72A. Memorandum for the Record Prepared by McCone, December 211
This memorandum will expand numbered paragraph 5 of Dr. Scoville’s memorandum of December 19, 1961, reporting on the State Department meeting.
(1) Mr. McCone requested permission of Rusk that he be permitted to express his views on the question of resumption of nuclear testing, indicating that in doing so he, McCone, was going beyond his responsibilities as DCI, but desired to make his views known because he had been associated with the problem longer than any man in the room, with the exception of Mr. Farley.
(2) Mr. McCone stated that he felt it was of paramount importance to the United States that we maintain our nuclear superiority; it was not advisable, in McCone’s opinion, to exchange moral leadership for proper security forces and in this modern day this meant, among other things, nuclear superiority. McCone further stated that if we were to lose nuclear superiority, our loss of prestige throughout the world would be very great—far greater, in his opinion, than the losses we have suffered because of our inferior position in space.
(3) McCone then said that it was very obvious that the Soviets had made a quantum jump in nuclear technology during the period of the three year moratorium, and that the analysis of the Soviet tests indicated a weapons sophistication equal to ours in most areas and superior to ours in some. He pointed out that the United States had made some advances during the moratorium through theoretical laboratory work, but the advances were relatively minor, and this was due to many factors not the least of which was the fact that the AEC weapon laboratories turned their attention to the peaceful applications of nuclear energy, competent scientists drifted into other work, and generally the tempo of weapon development slackened.[Facsimile Page 2]
(4) McCone then stated that if we did pursue a moratorium policy for another two or three years, we would be awakened at some future time by a new series of Soviet tests which they would proceed with under some excuse or other, and that these tests would evidence a very great advance in weapon technology and a marked superiority of the Soviets over the United States in this critical field. McCone [Typeset Page 210] forecast that our laboratories would not make such advances as it was simply not in the American tradition to work hard at things unless there was a stated purpose for doing so. McCone made reference to the specific areas of advancement, 58 megaton and 25 megaton devices, the effects test, the improvement in weight yield ratio, as well as the high nuclear efficiency, all of which were indicators of the improvements made by the Soviets during the three year interregnum. McCone stated it still could not be determined whether clandestine underground testing conducted during the moratorium had assisted the Soviet laboratories in making their advances because no scientific means of detection were in existence during the three year period, or are in existence at the present time. With respect to pursuing our developments in the underground, McCone stated that while such a course was possible, recent shots had indicated greater difficulty with underground testing than had been expected, and moreover, he questioned whether we could confine ourselves to such a slow and costly program with our principal adversary free to test in the atmosphere.
(5) It is for all these reasons that McCone concluded that we must proceed with atmospheric testing, accept the political and propaganda consequences, but maintain nuclear superiority.
- DCI McCone views on resumption of nuclear testing. Supplementing meeting notes of Annex A. Secret. 8pp. CIA Files, McCone Files, Memos for the Record, 11/29/61–4/5/62, Box 2, Folder 1.↩