Key West Agreement

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The 1948 Key West Agreement set out roles and missions for U.S. military forces. Agreed-to under the authority of Secretary of Defense James Forrestal, the most intense controversies involving the newly independent United States Air Force.[1] The Air Force did not want the U.S. Army having its own close air support aircraft, and also wanted primacy for strategic nuclear warfare (see Single Integrated Operational Plan).

The Navy received authorization "to conduct air operations as necessary for the accomplishment of objectives in a naval campaign," and the Air Force retained responsibility for strategic air warfare. The Key West document remained in force until the Eisenhower administration issued a revised version in 1954.

Navy and Air Force leaders continued to disagree over the issue of delivery of atomic weapons. Forrestal discussed this and other matters with the service secretaries and the JCS at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, on 20-22 August 1948. The conferees decided that the Air Force would have interim operational control of atomic weapons, but that "each service, in the fields of its primary missions, must have exclusive responsibility for planning and programming and the necessary authority." For the Air Force-Navy dispute over atomic weapons, the Newport agreement meant that the Air Force should plan their attacks assuming there would be Navy cooperation. For example, if carrier-based aircraft would be close to a coastal air defense radar, the Navy should attack it to open a corridor through which longer-range Air Force bombers could penetrate.

In recent years, while there is still a degree of rivalry among the services, there is also cooperation undreamed-of at Key West and Newport. For example, when a specific combat situation needed a secure helicopter base, from which Army attack helicopters with capabilities to which the 1948 Air Force would have objected, the Navy temporarily removed most aircraft from a full-sized aircraft carrier and made it available as the Army base. The Army has changed its helicopter weapons to be compatible with Navy standards for Hazard from Electromagnetic Radiation to Ordnance. Air Force reconnaissance aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles found targets for the helicopters.