30. Editorial Note

The Verification Panel met on July 25, 1969, to discuss preparation of a report on a review of capabilities before the beginning of strategic arms limitation talks (SALT). The minutes, which are less than half of a page, include brief statements by Deputy Secretary of Defense David Packard and Carl Duckett from the Central Intelligence Agency on a flight ban of multiple independently targeted reentry vehicles (MIRVs) in relation to MIRV testing by the Soviet Union. The participants also discussed the range of the Soviet SS–9 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which might allow the Soviets to exploit the greater throw-weight of its larger missiles and surpass the United States in numbers of ICBMs. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, [Page 124] NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–107, Verification Panel Minutes Originals 1969–3/8/72)

When the Verification Panel met on August 8, it deliberated whether a report on U.S. capabilities to monitor a strategic arms limitation agreement should be prepared for President Nixon prior to the beginning of SALT negotiations with the Soviet Union. The participants listed what the President would want to know and how he would prefer to read it. Under Secretary of State Elliot Richardson suggested that President Nixon would need to know “risks associated with agreements and ways of reducing risks [and]enhance unilateral verification capability.” Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency Smith believed that the panel should “screen technical factors through top officials’ minds.” President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger added that the key issues should be supported by a discussion of the pros and cons of each. He directed the Verification Panel Working Group to prepare an evaluation of U.S. capability to monitor specific arms control options. The minutes of this meeting are ibid.

On August 18, acting on Kissinger’s request, Laurence Lynn of the National Security Council staff sent the Working Group team supervisors, known as “ramrods,” a memorandum with the instructions that “U.S. monitoring capability should be assessed under four separate assumptions: only the primary ban/limit is in effect; all mandatory/essential collateral restrictions are in effect; all desirable collateral restrictions are in effect; and desirable on-site inspection or other techniques are employed.” (Ibid., Box H–004, Verification Panel Meeting—MIRV 8/8/69)

On August 29 the Panel met for 2½hours in San Clemente, California.ACDA working notes are the only record of this meeting that has been found. According to these notes, five main questions were addressed in revisions of the Panel’s report:

  • “1) The ultimate question is: what risk—i.e., probability—is there that the Soviets will decide to carry out and will succeed in carrying out one or more concealed weapons development or deployment program which will not be detected by the U.S. in time for us to prevent a significant shift in the strategic arms balance?
  • “2) With respect to clandestine development/deployment of a given weapons system, and accepting a conservative estimate of the numbers that can be deployed before detection, what will be the effect on the strategic arms balance?
  • “3) What about clandestine development/deployment of more than one weapons system—does this change the ultimate risk?
  • “4) Assuming an optimum combination of bans, collateral bans, and opportunities for selected direct observations, what is the aggregate risk?
  • “5) What are the risks—and costs—reasonably attributable to a failure to achieve SALT agreement, including the present risk of clandestine Soviet weapons development/deployment?” (Washington National Records Center, RG 383, ACDA Files: FRC 383–98–0089, Box 2, ACDA/State Correspondence on Verification Panel, June–August 1969)