Report to JFK: The Skybolt Crisis in Perspective

Synopsis

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.