met on May 1 to discuss the Navy study. No record of the meeting has been found.