22. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1


  • Under Secretaries Committee Recommendation on Scenario for Explaining Reduction in Our Force Commitments to NATO

At my request2 the Under Secretaries Committee has reviewed the problems involved in informing NATO and the general public that we have had to make certain reductions in our forces committed to NATO, primarily naval forces, and may make some further reductions in the near future. The USC memorandum is at Tab A.3

There are three separate but closely interrelated developments:

1. There have been some reductions in reserve forces, primarily naval, that we would commit to NATO on mobilization.

2. Additional reductions in NATO-committed forces, again primarily in naval units, are in process as a result of defense budget cuts.

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3. Further reductions in Army readiness or force levels may be necessary if redeployments from Vietnam do not accord with present budget forecasts. NATO is unaware of this.

My principal concern is that we deal with these issues openly, now, rather than risk recurring crises in NATO as our Allies learn of our plans piecemeal. The Under Secretaries Committee memorandum recognizes this point in their recommendations. Their scenario calls for Ambassador Ellsworth to (a) inform our Allies immediately of those reductions which have already occurred, of those naval reductions currently in process, and advise them that some further reductions may occur as the result of the budget review; and (b) stress our willingness to consult on military consequences, if any, of our reductions, and coordinate public announcements with the statements to NATO.

These points are sound, and I concur, with some additions. First, on the question of possible further reductions affecting the readiness of Army units in the US, I feel we should not merely make a “passing reference” to this but should clearly state it as a real possibility. Second, I feel Ambassador Ellsworth should stress that we have improved in certain areas (e.g. quality, availability of more air units), that the reductions have not been in forces in Europe, but in reserve forces, and that these reductions do not affect your commitment to maintain substantial ground forces in Central Europe. Without such additional emphases there will be speculation that we have opened the door to substantial cuts of ground forces in Europe.

We would not want to create the impression that any further cuts would be more than temporary or that they would involve large withdrawals from Europe. Such reductions, should they become advisable, would be reviewed by the Defense Review Committee, if you approve.

The Under Secretaries’ memorandum also notes that our cost reductions program (REDCOSTE) is proceeding in accordance with your previous instructions. One problem has developed—the critical reactions of the Italians—and the possibility of a stretch-out in the reduction of Italian nationals employed at US facilities is being discussed in Rome.


That you approve the recommended scenario with the additions I have outlined.

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I would then inform the Under Secretaries Committee of these additions and the fact that the Defense Program Review Committee would consider further reductions involving our forces committed to NATO, should this prove necessary, and submit recommendations to you. (Draft instruction to the Under Secretaries Committee is at Tab B.)5

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 257, Agency Files, NATO, Vol. VI. Secret. Sent for action.
  2. Kissinger sent this request September 17. (Ibid., RG 59, Executive Secretariat, Records Relating to the National Security Council Undersecretaries Committee, 1972–1974, Lot 81D309, NSC U/SM 45–9/19/69–Reductions of U.S. Forces in Europe)
  3. Attached but not printed.
  4. The President initialed his approval of both recommendations on October 20, and Kissinger sent a memorandum to Richardson informing him on October 20. (National Archives, RG 59, Executive Secretariat, National Security Council National Security Decision Memorandums, 1969–1977, Lot 83D305, NSDM 12–4/14/69–NATO)
  5. Attached but not printed.