But it was his series of four-hour presentations to military and civilian officials at the dawn of the Kennedy administration, complete with 54 charts, that made him one of the most influential figures on the use of nuclear weapons.
Before John F. Kennedy took office, the policy of the United States called for a complete and overwhelming nuclear response to any direct conflict with Soviet troops. The United States would immediately launch all of its 3,423 nuclear missiles; every major city and military facility in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and China would be targets. Such a retaliation would kill 285 million people, studies estimated.
Secretary of State John Foster Dulles publicly described the approach as "massive retaliation" in 1954.
Dr. Kaufmann and many of his colleagues at the Rand Corporation think tank privately described the approach as insane, and possibly suicidal. "You're just signing your death warrant," Dr. Kaufmann later observed, "if you go through with this tremendous spasm attack."
William Kaufmann, 90; MIT political scientist reshaped Kennedy's defense strategy - The Boston Globe