Cover image for Report to JFK : the Skybolt crisis in perspective
Report to JFK : the Skybolt crisis in perspective
Neustadt, Richard E.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
177 pages ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1100 Lexile.
Format :


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E183.8.G7 N474 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In March 1963, President Kennedy asked Richard E. Neustadt to investigate a troubling episode in U.S.-British relations. His confidential report--intended for a single reader, JFK himself, and classified for thirty years--is reproduced in its entirety here.

The Anglo-American crisis arose out of a massive misunderstanding between the two governments. The British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, had been operating on the assumption that Washington would proceed with, and sell for British use, an airborne missile system named Skybolt. In its defense planning, the United Kingdom relied on Skybolt to sustain its nuclear deterrent. The Americans, however, decided to cancel the program. This decision rocked the British government and seriously strained Anglo-American relations.

Upon reading Neustadt's report, Kennedy passed it to his wife, Jacqueline, remarking, "If you want to know what my life is like, read this." She had it with her in Texas five days later, when he was killed. Today the document remains fascinating for the insight it provides into American-style foreign policymaking. This volume adds to the report Kennedy's comments, a glossary, a cast of characters, and new information gleaned from recently declassified British files.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Neustadt (emeritus, Harvard) has written a fascinating book for students of the presidency, national security, and bureaucratic politics. Based on a recently declassified memo the author prepared for the Kennedy administration in 1963, the book examines the 1962 Skybolt crisis between Britain and the US. The US had been planning to share Skybolt, a new air-to-surface missile program, with the British as a method of updating British nuclear forces. Ultimately, however, the US canceled the program, straining the US-British alliance and leaving the British searching for other options. The book includes the original memo of 1963, reflections based on recently declassified British sources, and a comparative study of the British and American governmental processes during the 1960s and 1990s. Neustadt's initial memo to Kennedy drew lessons from the misunderstanding between the two governments, lessons relating to bureaucratic politics, miscommunication between governments, and alliance politics. In particular, Neustadt highlights the problems officials had in communicating their security preferences across the Atlantic and up and down the hierarchical levels within the US government, as well as the importance of domestic politics in alliance relations. Useful for students at all levels and for governmental officials. W. W. Newmann; Virginia Commonwealth University

Table of Contents

1 Introductionp. 1
I Introductionp. 25
II Budgetary Preludep. 27
III October Interludep. 31
IV Washington Warns Londonp. 36
V State Instructs Defensep. 41
VI Thorneycroft Keeps Quietp. 48
VII Macmillan Waitsp. 55
VIII December Interludep. 61
IX Mcnamara Meets Thorneycroftp. 69
X Flap in the Banksp. 76
XI Macmillan Meets de Gaullep. 83
XII Kennedy Meets Macmillanp. 88
XIII Post-Nassau Planningp. 98
XIV Conclusionp. 108
3 British Refinementsp. 122
4 White House and Whitehall (1964)p. 139
5 Later Reflectionsp. 155
Acknowledgmentsp. 165
Notesp. 167
Indexp. 171