201. Memorandum From the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Nitze) and the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (Seaborg) to President Johnson1


  • FY 1969–70 Nuclear Weapons Stockpile

Submitted herewith for your approval is the proposed Nuclear Weapons Stockpile for the end of FY 1970 and certain related adjustments to the FY 1969 Nuclear Weapons Stockpile approved on 10 June 1967.2 The Requirements stated herein are based on the forces detailed in the Five Year Defense Program submitted to you separately.3

The stockpile which you approved on 10 June 1967 authorized a total of [number not declassified] nuclear warheads4 for FY 1969. Reappraisal, in the light of the proposed force levels and the continuing review of nuclear weapons requirements, indicates that the FY 1969 stockpile should now be adjusted to a total of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] warheads. The detailed composition of the initially approved FY 1969 stockpile is shown in Column 1 of Inclosure 1;5 the proposed adjusted FY 1969 stockpile is shown in Column 2. The proposed adjustments result principally from the impact of adjustments in force modernization programs for Minuteman, Polaris-Poseidon and tactical missiles, reappraisal of requirements for air-to-air missiles and from reprogramming [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] bomb production during FY 1968, FY 1969 and FY 1970 due to technical difficulties. The reprogramming has caused a reduction of [number not declassified] in the number of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] bombs approved by you on 10 June 1967, for inclusion in the FY 1968 stockpile. This reduction has been offset by the retention of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] tactical bombs previously scheduled for retirement during FY 1968, pending delivery to stockpile of those bombs which are now programmed for FY 1969.

The proposed FY 1970 operational stockpile, submitted for your consideration, consists of [number not declassified]nuclear warheads. [Page 676] This objective is to be achieved during FY 1970 by the production of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. This is a net reduction of [number not declassified] warheads from the adjusted stockpile recommended for end FY 1969.

The production proposed for FY 1970 represents the continuing program to improve our nuclear weapons posture by modernizing existing weapons (Minuteman II), and by providing new warheads in support of new capabilities (Poseidon, Minuteman III, FB–111) to be introduced concurrently with the phase-out of older systems. The proposed reductions include some obsolescent weapons in excess of present requirements (Davy Crockett tactical missiles and Lulu depth charges); those warheads being replaced during modernization actions (Minuteman and Polaris); and other weapons whose programmed inventory can no longer be operationally justified (strategic bombs and surface-to-air missiles). The detailed composition of the FY 1970 stockpile is shown in Column 4 of Inclosure 1. The incremental changes in warhead quantities required during FY 1970 to achieve the proposed stockpile are shown in Column 3 of Inclosure 1, with appropriate footnotes where necessary to identify the nature of the change. Associated with the proposed operational stockpile, and shown as Inclosure 2, are non-nuclear components which provide different operational capabilities for the same warhead and/or are required in excess of a one-for-one ratio with basic assemblies.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff have reviewed the nuclear weapons stockpile through FY 1970. While it does not fully reflect all of their earlier recommendations, they accept the adjusted FY 1969 and proposed FY 1970 stockpile figures as reflected herein.6

In addition to the operational stockpile (Inclosure 1), warheads required for the quality assurance and reliability testing programs are shown in Inclosure 3. These additional warheads are needed to offset reductions in operational capability during stockpile sampling programs, joint firing test programs, and foreseeable major retrofit actions requiring temporary and permanent withdrawals from the operational stockpile. For strategic missiles we provide warheads to offset temporary and permanent withdrawals. For other systems we allow a decrease in the operational stockpile for permanent withdrawals for testing, unless this can be offset by delayed retirements or, in the case of warheads still in production, by additional production. Withdrawals for non-destructive testing, limited to a small percentage of the warheads concerned, are permitted to temporarily decrease the operational stockpile. Additionally, warheads for systems being phased down are also [Page 677] retained where economies may be realized thereby, mainly by reducing the requirements for rebuild of warheads subsequent to future planned quality assurance tests. Finally, warheads are provided in this category when dictated by unusual circumstances such as foreseeable major retrofit programs or in cases involving severe logistics problems.

The Atomic Energy Commission will also be required to produce those nuclear warhead parts intended for transfer to the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] pursuant to the terms of the agreement for cooperation. These parts are considered annually in a separate action by the Atomic Energy Commission and the Department of Defense.

The proposed FY 1970 stockpile is within the presently projected availability of special nuclear and by-product materials, and the number of weapons recommended to be produced in FY 1970 is within the planned capability of the Atomic Energy Commission weapons fabrication system. An Atomic Energy Commission summary of special nuclear and by-product materials required by the nuclear weapons program for FY 1969 and FY 1970 is shown in Inclosure 4.

The preliminary Atomic Energy Commission estimate of the weapons production and surveillance operations costs proposed for FY 1970 is approximately, $332 million which excludes the cost of special nuclear materials, equipment and plant amortization. The FY 1970 $332 million estimate may need to be revised when the FY 1971 stockpile composition is firm. The above data for production and surveillance costs exclude costs of Weapon Tests (including development of supplemental test sites) and Research and Development, which are estimated to be approximately $575 million for FY 1970. The above figures are Atomic Energy Commission estimates and do not include additional expenses incurred by the Department of Defense.

In accordance with your directions, as conveyed by Mr. Rostow in his memorandum of 10 February 1967,7 the Atomic Energy Commission has been transferring to the Department of Defense finished nuclear warheads and components as they are produced and certified by the Atomic Energy Commission, subject to the production and retirement provisions of the currently applicable stockpile composition directive of the President. Such transfers for FY 1969 and 1970 will, therefore, be made in accordance with the stockpile composition recommendations of this memorandum if approved.

The Department of Defense and the Atomic Energy Commission accordingly recommend that you:

Approve the stockpile of [number not declassified] nuclear warheads for end FY 1970 tabulated in Column 4 of Inclosure 1.
Approve the revised stockpile of [number not declassified]nuclear warheads for end FY 1969 tabulated in Column 2 of Inclosure 1.
Approve the quantities of warheads required for quality assurance and reliability testing tabulated in Columns 2 and 4 of Inclosure 3.
Direct the production and retirement of those quantities of nuclear warheads and nuclear warhead parts necessary to achieve and maintain the above stockpiles; as well as the production of the additional nuclear warhead parts necessary for transfer to the United Kingdom pursuant to the agreement for cooperation.
Authorize the Atomic Energy Commission in coordination with the Department of Defense to initiate production of such long-lead time nuclear warhead parts as may be necessary to prepare for FY 1971 production of warheads required by the approved Five Year Defense Program.
Authorize the Atomic Energy Commission, in coordination with the Department of Defense, to make such changes in the FY 1969 and FY 1970 stockpiles as may be necessary because of changes in Atomic Energy Commission production/retirement capability, material availabilities or quality assurance requirements.
Authorize the Department of Defense, in coordination with the Atomic Energy Commission, to make such changes in the FY 1969 and FY 1970 stockpiles as may be required because of adjusted delivery assets or changes in military requirements.

Any changes indicative of a major shift in defense policy or Atomic Energy Commission production capability will be submitted for your specific approval. A draft implementing directive is submitted here-with for your consideration (Inclosure 5).8

  • Paul H. Nitze
  • Glenn T. Seaborg9
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330 72 A 2467, A–400.23 1967. Top Secret; Restricted Data. The date is handwritten.
  2. Document 181.
  3. Document 200.
  4. “Nuclear Warhead” as used herein is an atomic weapon as defined in the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended. [Footnote in the source text.]
  5. None of the enclosures is printed.
  6. The views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were attached to a December 23, 1967, memorandum from General Wheeler to Secretary McNamara (CM–2869–67). (Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330 72 A 2467, A–400.23 1967)
  7. Not found.
  8. An undated draft memorandum from McNamara and Seaborg to President Johnson; not printed.
  9. Signed for Seaborg in OATSD/AE on March 11. The stamped date of December 29, 1967, appears below Nitze’s signature.