“Who Ever Believed in the ‘Missile Gap’?”: John F. Kennedy and the Politics of National Security


Christopher A. Preble is director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute in Washington, DC. Drawing on research from his dissertation, he is completing work on John F. Kennedy and the Missile Gap, a book discussing the political and economic roots of the missile gap controversy of the late 1950s and early 1960s.


This article examines John F. Kennedy's references to the missile gap—a presumed strategic disparity between the Soviet Union and the United States believed to have been created by the USSR's technological achievements in the late 1950s. Kennedy's missile gap rhetoric was grounded in a political, economic, and military/strategic critique of the policies of the Eisenhower administration. This article examines Kennedy's belief in the missile gap, reveals the central role played by Joseph Alsop in propagating the missile gap myth, and considers the missile gap within the context of the Kennedy administration's national security policies.