10. Paper Prepared in the Department of Defense1


The part that oil plays in the defense posture of the United States is vitally important. It is a strategic material and one of the few items that is absolutely essential and foremost in the minds of military commanders. Along with weapons and ammunition, the needs of petroleum get the most attention. Petroleum cannot be stockpiled like hardware—the quantities required are too great, nor can our military forces operate very long without back-up support from refinery and production sources. Military petroleum capability is actually measured in terms of refining capacities, throughput of our pipelines, capacities of our storage terminals, as well as the producibility and deliverability of crude oil in the ground. Therefore, the vital role of oil in any defense effort is crystal clear. Information available today indicates that, with few exceptions, military equipment will continue to derive energy from liquid petroleum and its products for some time to come.

In 1949, military petroleum requirements were about 330 m/bbls/day and by 1967 they exceeded one million barrels/day—a three-fold increase and the curve continues upward.

The Department of Defense oil bill for FY 1969 will be over 1.7 billion dollars for approximately 444 million barrels of product. We are still the world’s largest single oil purchaser. The very chance of success or failure in any conflict hinges on oil. As a matter of fact, the most striking point of commonality between the major weapon systems of the military departments is the thirst for oil. Subsonic tactical aircraft are being replaced by supersonic fighters which burn two to three times as much fuel per hour as the jet fighter used in the Korean conflict. The continuing mechanization of Army equipment and greater mobility of its troops assure a steady increase in its fuel requirements. While some Navy ships are now propelled by nuclear power, it will be many years before there is any appreciable decrease in the Navy’s petroleum requirements.

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In Southeast Asia today, about 50% of the military tonnage consists of petroleum products. While only about 10% of the petroleum required to support the war effort is supplied from the U.S. (with about 65% from the Arabian Gulf and 25% from the Caribbean and local sources), we must maintain a capability in the U.S. to supply our war needs in case foreign sources are denied, as they were for a short time (7–10 days) during the 1967 Middle East crisis.

In fact, the Middle East crisis posed the most severe test of the DoD petroleum system in recent years. It didn’t last long enough to have any real impact, but we can draw some object lessons from it.

For example, it showed that:

  • —Our system is delicately balanced.
  • —Prolonged interruptions cannot be tolerated.
  • U.S. domestic petroleum capability must be available to meet military need in case normal foreign sources are denied. These denials can take many forms. For example, a denial of a supply source in a normally friendly country, which may not at the time be in sympathy with our cause, can be just as final as the destruction of those sources by enemy action.

Our National Defense planning also requires a healthy oil situation in friendly foreign countries. Petroleum is found in many countries with which the United States has entered into treaty relationships. The purpose of these treaties is collective security. Hence, the national security of the United States cannot be separated from that of its treaty allies. In fact, for many years, the Department of Defense has promoted Western Hemisphere oil solidarity since its mobilization studies have shown that any type of extended emergency involving the United States and its allies could not be adequately fueled by the United States alone, and therefore, reliance must also be placed upon other free-world resources such as Canada and the Caribbean area.

In carrying out our treaty commitments, we, as a nation, face a variety of threats on many fronts. Despite the enormous and costly effort of our nation’s intelligence organizations and resources, it is impossible to predict the place, time, scope, and contestants in any future emergency; hence, our logistics planners face a continuing challenge. It, therefore, follows that our national security extends far beyond the shores of the United States. The Department of Defense reaffirms that it is in the best interests of the United States and, in fact, our national security dictates that we have in existence dependable, capable, and willing overseas sources to satisfy our petroleum needs on a global basis.

In summary, the DoD is primarily concerned with an assured adequate source of supply in close proximity to the area of need and at the lowest possible cost to the taxpayer. One fact is clear and that is the U.S. alone cannot realistically plan to fuel any Free World type of an emergency, [Page 39] therefore, we believe that no drastic action should be taken which would jeopardize our other Free World sources of supply. The interest of the DoD in expanding oil development by areas in order of priority is first the Continental U.S., secondly the Western Hemisphere and, thirdly other Free World areas. This order of priority includes, but is not limited to, the maintenance of a domestic production and refining capability to meet military and essential civilian requirements.

[Omitted here is material related to the Task Force Questionnaire.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 220, Records of the Cabinet Task Force on Oil Import Control, Box 48, General George A. Lincoln’s Files, Subject Files, Miscellaneous OEP Responses. No classification marking. According to an attached routing slip, the paper, which had been submitted to the Task Force, was sent to General Lincoln’s office on October 10.