80. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Vance) and the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (Seaborg)1

Your letter to the President of February 18, 1965, transmitting a document, “The National Nuclear Test Program,” has been noted.2 It was also noted that the plan contained in the document is sufficiently broad in scope as to provide maximum flexibility of response in the event we should have need to resume testing in any of the environments now prohibited by the Limited Test Ban Treaty. This approach is sound; flexibility [Page 209] should continue to characterize our planning. In addition, we should continue to keep in mind the thought expressed in your letter that any test series which might eventually be conducted in any of the prohibited environments would be developed in response to the particular objectives considered most important at the time. Such tests might be somewhat different and fewer in number from those contemplated in “The National Nuclear Test Program” as presently drafted.

At several points in the document, there is expressed an expectation that underground testing would continue essentially unchanged and at approximately the same rate even after we resume testing in the atmosphere. This assumption seems open to question. The need for and feasibility of continuing a full-blown underground testing program simultaneously with atmospheric testing would be a matter on which the President would have to decide. I suggest that those portions of the document that appear to establish such assumptions with respect to underground testing be revised to leave the question open.

I also request one other revision in the document, a change in the section on ultra-high yield weapons to make it explicit that the President has not yet made a decision as to how far the development of such weapons will be carried. Except as indicated above, it appears that “The National Nuclear Test Program” document is an excellent statement of the current plan for continuing to maintain the state of readiness which has already been achieved by the Department of Defense and the Atomic Energy Commission.

It is requested that the plan contained in the document be periodically reviewed to ensure that it takes into account the advances made in our underground test program and by the other research and development work at the laboratories. In addition, the plan should be reviewed in collaboration with the Secretary of State and the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency to ensure that the planning takes place with appropriate political guidance and in light of our best estimate of significant developing conditions. Any significant changes that occur in the program and the reasons for them should be brought to the attention of the President either on a periodic basis or whenever the program is formally revised.

McGeorge Bundy
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Subject File, Nuclear Testing, National Program, Vol. I, Box 31. Secret.
  2. A sanitized version of Seaborg’s February 18 letter is in Seaborg, Journal, Vol. 10, pp. 184-186.