99. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to President Ford1


  • Release to NATO of the United States Reply to the 1976 NATO Defense Planning Questionnaire (DPQ 76)

Defense has forwarded the proposed U.S. reply to the 1976 Defense Planning Questionnaire (DPQ) and has asked that you approve release of the document to NATO. The Questionnaire is sent annually to each member of the Alliance (less France and Greece) as part of the NATO defense planning cycle. Responses to the Questionnaire are the primary source of information on individual country force plans. In this year’s responses, each country will describe its tentative plans for 1977 through 1981, and will designate the forces it has actually committed to NATO for calendar year 1977.

The U.S. response as originally transmitted for Defense Review Panel (DRP) review by Secretary Rumsfeld proposed a drawdown in the number of U.S. nuclear-capable aircraft deployed to Europe and a reduction in the availability status of one of the two aircraft carriers continuously stationed in the Atlantic. After substantial high-level review of the proposed reply, the Defense Department was able to modify the DPQ and its force program to avoid the proposed cutbacks.

Nuclear Aircraft. The principal nuclear aircraft issues concerned the proposed deployment of a second F–111 wing to the U.K. and a wing of F–15 aircraft to the NATO Guidelines Area (NGA). The original version of the DPQ reply would have shown a substantial reduction in the number of U.S. nuclear-capable aircraft in Europe as older U.S. nuclear-capable F–4 aircraft were replaced by more modern F–15 aircraft in the FRG. While highly capable in the conventional role, the F–15 aircraft are optimized for air-to-air combat and are not configured to deliver nuclear weapons. In 1977 the number of U.S. nuclear-capable aircraft in the NGA would have declined by 66 aircraft. In addition to [Page 375] the obvious loss in operational nuclear delivery capability, a drawdown of this magnitude might have more subtly reawakened Allied doubts about our commitment to use nuclear weapons in the defense of Europe, and would have risked undermining the MBFR talks (particularly the value of our Option III proposal which includes 54 U.S. F–4s). For these reasons the Defense Review Panel decided to maintain the existing F–4s at the present level in the FRG, permanently based, with no reductions upon arrival of the F–15s.

A second nuclear aircraft issue that had not been included in the original DPQ response involved deployment of F–111 aircraft to England. Earlier this year, Defense had recommended that a second F–111 wing be deployed to the U.K. (there is one wing in U.K. now), as a further step toward increasing our combat forces in Europe under the Nunn Amendment. The wing of F–111s (84 aircraft) would replace an F–4 wing (72 aircraft) that would be returned to the United States. The F–111s would give NATO a significant improvement in adverse weather delivery capability, while taking up the nuclear mission of the replaced F–4s. The Defense Review Panel agreed with DOD’s proposal to deploy the F–111 beginning in 1977. US NATO, the FRG, and the U.K. have all been consulted and approve the intended nuclear aircraft levels and European basing arrangements.

Carrier Readiness: As originally proposed, the US DPQ response would have reduced the availability status of one A–1 (available in 48 hours) aircraft carrier committed to the Atlantic Fleet, to a lower status A–3 (available in 5–15 days). DOD cited maintenance and overhaul scheduling problems caused by the reduction in worldwide carrier assets in October 1977 (from 13 to 12) as reasons for the reduction. As a result of objections to the proposed reduction, it was reconsidered and agreement was reached to provide for continuation of current carrier commitments throughout the DPQ period (1981). While Defense will try to maintain this commitment, it will be difficult to manage, and this is pointed out in the DPQ.

The proposed DPQ reply reflects these changes in our aircraft replacement program and in aircraft carrier readiness. The remaining sections of the DPQ, particularly those dealing with ground forces, describe our efforts to upgrade the war fighting capability of our ground forces by modernizing their equipment and earmarking some army units stationed in the United States for SACEUR strategic reserve. In sum, the DPQ should now provide good evidence to our Allies of our continuing commitment to the defense of Europe.

I concur, as does State, with DOD’s request to release the DPQ 76 response to NATO.

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That you authorize me to sign the memo at Tab A releasing the DPQ 76 response to NATO.

  1. Summary: Scowcroft sought Ford’s approval of the release to NATO of the U.S. reply to the 1976 NATO Defense Planning Questionnaire.

    Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Agency Files, Box 15, NATO—(DPQ–76) (1). Secret. Sent for action. Attached but not published is Tab A, an October 22 memorandum from Scowcroft notifying Rumsfeld of Ford’s approval of the release to NATO of the U.S. to DPQ–76. A stamped notation on Scowcroft’s memorandum to Ford indicates the President saw it. Ford initialed his approval of Scowcroft’s recommendation. A record of the July 8 DRP meeting on tactical air deployments in Europe is in National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Helmut C. Sonnenfeldt, 1955–1977, Entry 5339, Box 11, DEF 4 NATO.