122. Memorandum From the Deputy Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (Fisher) to the Committee of Principals’ Deputies1


  • Chemical and Biological Warfare Policy (U)

Since November 1963, in compliance with a request of the Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, this Agency has been conducting studies on the arms control and disarmament aspects of chemical and biological warfare. Concurrently, in response to the same directive the Departments of State and Defense have been conducting studies concerning those areas relating to CB weapons where they have prime responsibility and interest. The ultimate objective of these related studies is to formulate an agreed inter-agency statement of policy which could be developed into national policy guidance.

The attached paper, titled “Chemical and Biological Warfare Policy”, which is forwarded for your consideration and comment, represents the tentative conclusions of this Agency on policies which the U.S. should adopt with respect to these weapons. It reflects the hypothesis that the spread of lethal chemical and biological weapons to states which do not now possess them is, prima facie, not in the national interest. Part III, titled “Basic Elements of Policy” proposes policies flowing from the hypothesis that are designed to minimize the risk that U.S. actions in the field of CB weapons might encourage other nations to acquire capabilities to use these potentially destabilizing weapons.

While it is believed that the suggested policies are in the national interest, there may be compelling military and political factors which militate against their adoption. It is requested, therefore, that in commenting on the attached draft, implications of the policies relating to military capabilities and international relations be emphasized. Your comments on arms control aspects would also be welcome. In light of the delay since inter-agency studies on CB weapons were inaugurated, early action on this matter would be appreciated.

Adrian S. Fisher
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I. Purpose

To propose for discussion a policy for the US to adopt with respect to chemical and biological weapons. Attention is focused on those aspects of policy which relate to arms control and disarmament.

II. Background and Scope


Since November 1963, in response to a request by the Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, this Agency has been studying the arms control aspects of CB weapons. Also in November 1963, the Department of State proposed an inter-agency review of the entire CB field, with its goal a statement of related national policy.3

Since that time, two draft policy papers on CB warfare have been prepared and circulated for informal comment, one by the Department of Defense in December 1964,4 and one by the Department of State, in May 1965.5 While each of these papers has helped to narrow down the pertinent problems which require resolution, ACDA’s concern is that neither one stresses the issue of proliferation commensurate with the evolving threat as we see it. ACDA views the spread of chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction to states not now possessing them, particularly the developing states, as not in the national interest and as a threat to world peace. Although studies made in early 1964 estimated CB proliferation not to be imminent, there have been an increasing number of signs since that time, particularly from Israel, the UAR, Iraq and Indonesia, which may indicate the beginnings of a dangerous trend.


The policies discussed in this paper are designed to minimize the risk that US actions in the field of CB weapons might encourage other [Page 374] nations to acquire capabilities to use these destabilizing weapons. They reflect, for the most part, official statements and policy decisions on such matters as use of CB weapons, sales of CB munitions to foreign nations, technical assistance and public information in the CB field, all of which have proliferation implications.

We have also suggested a definition for the term “CB Weapons of Mass Destruction”, which appears without definition in the US draft outline of a GCD treaty6 and for which an agreed definition would be necessary in the event proposals for the control of CB weapons are entertained as separable measures. It is our view that all CB weapons are not “weapons of mass destruction” as frequently categorized.

In addition, this paper suggests an approach to the difficult problem of control of CB weapons. In so doing, it recognizes that first priority must continue to be placed on the prevention of nuclear war, and that efforts to control CB weapons should not hinder or delay our efforts to halt the spread of nuclear weapons.

Our immediate objective in proposing these policies is to present the proliferation aspects of chemical and biological weapons for discussion and comment by interested agencies of the Government. Our ultimate intent is to arrive at an agreed position which can be incorporated into the national policy recommendations that will result from the current inter-agency review of the whole field of chemical and biological weapons.

A collateral, but important, objective of this paper is to be prepared for the unexpected introduction of the question of control of CB weapons at a future disarmament conference, or to take advantage of an opportune time for Western initiative.

III. Basic Elements of Policy

A. Definitions—

The term “CB Weapons of Mass Destruction” refers only to lethal chemical and biological weapons; it excludes all other CB weapons such as the non-poisonous tear gases, “CN” and “CS,” and any analogous weapons having the primary purpose of only temporary incapacitation without residual injurious effect.
Smoke, flame and incendiary agents should not be considered as CB weapons.
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B. Use—

The US should continue to adhere to its declared policy of “no-first-use” of chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, but this policy should not extend to those non-toxic CB weapons, as specifically designated by the President, which cause only temporary incapacitation without residual injurious effect.

C. Non-Proliferation—

Assistance to Others—The US should not assist any other state or groups of states to acquire CB weapons of mass destruction.
Discouraging Acquisition—The US should take no actions that would encourage any other state or group of states to acquire CB weapons of mass destruction and should, as appropriate, discourage such acquisition.
Information Exchange—While the US should continue for the pres-ent to honor its existing cooperative arrangements with the UK, Canada, Australia, and France, it should not enter into agreements with any additional states dealing with the exchange of technical data on CB weapons of mass destruction.
Public Information—The US should maintain close control of information about CB programs. CB information released to the public should be limited to that necessary to establish the distinction between lethal and non-lethal CB weapons and to justify military use of tear gas where such use is necessary for humanitarian reasons.

D. On Seeking Agreements—

Non-Proliferation—Efforts to achieve a CB non-proliferation agreement should not be sought publicly or with the USSR until after a nuclear non-proliferation agreement has been achieved. Thereupon, the US should support efforts to forestall the acquisition of CB weapons of mass destruction by additional nations and should be prepared to enter into international agreements designed to achieve that objective. In the event that a nuclear non-proliferation agreement can not be obtained, the desirability of a CB non-proliferation agreement should then be considered in the light of conditions prevailing.
CB Free Zones—The US should support the creation of CB Free Zones after the establishment of Nuclear Free Zones. When an NFZ has been established then the US should support expansion of the denuclearized zone so as to also exclude CB weapons of mass destruction from the designated zone. Should the issue of CB Free Zones be pressed before NFZ’s are established, the question of US support would be contingent on conditions then prevailing.
Ban on “First-Use”—Although the US should continue to adhere to its declared “no-first-use” policy on CB weapons of mass destruction, it should not so bind itself by international agreement, unless such action by the US would assist materially in obtaining adherence by other nations to a more comprehensive agreement, such as a CB non-proliferation agreement, which the US may wish to support.
Other Agreements—Other, more far-reaching agreements looking towards the eventual elimination of chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction from the arsenals of all nations should be sought when adequate means of verification are available to protect national security.

[Here follows Part IV, Discussion, pages 7–23.]

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 330 70 A 6648, 384 1966 Jan-. Secret. An attached April 22 memorandum from McNaughton to the Chairman of the JCS requests comments on the ACDA paper by May 20.
  2. A table of contents is not printed.
  3. Memorandum from U. Alexis Johnson to McGeorge Bundy, November 15, 1963. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, William H. Brubeck Series, Disarmament 11/63)
  4. See footnote 2, Document 76.
  5. Not further identified.
  6. The quoted phrase appears in the “Outline of Basic Provisions of a Treaty on General and Complete Disarmament in a Peaceful World,” submitted by the United States to the UN Disarmament Commission on April 29, 1965. For text, see Documents on Disarmament, 1965, pp. 115, 116.