PPS Files, Lot 64 d 563

Memorandum by the Central Intelligence Agency

top secret


Special Estimate 1

Intelligence Implications of a Census and Verification of Armed Forces and Armaments

the problem

To analyze, from the intelligence point of view, the implications of a census and verification of armed forces and armaments (including atomic).


That a continuing census and verification of all armed forces* and armaments, including atomic weapons, of the US and the USSR is to be undertaken on a phased basis as the first step of an agreed international system for control, regulation, and limitation of armed forces and armaments, including atomic energy activities.


We are convinced that the USSR would enter into any agreement of census and verification in bad faith and would carry it out in bad faith.
Since the USSR has far more information on the US than viceversa, it is probable that a census and verification could be so devised that in the initial phases the US would secure more valuable information than would the Soviet Union. This would require that the USSR be prevented from securing in those initial phases information intended to be withheld until a later phase, or not to be disclosed at all.
Beyond the initial stages, phasing of such a census and verification will become increasingly difficult and there will be a correspondingly greater danger that the USSR would secure information of relatively greater value than would the US.
Adoption of the following principles in the phasing of census and verification would aid in protecting US interests:
In the earlier phases, only the least sensitive information should be released.
Sensitive aspects of research and development in all fields, manufacturing processes and details of new weapons (the measure of US technological superiority) should be excluded altogether.
The freedom of movement and access of inspection teams should in general be carefully limited to quantitative verification of numbers, types, sizes, etc., although within these limits inspection should be as full and free as possible. Detailed inspection of technical specifications, performance data, etc., should be avoided. Although this limitation on the freedom of inspection would reduce the amount of intelligence the US would acquire, it would be necessary in order to guard against exposure of the highly sensitive information excluded from the census and against premature disclosure in an earlier phase of information reserved for a later phase.
Each phase, and within it each step in the inspection process, should be carried out simultaneously in the US and USSR.
It is certain that the USSR would attempt to exploit any system of census and verification to its advantage and there is grave danger that the USSR might succeed in so exploiting it. Although a system based on the principles enumerated in 4 above would in the initial phases theoretically secure for the US more information on the USSR than vice-versa, and aid in protecting the technological superiority of the US, we believe that these results would be extremely difficult to achieve in practice. It would be particularly difficult to implement the system in detail in such a way as to prevent the USSR from securing in an earlier phase information which was to be withheld until a later phase, or not disclosed at all. An analysis of these difficulties, as well as the possibilities of surmounting them, will require careful and extensive study by operating as well as intelligence agencies of this government.

[Here follows discussion of the problem.]

  1. For information on the Special Estimate series of intelligence reports, see footnote 3, p. 193.
  2. Including para-military, internal security, and police forces. [Footnote in the source text.]