National Security Council Report 162/2 (1953)

In October 1953 the National Security Council handed report 162/2 to President Dwight Eisenhower. This report made numerous recommendations about the US should prepare for possible Soviet aggression – including the expansion and maintenance of its nuclear arsenal:

Basic Problems of National Security Policy

To meet the Soviet threat to US security. In doing so, to avoid seriously weakening the US economy or undermining our fundamental values and institutions.

The primary threat to the security, free institutions, and fundamental values of the United States is posed by the combination of: basic Soviet hostility to the non-communist world, particularly to the United States; great Soviet military power; Soviet control of the international communist apparatus and other means of subversion or division of the free world.

The authority of the Soviet regime does not appear to have been impaired by the events since Stalin’s death, or to be likely to be appreciably weakened during the next few years. The transfer of power may cause some uncertainty in Soviet and satellite tactics for some time, but will probably not impair the basic economic and military strength of the Soviet bloc. The Soviet rulers can be expected to continue to base their policy on the conviction of irreconcilable hostility between the bloc and the non-communist world…

Soviet strategy has been flexible and will probably continue so, allowing for retreats and delays as well as advances. The various ‘peace gestures’ so far have cost the Soviets very little in actual concessions and could be merely designed to divide the West by raising false hopes and seeking to make the United States appear unyielding…

The capability of the USSR to attack the United States with atomic weapons has been continuously growing and will be materially enhanced by hydrogen weapons. The USSR has sufficient bombs and aircraft, using one-way missions, to inflict serious damage on the United States, especially by surprise attack. The USSR soon may have the capability of dealing a crippling blow to our industrial base and our continued ability to prosecute a war. Effective defence could reduce the likelihood and intensity of a hostile attack but not eliminate the chance of a crippling blow.

The USSR now devotes about one-sixth of its gross national product to military outlays and is expected to continue this level. It has and will continue to have large conventional military forces capable of aggression against countries of the free world. Within the next two years, the Soviet bloc is not expected to increase the size of its forces but will strengthen them with improved equipment and training and the larger atomic stockpile…

The USSR does not seem likely deliberately to launch a general war against the United States during the period covered by current estimates (through mid-1955). The uncertain prospects for Soviet victory in a general war, the change in leadership, satellite unrest, and the U.S. capability to retaliate massively, make such a course improbable. Similarly, an attack on NATO countries or other areas which would be almost certain to bring on general war in view of U.S. commitments or intentions would be unlikely. The Soviets will not, however, be deterred by fear of general war from taking the measures they consider necessary to counter Western actions…

In the face of the Soviet threat, the security of the United States requires:

Development and maintenance of a strong military posture, with emphasis on the capability of inflicting massive retaliatory damage by offensive striking power; US and allied forces in readiness to move rapidly initially to counter aggression by Soviet bloc forces and to hold vital areas and lines of communication; and a mobilisation base and its protection against crippling damage, adequate to ensure victory in the event of general war.

Maintenance of a sound, strong and growing economy, capable of providing through the operation of free institutions, the strength described in a above over the long pull and of rapidly and effectively changing to full mobilisation. Maintenance of morale and free institutions and the willingness of the US people to support the measures necessary for national security.

In support of these basic security requirements, it is necessary that the United States… develop and maintain an intelligence system capable of collecting and analysing indications of hostile intentions that would give maximum prior warning of possible aggression or subversion…

Expand scientific and technical training. Provide an equitable military training system. Strike a feasible balance between the needs of an expanding peacetime economy and defence requirements. Provide for an appropriate distribution of services and skills in the event of national emergency.

Conduct and foster scientific research and development so as to ensure superiority in quantity and quality of weapons systems, with attendant continuing review of the level and composition of forces and of the industrial base required for adequate defence and for successful prosecution of general war.

Continue, for as long as necessary, a state of limited defence mobilisation to develop military readiness by… developing and maintaining production plant capacity, dispersed with a view to minimising destruction by enemy attack and capable of rapid expansion or prompt conversion to essential wartime output… Maintaining stockpiling programs and providing additional production facilities, for those materials the shortage of which would affect critically essential defence programs… Provide reasonable internal security against covert attack, sabotage, subversion, and espionage, particularly against the clandestine introduction and detonation of atomic weapons.”