202. Memorandum From the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (Foster) to President Kennedy0


  • U.S. Program Regarding a Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapon Tests and Other Disarmament Proposals

The Committee of Principals met on July 26, 1962 to consider issues which are outstanding in the disarmament negotiations now going on in Geneva.1 At that meeting, we considered alternative lines of approach with respect to negotiations for a ban on nuclear weapons tests. These lines of approach are based on a combination of technical and political developments which are described in the attached memorandum.2

There are two proposed alternatives which are described below. The members of the Committee of Principals are prepared to discuss the issues with you tomorrow to help you in making your determination as to which is most in the national interest.

Alternative One. The United States should simultaneously pursue the following five courses:
Atmospheric test ban. The United States should table an atmospheric-outerspace-underwater test-ban treaty.
Comprehensive test ban. With respect to a comprehensive treaty, we should not table one now.3 We should declare a willingness to accept a comprehensive test-ban treaty involving no foreign-operated control posts on Soviet soil and involving fewer than 20 on-site inspections (but we should state that we see no point in suggesting or debating details or numbers until the Soviet Union agrees to at least some on-site inspections).4 We should at the same time provide the Conference with as much recent data as we can relating to detection, location and identification capabilities of internationally coordinated “national” systems. We should express our willingness to negotiate in any of these areas even though the Soviet Union commences an atmospheric test series.
No-transfer agreement. The United States should press for a world-wide agreement banning the transfer or acquisition of nuclear weapons or nuclear technology. This course of action would be related practically, but not organically to the other courses of action.
Underground testing. We should continue our underground testing program.5
Readiness to test in the atmosphere. We should, to the extent feasible, maintain readiness to test in the atmosphere.6
Alternative Two. The United States should pursue the following courses in the order indicated:
Tabling of data. The United States should provide the Conference with the recent data relating to detection, location and identification capabilities.
Comprehensive test ban. We should propose a comprehensive test-ban treaty involving the following changes:
The total number of control posts in the USSR to be reduced from 19 to perhaps 5.
The control posts to be operated by nationals of the country where they are located but standardized and coordinated by an international organization. There would also be permanent international observers at these posts or periodic visits to them by such observers.
The number of on-site inspections in the Soviet Union to be reduced from the present range of 12 to 20 to a flat figure which might be less than the present minimum of 12.
Atmospheric test ban. We should be prepared to fall back to an atmospheric-outerspace-underwater test-ban treaty in the event that the Soviet Union is unwilling to agree to on-site inspections.

In discussing the problem of nuclear testing, the Committee of Principals agreed that two concurrent studies should be undertaken on an urgent basis: an assessment of the risks to U.S. security under the alternative types of test bans, and an assessment of the risks to U.S. security that would result from the indefinite continuation of testing of nuclear weapons by the U.S., the Soviet Union, and other countries.

In addition to considering questions related to cessation of nuclear weapon testing, the Committee of Principals also considered and recommends for your approval the following positions related to general disarmament negotiations:

Stage I production. The Committee of Principals proposes that production of armaments during Stage I should be limited to replacement and repair of existing armaments. Replacement would be “in kind.” The amount of production would be reduced at least as much as the reduction of armaments. Production of new types of weapons, of prototypes, and of new armament production facilities would be prohibited.

Bases. The Committee of Principals also proposes that the United States should state at the Geneva Conference that it would be willing to discuss the possibility of a Stage I reduction of military bases but that any such discussion should take place only after substantial progress has been made toward reaching agreement on the central problems of reducing armaments and armed forces and on verification and other measures providing necessary safeguards in a disarming world.

William C. Foster
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Departments and Agencies Series, ACDA, Disarmament, General, 7/27/62. Confidential. Attached to the source text is a note from McGeorge Bundy to the President that reads: “Here is a basic paper for tomorrow’s testing-disarmament meeting—set for 10:15 AM. It puts the main issues clearly. The positions relating to the general disarmament treaty are easy—and unanimously agreed. The testing scenario is the hard one. My belief is that you will want to listen hard, and not decide, tomorrow morning.”
  2. See Document 201.
  3. Entitled “U.S. Program Regarding a Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons Tests,” dated July 26, not printed.
  4. This sentence has been crossed out in the source text, presumably by the President. It is also crossed out by McGeorge Bundy on a carbon copy attached to the source text.
  5. This sentence contains the following markings presumably in the President’s hand: “foreign operated” has been crossed out, and inserted in the margin are the words, “internationally monitored nation’l control posts”; “fewer than 20 on-site” has been deleted, and inserted by hand in the margin is “possible reduction in on site”; and from the word “but” to the end of the sentence has been placed in brackets. The first change is the same on Bundy’s carbon copy; the second is the same except Bundy has not crossed out “on site” and has written in “a possible reduction in”. Instead of brackets for the last clause in this sentence, Bundy has written in the margin: “reserved for discussion with Dean”.
  6. McGeorge Bundy wrote in the margin on the carbon copy: “no public announcement”.
  7. Next to this paragraph on the carbon copy, Bundy wrote: “prepared to”.