The Day After Russia Attacks
What War in Ukraine Would Look Like—and How America Should Respond
Centralization of functions under Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara since 1961 has substantially altered the role of the military Service Secretary. There is a widely held opinion that it remains only for the Congress, in its own good time, to inter decently the Departments of the Army, Navy and Air Force, together with their respective Secretaries. My own experience in two separate statutory tours totaling nearly a decade since 1947 does not at all support this conclusion. The military departments exist today, not as vestigial monuments to tradition, but as viable institutions. They perform in our constitutional democracy a function which emphasizes checks and balances in the determination of military policy.
Each military service continues to play an indispensable role in its own logistics, training and research and development. Each also influences strategy, concepts and force structures. And the Service Secretary, based on the evolution of his role as I have observed and experienced it, fulfills a managerial responsibility at precisely that middle level which cannot be discharged as well anywhere else in the Department of Defense as now constituted.
I approach this evaluation of the Service Secretary's role with concern, if not detachment. Nearly 250 years ago, Voltaire wrote to his friend, Bertin de Rocheret: "The man who ventures to write contemporary history must expect to be attacked both for everything he has said and everything he has not said." And so this appraisal of the Service Secretary in the Pentagon environment must necessarily suffer from the "soonness" of my departure, and be open to justifiable criticism from both flanks. But I trust that freshness of recollection may illuminate from a unique viewpoint the transformation of the national defense organization, to which Mr. McNamara has given the greatest single impetus.
That process of change began soon after V-J Day. In December 1945, President Truman gave White House approval for the first time to a legislative proposal which would unify the services within a Department of National Defense. These past two decades have witnessed an evolution in two stages. First, there was a diffusion of power from the War and Navy Departments to three co-equal services within a National Military Establishment, followed by an induced shift of power into the Office of the Secretary of Defense. In as much as the bulk of that power was taken from the Service Secretaries and signaled their decline as defense policy- makers, I began to question in my own mind soon after I took office in 1961, first, whether such a shift of power was consistent with the intent of the Congress; and second, whether the Secretary of the Air Force would usefully contribute to the high purposes of the new Administration so brilliantly articulated by President Kennedy on Inauguration Day.
II. THE POST-UNIFICATION ERA
My first Pentagon tour had started in February 1946. As Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of War for Air, I was entrusted by Stuart Symington in 1947 with diplomatic and management duties incident to arranging an orderly "bill of divorcement" of the Army Air Forces from the War Department. The legal separation became effective in September 1947. But it was really just an end to a beginning, although at the time some of us took the Department of the Air Force to be an end in itself.
That belief was compounded of equal parts of enthusiasm and naïveté. Because of tight security, few Americans had any knowledge of the puny state of the U.S. atomic arsenal or of our really modest delivery capability. General Carl "Tooey" Spaatz, who succeeded General "Hap" Arnold in command and became the first Chief of Staff of the independent Air Force, startled the public when he said he could not muster a single squadron to fight with wartime efficiency. This first sense of alarm was related to fresh and disturbing reports about our erstwhile allies. Already the Russians were busily subverting Iran, Greece and Turkey and upsetting the delicate equilibrium in Berlin.
By early 1948, two prestigious bodies-the President's Air Policy Commission headed by Thomas K. Finletter, and the Congressional Aviation Policy Board, jointly chaired by Senator Owen Brewster and Representative Carl Hinshaw- had prepared reports which conveyed the strong impression that airpower was somewhat "more equal" than land and seapower.
Runaway affection for airpower was supported by some hard logic. As the world of 1947-48 became polarized between East and West, the United States found itself pitted against a non-insular adversary that was largely invulnerable except to land-based airpower. When Winston Churchill came to the Boston Garden a year later, he told an M.I.T. convocation that the atomic bomb in America's hands had stayed the communization of Western Europe. In as much as the U.S. Air Force was the only force then capable of intercontinental delivery, the philosophic basis for an air-atomic national strategy had been laid.
While military facts tended to pull apart the three "co-equal" military services, certain political and managerial strains were working centripetally toward strengthening the authority of a reluctant Secretary of Defense. James Forrestal, who came from a background of strong service loyalty, encountered identical reactions among the three independent services. Their bickering, essentially over money, did not yield to gentle restraints, as he had hoped.
As one interim measure, Secretary Forrestal, in March 1949, "consolidated" all public relations activities in his own office, and supported certain amendments to the National Security Act to strengthen his own hand. Five months later, these were signed into law. The military services were forthwith removed from the list of Executive Departments and made military departments within a "Department of Defense."
The Air Force Secretary lost his Cabinet status, but Stuart Symington and Thomas K. Finletter, the first two incumbents, lost none of their ardor for even greater unification. Underlying their advocacy was the continuing public esteem for airpower. During the Korean conflict, the Air Force had staked out nearly half of the total defense budget. Further unification of the Department of Defense would, in the opinion of air strategists, institutionalize what they regarded as the Air Force's justifiable domination of the defense structure.
Every action, however, sets up a counteraction equal in magnitude and opposite in direction. This is as true in politics as in physics. Thus, while Foster Dulles' articulation of massive retaliation in January 1954 rationalized airpower's place at the pinnacle of the Pentagon structure, other forces had already begun working to neutralize it.
For example, at the Atomic Energy Commission in 1952-53, I had become aware of the strategic implications of certain classified work being done there. The thermonuclear device which we had exploded for the first time in November 1952 could be compactly packaged in sizes considerably smaller than boxcars. Second, we received in 1953 alarming intelligence of Soviet progress in the nuclear and ballistic-missile fields. Both factors were to lead to the von Neumann "Teapot" Committee, and thence to a succession of major decisions at the White House level in 1955-56. The ballistic missile program, well under way by that time, acted to dilute the virtual monopoly which the Air Force had exerted in the atomic field. It meant that vehicles other than its own aircraft could soon deliver H-bombs to distant targets.
The von Neumann report of 1953, reflecting technological breakthroughs in nuclear packaging and portending new advances in the ballistic missile field, made it possible for the Army and especially the Navy to acquire their own arsenals of credible nuclear-tipped strategic weapons.
Certain managerial developments also weighed against continued Air Force domination of the defense structure. The incoming Administration in 1953 almost immediately reflected President Eisenhower's sensitivity to warnings which had been made during the campaign against undue military influence in government. The President tended to depart far from his own personal background to espouse firm civilian control of the Defense Department.
Reorganization Plan No. 6, based on Nelson Rockefeller's report, took effect on June 30, 1953. It created six additional Assistant Secretaries of Defense, making nine in all. This provision clarified lines of authority by strengthening the civilian authority at the level of the Secretary of Defense. The Plan intended to make the Service Secretaries "truly responsible administrators," while shifting much of the policy direction of the executive agencies from the military departments to the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Despite these changes, the advent of the ballistic missile by 1957 made clear the structural lag in the Pentagon in relation to the evolution of strategy. As the differences over strategic concepts among the services began to fade, the gap between strategy and structure seemed to broaden. In many aspects they were further apart in 1957 than they had been a decade before when the National Security Act became law.
III. NEW POWERS FOR THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
The Reorganization Act of 1958 for the first time gave the Secretary of Defense the distinct power, subject to Congressional veto, to transfer roles and missions among the military services. Whereas they were previously responsible for the "conduct" of military operations, their responsibility was now reduced to the "organization, training and equipment" of the forces to be employed by the unified commands. These commands reported directly to the Secretary of Defense through the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In this way, the organization of the Department slowly adjusted to strategy. Significantly, as Professor Samuel P. Huntington has pointed out, the Act of 1958 was the first defense reorganization which was not associated with an economy wave. As a cool, rational act of national determination, that reform essentially split the Department into two parts: Operations and Resources.
When Secretary McNamara took office in January 1961, he virtually removed the Service Secretaries from the area of Operations and assigned to them major responsibilities for Resources. While I was not prepared psychologically to acknowledge this fact in 1961, the perspective afforded by nearly five years on the job has convinced me that the legislation was sound and McNamara's decision justified.
The Air Force in 1958 had welcomed the prospect of a stronger Secretary of Defense, just as it had been a leading advocate of previous reform. Within the Air Staff during the next year, a "Black Book of Defense Reorganization" was prepared urging total unification. This document claimed that "the full possibilities" of the Act of 1958 had "not been realized." It called for radical reforms. The Service Secretaries should be demoted to positions of Under Secretaries of Army, Navy and Air within the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
The "Black Book" in time accumulated partisans who argued for perpetuation of the Air Force's dominant budget in a more unified structure. Like many such documents which continually circulate in Washington, the "Black Book" found its way into public print. The time was mid-December 1960, when I was considering the offer of the Air Force Secretaryship extended by President- elect Kennedy. In effect, the military service I was being asked to head was calling for the abolition of my job.
From the White House came a parallel proposal offered by the Symington Committee, which candidate John F. Kennedy had commissioned in September 1960 to make a "complete examination of the organization of armed forces." Right after Election Day, that Committee submitted its report proposing to do away with the existing department structure of the Army, Navy and Air Force, while preserving the military services as separate organic units. Members of the Committee included Clark M. Clifford, Thomas K. Finletter and Roswell L. Gilpatric. Like Symington, Clifford and Finletter had served in the unification wars of 1946-48. The Symington Committee concluded that the system itself engendered interservice backbiting and dissension. Their report embraced a hope that real unification might come to pass during the Kennedy Administration.
In those first days of dedication and decision that followed his Inauguration, President Kennedy decided to hold the Symington Committee recommendation in abeyance until the new Defense Secretary could size up his job. Few people on the Washington scene had ever heard of Robert S. McNamara until his name began to show up on certain key lists of candidates- one of them Robert Lovett's-submitted to President-elect Kennedy for one of two top jobs-Defense or Treasury.
McNamara took command not in months, but in days. His grasp surprised even me, though I had known him for 20 years and had considered him a remarkable man. We had met first in 1940 while serving on the faculty at Harvard Business School In January 1943 he took a leave of absence from the University and went over to London as a consultant to the Army Air Forces. He helped bring into being a statistical control program which had started in the United States and was to encompass the whole personnel, logistics and training operation of the Army Air Forces. Commissioned as a Captain in the A.A.F. in March 1943, McNamara stayed on for six more months in the European Theater, then was reassigned to the Pacific. In 1945 under Major General LeMay, Lieutenant Colonel McNamara and a small staff began to turn out statistical analyses which increased the B-29's combat air time by 30 percent or more.
In the postwar era, our paths crossed many times, and when I left the Pentagon early in 1952 to take a post with the Atomic Energy Commission, I submitted his name as a possible successor. Later I recommended him as General Manager of the A.E.C when that job came open, but it seems that none of the commissioners had ever heard of him. In 1960, McNamara was named President of the Ford Motor Company. A few months later, the job of Secretary of Defense came looking for him.
When Secretary-designate McNamara went out to staff his team, my six years of service under Air Force Secretaries Symington and Finletter naturally came to his attention. From my own standpoint, a readiness to serve again in the Pentagon was compounded of a profound admiration for Symington's spectacular handling of a challenging assignment, and vivid reminiscences of deep personal involvement in programs successfully accomplished. I was not impervious to arguments advanced by old friends who felt that the cause of the Air Force had not prospered in the intervening period, when there had been no less than four Secretaries in five years. They said I could be effective in a short time because I knew the people and was familiar with the Pentagon scenery.
For the new Pentagon office-holders working for Mr. McNamara there was no honeymoon. One problem that could not wait was a floundering construction program for Atlas and Titan missile sites which had fallen well behind schedule. Secretary McNamara had quickly recognized that part of the problem lay in the division of responsibility among two Air Force and two Army agencies.
We held a series of round-robin meetings with McNamara. I recall vividly one meeting of January 28, 1961, four days after we were sworn in, but actually the culmination of our discussions. Secretary McNamara abruptly rejected a recommendation by the service conferees that they be left alone and permitted to work out the problem. He said he would look to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Supply and Logistics for his answers. Tom Morris was to be sworn in to this new post the very next day. And that is the way it went from day to day. Secretary McNamara, mindful of the experience of James Forrestal, could serve in an active or passive capacity, but he did not see himself as either judge among the services or spectator: "I'm here to originate and stimulate new ideas and programs," he said, "not just to referee arguments."
By March 1961, Mr. McNamara had charged his Assistant Secretaries of Defense with functional supervision of their areas of responsibility. He spelled out his program of inquiry and possible reform in 92 questions, later expanded to 130. He did not accept the validity of protests from the Army, Navy and Air Force Secretaries that such assignments short-circuited their statutory functions. Mr. McNamara, as I had learned from long association, is pragmatic and basically unsentimental about his work. He believes simply that if what you are asking is not in harmony with what he wants to do, he should reject your proposal, and he should not feel sorry for you.
Those first six months were frankly disappointing because the scope and duties of the job were stripped down from those which had surrounded Symington's stewardship. A comprehensive management study was prepared by my staff and the barriers that lay between my office and the job I thought I had been hired to do were laid out in detail. At my troubled request, a number of my most trusted friends and advisers were subsequently called to meet informally at Homestead Air Force Base in Florida. That meeting of December 1961 was somewhat overtaken by events, however, and the debated impact of my resignation as a protest against the usurpation of power by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (O.S.D.) had lost its thrust. The outlines of a new, important job for the Air Force Secretary as a defense manager had already started to take shape.
During that rather frantic first year, it was clear that my Army and Navy counterparts were also agonizingly reappraising their own scale of values. Secretary of the Army Elvis T. Stahr had made up his mind to resign, and did so six months later with a blast at the McNamara Method. In a New York Times Magazine interview (published July 8, 1962), Stahr charged that "more and more, the decisions once made by the Service Secretaries and the military chiefs, as individuals, are made by the Secretary of Defense and his staff." Stahr argued that an inordinate centralization of the decision- making process had occurred, and that the Defense Department was far too big to be run by a few people at the top. He suggested that Secretary McNamara's techniques constituted "overreaching" in personal control.
Many of these criticisms were well taken. My own management studies had also indicated an ever-widening circle of activities by the Assistant Secretaries of Defense and innumerable, anonymous Deputy Assistant Secretaries. They either bypassed the Service Secretaries to contact their civilian and military counterparts in the military departments or circumvented the military chiefs by dealing directly with action officers on the military staffs or even in the field.
I was unhappy because I did not see where these intrusions would end. For a while, it appeared that the Service Secretaries could make no decisions. To compound their plight, the Air Staff (and the Army and Navy military staffs as well) reacted violently to the intellectual-logical approach introduced by Secretary McNamara; hence the Service Secretary (the man in the middle) probably reached the nadir of his influence in the Pentagon. While we watched from our well-appointed offices, the O.S.D. assistants busily got into service functions to a degree never envisioned by the Congress, nor even anticipated by Secretary McNamara himself.
Partly as a matter of classic Parkinsonian momentum, a torrent of directives poured out of the O.S.D. limiting the powers of the Services in such minutiae as: issuing supplementary clothing allowances for enlisted men in excess of $83.00; establishing programs for refuse disposal; setting up polio immunization programs. Some of the petty irritants were personally rescinded by Secretary McNamara when brought to his attention.
IV. A NEW CONCEPT OF ROLES
While I felt a deep concern at the unwarranted intrusions, I was not wholly discouraged because I was already becoming aware of factors which were justifiably contributing to the reduction of the Service Secretary's powers in the operational field.
Two critical strategic conditions which the Kennedy Administration had to evaluate in 1961 had changed markedly since I left the Pentagon in January 1952, nine years earlier.
By the time McNamara took office, the practical U.S. nuclear monopoly had clearly evaporated. Each side had acquired the capability of starting and waging a general war. Nobody in official Washington grasped more quickly than McNamara the new dimensions of a strategic situation in which President Kennedy defined the alternatives as "humiliation or holocaust." Crisis management could no longer be diffused among many hands, any one of which could, by an irrational act, bring about Armageddon. It was necessary, even imperative, to shape our deterrent around a "controlled response" initiated by the President himself. McNamara was also the first man in Washington to act on the realization that the Reorganization Act of 1958 had provided the Secretary of Defense with precise management tools to achieve a controlled response credible to the Soviet Union.
Secondly, the pendulum which had swung so forcefully toward righting a generation of wrongs inflicted upon Billy Mitchell, Hap Arnold and other air pioneers had, in the opinion of the incoming Kennedy Administration, swung too far in the opposite direction during the 1950s. The strong reaction against "massive retaliation" was led by General Maxwell Taylor, whom President Kennedy named as White House defense adviser, then as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Heavily increased emphasis was placed on the lower end of the conflict spectrum, and away from strategic missions.
The Air Force in 1961 was not wholly prepared to accept the budgetary implications of the immutable facts of strategy and Washington politics. The new Secretary and the new Chief of Staff (General LeMay had succeeded General Thomas D. White on July 1, 1961) were thrust into the breach, but none of their more or less valiant efforts materially slowed the swing of the pendulum toward greater equality among the services as reflected in the defense budget.
The trend was not universally accepted. I was not thirty days on the job when the substance of a sensitive memorandum from Secretary Rusk to Secretary McNamara recommending an increase in non-nuclear capabilities found its way into a Washington newspaper column. The implications of that memorandum were not only that our strategic force would be reduced but that our nuclear commitment to Europe might be withdrawn. The Air Force was blamed for the leak.
On Capitol Hill and in European foreign offices alarm bells rang to muster political support for retaining the full strategic deterrent. The leak also rang some bells in the White House-President Kennedy was "shocked"-and in the Pentagon. This partisan effort to reverse a national policy not only failed to achieve its planned objective but it gave Secretary McNamara the additional White House leverage he needed to bring the military services completely into line. The utter futility of such tactics had long been apparent to me. During the B-36 inquiry of 1949, the covert circulation of "anonymous documents" and the leaking of half-truths to chosen informants invariably boomeranged on their originators. Such misguided zeal recalls the words of philosopher George Santayana: "Fanaticism consists of redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim."
The aim that I was trying to keep in front of the Air Force in 1961 was that of achieving the best possible national security for the fewest dollars. The Air Force already had a sizeable portion of the total defense responsibility. And it so happened that Secretary McNamara essentially agreed with this division of missions. He was tremendously impressed with the first full test of the Minuteman missile conducted just ten days after he took office. The world's first solid-propellant intercontinental ballistic missile was launched downrange from Cape Canaveral on February 1, 1961. All three stages fired perfectly and the weapon achieved every objective set for it. In very short order we received a "green light" to increase production sharply. Minuteman was to become the staple in our strategic inventory. By October 1965, when I left the Pentagon, we had well over 800 Minuteman missiles on site and ready to fire upon a half-minute's notice.
In another area, economic factors had caused the strategic airlift mission to molder in Pentagon planning councils for at least five years. The Air Force had chosen instead to build up SAC while letting other missions slide. In 1960, the Rivers Subcommittee on Defense Appropriations conducted hearings which disclosed serious shortcomings in military airlift. After Secretary NcNamara took charge, quick and firm decisions were made to augment strategic airlift. The Air Force received a go-ahead to modernize the MATS fleet and to buy the C-135. Subsequently, we were authorized to produce quantities of the advanced C-141 Starlifter which is now coming into the inventory. The C-5A jet, now in development, will improve our airlift by geometric dimensions over current capability. The C-5A is designed to carry heavy Army equipment, or 600-700 troops, over great distances at high speed.
Secretary McNamara assigned responsibility for military space activities to the Air Force in March 1961, just when veterans of previous interservice disputes were girding for at least a five-year struggle to stake out "a piece of the action." His firm decision regarding a mission of obviously great potential nipped the debate almost before it could get started.
These sure-handed decisions began to win for McNamara my enthusiastic, if not always unquestioning, support. While smiling through the general pain of learning each day of the ubiquitous O.S.D. intrusion into matters which custom and usage had reserved to the military services, I came to realize that the Defense Department and the nation had found a man who had courage and acumen to sweep out the stables of vested service rights. "Horse- trading" of money on a basis of expediency was ended-forever, I hoped.
This sense of need had been felt as far back as 1948, when we started up "Management Control Through Cost Control," an embryo cost-effectiveness program. The Air Force, under General Edwin Rawlings, produced what was probably the first "performance" budget in the National Military Establishment. That budget and its innovating concept of a comptroller were singled out for high praise by the Hoover Commission. But as an example for service-wide emulation, the program went down the drain of interservice quarrels. Looking back at that early effort, one realizes that it did not really provide for a sophisticated systems-analysis technique. But that is not the reason it failed to gain acceptance. Maybe we were not high enough in the Pentagon hierarchy to argue persuasively for good management throughout the Department of Defense. Maybe the time for that idea was not yet ripe, and a decade of floundering about was necessary to document the need for legislative reform.
The Reorganization Act of 1958 provided the legislative authority for a Secretary of Defense who would be completely unsentimental about service traditions which had failed to keep pace with military requirements. After initial misgivings, I welcomed an active role in helping to bring about some of these essential reforms under Mr. McNamara. Since 1961 I have learned that discerning voices in the other services occasionally spoke out eloquently in support of management objectives which I was trying to bring about on my own. Last year, in the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, Captain John B. Cline, U.S.N., chided his own service for its laggard response to Secretary Mc-Namara's demand for documentable fact and untortured logic. He said: "Unfortunately, the record shows that the Navy's case has too often broken down under the intense light of operations analysis and cost effectiveness scrutiny." Captain Cline saw also an "unfortunate tendency on the part of Navy spokesmen, when unable to prove a point conclusively, to try to argue it based on 'military judgment' and appeal to tradition. . . ."
In October 1965, two Admirals, the Chief of the once nearly autonomous Bureau of Ships and his Deputy Chief, requested early retirement. They could not accept what they considered to be encroachment by Secretary McNamara's systems analysts into shipbuilding, which they regarded as BuShips' preserve.
V. THE SAGA OF THE B-70
In the case of the B-70, the Air Force transition from intuition to intelligent appraisal also seemed too gradual. The case for this Mach 3 bomber was being made for at least two years before the Kennedy Administration came on the job. The Air Staff was ready to make production commitments by early 1961, but Secretary McNamara questioned whether missiles and missile-armed defenses had not overtaken it.
Inevitably, the missile vs. manned bomber debate found its way into the budget hearings for Fiscal Year 1962. As the new Air Force Secretary, I jumped into rising waters of controversy. Happy at first to be back in the swim, I went right along with the tide of affirmation. The B-70 was the successor to a line of big manned bombers which began with the B-17 Flying Fortress and extended through the supersonic B-58 Hustler.
Logic seemed to dictate that we should move to the Mach 3 bomber as soon as technology would permit it. There was a need to diversify the weapons in our arsenal to complicate the potential enemy's defense problem and prevent his "ganging up" on us. As every football fan knows, an uncommonly good running back can be bottled up unless the team also has a solid passing threat to spread the defense; then both the running and passing attacks are more effective. The extent to which the United States could afford to diversify its strategic deterrent came down to a matter of judgment-ours against the McNamara logicians. My strong, affirmative testimony followed that of other Air Force policy people, including General LeMay's. Our case received a somewhat better reception by the various Committees of Congress than by the Administration. I found myself in familiar surroundings. During the early years of unification up to 1952, the Congress was generally receptive to a larger Air Force while the Executive Department above our level seemed more restrained in its enthusiasm.
Yet the B-70 situation was not quite the same. Some decidedly negative signs popped up at the various Air Staff briefings and discussions. Argument frequently fell back upon intuitional judgments instead of calling up facts and logic which I had assumed lay behind the case.
The question of the B-70's vulnerability could not be satisfactorily answered. More than that, the portents of electronic technology suggested its increasing vulnerability. Some Air Force leaders chose not to read that signal and stuck dead center on the argument of "military requirements." I have since learned that many people in the Air Staff recognized the serious shortcomings of the B-70.
On August 3, 1961, following a meeting in President Kennedy's office, I asked him for the opportunity to speak with him alone. I brought up a recent incident in which the Hearst press had bitterly criticized him for cutting back the B-70 program. Certain Administration officials wanted me to sign a rebuttal, but I had refused, and told the President that I had done so because my position would be ridiculous in view of the testimony that I had given on the Hill.
The President indicated his concern that a civilian member of the Administration should testify in opposition to it. I told the President of my own concern. When a Service Secretary merely restates automatically an Administration position which may be diametrically opposed to his views as expressed before that official position was announced, he soon loses his effectiveness. I had seen this occur in 1949-50. During the B-36 inquiry, Navy Secretary Francis Matthews was so far from positions held within his own Department that he was rendered almost useless in the job. He resigned a year later out of sheer embarrassment.
While sensing a growing opposition to the B-70 outside the Air Force, I was not initially convinced the President shared those strong views. Less than a year before, on November 2, 1960, he had praised Senator Clair Engle (Democrat of California) for persuading the Eisenhower Administration to release $300,000,000 which the Congress had appropriated for the B-70, saying: "I endorse wholeheartedly the B-70 manned aircraft."
In our conversation, I asked the President whether he thought my position on the B-70 would hurt the Administration to the extent that I should think of resigning. "Not at all," he responded with a quick smile. He was satisfied with my performance, he said, and was delighted to have had a chance to have this talk about it.
As I rode back across the Potomac, it seemed to me that the new role of the Service Secretary was coming into sharper focus, both in his relations with his superiors and within his own department, I had hoped the President would accept the fine point that, if I was to be effective in my job, I had to act and to be regarded by Air Force people as an advocate of their basic programs, even though I was a member of the Administration. I doubt that President Kennedy accepted this view. He wanted my support, and while he was willing in this instance to stand for a certain amount of "independent" thinking, that independence must in the future be neither frequent nor important.
What emerged from this confrontation was a clearer recognition of the role of the Service Secretary as "the man in the middle." He is called upon to do something that is often quite difficult-to fight for what he thinks is right within the Pentagon, then help present a unified façade outside.
This definition of the Service Secretary's job has been reaffirmed on many occasions. Take the military pay bill which came up for a vote last summer. My support for the McNamara position as against the larger increase demanded by Chairman Rivers hurt me with the "troops." People in the field could not understand a Service Secretary taking the position which I and the other Secretaries took. Yet we were able to carry on the fight inside the Pentagon to raise the amount asked for in the Administration bill. We obtained the admission of a $97,000,000 error, and I think we have laid the basis for a better position on future pay bills.
The B-70 dialogue in 1961 stressed the virtues of better homework by the Air Staff before we came in with a position. Issues needed to be defined sharply, and possible courses of action assayed in the light of their consequences. Data would require more precise presentation.
As a needed education project, the multi-layered issues generated by the B- 70 debate gave a fresh insight into the Service Secretary's job. To help close the nine-year hiatus in my own experience, I looked to General LeMay as Air Force Chief of Staff. However, in respect to the B-70 objective, the Air Staff supporting effort was not persuasive. Nevertheless, General LeMay strongly believed that the United States was taking an unnecessary risk in curtailing development of the B-70.
Such military confidence rested partly on the tradition that no Air Force bomber mission had ever been turned back in World War II. But that proud lance broke on the rock of survivability in the missile age. Secretary McNamara, and President Kennedy as well, began to lean heavily on civilian scientific opinion that even increasing the B-70's speed to Mach 3 would not permit it to survive in an environment of electronically-guided air- defense missiles. The same criticism applied to the vulnerability of B-70 air bases to enemy ballistic missiles.
My own view, now even stronger since I left the Pentagon, is that a manned strategic system is a necessary requirement of our diversified arsenal. I say this with mixed feelings, acknowledging that the B-70 could not fulfill this requirement.
At the same time, its cancellation became for me another point of personal decision. If my office was to retain its usefulness in the policy area, the Air Force needed to avoid any future situation that could lead it once again to the woodshed. That resolve shaped itself in terms of, first, reëducation of the Air Staff to improve their analyses so that future Air Force programs would be accepted in the O.S.D.; and second, a related need to bring into key Air Staff positions men who were intellectually flexible.
VI. TFX AND TITAN III-REFLECTIONS OF A NEW TECHNIQUE
As early as June 1961, a new concept had begun to evolve. It led to the TFX decision, probably the most typical payoff of the McNamara technique. The Air Force and the Navy were called on to consider whether a single aircraft could meet their requirements for a tactical fighter-bomber and a long- range interceptor, respectively. Such commonality assumed a unique combination of high-speed and low-speed capabilities, but this was exactly the point of the TFX, with its revolutionary new wing that could be moved in flight to enable a single aircraft to perform a variety of missions.
Secretary McNamara's efforts began to be vindicated in the final round of the TFX competition, late in 1962. Not until then did the services jointly agree that either contractor could meet their combined requirements, and then it was agreed that both contractors had proposed acceptable designs.
The TFX decision also exposed the inadequacy of "military judgment" alone by establishing the concept of "development risk" as part of the vocabulary of weapon-system development. The selection decision had to go beyond the operational advantages claimed by the contractors for new and untried systems (such as thrust reversers for tactical use). It was also necessary to consider the price that had to be paid, in terms of dollars and delay, if the project failed to work out as planned. The technical experts who actually evaluated the TFX proposals understood this, but the military selection boards did not, and essentially failed to take development risk into account. Relying on our technical experts, I came to the conclusion I did.
The choice of the General Dynamics design showed also how the Service Secretary can achieve the support of his Department even though there is strong opposition to one of his decisions and the way it was made. In the final showdown, General LeMay understood that it was important for the Air Force as an organization to stand behind the Secretary. Otherwise, my problem of getting ready for the McClellan Hearings could have been impossible.
The first flight of the TFX (now the F-III and the FB-III) in December 1964, just two years after the contract was signed, may well prove to have been the most effective documentation of the McNamara technique of "project definition."
Other examples of the McNamara method may be cited. We expect the Titan III- C to be the workhorse space-launch vehicle for the next decade. The Air Force had first recommended the program in October 1961, but Secretary McNamara asked for a complete program definition. We were called on to furnish preliminary design, main areas of technical risk, fund requirements, and to explore working relations with NASA, which is charged with the national space mission.
Nearly one year later, in August 1962, Secretary McNamara approved Phase 2 (engineering), contingent upon Air Force presentation of a suitable technical development plan. We submitted to him through Dr. Harold Brown, then Director of Defense Research and Engineering, specifications for the overall vehicle, major subsystems and related ground equipment and instrumentation.
Every possible fact including unit cost was thoroughly checked out during four successful Titan III-A shots. Having satisfied himself that the Air Force would meet stated objectives, and that such attainment could contribute to the overall space mission, Secretary McNamara signaled a final go-ahead. Titan III-C performed spectacularly in its first flight test on June 18, 1965. This event marks our success in virtually overtaking the Soviet Union in the all-important area of thrust, after they had showed us their heels in this part of the race for eight frustrating years.
A big share of the credit for this achievement may properly be claimed by the Air Force. In 1961, we set up the Designated Systems Management Group as a successor to the old Ballistic Missiles Committee. D.S.M.G. provided a management technique by which the Secretary and the Chief of Staff kept special tabs on new critical weapon systems as integrated entities while they were being put into the inventory. D.S.M.G. has since then helped to bring three generations of I.C.B.M.s (Titan II, Minute-man I and II) and other weapon systems to operational readiness in record time. It has forecast management problems before they developed and has focused the collective judgment of senior Air Force people on avoidance of major problems.
After an obstinate start, the Air Force-and I think the Army and Navy as well-adjusted to the operating philosophy of McNamara. We all seemed less prone to cling to old concepts and more willing to look objectively at alternatives than we were five years ago. It seems curious that the Air Force in 1961 should have suffered a traumatic experience in adapting itself to the new intellectual approach to weapon-systems selection and programming. The RAND Corporation, the original "think factory," achieved its eminence largely as a result of Air Force sponsorship since the late 1940s. RAND nurtured the professional careers of Messrs. Hitch and Enthoven, who have so markedly influenced Pentagon policy under Secretary McNamara.
Today, by the yardsticks which count in Washington, the McNamara method has earned its laurels. We have centralized decision-making, which has brought about greater cost effectiveness. Most important, in all matters of defense, programs are now on a five-year basis. Without these reforms, the war in South Viet Nam might very well have escalated the national defense budget out of sight.
Before the Kennedy Administration, interservice bickering was accepted in Washington, especially in the spring, like the dandelion. Now it has almost disappeared. Many members of Congress who for years groused at base cutbacks within their states or districts now recognize the job that McNamara has done in five years.
If my latter-day relations with the Air Staff stressed one theme, it was to challenge a Pentagon executive-washroom aphorism: "Secretaries of Defense come and go, so let's all stick to the status quo." In 13½ years under "unification" up to 1961, eight Secretaries of Defense had been sworn into office. Parochialists clung to the reasonable belief that they could outlast any incumbent.
Aside from the negative logic of this proposition, the matter has gone beyond the tenure of Robert McNamara. The unique quality of analysis that made him congenial to President Kennedy, and subsequently to President Johnson, has extended so deeply into the fibre of the Department as to make it unlikely that a change of Secretaries would uproot the major innovations he has brought about. After McNamara leaves the scene, as he inevitably must one day, can there be any turning back to the days of separate-but equal-military services under a paternalistic Secretary of Defense? I think the answer is "definitely not," no matter who he may be.
VII. WHITHER UNIFICATION?
"If we could first know where we are and whither we are tending," Abraham Lincoln put it so well, "we could better judge what to do and how to do it." At this juncture, a large segment of the powers which accrued to the Office of the Secretary of Defense were stripped from the Service Secretaries. In my own case, after nearly five years in office, I thought it worth measuring the differential between the functions which I thought came with the job and the powers which resided in it when I departed September 30, 1965.
The residual powers are not only more clearly defined than ever before, but are still surprisingly substantial. The Department of the Air Force discharges responsibilities for developing doctrine and concepts, weapon- system requirements, training, logistical support, maintenance and welfare; all of these are essentially unimpaired. There is no more critical responsibility, nor one that requires more careful husbanding of Air Force resources, than managing Research and Development, for example. All these Air Force functions involve annual budgeting of about $ 18 billion, greater than any other single entity in the Department of Defense, and nearly equal to the combined total financial resources of General Motors and Standard Oil of New Jersey, the country's two largest corporations.
The Air Force Secretary's specific job, as it evolved between 1961 and 1965, embraced the formidable management task of phasing no less than six major strategic weapon systems in or out of operational status-the B-47, B- 52, B-58, Titan II, Minute-man I and II, as well as their trained manpower and all their supporting logistic facilities. He had to be mindful at all times of retaining a proper balance of skilled personnel and resources, without slackening total operational effectiveness.
These considerations shaped my decision to stay on the job. They helped to change my views. For a decade or more, I had been an ardent advocate of more unification. But I came to acknowledge, as did Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric in his farewell press conference in January 1964, that further unification of the Department of Defense is neither practical nor advisable. It seemed clear that the Symington Committee report of 1960 which he signed had gone too far.
In any circumstance that I can foresee, unification of the U.S. military establishment has gone about as far as it ought to go. This statement recognizes that some residual areas of service separatism have so far defied reform. For example, the services still retain flying training facilities that could be usefully combined. There are certain supply and service facilities that should also be combined. The recent merger of defense auditing functions is a good start in this area.
Then there are small pockets of nonsense in the personnel area that still need to be cleaned out in the interests of efficient operation. We should set common standards of officer procurement, promotion and retirement for the Army, Navy and Air Force. There is also a crying need for a joint personnel security setup at the Defense level. Presently, military or civilian personnel who transfer, let us say, from the Air Force to the Defense Intelligence Agency, or vice versa, are subject to additional investigative proceedings. The same applies to lateral transfers between two Services. A central repository of clearances should cover all personnel in sensitive jobs within the military establishment. This mutual agreement should be extended in time to include State and the A.E.C. We would use our manpower more efficiently, cut paperwork, and save the money we now spend on duplicating field investigations, which often give a very bad impression to the public.
Looking at the big picture of service roles and missions, no reason for separate services seems more important than the freedom to apply many years of thinking and experience to operational concepts and weapon requirements. In the Army, Navy and Air Force, and in the Marines, too, a sense of professionalism has been distilled to: develop each requirement; design and produce the suitable weapon; devise the doctrine to govern its proper use in battle; then train and supply the troops to operate that weapon effectively in a familiar medium. This collective effort by each service is then funneled to the Unified Commander in the field for use in his coördinated military machine as approved by the Joint Chiefs.
Take, as an example, the war in Viet Nam. Under present organization, Lt. General Joseph H. Moore, Commander of the 2nd Air Division, reports through General Westmoreland to the unified Pacific Command, thence to the J.C.S., but he continues to look to the Air Force for support. His need is not only for logistics, but for air battle concepts, where a close tie-in with the Tactical Air Command remains important. The same is true with respect to Research and Development. If General Moore could reach the Air Force only through unified command or J.C.S. channels, I seriously doubt that the effective Mini Gun would have been sent to the Far East.
It seems to me, therefore, that the criterion for the degree of unification desired is not so much size and logistics-although they are important. It is in the areas of originating battle concepts and new equipment design that the greatest stress upon the potential contribution of the individual service must be laid. If the Air Force has the job of logistic support to Air Force units in Viet Nam, it must retain a vital logistics capability. If its job is to formulate requirements and to pursue Research and Development, the Air Force must have a substantial and autonomous R.&D. capability. Similarly, it needs a limited but independent intelligence capability outside the Defense Intelligence Agency. Our people who are concerned with Air Force requirements must have an active understanding of the threats and the direction they are likely to take.
From a purely management view, retention of service identity is wholly consistent with the most sophisticated corporate organizations in the United States. General Motors, for example, maintains separate divisions for the production of Chevrolet, Buick, Oldsmobile, etc. They operate within the policy framework of the parent organization, which even encourages healthy competition within reasonable limits to keep everybody on his toes.
A structure embracing a centralized authority at the top and decentralized management responsibility at the service level is very close to being the most responsive to our need. As of October 1, 1965, the Department of Defense comprised nearly 3,800,000 military and civilian personnel and over $170 billion in countable physical property. These assets are sited around the world and accomplish a thousand-and-one missions. They simply cannot be managed efficiently from one central point. I am convinced that this responsibility must be parceled out. The military services, essentially organized around the medium in which each one operates, offer through the Service Secretaries precisely that middle level of management which cannot be discharged as well anywhere else in the Department of Defense.
There is, too, the practical usefulness of deflecting some of the political heat from the Secretary of Defense. Where to? Certainly not to the professional Service Chiefs who should be insulated from this kind of pressure. The Service Secretary, as Leonard D. White has suggested in his "Introduction to the Study of Public Administration," personifies the supremacy of civil leadership over the military. He serves as "the outpost of the Chief Executive and a representative of the political party whose policies he is to pursue."
Why not Under Secretaries of Defense for Army, Navy and Air Force? This argument has been put forth under various unification proposals, including the Symington Committee's of 1960. To downgrade the job further might well upset the delicate balance-wheel function which the Service Secretary performs from his vantage as civilian head of the service, of advising the Secretary of Defense and of serving as an intelligent advocate of service interests at the O.S.D. level-a job which the Chief of Staff could not discharge as effectively. Secondly, it might further reduce the range of the President's choice of first-rate men, who might be less attracted to a downgraded post.
But, most important, it is no longer necessary. The Service Secretary has an expert managerial role to perform in personnel procurement, logistics, training and Research and Development. His job no longer overlaps the authority of the Secretary of Defense. The functional conflict between them is moot. The Service Secretary has a key role to perform, no matter what they call him.