The Doctrine of Strategic Sufficiency

Our policy remains, as I explained last year, to maintain strategic sufficiency. The concept of sufficiency is not based solely on debatable calculations and assumptions regarding possible scenarios of how a war might occur and be conducted. It is in part a political concept, and it involves judgments whether the existing and foreseeable military environment endangers our legitimate interests and aspirations.

Specifically, sufficiency has two meanings. In its narrow military sense, it means enough force to inflict a level of damage on a potential aggressor sufficient to deter him from attacking. Sole reliance on a "launch-on-warning" strategy, sometimes suggested by those who would give less weight to the protection of our forces, would force us to live at the edge of a precipice and deny us the flexibility we wish to preserve.

In its broader political sense, sufficiency means the maintenance of forces adequate to prevent us and our allies from being coerced. Thus the relationship between our strategic forces and those of the Soviet Union must be such that our ability and resolve to protect our vital security interests will not be underestimated. I must not band my successors must not -limited to the indiscriminate mass destruction of enemy civilians as the sole possible response to challenges. This is especially so when that response involves the likelihood of triggering nuclear attacks on our own population. It would be inconsistent with the political meaning of sufficiency to base our force planning solely on some finite --and theoretical-- capacity to inflict casualties presumed to be unacceptable to the other side. But sufficiency also means numbers, characteristics, and deployments of our forces which the Soviet Union cannot reasonably interpret as being intended to threaten a disarming attack. Our purpose, reflected both in our strategic programs and in our SALT proposals, is to maintain a balance, and thereby reduce the likelihood of nuclear war. Insofar as we can do so by unilateral decisions, we seek to obviate the need for costly, wasteful and dangerous cycles of strategic arms deployment.

Defensive in its essence, the decision to pursue a policy of strategic sufficiency rather than strategic superiority does not represent any lessening of our resolve not to permit our interests to be infringed. The doctrine of sufficiency represents, rather, an explicit recognition of the changed circumstances we face with regard to strategic forces. The United States and the Soviet Union have now reached a point where small numerical advantages in strategic forces have little military relevance. The attempt to obtain large advantages would spark an arms race which would, in the end, prove pointless. For both sides would almost surely commit the necessary resources to maintain a balance. We have deliberately chosen to tailor our policy to fit these realities. But we are also taking measures in other categories of military power to prevent a gap from developing in our military posture.

We hope that the Soviet Union will likewise recognize these realities, and that its force buildups are ending. It should be under no illusion that we will not respond to major quantitative and qualitative improvements which threaten to upset the strategic balance.

In pursuing our policy we have started a number of studies within the NSC framework to refine further our understanding of the strategic relationship and the number and type of forces required to maintain sufficiency. These continuing studies are important because even with numbers held constant, the relative strategic position can change through modernization and technological advances and through differing concepts for employment. In the past year, we have, therefore, examined with particular care three aspects of our strategic force which are central to the concept of sufficiency-the survivability, the flexibility and the mix of our existing forces.

The Survivability of Our Forces. Our strategic forces must be such that the Soviet Union knows that even an all-out surprise attack will involve unacceptable costs. The survivability of our retaliatory forces is therefore essential. Without it the Soviet Union, in some future crisis, might be tempted to strike first, or to use military or political pressure in the belief that we were effectively deterred.

Survivability of our retaliatory forces can be assured in a number of different ways: by increasing the number of offensive forces to insure that a sufficient number will survive a surprise attack; by defending ICBMs and bombers with air and missile defenses; by hardening our existing missile silos; by increasing the mobile portion of our strategic forces; by adding multiple independently targetable warheads to missiles to allow each surviving missile to attack more targets and hence not be defeated by a single ABM interceptor.

In seeking to improve the survivability of our forces, we have deliberately adopted measures designed to demonstrate our defensive intent. For example, because proliferating our offensive forces risks an increase in Soviet forces and a new phase in the arms race, we have not increased the number of our missiles and bombers. Instead we have relied on alternatives such as hardening missile silos and deploying missile defenses. Our deployment of MIRVs serves the same purpose. They do not have the combination of numbers, accuracy and warhead yield to pose a threat to the Soviet land-based ICBM force.

With the programs we have undertaken, the bulk of our retaliatory forces are currently secure from attack and should remain so in the near future. However, continuing Soviet deployments and improvements -in particular the large 55-9 missile with accurate independently targetable multiple warheads- could threaten the survivability of the land-based portion of our forces. That would not, of course, be an acceptable situation. We will, therefore, keep this matter under close review. We will, as a matter of the highest priority, take whatever steps become necessary to maintain the assured survivability of our retaliatory capabilities.

Flexibility--the Responses Available to Us. We have reviewed our concepts for responses to various possible contingencies. We must insure that we have the forces and procedures that provide us with alternatives appropriate to the nature and level of the provocation. This means having the plans and command and control capabilities necessary to enable us to select and carry out the appropriate response without necessarily having to resort to mass destruction.

The Mix of Forces. For several years we have maintained three types of strategic forces --land-based ICBMs, bombers and submarine-launched missiles. Each is capable of inflicting a high level of damage in response to a nuclear first strike. Taken together they have an unquestioned capability of inflicting an unacceptable level of damage. This concept takes advantage of the unique characteristics of each delivery system. It provides insurance against surprise enemy technological breakthroughs or unforeseen operational failures and complicates the task of planning attacks on us. it complicates even more the longer-range planning of the levels and composition of the opposing forces. If the effectiveness and survivability of one element were eroded, the Soviet Union could choose to concentrate its resources on eroding the effectiveness and survivability of the others. This would confront us with serious new decisions, and we will therefore continue to review our forces in the light of changing threats and technology to ensure that we have the best possible mix to meet the requirements of sufficiency.

While this review of the sufficiency of our strategic posture has taken place, we have also continued to seek agreement on a strategic balance with the U.S.S.R. at the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT). I will discuss in greater detail elsewhere in this report the progress of those talks.