October 15, 2017

1967. The Pentagon Presents the Annual "Military Posture" Report

Defense Secretary McNamara Testifies Before the Senate
At a press conference in Washington, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara displays a Chinese-made machine gun seized from the Viet Cong in South Vietnam, April 26, 1965 (source)
Bill Downs

ABC Washington

February 24, 1967

Just about everyone in the country would agree, we think that it's Washington—not Chicago—which should be called the Windy City. And if there is any question that the mass production of words is the main manufacture of this city, then let the doubter try to lift only three months of Congressional Records during a normal session on Capitol Hill.

Which brings us to one of the most inclusive and important government documents published here in Washington at about this time every year. It's put out by the Pentagon and signed by the Secretary of Defense, and unofficially it's called the "military posture" report. This year the report is more than two hundred pages containing some 390,000 words—or about the length of three average-sized novels.

Defense Secretary McNamara presented it to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week, thus making public a global survey of America's estimate of the military and diplomatic state of the world and the probability of preserving the present piecemeal peace—and preventing a nuclear World War III.

Of course, we Pentagon reporters are allowed to see only the so-called "sanitized version" of the secretary's military posture survey. All military and diplomatic secrets are carefully screened out.

But each year the Pentagon makes public for all the world to see the best military, economic, political, and diplomatic estimates the US government can make of the state of American military power as compared with the actual potential threats to our national security around the world.

The McNamara report includes a frank discussion of the "strengths and weaknesses" among the Communist nations, and goes on to assess the condition of peace, or lack of it, in every other section of the globe. There's also a full review of the current condition of the US Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, plus the Pentagon plans for strengthening and improving them over the next five years.

Secretary McNamara calls it a "unique document" and unprecedented in the history of nations. Certainly the annual military posture survey is most eagerly sought after—by the military and political columnists who will feed off it for the next twelve months, by the members of Congress both favoring and critical of the Johnson Administration, and both by our friends as well as our enemies overseas who constantly assess the tremendous military power of the United States.

However, the true value and real measure of this carefully qualified exposure of America's defensive and offensive strength lies in the fact that such a report is published at all.

In these days of public debate over America's policies in Vietnam and charges of military and administrative penury, the military posture report, even the sanitized version, is not a statement from a weak, confused, or fearful government or its people.

Personally, we hope Secretary McNamara sends separate copies, airmail special delivery, to Moscow, Havana, Peking, and Hanoi.

This is Bill Downs for ABC News in Washington.