234. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Moorer) to Secretary of Defense Laird1



  • Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
(TS) Indications are that the upcoming phase of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) can be decisive in terms of an agreement. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have assessed the US/USSR strategic military relationships and negotiating positions as they have evolved during SALT. Based on this assessment, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend the following as the US Government position for SALT VII, Helsinki:
Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) Inclusion. The most vital unresolved issue on the offensive side is the issue of SLBM inclusion [Page 689] in an interim offensive agreement. The Soviet SLBM program is its fastest growing strategic system. Allowing SLBMs to be excluded would be militarily unsound and an unwise negotiating tactic, since the Soviet’s building program would be allowed to continue unabated and, at the same time, would undermine the US negotiating position for the follow-on talks by inferring US acceptance of the Soviet linkage of SLBM and US forward-based systems. The Joint Chiefs of Staff strongly recommend that the United States insist on SLBM inclusion. The United States should make it clear to the Soviets that failure to include SLBM limitations will mean that there will be no agreement on offensive or defense.
Aggregate Approach. By JCSM–484–71, dated 1 November 1971, subject: “US Position for Strategic Arms Limitation Talks,”2 the Joint Chiefs of Staff, considering the fact that the Soviets had not accepted the US 27 July 1971 proposal,3 recommended that the United States seek an equal aggregate limit of SLBM/intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), operational and under construction, with a two-way freedom to mix and with an equal sublimit on modern large ballistic missiles (MLBMs). They now reaffirm the principle of equal aggregates. The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe equal aggregates are fair, equitable, negotiable, and militarily sound. Further, acceptance of an unfavorable strategic balance in an interim agreement could set an undesirable precedent for the follow-on comprehensive agreement. There would still remain many issues to be resolved before a comprehensive offensive agreement could be reached. Therefore, in the interim, the United States should seek an agreement that sets equitable parameters while deferring the complicated details for future talks. It is recognized that discussions continue as to freeze dates. From a military standpoint, continued slippage of freeze dates underscores the urgency of changing the US position to the JCS recommended equal aggregate approach.
Mobile, Soft, Modern, and Heavy ICBMs. The Soviets are resisting efforts to include soft site and mobile launchers in the interim agreement. Soft sites exist in militarily significant numbers and must be limited. However, neither side has, nor appears capable of deploying, significant numbers of mobile ICBM launchers during the period of an interim short-term agreement. This issue, therefore, can be deferred to the follow-on negotiations. The US SALT Delegation should continue its efforts to achieve satisfactory definitions on the heavy/light and older/modern ICBM question and insure that the number of MLBMs will not be increased after an agreement is signed.
Defense. Although the Joint Chiefs of Staff continue to believe that four-site Safeguard is the minimal acceptable military position, in the context of the current status of SALT, they reaffirm their previous recommendation that both sides be permitted to deploy a ballistic missile defense of their National Command Authorities (NCA) and two sites for defense of ICBMs, west of the Mississippi for the United States and east of the Urals for the Soviets. At all sites, the antiballistic missile (ABM) systems should be deployed within a radius of 100 kilometers and include a total of no more than 300 fixed ABM interceptors/launchers, with no more than 100 at the NCA. In addition, each side would retain the right to deploy, after consultation, an agreed number of limited-range ABM interceptors and associated ABM radars (Site Defense of Minuteman (SDM)) in defense of the two ICBM fields, should deployment of such a concept prove feasible and desirable. Deployment of these additional ABM system components would be restricted to the ICBM fields, and these additional components would be such as to not contribute to wide area defense. In the context of strategic arms limitations and of the ABM alternatives currently under consideration, the Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that this proposal most nearly fulfills US defense objectives. It best takes into account the possible development of a Soviet counterforce capability and third-country threats, as well as the offensive/defensive relationship. Furthermore, it provides near equitable coverage of ICBMs, population, and industry, while any two-for-two proposal would give the Soviets an advantage in one or another of those items. It would also enhance negotiability as it provides for equality in number of sites, interceptor/launcher levels, and types of defended areas; takes into account the preferences of both sides regarding NCA and ICBM defense; and allows protection for both sides against unauthorized and accidental attack.
Modern ABM Radar Complexes (MARC). The Joint Chiefs of Staff strongly support the MARC concept to preclude the building of a radar base for a thick territorial defense. Each side should be permitted an equal number of MARC, the number to be negotiated at as low a level as is possible, with the desired level being four MARC at the NCA site and four at each ICBM site.
Early Warning Radars. Soviet large phased-array, early warning (Henhouse) radars should be limited to those operational and under construction, and the United States would retain the right to construct an equivalent system; i.e., equivalent capabilities and numbers. The current joint draft text4 should be revised, since it fails to achieve the [Page 691] objective of limiting the further deployment of Henhouse radars which have a potential ABM role.
Other Large Phased-Array Radars (OLPAR). Concerning the OLPAR, the Joint Chiefs of Staff continue to support consultation before deployment as being the only feasible limitation. An interpretive statement to this effect would appear adequate.
Qualitative Constraints on Safeguard Components. It is clear that the Soviets wish to limit the effectiveness of the US Safeguard deployment. The qualitative constraints they have proposed for ICBM defenses would restrict the United States to deploying specified components. The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that the United States must retain the technological freedom and flexibility to modernize and replace Safeguard components. The Soviets should again be informed that each side may choose to deploy improved ABM components, within the geographical and numerical limits of the treaty.
Other Issues. Several important issues of a general nature have arisen during the talks. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have considered these and recommend the following:
Duration and Withdrawal. The interim offensive agreement be negotiated for a period which permits full examination of remaining issues but in no case extends beyond 30 months. In no case should an interim agreement be permitted to interfere with weapon systems improvement and modernization. In this connection, any delays in the introduction of modern strategic US offensive systems occasioned by a desire to “wait and see what the outcome of a permanent offensive agreement will be” must be vigorously opposed. Such a position could delay vital modernization which must continue regardless of the nature of any agreement. Any such delay would seriously jeopardize the US strategic security position vis-à-vis that of the Soviets. Understanding should be reached with the Soviets, preferably by explicit language in the ABM treaty, that, if a permanent offensive agreement is not reached in this time period, each side would be permitted to terminate the ABM treaty.
Interpretive Statements. The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that all interpretive or other explanatory statements not a part of the basic agreement must be legally binding on both parties, accompany the agreements throughout the ratification process, and become part of the public domain along with the agreements.
(TS) The Joint Chiefs of Staff are most concerned by the recent changes in the strategic balance. Before SALT began, the United States held an unquestioned quantitative and qualitative lead in the strategic balance, but, today, that is no longer true. Since SALT began, the Soviets have added some 1,000 strategic missile launchers to their inventory. [Page 692] The charts in Appendices A and B5 hereto show how various SALT proposals could affect that growth. There are those who argue that, at the high levels of strategic weapons possessed by the United States and the USSR, simple numerical advantages are not significant. The Joint Chiefs of Staff do not accept that view. Superiority, equality, and inferiority have not only a military but also a political and psychological impact on US security interests. The United States should never sign an agreement which places it in a position that other nations, including the other party to the agreement, could perceive as a position of US strategic inferiority.
(S) The Joint Chiefs of Staff urge your endorsement of these positions and request that they be forwarded to the President as the recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for SALT VII.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
T.H. Moorer

Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 218, Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Moorer, 388.3, SALT, January–June 1972. Top Secret; Sensitive. The memorandum was sent as an enclosure to memorandum CM–1606–72, March 6, which informed Kissinger and members of the Verification Panel, Rush, Irwin, Helms, Smith, and Acting Attorney General Kleindienst that it expressed the views of the JCS for use in NSC and Verification Panel deliberations.
  2. See footnote 1, Document 210.
  3. See Document 183.
  4. See footnote 1, Document 210.
  5. Attached but not printed are an appendix on the “Status of US and Soviet Strategic Forces” and a chart of comparative levels between the August 1970 proposal and the period of negotiations covering July 1971–February 1972.