How Much Is Enough:

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Alain C. Enthovan & K. Wayne Smith. How Much Is Enough: Shaping the Defense Program 1961-1969. New York: Harper & Row, 1971. reprinted 2005 by The RAND Corporation. 337p. $27.95


When Robert McNamara became Secretary of Defense in 1961 his greatest task was to actually take control of his department. For the past twelve years Secretaries of Defense functioned as referees settling disputes between the three military services but doing little to guide defense policy. One of McNamara’s first actions to take control was to create the office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for System Analysis. This new organization provided the Secretary of Defense with independent analysis of defense programs so that real options could be considered when making decisions. Alain Enthoven was the first Assistant Secretary and served in that capacity through the Kennedy, Johnson, and first year of the Nixon administrations, K. Wayne Smith the Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary. This book written shortly after they left office describes how the programs they introduced changed the way the Pentagon did business and in the process strengthened the office Secretary of Defense so that it could lead and control defense policy.

The most significant problem facing the new administration in 1961 according to the authors was the separation between determining strategy, a task performed by the uniformed members of the military, and budgeting, a task performed by the civilians in the controller’s offices. Prior to 1961 the President and Congress developed the Defense Department budget by first paying for everything else the government needed and then giving what was left over to the Secretary of Defense. Within the Defense Department the budget was allocated among the services according to a quota that was established shortly after World War II. Once a service got its share of the money the Secretary of Defense had little say over how it was spent. One example of this was in 1958 when the Senate Armed Services Committee ordering Secretary McElroy to eliminate one of two air defense missile systems, the Army’s Nike-Hercules or the Air Force’s BOMARC. In 1959 McElroy requested that to Congress continue to “hold his feet to the fire” until he could get the services to agree on which program to cut.

McNamara’s Assistant Secretary of Defense for System Analysis built a set of business processes that transferred control over the Defense Department budget from the services to the Secretary of Defense. A good part of this book is spent explaining these processes and providing examples of how they were used to decide issues facing the Defense Department during the decade of the 60s. The two major areas discussed were how systems analysis play in the shaping of our nuclear strategy and the level of commitment to NATO. The nuclear debate centered on what type of weapons specifically single large yield warheads vs. multiple small warheads and how many would be required to achieve our stated strategic goals. The NATO issue began as a perceived manpower imbalance between western and Soviet bloc forces that seemed to required NATO to resort to tactical nuclear weapons during the first hours of a war, the “surrender-or-suicide” scenario. In both instances the application of systems analysis resulted in outcomes significantly different from those initially proposed by the uniformed military.

This is the on going tension presented in the book. What role should independent civilian analysts play in making defense decisions? The authors’ take the point of view that the Office for System Analysis only provided a option to the ultimate decision makers, the Secretary of Defense and the President. The military services were never prevented from providing other options. The systems analysts usually prevailed because they could show theirs was the most affordable option.

This book is very dense from a policy and procedures point. But it is worth the effort because the policies and procedures have remained in effect in the Department of Defense largely unchanged since they were implemented in 1961. The position of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Systems Analysis has been eliminated but the Director of the Office of Program Analysis & Evaluation working for the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) and performs the type of same independent analyses for the Secretary of Defense. This makes what the authors significant did. It is another legacy of the Kennedy-Johnson era.


--Ray Clark 08:07, 22 Mar 2006 (EST)

Drs. Enthovan and Smith wrote this book to explain the programs they help bring about in the McNamara Defense Department. In that they succeed. However, this book is a more a description of a policy than a history of how that policy was developed and implemented. The most striking and disappointing aspect of this book is that there are no people in it. Names are occasionally mentioned but lack any type of description or background information. Robert McNamara is the looming presence behind the policies under discussion but no information is given about the man other than his name and that he was the Secretary of Defense. The authors do the same with every other individual named whether they supported the changes being made such as Senator Jackson or in opposition like General LeMay.

Another shortfall is the way the authors side step around the Vietnam War. This is the other 800-pound gorilla in the room but somehow they try to ignore it for most of the book. The reason they give is that the systems analysis office had little to do with determining policy so they did not participate in any of the decisions to advisors to Vietnam early in the decade or to expand our involvement from advising to direct combat. They also claim that the systems analysis office did not develop operational or tactical policy for the conduct of the war. When they finally get around to discussing the war it how systems analysis was used to manage the manpower buildup to support the war and direct resources needed to supply combat forces.

While this claim by the authors may be true the systems analysis culture that had begun to spread through the pentagon by the mid-1960s did effect how the war was fought. One key component of a systems analysis approach was metrics, measuring success or failure by some sort of numerical value. One of the regular items of information collected by the military command in Vietnam was the daily body count. This was a systems analysis metric. The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Systems Analysis probably did not direct the collection of this metric but someone influenced by the culture of that office did. This effect needed to be discussed by the authors especially if they would happen to consider this a misuse of their techniques.

For the most part the policy discussions were informative. The authors did demonstrate why independent analysis of defense matters is necessary and why the military is unable to perform such an analysis. The authors do stress that the military lacks the ability not the desire to perform the type of study of the problems discussed. The authors demonstrate that while most of the time while their solution was different than the military’s, it was because they could think about things in a way the military could not.

This is not the best book for the historian looking for study of how Secretary McNamara changed the Defense Department. I’m still looking for that book. But this should be the next book that historian reads because it has the detail on the specific policies that made the change happen.

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