THE EVOLUTION OF U.S. STRATEGIC COMMAND AND CONTROL AND WARNING, 1945-1972 (U)
L. Wainstein, Project Leader
J. K. Moriarty
The work reported in this document was conducted under Contract DAHC15 73C 0200 for the Department of Defense.
The publication of this IDA Study does not indicate endorsement by the Department of Defense, nor should the contents be construed as reflecting the official position of that agency.
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In the summer of 1974, the Secretary of Defense requested that a study be undertaken of the strategic arms competition between the United States and the Soviet Union from 1945 to 1972. The purpose of the study was twofold: (a) to provide a comprehensive historical account, hitherto unavailable, of the strategic competition and (b) to provide the basis for examining various hypotheses as to its origins and development.
This extensive research effort, under the direction of the Chief Historian, OSD, was divided into eight discrete studies, each covering both US and Soviet developments, and was assigned to a number of agencies. The subject matter of these studies included: missiles, bombers, space, and warheads; air defense; aircraft carriers and ballistic missile submarines; forces and budgets; US and Soviet chronologies, high-level decisions, organization; and command and control and warning. The eight studies are intended to provide the basic research and analysis from which another study team will prepare an integrated report of US and Soviet developments for the Secretary of Defense.
The IDA study effort was begun in September 1974 and completed in June 1975. The history of US command and control and warning is presented in four parts that cover the time periods 1945-53, 1954-60, 1961-67, and 1968-72. The four parts, in the main, treat similar aspects of the subject, including (1) developments in command and control at the national level; (2) developments at the strategic force level, particularly the Strategic Air Command; (3) warning developments; and (4) command post issues. Part IV also presents an overall view of the US command and control structure as it existed at the end of the time frame of the study.
The parallel study of Soviet command and control and warning required extensive use of special intelligence material and for that reason is being published as a separate IDA study: S-469, The Evolution of Soviet Strategic Command and Control and Warning, 1945-1972.
In this study, the term "strategic" refers only to the forces and operations for general nuclear war. It should also be noted that the term "warning" refers to tactical warning, i.e., warning that the enemy has initiated hostilities. We have not considered the interface with intelligence in the area of strategic warning.
A consolidated list of the sources upon which this study is based appears at the end of the volume. Principal sources include the records and official reports of the Secretaries of Defense; selected records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as made available by them; official histories of the military services and government agencies; governmental and non-governmental reports on command and control; and congressional hearings.
Much of the material in this study dealing with the earlier years has either become public knowledge, has been declassified, or is in the process of being declassified. However, the documents from which data were drawn by the project team were not specifically identified as being declassified and could not be presumed so by the project team. Original classifications, therefore, have necessarily been retained throughout the study.
PART ONE : 1945-1953 (L. Walnsteln)
I. THE SETTING
II. THE IMPACT OF ATOMIC ENERGY AND THE CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK FOR ITS MILITARY EMPLOYMENT
B. Conceptual Developments: The Atomic Blitz
C. Early Atomic War Plans
III. CUSTODY OF ATOMIC BOMBS AND THE AUTHORITY TO USE THEM
Attempts to Change the Custody System
B. Later Developments: Overseas Deployment of Atomic Weapons and the Division of Custody
C. The Implications of Presidential Control of Atomic Weapons
IV. THE CONTROL OF ATOMIC OPERATIONS
B. The Targeting Issue
C. Coordination of Atomic Operations
D. The Impact of Weapons Development on the Control Issue
V. INTERSERVICE CONTROVERSY OVER ATOMIC MATTERS
VI. DEVELOPING THE INSTRUMENT FOR ATOMIC WAR
A. Origins of SAC
B. Equipping the Atomic Strike Force
C. Early Overseas Deployments
D. The Development of SAC Communications
VII. US PERCEPTIONS OF THE SOVIET THREAT
VIII. THE DEVELOPMENT OF WARNING SYSTEMS, 1945-53
Beginning of a Warning System
B. The Impact of Korea
C. The Ground Observer Corps
D. Major Change: The DEW Line
E. The Seaward Extension of a Warning System
G. Organization for Air Defense and Warning
H. Warning 1945-53: A Summation
IX. THE DEVELOPMENT OF COMMAND POSTS FOR STRATEGIC OPERATIONS CONTROL
B. The Role of the Air Force Command Post
X. THE -FIRST EIGHT YEARS: AN OVERVIEW
PART TWO: 1954-1960 (J. Moriarty)
XI. STRATEGIC CONTEXT
A. The New
B. Dispute Over Strategic Doctrine
C. SAC Operational Constraints
XII. SAC ORGANIZATION AND COMMUNICATIONS
B. General Operational Situation in the 1954-60 Period
C. SAC Communications
XIII. SAC PRE-ATTACK AND POST-ATTACK COMMAND AND CONTROL SYSTEMS
A. 465L Funding
and Schedule Difficulties
B. The Problem of SAC Command and Control Survivability
C. Post-Attack Command Control System (PACCS)
XIV. COORDINATION OF STRATEGIC OPERATIONS
Coordination Machinery Prior to Advent of the Polaris
B. Defense Reorganization Act of 1958
C. Command and Control of the Polaris FBM System
D. Establishment of Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff
E. Concluding Comments on Command of Polaris
XV. WARNING OF STRATEGIC ATTACK
Situation at Beginning of 1954-60 Period
B. The DEW Line
C. Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE)
D. Warning of Missile Attack
E. Summary Comments on SAGE, BMEWS, and Other Sensor Systems
XVI. NATIONAL COMMAND POSTS
A. The Air
Force Command Post
B. The Joint War Room
C. The Alternate Joint Communication Center
D. Mobile Command Posts
E. Ensuring Command Post Decision in the Absence of the President: Explicit Retaliatory Doctrine
XVII. NATIONAL COMMAND AND CONTROL VULNERABILITY AS PERCEIVED AT THE END OF THE DECADE: SYNOPSIS OF WSEG REPORT 50
from WSEG Report 50
B. Summary Comments
XVIII. OVERVIEW, 1954-60
PART THREE: 1961-1967 (J. Ponturo)
XIX. THE NEW ADMINISTRATION
XX. STRATEGIC COMMAND AND CONTROL PROBLEMS IN 1961
A. The High
B. Strategic and Tactical Warning
C. Command Facilities
E. SIOP Execution
XXI. DOCTRINAL/FUNCTIONAL ISSUES: FLEXIBLE RESPONSE
B. Command and Control Problems
XXII. THE ISSUE OF CONTINUITY OF THE HIGH COMMAND
B. The Partridge Report
C. The OEP Study
D. The Preservation of Options
XXIII. COMMAND CENTER ISSUES
A. The USAF,
SAC, and NORAD
B. NATIONAL COMMAND FACILITIES
C. THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS
XXIV. NMCS DEVELOPMENTS AFTER CUBA
A. The NMCS
B. The DUCC Proposal
C. Further Evolution
XXV. THE SAC COMMAND AND CONTROL SYSTEM
A. The Early
B. SAC In the Cuban Missile Crisis
C. The AABNCP, Launch Control, and ERCS
XXVI. WARNING AND ATTACK ASSESSMENT
A. The DEW
C. SLBM Warning
D. Over-the-Horizon Radar
E. Defense Support Program
XXVII. OVERVIEW, 1961-67
PART FOUR: 1968-1972 (C. Cremeans and L. Wainstein)
XXIX. THE BALANCE OF STRATEGIC FORCES
Perceived Soviet Threat
B. US Strategic Force Posture
XXX. COMMAND AND CONTROL SYSTEMS, 1968-72
A. The National
Military Command System
B. CINC Systems: SAC
C. SACEUR-CINCEUR Strategic Command and Control Arrangements
D. CINCPAC Strategic Command and Control Arrangements
E. Coordination of Nuclear Operations
F. Reorganization of the World-Wide Military Command and Control System
XXXI. SURVEILLANCE AND WARNING, 1968-72
B. Aircraft Warning
C. Warning and Air Defense Integration Effort
D. Minuteman-Safeguard Coordination
XXXII. CONTINUING PROBLEMS IN THE COMMAND AND CONTROL STRUCTURE
A. The Blue
Ribbon Defense Panel Report
B. Cost and Performance Problems
C. Improving the System
XXXIII. THE COMMAND POST PROBLEM
XXXIV. DOCTRINAL DEBATE: COMMAND AND CONTROL FOR FLEXIBLE RESPONSE
This study is a history of the evolution of US strategic command and control and warning from 1945 to mid-1972. The 27 years under review span the development of US nuclear capability from a small number of atomic bombs and specially modified aircraft to deliver them to the large, complex forces and means to control them that exist currently.
Command and control of and warning for US strategic forces have involved the capability to accomplish several basic functions: (1) maintain an up-to-date accounting of the status of forces and nuclear weapons; (2) on the defensive side, secure as early warning as possible of an enemy attack, assess it, and pass that warning to the National Command Authorities and to the strategic forces; (3) communicate the orders to launch strategic forces and maintain contact with them after launch; (4) ascertain the effectiveness of strike forces and the restrike capability of those forces; and (5) maintain the capability to carry out these functions during and after a nuclear attack on the United States.
These functions were to become more difficult to perform with the passing years, both as US strategic forces became larger, more diverse, and more sophisticated and as the Soviet nuclear offensive capability grew. US strategic forces moved from sole reliance on piston-engine B-29s to jet aircraft, both land based and carrier based, and then to a combination of jet bombers and land-based missiles. Finally, missile-launching submarines completed the strategic triad. The burdens of command and control in coordinating these elements grew accordingly.
A. THE COURSE OF DEVELOPMENT
The appearance of atomic energy in 1945 was to transform the US military establishment, and the story of these first eight years is one of grappling with a host of totally new problems deriving from the new force. It was a period of technological groping, of doctrinal turmoil in the Armed Forces, and of a growing Soviet challenge. Because of the many factors impacting on the development of command and control in this period, the subject has to be construed very broadly to include most of the efforts to get a grip on atomic energy for military purposes. Atomic weapons had to be given a place in overall national strategy. Doctrine on when and how to use them had to be created, along with war plans to be implemented. A system of administrative control and custody had to be established to safeguard the weapons. A military force had to be established to deliver atomic weapons. Finally, in anticipation of the eventual Soviet acquisition of atomic bombs, an aircraft control and warning system had to be created for the air defense of the United States.
The US response to the challenge posed by the military applications of atomic energy was, in the early years, filled with many contradictions between aspiration and actuality, words and deeds, policy and implementation. There was only a gradual acceptance by the military, and especially by the Air Force as the service most immediately concerned, of the implications of atomic weapons. Despite the tendency to brandish the atomic bomb politically, there was astonishingly little planning undertaken as to how that weapon might be used. Similarly, there was only a very slow improvement in the physical capability, in terms of aircraft and crews, to deliver atomic bombs. Despite recognition that these weapons were essential to maintaining a military balance in Europe, production of bombs moved slowly.
Indeed, a scarcity of fissionable material conditioned all thinking in the first four years, though this situation was to be totally transformed in the succeeding four years.
Nuclear deterrence was adopted as the national strategy, but it had few teeth in it until after 1950. An atomic blitz concept was developed as the optimum form of an atomic offensive, but the concept could not have been implemented during the first five years. The scarcity of bombs, moreover, made it of crucial importance that they be used against the most critical targets, but intelligence on target systems within the Soviet Union was very poor.
Although the destructive power of atomic bombs was generally recognized, there remained for some time considerable skepticism as to their war-winning capacity. Also, despite the emphasis on deterrence, there was no assurance that the President would indeed authorize the use of these weapons. A system of civilian custody of atomic bombs was carefully established and rigidly defended during the early years, but it was relaxed with surprising speed in the face of operational needs and a growing Soviet threat.
This was an era of fierce interservice dispute over roles and missions, strategy, and shares of the atomic stockpile, yet there was almost universal military agreement on the primacy of atomic offensive forces over defensive measures. Even though it was expected that sooner or later the Soviets would achieve a nuclear capability, the effort to develop an extensive warning system was an uphill fight.
The primary problem during these years was seen as one of building the strategic nuclear strike force itself and the system of bases from which it would deliver its attacks. Compared with this, the problem of developing a specific command and control structure seemed secondary. The Strategic Air Command was created in January 1946, and by 1953 it had developed into a powerful force with a network of overseas bases from which to launch its operations. There was a continual struggle by SAC to develop reliable and dedicated communications, and the period saw the development of a series of communications systems—AIRCOMNET, the Strategic Operations Communications System (SOCS), and the SAC Communications Network. None of these, however, fully satisfied the requirement as seen by SAC.
Because of its strategic nuclear mission, SAC was more tightly controlled by the JCS than were other military commands. Until 1951, strategic command and control concerned SAC only, but after that the development of tactical nuclear weapons brought aircraft carriers and the overseas commands into the nuclear picture. A system of coordination of atomic operations was initiated in 1952 to control this rapidly widening nuclear capability.
Concern over protection of the national command structure in a future war, a concern that increased as Soviet capabilities grew, stimulated the development of command centers and their requisite communications. In terms of positive achievements, however, little was accomplished in this respect in the 19^5-53 period. The Air Force Command Post in the Pentagon, not established until 1950, constituted the nearest thing to a national command post to appear in these years. An alternate command post at Fort Ritchie, Md., was also authorized and established. Nevertheless, the survivability of the command authorities under surprise attack was increasingly in doubt by the end of this period.
The years 1945-53 also saw the slow and halting creation of a basic aircraft warning system that was not much advanced over that of World War II. However, there was a growing concern about warning and air defense, stimulated by the outbreak of the Korean war in 1950 and by the NSC 68 estimate that by 1954 the Soviet Union would have the capability to launch a devastating attack against the United States. After years of debate, the decision was finally made in October 1953 (after the Soviet explosion of a thermonuclear bomb) to create a wholly new warning system, which would rely upon automation and include the building of a Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line.
By the end of this period, an initial structure and system had been developed to deal with the problems raised by the military applications of atomic energy. Given the context of the times, the US responses were essentially pragmatic and often ad hoc, but those responses did provide a basis for the employment of US strategic nuclear power. Many of the major problems and issues encountered or foreseen in this period, however, were to continue on through the changing context of the years.
This period was essentially one of developing the requisite operational systems for command and control of the nation's rapidly expanding capabilities for waging strategic war. Building on the basically workable but limited structure of forces, communications, procedures, and policies established in the previous eight years, the United States filled out the overall structure, adding new command and control and warning systems with much increased capabilities. Most of the impetus for the improved systems came from the responsible services and, within the services, from the operational commands. This process continued on an evolutionary basis until the discontinuity produced by the appearance of the intercontinental ballistic missile in 1957, which was to transform drastically the concepts of and systems for command and control.
The keynote of the drive for improved capabilities was the attempt to improve speed of reaction while maintaining reliability. These requirements necessitated technological gambles that were often near the edge of the state-of-the-art. Systems became extremely complex, costs spiraled, and schedules were delayed, but from a technical standpoint huge advances were made.
The US capability for acquiring warning of strategic attack also made immense strides during this period. A joint # and combined US-Canadian North American Air Defense Command was established in 1954. the DEW Line along the northernmost edge of the North American Continent, authorized in the defense policy reassessment of October 19535 was virtually completed by # I960. The Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) computerized system for integrating the entire warning and defense network was also largely constructed by the end of the period. But costs and construction problems encountered with these ad- # vanced systems had multiplied, and the old ambivalence about the value of air defense and warning was exacerbated by the imminent expectation of intercontinental missiles. Cutbacks became the order of the day for warning systems against bomber # attack, and meanwhile a major start was made in developing, through BMEWS and satellite reconnaissance systems, a capability for warning against missiles.
During this period, SAC evolved from a force totally # dependent on overseas bases for launching its bomber strikes against the Soviet Union to a true intercontinental bombing force that could attack from the continental United States. Command and control was further centralized to accord with the • new operational concepts. Increasingly larger portions of the force were placed on a 15-minute alert status, and a "positive control" system was established for aircraft already airborne. Increasingly sophisticated communications, data processing, and • display techniques were required to maintain control of the strike force under such conditions. Achievement of such capabilities was marked by endless problems and failures, epitomized by the false starts, technical headaches, and eventual changes • in the basic concept of the SAC Control System (465L). As the period ended, SAC still felt that the communications and command and control systems available to it were highly vulnerable, and planning was begun on the Post Attack Command Control System • with its airborne command post complex.
Coordination of atomic operations, along with the collateral problems of targeting and allocation of nuclear weapons, became increasingly complex with the enormous expansion both of the nuclear stockpile and the means of delivery. The development of the Polaris ballistic missile submarine at the end of the period further complicated the problem and led to the establishment in 1960 of the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff (JSTPS). After a decade of dissatisfaction with procedures for atomic strike coordination, a major step forward had been taken that eventually resolved the problem.
Throughout the period there was a gradually increasing centralization of top-level control of the Armed Forces, with the roles of the Secretary of Defense and the JCS strengthened by the 1958 Defense Reorganization Act. The creation of unified commands that were directly responsible to the Secretary of Defense, through the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tightened control by the top command over all nuclear operations. These developments improved speed of response, but, while command and control procedures continued to concentrate upon the execution of a swift retaliatory strike in the face of a surprise attack, as the period ended there was growing awareness of the need for a greater degree of strategic flexibility in response to attack.
In 1959, the JCS established their own Joint War Room under the control of the Joint Staff in the Pentagon. The Alternate Joint Communications Center at Fort Ritchie was upgraded and designated as the emergency relocation center for the National Command Authorities and the JCS. However, in view of the increasing vulnerability of fixed-site headquarters other alternatives were sought. The Navy put forth proposals for a National Emergency Command Post Afloat (NECPA), and the Air Force suggested a National Emergency Airborne Command Post (NEACP).
The dominant strategic fact of the period, however, was the appearance in 1957 of the intercontinental ballistic missile and the realization that warning would soon be reduced to minutes, that the aircraft warning system constructed after so much debate and at such great cost would be ineffective against these weapons, and that the US ability to command and control its strategic forces in the face of a surprise nuclear attack was therefore extremely problematical. By the end of the period, the problem of survivability was dominating all other considerations in regard to the exercise of political and military command and control. In the late 1940s, SAC had planned on 45 days to go to war. By the beginning of the 1960s, the time had been compressed to 15 minutes.
This period was one of continuing ferment in strategic command and control, although some of the more significant developments of the era traced their origins to the final years of the previous period. Nonetheless, the Kennedy administration confronted the problems of strategic command and control more immediately than either its predecessors or its successors. It acted vigorously to develop a secure retaliatory force structure that could survive a surprise missile attack and strike back and to create a survivable command and control system that could assure an adequate national response. The administration accorded command and control a high priority, perhaps higher than it had ever received previously.
Within the first two months of the Kennedy administration, a program had been outlined to adapt US military strategy and force structures to the era of nuclear missiles and to delineate the requirements of deterrence in a balanced, two-sided strategic situation. A more diversified and flexible strategic posture was sought to accord with the requirements of a more flexible strategic response. The problem of nuclear strike coordination was effectively resolved by the JSTPS through the development of the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP).
While the now familiar problems of survivability and continuity of command authorities received considerable attention, it is not clear that much progress was made on the most intractable issue of survivability. The National Military Command System, composed of those command elements directly supporting the National Command Authorities and the JCS, was established in early 1962. It was composed of interconnected command centers, continuously manned, with specialized communications and other facilities to meet the information and other decision-making needs of the command authorities. The National Military Command Center in the Pentagon was developed as a continuously manned, unhardened facility operated by the Joint Staff to serve the JCS, the Secretary of Defense, and the President. Combined with this were alternates airborne and afloat. The NECPA came into existence aboard the USS Northampton, and a number of KC-135 tanker aircraft were converted to airborne command posts, the NEACP.
Nevertheless, unresolved issues about fixed versus mobile command facilities persisted for years. Hardening remained a preferred alternative for high-capacity centers, especially if dispersed, but it was widely criticized as a low-confidence measure against Soviet weapons expected in the 1960s. Technical uncertainties about hardening and doubts about the functional capabilities of mobile centers kept the controversy alive. An effort to develop a deep underground command center (DUCC) in Washington failed to win approval.
Perhaps the greatest uncertainty and most difficult problem in the strategic command and control system inherited from the 1950s concerned the continuity of presidential authority. Attempts to resolve the problem during these years involved again the issue of predelegation of strike authority by the President to his subordinates in the military chain of command. The problem was studied and restudied in these years, without apparent resolution.
In an effort to coordinate the burgeoning command facilities and communications systems, the World-Wide Military Command and Control System (WWMCCS) was established in late 1962. The problems involved in developing an effective WWMCCS were formidable, however, and subsequent years were to see little progress in achieving the capabilities envisioned.
The attempted shift from the single-option strategy of all-out retaliation to one of multiple options and selective controlled responses presented a major command and control challenge. Controlled response required standards of survivability and functional performance that were much higher than those required for the relatively simple transmission of a preplanned "go code." It called for a command and control system with more endurance and toughness in a nuclear environment, during and after an attack, and adaptable to a wide range of circumstances in its ability to assess attacks. Even with the technology coming into use then, it was not clear that such capabilities were achievable, except in the event of limited attacks that deliberately avoided command and control structures Of all the prerequisites of such a strategy, the survivable and effective command and control system proved the most difficult to achieve and remained the greatest impediment to a credible and practicable flexible response strategy.
During this period, there was a steady cutback of the aircraft warning systems created in the previous decade. Many of the DEW Line stations were closed down by 1963, with most of the radars counted as superfluous, and the remainder were maintained to provide warning of follow-on enemy bombers in a simultaneous missile-bomber attack. The first missile warning system BMEWS, became fully operational and assumed the early warning function. Other missile warning systems, like over-the-horizon radar and the SLBM Detection and Warning System (747N), were put under development. The Emergency Rocket Communications System (ERCS) came into operation, and the satellite-based, infrared-detecting surveillance and warning system (DSP), which promised such a significantly improved capability, moved toward an operational reality.
In the latter part of the period several factors led to a marked decline in the early high-level preoccupation with strategic command and control. There was increased confidence in US capabilities as a result of the ending of the myth of the "missile gap"; there was the US success in the Cuban missile crisis; the missile buildup planned in the early 1960s had been accomplished; and finally there came the diversion of the war in Southeast Asia. This decline in top-level interest, however, clearly was not a consequence of having solved the major problems of command and control.
The 1968-72 period was marked by continuity in concepts and procedures in the field of command and control and warning and by the changing strategic relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union. The outstanding feature of these years was the final ending of the US nuclear superiority, which had conditioned relations with the Soviet Union for the previous two decades. Yet the impact of that event on the development of US command and control was probably less than might have been expected, because it had earlier been recognized that even without parity the Soviets could cripple the US strategic command and control structure. Thus the problems did not change in kind during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Rather they became ever more intractable.
Recognition of Soviet strategic parity led, however, to a renewed interest in command and control at the top level of government. It became more apparent that almost every element of the strategic command and control structure was vulnerable and that a carefully concerted Soviet effort to confuse or destroy the US warning and attack-assessment capability before a first-strike might make it impossible for the United States to retaliate. The weaknesses in the system were studied repeatedly In this period, but there was little advance toward their correction.
Controversy continued over the feasibility of doing much of what was put forward as necessary. There was, for example, a revival of interest in a deep underground command center, with some proponents claiming that with enough effort a survivable command authority could be achieved. The greater the expenditure, they claimed, the greater would be the certainty of survival. Opponents continued to challenge the concept on the grounds of political feasibility, cost, and overall reliability.
Nevertheless, steps were taken in these years to rationalize the command and control structure. These efforts were in part inspired by the poor performance of communications during several contingencies in 1967-69 (the USS Liberty and Pueblo crises), which raised doubts about the adequacy of the entire system, including those elements devoted to strategic operations, and focused high-level attention on command and control problems. The World-Wide Military Command and Control System was reorganized in an effort to make its underlying concept more operative, and the Minimum Essential Communications Network (MEECN) was developed to provide a more reliable emergency backup to the primary and alternate facilities supporting command authorities. The Defense Support Program (DSP), with its satellite detection systems, came into operation in 1971, the newest and most sophisticated addition to the missile warning network.
This period also saw the bitter ABM debate within the United States and the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks with the USSR. The initial SALT treaty of May 1972 downgraded the ABM issue and thereby removed what promised to be a whole new set of command and control problems.
This was a period of much debate but few concrete, lasting changes in structure. There was a refinement and elaboration of concepts and systems begun in the early 1960s. The focus was on doctrine, concepts, and reorganization rather than on the creation of new systems. There was a revival of interest in flexible response toward the end of the period, which led to a reexamination of the same command and control issues that were confronted in the early 1960s. With the subsequent growth of Soviet capabilities, however, the ambiguities in the concept were even more apparent than before.
B. OVERVIEW OF STRATEGIC COMMAND AND CONTROL
Perhaps the dominant impression derived from the account of these years is that of the persistence of most of the major problems of command and control and warning. Several particularly significant threads can be followed through the entire period. One is the survivability and availability of presidential authority. Another is the availability of adequate, survivable command posts for the National Command Authorities and the SlOP-committed unified commanders. A third is the availability of reliable communications from the NCA to the SIOP-committed forces.
While the problem of ensuring the survival of decisionmakers did not become crucial until the Soviet missile threat developed, concern over their survivability began at the outset of the nuclear age and was mirrored in command and control actions, especially after 1950. The difficulty of assuring the survival of commanders, military or civilian, under conditions of surprise attack led first to the development of hardened underground command posts, but the growing power of weapons and the consequent reduction, in warning time led eventually to emphasis on mobile and redundant command posts. Even these, however, could not provide assurance that the National Command Authorities would survive or that the command post system would be able to function under nuclear attack.
Continuing concern over the reliability of command and control communications, the third thread, stemmed not only from Soviet attack capabilities but also from a series of unsettling physical phenomena that have been discovered across the years. In the early days of SAC operations in the northern regions, communications were seriously degraded by the auroral absorption zone. Later came recognition of the communication problems associated with fallout, blackout, dust, pindown, electromagnetic pulse (EMP), and TREES (transient radiation effects on electronic systems). Submarine communications raised special problems of reliability. Under conditions of nuclear attack, communications reliability remains uncertain.
Another constant thread, one related directly to the survivability of presidential authority, was the determination of the President to retain sole decision-making authority over the employment of nuclear weapons. This was reflected in the reluctance of chief executives to grant predelegated authority to use nuclear weapons. The development of permissive action links to prevent unauthorized arming of nuclear weapons also reflected this civilian concern.
There was also a steadily increasing centralization and simplification of the command structure. While traditionally command and control systems had been developed, owned, and operated by the individual services, JCS and OSD control was gradually asserted over all elements relating to strategic nuclear operations.
Concern over the timing of nuclear operations was yet another thread. This derived from the fact that US strategy was always predicated upon the assumption of a first-strike against the United States by the Soviets. In the early period, everything was geared to the sole function of launching the retaliatory strike as quickly as possible. This concern led to the airborne alert concept, military custody of nuclear weapons, dedicated communications systems, a preplanned SIOP, and emphasis on warning and rapid decisionmaking and supporting command and control arrangements. SAC was in a constant battle with time. With the coming of the missile and improved communications, a very rapid response seemed possible, but at the same time it was rendered problematical by the fact that the survival of the National Command Authorities, command centers, and communications under an enemy first-strike became less assured. The appearance of the flexible response concept in the early 1960s was a reversal of the long-term trend; contrary to the concept of immediate response, it made a virtue of a cautious reaction to an attack until its full nature could be assessed and an appropriate response selected. Efforts were then focused on ways to buy time for the decisionmakers.
The development of US strategic command and control and warning has been shaped by numerous influences and pressures. The major internal influence on the evolution of command and control has been, of course, its raison d'etre, namely, the need to control and coordinate US strategic forces. This fundamental requirement existed irrespective of the size and nature of the Soviet threat, although it clearly changed as the threat changed. In the early period, there were a number of internal influences that have since faded away or become secondary. Originally, the very newness of everything related to atomic weapons and the effort to create a military capability to use them dominated the scene. Disputes over roles and missions, service differences over national strategy and doctrine, civilian custody of nuclear weapons, problems of coordination of atomic operations, and controversies over resource allocation between strategic offensive and defensive-warning forces were all major issues at one time, but they no longer influence the development of command and control.
Other influences have played a role across the years, particularly the abstract nature of strategic nuclear war planning and the lack of any experience by which to judge its validity. This characteristic no doubt accounts in good part for what, over the long term, has been a generally low level • of interest on the part of senior political authorities in strategic command and control. It is true that interest was cyclical, but national authorities tended to direct their concern toward strategic command and control only in response to • some Soviet move or strategic development.
There was, too, a sense of frustration deriving from the apparent intractability of strategic command and control problems. Added to this was the continuing struggle with tech- • nology and costs. The nature of the problems involved in strategic command and control and warning was such that technology was often pressed to its outer limits. This problem was compounded by advances in technology that often made for rapid • obsolescence of systems. Sometimes, because of long lead times, systems were obsolescent before they reached operational status. Finally, successful systems often provided little improvement in capabilities for their cost; marginal improve- • ments seemed to be all that was feasible. Thus invariably the question would arise as to whether such improvements were worth the costs; no matter how much money was spent on command and control and warning, the capability to carry out the functions • of command and control after a nuclear attack never seemed to become any more certain.
The impact of the "technological imperative" on the development of command and control and warning is clear but un- • measurable. Certainly it led to more rapid obsolescence of systems than might otherwise have been the case. Then, too, Individual service interests heavily influenced the direction of command and control, especially in the early period. * Finally, domestic political and economic considerations also carried an unmeasurable degree of weight in the choice of systems.
The impact of Soviet actions on the development of command and control is similarly clear but hard to measure. However, the applicability of the concept of "action-reaction" between US and Soviet command and control systems is problematical. At any given point in time, it is probably not possible to judge whether internal or external influences were more compelling. Certainly both were constantly operative and interacting. While the overall US nuclear superiority until the mid-1960s seemed to provide a cushion of time for improvements, there were periods of heightened concern over an increase in Soviet capabilities and their implications for US command and control. This was the clearest evidence of action-reaction with the USSR. In the matter of warning, of course, the entire development was a reaction to the anticipated evolution of Soviet offensive capabilities.
Initially, the development of the cold war and the recognition of an historically unprecedented threat to the nation influenced thinking and planning. Soviet nuclear breakthroughs or actions, like the first Soviet atomic explosion in 1949, the thermonuclear bomb and the ICBM in the 1950s, and the drive for parity or superiority in the late 1960s and early 1970s, provoked high-level interest in strategic command and control and warning. Increasing Soviet capabilities to damage the United States led to heightened interest in protecting the command and control structure. When a situation of mutual assured destruction was fully recognized, US interest arose in ways to preserve the respective command structures as a means of controlling a nuclear war.
Certainly in the early period, if command and control is construed broadly, as it is in this study, the whole process can be viewed as a US reaction to Soviet actions, actual or anticipated. The very slow growth of atomic forces in the first three years reflected the slow development of the cold war and US concern over it. Only after the Czech and Berlin crises of 1948 did the process accelerate and then move into high gear after the first Soviet atomic explosion and the Korean war. The appearance of a potential Soviet nuclear threat to the United States clearly galvanized US efforts more than the existing Soviet conventional threat to Western Europe. The rapid increase in atomic offensive forces to reinforce the US deterrent and the reluctant but eventual major effort to create a vast warning system were the results.
In the 1954-60 period, the rising US concern with survival of the command structure reflected the growing Soviet aerodynamic threat in the middle of the period and the missile threat at the end. Throughout those years, the concern with the speed of reaction by US retaliatory forces was prompted by fear of a surprise attack. In the years after 1960, developments in command and control and warning were impelled both by the growing size and sophistication of the Soviet threat and by the need to manipulate the various elements of the US strategic triad, as well as to fine tune the entire US response, in order to achieve a goal of a multiple-option, flexible-response capability.