112. Memorandum From the Vice Director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Freeman) to Secretary of Defense Laird1



  • Study of the Potential Effect of SALT Option E
Reference is made to your memorandum, dated 3 September 1970, subject: “Study of U.S. Programs Under Certain Options,”2 which requested that the study on the effect of agreement to SALT Options C and D be completed to include additional analysis of Option E.
Forwarded herewith is a study,3 prepared by an ad hoc study group of the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which illuminates the potential effect of agreement to the provisions of SALT Option E on US strategic force structure, strategy, and weapon systems.
The study, despite its limitations, indicates a need for continuing analysis in the SALT area. [11 lines not declassified]
The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that the study provides useful background material with regard to SALT Option E. By their consideration of this study, the Joint Chiefs of Staff do not imply endorsement of the provisions of SALT Option E. It is noted that:
The threats postulated for the Soviet Union were extracted from the high technology base described by NIPP–704 and did not take into consideration all the threats that might be possible within the state of the art. For example, maximum MIRV capability of the SS–9 was not considered in the study. The capabilities of the illustrative US Forces as shown in the study would be significantly degraded by feasible qualitative improvements in the Soviet strategic forces.
Those findings which serve to evaluate the US ability to meet the criteria for strategic sufficiency are judgmental and scenario/model dependent.
The findings concerning Soviet incentive to strike the United States first in a crisis depends on a questionable judgment that the US retaliatory capability in all forces examined will inhibit this incentive. It is also possible that the Soviets may perceive value in a preemptive strike in a crisis despite the fact that the United States would still retain significant retaliatory capability.
Assessment of the capability of US Forces to deny to the Soviet Union the ability to cause significantly more deaths and industrial damage to the United States than the Soviets themselves would suffer [6 lines not declassified].
[1 paragraph (10½ lines) not declassified]
The weapon systems of the illustrative US Forces, with the exception of the advanced intercontinental ballistic missile (modern, large missile), are those which are currently deployed or under active consideration for deployment. Since there is a provision in SALT Option E for the United States to deploy 250 modern, large missiles, it was necessary to postulate a hypothetical missile to examine this provision. Although the missiles were considered as land based in the study, it is equally possible that they could be based at sea. The level of each element of the strategic offensive forces in the illustrative US Forces was restrained at or below the level shown as the “constrained” level in the Joint Force Memorandum, Fiscal Years 1972–1979 (JFM–72), with the exception that in one force three undersea long-range missile system submarines are deployed. These illustrative US Force mixes do not represent the full range of force mixes permitted by Option E nor are they necessarily optimum. It is probable that, as the characteristics and potential of the Soviet force capabilities within the constraints of SALT Option E become known, there will be a need for significant changes [Page 360] to US weapon programs in order to preserve the United States as a viable society.
The nature of an agreed procedure for the destruction or dismantling of heavy bombers could require a modification to the procedures currently in use with regard to bombers which might become nonoperational.
The preparation of the study of the impact of agreement to SALT Options C and D was held in abeyance while conducting the study on SALT Option E. The results of the study of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Options C and D will be forwarded upon its completion.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff will maintain the subject of strategic arms limitation under continuing review and will provide their views on this topic, as may be appropriate.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Mason Freeman

Rear Admiral, USN
Vice Director, Joint Staff
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 330–76–076, Box 12, USSR, 388.3. Top Secret. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates Laird saw it on November 3.
  2. Laird explained in the memorandum that a JCS study would assist the Department of Defense in assessing the impact on U.S. weapon programs of new comprehensive SALT options. (Ibid.)
  3. The paper, undated, is attached but not printed.
  4. National Infrastructure Protection Plan.