13. Memorandum From the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Packard) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • MIRV Test Program

The following are my comments, which you requested, on the memorandum, dated May 22, 1969, to the President from the Acting Secretary of State.2

With respect to the discussion on page 1 of the memorandum, I submit that the quid-pro-quo for the Soviets to forego construction of more land-based hard-site ICBMs and SLBMs and any mobile land-based ICBMs is for the United States to forego the same options. Proceeding as planned with MIRV testing could serve to put pressure on the Soviets by indicating that only an agreement will lead the United States to alter currently planned deployments. Thus, our overall negotiating position could be strengthened, and having MIRV clearly [Page 24] established as an in-being U.S. capability might prove ultimately beneficial in protracted negotiations.

With respect to the discussion on page two of the memorandum, I have two misgivings. One is the assumption that a MIRV deployment ban might ultimately be desirable. The U.S. MIRV is intended to penetrate defenses, thus preserving our deterrent posture. In the face of an increasing Soviet ABM capability, this should result in an increase in stability of the strategic balance between the U.S. and USSR. The other concern I have is the second possibility mentioned in the discussion. An immediate moratorium on all multiple warhead testing—both U.S. MIRV and Soviet MRVs. During the period of a voluntary moratorium, our confidence in our deterrent will erode. For example, the moratorium could result in cessation of operational testing of the now deployed Polaris A33 system which contains non-MIRV multiple warheads. Our confidence in the performance of this system is maintained by such tests. In addition, our confidence in penetrating Soviet defenses would degrade in the event Tallinn4 were converted to ABM or the Moscow deployment were expanded. Also, a voluntary moratorium would be an encouragement to the Soviets to delay the conclusion of negotiations since some of their objectives would be achieved short of a formal agreement or treaty. There could also be a difference in behavior of the U.S. and USSR during a moratorium.

They might get ready to test while we probably would not. The United States and USSR voluntarily refrained from conducting nuclear tests in the atmosphere for a period of 34 months prior to September 1961. Suddenly, without warning, the USSR conducted 113 tests in the atmosphere over a period of approximately one year. The high test rate and the complex nature of their high altitude tests leave little doubt that they had been carefully planned for about two years prior to initiation. [4 lines not declassified] This is an example of the undesirable effects of a recent costly experiment in voluntary restraints. Voluntary changes in our plans might lead the Soviets to believe that they can prevent U.S. strategic deployments without committing themselves to any restraints, thereby compromising early U.S. bargaining positions. Moratoriums and understandings of this nature tend to become de facto treaties and to circumvent constitutional processes.

[Page 25]

With respect to the recommendations made on pages two and three of the memorandum, there is serious question as to whether a ban on MIRV testing is technically sound. Consequently, I believe it is unwise to go ahead with a MIRV testing moratorium without due consideration of the merits of a potential future MIRV deployment ban.

The recommendation states that we have a significant lead over the Soviets in MIRV testing. Such a conclusion must be treated with reserve. Whether or not we consider the three warhead version of the SS–9 to have a MIRV capability now, its potential is evident and the testing of this missile has great significance for us.

There have been seven flight tests of Poseidon5 and seven of Minuteman III6 to date. The remaining R&D flight test schedule on these two systems is attached.7 The initial flight tests on both systems have experienced failures, partial successes and successful flight tests. The full R&D flight test programs are believed necessary to have good confidence that the new booster stages, the post boost vehicles, the new re-entry vehicles and the penetration aids are adequately reliable to permit production for operational use. [1½ lines not declassified] This successful test flight to about 4400 miles was observed by the Soviets, [4 lines not declassified]

David Packard
  1. Source: Ford Library, Laird Papers, Box 22, SALT, Chronological File. Secret; Confidential. A notation on the memorandum indicates Laird saw it on August 1. Foster drafted Packard’s letter after receiving concurrence from the Director, Joint Staff and the Department of Navy.
  2. Document 9.
  3. The Polaris A–3 missile first became operational in September 1964 and was the first missile to have a range of 2,500 nautical miles.
  4. Code-named Tallinn because it first appeared near the Estonian capital city of this name. This system of radars and interceptors was believed in the 1960s to have had ballistic missile defense capabilities.
  5. The Poseidon C–3, which began development in 1965, was longer and heavier than the Polaris missile but could fit into the same launch tubes as the latter. Modifications to the launch tubes and to the fire control system were needed to overcome complex MIRV targeting problems. The Poseidon was designed to carry twice the payload of the Polaris A–3 with the advantage of improved accuracy.
  6. A land-based ICBM deployed in hard silos.
  7. Not printed.