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Statement - Answers by Vice President Nixon to 11 Questions Submitted by the New York Times

October 30, 1960

(Following are the questions on defense submitted to Vice President Nixon and his replies.)

Question 1. Do you believe in a single military service - all in one uniform?

As to question 1 - Do I believe in a single military service - all in one uniform? My answer is "No."

The present situation of the uniformed services may be imperfect, but I find it to be generally preferable to any alternative which I have seen so far. I quite agree that the nature of warfare has changed greatly with the advent of tremendously rapid and powerful delivery systems such as the nuclear-armed intercontinental and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. But I see no logical reason why such weapons should be the responsibility of any one of the existing services any more than any other. I do see aspects of the situation which clearly require forces specialized in sea, air, and land warfare.

An example is the highly sophisticated Polaris submarine missile system. It requires naval forces regardless of what you might call them or how you may choose to uniform them. Certainly the day of the manned aircraft will be with us for some time to come for the mission of strategic delivery as well as for tactical missions, reconnaissance, and transport.

With the nuclear stalemate, we have to face the threat of limited wars as long as the Communist aggressor stalks the world. Limited wars certainly require land, sea, and air forces and men trained in the special techniques of all three.

Perhaps, this need could be met by a single service - the Marine Corps is an excellent example. But even leaving aside considerations of tradition, which I consider highly important, I believe strongly that service identity could not be dispensed with without an unacceptable loss of effectiveness.

Question 2. Do you believe in the creation of so-called functional forces?

In regard to question 2, I reason similarly. I am generally opposed to establishment of permanent strategic, tactical, and defense forces, with representation from all services, because in the end we might well wind up with a multiplication of services instead of simplification.

There is no reason why functional forces should be limited to three and in the end there might well be as many specific forces as there are functions to be performed. It seems to me that the principles of functional organization and of unified command are now used wherever they can be employed effectively.

I cannot see how there would be greater advantage in establishing permanent and rigid functional organizations which would be difficult to change as the requirements of the military situation demanded.

Question 3. Would you replace the present Joint Chiefs of Staff with a single Chief of Staff? Or, how would you alter the present structure, if at all?

In response to question 3, I most certainly would not replace the Joint Chiefs of Staff with a single chief. It seems to me that the President, as Commander in Chief, and in that sense our constitutional single chief of staff with command authority, would not be effectively served by a subordinate chief of staff who would function as an overall commander of the Military Establishment.

Actually, each service is so vast and necessarily so specialized and each chief of service is therefore relatively so inexpert in the power potential of the sister services, that it defies good sense to allow one of the four chiefs to call the shots for the other three.

Curiously, the only service chief whose background by years of training in all services might qualify him for such a duty is the Marine Corps Commandant - whose forces, of course, are the smallest of all.

Nor am I sensitive to the American sensitivities to the single chief concept, going back to colonial times. Even today we must watch closely any overconcentration of military power in America.

The Joint Chiefs structure has been only recently reorganized by law, and we should not now contemplate a violent recasting of what has just been accomplished.

Question 4. What other plans for reorganization of the services, or of the Pentagon - if any - do you have?

As to question 4, I would go slowly with schemes to reorganize the services, in the military situation with which we are now confronted.

I agree that the so-called service rivalries are both costly and sometimes inefficient. But I believe that most of this is today healthy competition, which, as contrasted with bitter rivalries, is good for America's defense, not harmful. At all events, with the Joint Chiefs structure now functioning at peak efficiency of all time, with the Secretary of Defense himself sitting with them to expedite action and resolve differences, what were the shortcomings of the system will steadily improve.

We are never going to be able to dictate by law agreement on matters as vital as our national strategy, nor should we. Service rivalry inspired by preoccupation with promotion and prestige and similar parochial concerns cannot be allowed to hamper our security. On the other hand, competition - or better - honest differences of opinion, which are based on how best to insure our security, will, I trust, always be a part of the American military system.

I do believe that in acute rivalry areas such as appropriations, legislative affairs and press relations there needs to be better control mechanisms than presently exist, so that the Congress, the public, and the services themselves will not be confused as to established defense policies.

Question 5. Do you believe in a so-called "counterforce" strategic concept - the maintenance of a retaliatory force big enough to destroy Soviet strategic air and missile forces - or is a so-called "finite" deterrent - one capable of devastating Soviet urban and industrial centers - adequate?

Regarding question 5, I would not be satisfied with a strategic force fashioned only for attack on urban and industrial centers. There are several things wrong with this concept.

First, both our speed of reaction should be sufficient to destroy or blunt a large portion of the attack which could be brought against us. This is essential to our survival as a nation.

Second, I do not believe that a force capable only of devastating cities would be adequate to deter the launching of an attack by those who are now in control of the Kremlin. Certainly it could not be expected to impose adequate restraint on the Chinese Communists. Our deterrent force must have every essential quality - it must be invulnerable to destruction and it must have the power to destroy the warmaking ability of an enemy.

As for attacks on urban populations we must remember that the object of war is achievement of a viable peace, not indiscriminate slaughter or postwar anarchy. There is substantial doubt in my mind that we should ever allow destruction for its own sake ever to take place even in all-out war. America wages war for peace. Our conduct of a war must not contravene that fact.

Question 6. As I understand it, a basic planning assumption upon which our defense preparations are based is that in any general war - defined as a war in which United States forces fought Russian forces - atomic weapons would be employed? Do you agree, or would you alter this basic assumption?

With regard to question 6, a general war, under the conditions which exist today, would be a war in which United States and Soviet forces would be totally engaged and nuclear weapons would inevitably be employed, if for no other reason than the fact that otherwise the manpower disproportion in favor of the Soviets and the Chinese would be unacceptable to the West. This assumption of course cannot be inflexible because the world situation is always changing.

There are other nuclear powers. There will be still more. It is possible that a "general" war might even some time be one in which the forces of the Soviet Union and China were opposed against each other.

Question 7. How many divisions should we maintain? (14 Army plus 3 Marines now).

In my opinion the composition of our air, army and sea forces in terms of manpower is roughly adequate to present defense requirements, as are the present roles and missions assigned them - namely deterrence of local wars and countering such emergency situations as might arise as larger forces are prepared.

I am not satisfied, however, with the state of the modernization of ground forces' equipment or the amount and type of airlift available to our ground forces.

I would accelerate both as, indeed, President Eisenhower already has ordered within the past several months.

Question 8. The Navy's Polaris submarine program now has funds or partial funds for 21 ships, and next year's budget contemplates 5 more. Is this program adequate, or would you speed it up; if the latter, how much?

Question 9. The ICBM program now funded calls for a total of around 300. Is this adequate, or would you increase it; if the latter, how much?

Question 10. What level of defense spending do you believe we should aim for, at least during the next fiscal years the present level ($41 billion) ; less than this; $1 billion more; $2 billion more; $3 billion more?

I will answer questions 8, 9 and 10 together rather than attempt to make statements about the exact number of Polaris missiles and submarines, Minuteman and other ICBM's that I think our military program for the sixties should include.

The Polaris program now has the highest priority in our future security program and is, I believe, to the satisfaction of Admiral Arleigh E. Burke and the other military leaders who are responsible for it. The same is true of the Minuteman program, which the figures in Question 9 do not fully reflect.

In my judgment our missile programs in the present strategic force mix are properly weighted as accelerated in President Eisenhower's most recent defense directives. I am sure he will reexamine the entire program once again in preparing his final military budget, which will go to the Congress in January, and I am sure that he would have insisted upon a continuing reevaluation during 1961 should he have remained as President. This will be my policy.

Total spending will irresistibly rise as weapons systems and equipment continuously grow more complex and costly. The amount of increase must reflect this need - and the added amount required cannot be arbitrarily set, for it would tend to become a ceiling or a floor on expenditures. I can respond to the expenditure question, therefore, only by saying, first, that whatever a sound defense costs must be spent and, second, the cost will be a rising one.

I have already announced that if elected I will convene a conference of our civilian defense leaders, our chiefs of staff, our major force and theater commanders, and other service leaders soon after inauguration Day to reevaluate our military program to insure American superiority during the decade of the 1960's.

The purpose of this conference is to project our own situation against Soviet preparations and changing technology. I will not hesitate if, after this conference with the military leaders, it seems advisable to accelerate again both our Polaris and our Minuteman programs as well as any other phase of our preparedness which at the time seemed advisable.

I will repeat that the controlling consideration in our military expenditures must be the providing of the defenses our security requires, and not an arbitrary budget allowance. There can be no dollar sign on defending America.

Question 11. What suggestions have you for improving service morale and for improving the attractiveness of a professional military career? How about equalizing retired pay? What else?

In response to your final question, I think it is necessary that a career in our military services be attractive and rewarding for our ablest young people.

I have already stated my view that the simple justice requires prompt enactment of the retired pay equalization bill which has been bottled up in a subcommittee of the Democratic-controlled Senate. I personally called for its approval before the last session adjourned.

In addition, I would favor further action and I will ask the military leaders at the conference to which I have referred to make recommendations to me for enhancing the military career at all levels and would propose such legislation as might be needed to that end at that time.

Richard Nixon, Statement - Answers by Vice President Nixon to 11 Questions Submitted by the New York Times Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project