169. Special National Intelligence Estimate1

SNIE 11–10–67

TCS 6228–67


The Problem

To estimate the capabilities of US intelligence to monitor unilaterally limitations on certain Soviet strategic capabilities over the next five years or so.


The Intelligence Community has been asked to assess its ability to monitor unilaterally limitations on the further deployment and improvement of certain Soviet strategic offensive and defensive weapon systems, and Soviet capabilities for evading the provisions of such limitations.

For the purposes of this assessment the following limitations are assumed to be included in the agreement:

ABMs and SAMs which may have a significant ABM capability. There would be a prohibition against initiation of construction of new sites, additional launchers at present sites, mobile launchers, and new associated radars. It is also assumed that the construction of additional long–range surveillance radars (Hen House, Dog House, or other comparable types) would be prohibited. Research, development, and testing would not be precluded.
Fixed, land–based strategic missiles (ICBMs, IRBMs, MRBMs). There would be a prohibition against any additional deployment, hard or soft, beyond those sites now complete or under construction. Research, development, and testing would not be precluded.
Missile–launching submarines and surface ships. There would be a prohibition against any construction of new ballistic or cruise missile submarines. Submarines now under construction could be completed. There would be a total prohibition against the construction or modification of surface ships to launch strategic missiles. Some Soviet surface [Page 537]ships are now equipped with surface–to–surface cruise missiles which could conceivably be used for strategic attack purposes; such missiles are not considered in this estimate, however.
Land–mobile ICBMs, IRBMs, MRBMs. A total prohibition would be imposed on the introduction of such systems.
Qualitative changes. With regard to qualitative changes, flight testing of MRVs, MIRVs, and certain other penetration aids would be prohibited. Except as specified in subparagraph (a) above, no limit would be placed on other changes in missile characteristics.

Two general supporting provisions will also be considered for inclusion in any broad agreement:

A general provision against radically new types of strategic systems. The effort here would be to rule out unusual possibilities not foreseen and discussed during the negotiations. Such possibilities would not be enumerated, but the provision would reflect the intention of both countries to avoid steps which could damage the basic agreement.
Exchange of information on strategic forces. From our own standpoint, we could not rely on such information, but it could be of some assistance. The stated purpose would be to preclude the chance that the agreement might be violated through misunderstanding.

In our assessment, we do not consider the effect which such an agreement would have on specific US collection requirements and mechanisms; nor do we estimate the likelihood that the Soviets will develop or deploy any of the weapon systems under consideration.


In the continued absence of a large–scale Soviet program of deception and concealment we believe that we would almost certainly detect any extensive new deployment in strategic forces, although the Soviets could probably effect small–scale increases without our knowledge. The timing of detection and identification would vary with the nature and size of the program. We probably would identify a land–mobile offensive system, for example, but perhaps only after it had become operational in substantial numbers.
We would almost certainly detect any large–scale test program, but we could not always expect to assess accurately the test objectives or even the precise nature of the system being tested. Our capabilities are generally better in the case of offensive than of defensive weapons. We believe, for example, that we could detect and identify Soviet testing of multiple, independently–targeted reentry vehicles (MIRVs); we could probably also detect test activity associated with an ABM system, but are not confident that we could identify it as such before it became operational.
Our capabilities for detecting qualitative improvements in the deployed forces are better in the case of defensive weapons than offensive ones. Our chances of determining whether a SAM system had been provided with significant ABM capabilities are at present about even, but we think that they will improve. On the other hand, we see no prospect of determining whether MIRVs (if developed) or other significant improvements had been incorporated in deployed offensive missiles.
Soviet employment of deception and concealment on a large–scale would, of course, degrade our capabilities. The principal effect would be that of delay. Thus, while we still believe that substantial new deployment would almost certainly be detected, detection would come later in the program, perhaps not until after significant deployment had occurred. Some of the deception and concealment measures which the Soviets could employ would probably be recognizable as such, but their purpose might not be readily apparent. Additionally, we assume that the Soviets will not interfere actively with US collection systems.
Factors affecting intelligence collection will vary over the period of this estimate but intelligence is not expected to be able to guarantee that the Soviets have not violated one or more provisions of the agreement under consideration.
Finally, we wish to note that the demonstration of violations of the arms control agreement under consideration would almost certainly involve the use and possibly the compromise of very costly and highly sophisticated intelligence collection methods.


I. US Monitoring Capabilities

The basic problems for intelligence, as it relates to verification of a weapons limitation agreement, are to collect information to interpret it correctly, and to satisfy US decision–makers of the validity of those interpretations in time for them to take appropriate action. No single source of information can be exclusively relied upon for these purposes, although the unique capabilities of overhead photography and signal intelligence will inevitably make them essential sources. Regardless of sources, however, intelligence cannot be expected to guarantee that the Soviets have not violated one or more provisions of the agreement under consideration. In general, our confidence in detecting and identifying violations will increase in proportion to the extent of deployment or testing involved.
We have generally been successful in identifying new programs during the test phase and, except for defensive systems, test data has [Page 539]been an important source of information on characteristics. It should be remembered, however, that new strategic weapon systems will have been under development for several years before they are detected in the test phase. Our collection capabilities are lower with respect to production; we have identified many plants involved in weapons production, but have acquired little evidence on production rates. In regard to deployment, however, we have a high degree of confidence in our estimates of current order–of–battle for Soviet strategic forces; the physical magnitude of most of these programs and of their supporting elements has made them readily identifiable.
Over the period of this estimate, we believe that our capabilities to collect detailed information about Soviet strategic programs will increase, but at the same time, qualitative improvements in some Soviet weapon systems will probably be difficult to detect and evaluate. During the period of this estimate, we believe that the Soviets could probably effect minor increases in various elements of their strategic forces without our knowledge, but that any large–scale net deployment in any of these elements almost certainly would be detected—in some cases early in the program, in others not until later.
In the following discussion, we will attempt to quantify the degree of confidence which we have in our ability to detect further deployment or improvements to certain specific Soviet strategic weapon systems under most normal circumstances. We reserve to a later section our consideration of Soviet capabilities to evade detection through deception, concealment, or interference.

[Here follow Part II: “Strategic Weapons Deployment” (pages 8–15); Part III: “Qualitative Improvements to Strategic Weapon Systems” (pages 16–19); Part IV: “Soviet Capabilities for Concealment and Deception” (pages 20–25); Part V: “Problems of Demonstrating a Violation” (pages 25 ff.); and a 7–page Annex.]

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, National Intelligence Estimates, 11–67—USSR, Box 4. Top Secret; Ruff; Trine; Zarf. Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency and concurred in by the U.S. Intelligence Board. A title page and table of contents are not printed.