|Quoting Blackbird (Reply 94):|
I'm wondering what you mean in regard to the statement of the XB-70 being all or nothing in regards of missiles or bombers. Why couldn't both be persued?
I hope you have a bit of time:
The answer to that question can be found in the political arena of those days for reasons i will explain later because what happened in the years before played a fundamental role as to why both could, but in that period, were not persued.
"All or nothing" was the way McNamara had approached matters with other contemporary projects as well, not based on knowledge about those systems but on his pragmatic approach to just about everything he dealt with. If it was not of his liking, the feeling was that he considered it "nothing." Why he took that stance about the B-70 will become clear later.
Many who knew him considered McNamara as an icy new defence intellectual, upholding the administrative emblem of Kennedy's "New Frontier." Especially the chief of staff, General Curtiss LeMay, who was a WW2 veteran with first hand air combat experience and had lead the Air Force / SAC
ever since (and their bomber acquisitions), stood at the other end of the spectrum relative to the Secretary of Defence. McNamara had ICBMs on top of his list, LeMay had ICBMs at the bottom of his (for the same reasons the B-1 and B-2 were later built). In LeMay's analogy, "McNamara was a reckless amateur who ran the DoD like a hospital administrator who tried to practice brain surgery." But McNamara's decision making had more to it than this, please read on below.
|Quoting Blackbird (Reply 94):|
Additionally, McNamara, according to what you said took a look at the plane and left. You said it was because he liked charts and stuff. Why couldn't NAA make charts showing the data on the plane for him? Wouldn't that have been possible?
They did, but again for reasons that will become clear later on. McNamara visited NAA with his mind already made up, period. NAA fell victim to politics. Whether for public works or military contracts, dividing the spoils is an age-old custom, and it has flourished in the US and many other countries over centuries. What was different in the aerospace age was not the existence of the political "pork barrel" itself, but its new size and permanence. Now that stakes in profits and jobs were far higher than those of any government program in history, dividing the spoils ensured that the game of politics would be played on a grand scale. Parochial political interests could determine the direction of strategy and the fate of giant companies.
As an example of this, the fate of the B-70 was determined, not by common sense or intrinsic knowledge of its capabilities, but by political "pork barrelling." President Eisenhower prior to the 1960 presidential elections had refused B-70 funding because of the promising ICBM "push button" future. This was a period remembered as the politics of fear. The Soviets, as people were lead to believe, were building their ICBM arsenal so fast that a missile gap in the Soviets favor soon existed. This information, according to the Air Force claim (who did so for more weapon procurement reasons), was gathered using U2
over-flights of the Soviet Union. The focus should be on building as many ICBMs as possible as soon as possible for the lowest possible price. The bomber was obsolete, ICBMs should do the job instead and funds were with-held from the B-70 program.
As the 1960 presidential elections came closer, JFK
in his election campaign endorsed the B-70. Teamed up with LBJ as vice-president candidate, both men fully embraced the defence rhetoric of the Democratic platform: "The Communists will have a dangerous lead in ICBMs through 1963, that the Republican administration has no plans to catch up. Our military position today is measured in terms of gaps - missile gap, space gap, limited war-gap."
During the campaign, JFK
repeatedly endorsed the B-70, attacking the Eisenhower administration for abandoning it. He told an audience in San Diego, "I whole-heartedly endorse the B-70 manned aircraft." A comment aimed at tens of thousands of southern California aerospace workers worried about their jobs.
Eisenhower, who was convinced that the missile gap, as claimed by the Air Force, was exaggerated, never shared the secret intelligence information to set them straight. He complained the Democratic candidates were "screaming murder" and were getting away with it. He suddenly authorized an additional $500 million in defence spending which he had refused for years, to help the Nixon campaign, the republican presidential candidate running against JFK
. The election came down to the wire, the election was too close to call. California was a key to the election, and during their swings through the state both Nixon and Kennedy pledged to revive the B-70, a major source of defence jobs in the LA
area. Nixon needed a boost in California, Eisenhower gave him one. In a political move, the DoD announced that $155 million in additional funds would go to a "substantially augmented development program" for the B-70. Nixon carried California on November 8, 1960, but JFK
won the elections, by only 18,575 more votes than Nixon.
as the new president he called for a bold new American defense and foreign policy:
"We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty."
at his word, McNamara went directly from the inaugural ceremony to the Pentagon, where he began scrutinizing top-secret photographs. Photos of the Soviet union taken by the first US spy satellite and U2
spy planes. He came to a startling conclusion. The "missile gap" that JFK
had described did
exist. But it was the Soviet Union, not
the US that lagged behind. The photos turned up just four SS
-7 ICBMs, plus a few more under construction. McNamara disclosed his findings to Pentagon reporters who went public.
Kennedy felt deeply embarrassed, making his campaign look dishonest, when JFK
had in good faith believed in the missile gap. The secretary of defence offered his resignation which Kennedy refused. McNamara agreed, however, to a deception. Henceforth, the administration would publicly deny what McNamara had just learned about the relative US-Soviet missile strength. Continuing the fiction of the missile gap provided a vital rationale for JFK
and McNamara as the self-confident young leaders of the "New Frontier" implemented a radical change in American defense policy.
Kennedy tripled the budget for Polaris subs and ICBM development and on McNamara's advice backed away from his campaign pledge to build the B-70, returning to Eisenhower's order to fund the project only as an experiment.
That decision essentially sealed the fate of the B-70 program. No matter how hard LeMay fought for the aircraft to succeed. This B-70 episode completely poisoned the relationship between McNamara and the Air Force. McNamara ordered LeMay not to defend the B-70 in congress. When members of Congress protested, McNamara insisted he was not trying to muzzle the general, only to prevent him from presenting "misstatements of facts." In reality, McNamara was trying to enforce the administration's B-70 decision, while the Air Force worked with friends in Congress to overturn it.
Here Carl Vinson came to the Air Force assistance as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. On March 1, 1962, the Armed services Committee unanimously authorized $491 million to proceed with development and eventual production of the B-70. The committee went beyond simply authorizing the DoD to spend the money, it ORDERED AND
DIRECTED the executive branch to build the B-70. Basically, Vinson had issued a constitutional challenge!
McNamara was ready for a head-on confrontation, but Kennedy's legislative aides warned that he would lose on the House floor. On the eve of the crucial House vote, Kennedy and Vinson settled their differences in what became known as "the Rose Garden agreement." Vinson agreed to withdraw his constitutional challenge and Kennedy promised to restudy the B-70 issue, thus effectively killing it. For two more years, Congress voted funds for the B-70 by overwhelming margins (the Senate vote in 1962 was 99 to 1), but Kennedy and McNamara again refused to spend it.
Now you know why NAA, even if they showed their charts with credible figures, meant nothing to McNamara, why he took a short walk around the aircraft and drove off.
Here is a graph with the erratic political decision making history of the B-70: