176. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Moorer) to Secretary of Defense Laird 1



  • Definition of Antiballistic Missile Systems To Be Limited
Reference is made to National Security Study [Decision] Memorandum 117, dated 2 July 1971, subject: “Instructions for Strategic Arms Limitation Talks at Helsinki (SALT V).”2
The Joint Chiefs of Staff view with concern the language in the reference relating to strategic defensive systems which states that “the agreement should make clear that any system for rendering ineffective strategic ballistic missiles or their components in flight trajectory are prohibited unless permitted by this agreement.” This wording would foreclose options to deploy future antiballistic missile (ABM) systems and very well can lead to an interpretation that research and development of advanced defensive systems is limited or prohibited.
The wisdom of placing constraints on future systems that cannot now be defined or clearly envisioned or which may be unverifiable is questionable [3 lines not declassified]. Further, identification of a futuristic type ABM system is also questionable at this time. Moreover, it is highly doubtful that US funding would be made available for research and development in light of an existing agreement which would, at a minimum, preclude deployment of future ABM systems. This could lead to a future situation of clear strategic advantage for the Soviets wherein the USSR develops and deploys an effective counter to the US missile threat while the United States can provide no comparable counter to the Soviet missile threat.
Two other considerations become evident against the backdrop of previous rounds of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks—the language prohibiting futuristic defensive systems would add new dimensions to the talks which could further complicate the existing complex offense/defense relationship, and the full implications of the language in question were not exposed to the normal careful scrutiny of the SALT interagency mechanism.
In conclusion, the Joint Chiefs of Staff strongly recommend that, as a matter of urgency, this subject receive interagency examination and that the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff jointly develop an appropriate position for use in this interagency examination.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
T.H. Moorer
Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Source: Ford Library, Laird Papers, Box 26, SALT, Chronological File. Top Secret.
  2. Document 171.