48. Memorandum From the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (Smith) to President Nixon1


  • Safeguard FY 71 Budget Decision

At last week’s DPRC meeting,2 Henry Kissinger indicated that a paper from me in connection with the Safeguard “Annual Review”3 now under way would be in order.

I would like to stress the relation of this decision to SALT. If the Administration adopts the current DOD recommendation to start a nationwide area defense system under Phase II;4 there likely will be another [Page 175] major Congressional debate, the outcome of which cannot be predicted for sure. Whether the Administration wins or loses, the results could prejudice SALT.

The USSR acknowledges that ABM levels are an important element in limiting strategic armaments. In stating that ABM systems could play an offensive (destabilizing) role by raising doubts about the inevitability of retaliation, the Soviets reversed their previous view as expressed at Glassboro5 that ABMs are acceptable since they serve the humanitarian purpose of saving lives. While we do not know what their position on ABM levels will be, I think that it is clear that the Soviets are concerned by the prospect of a nationwide area defense deployment, and so the existence of the US Safeguard program exerts a positive pressure on the Soviets to negotiate promptly an equitable SALT agreement. From this angle, the initiation this year of Phase II might increase the incentive to the Soviets to reach an agreement of interest to the US; but I question how much more pressure this course would raise over the alternative course of stepping up R&D and not this year making a Phase II deployment decision.

My main concern is that, if Congress does not approve the proposal to move now to a nationwide area defense system under Phase II, not only would any increased bargaining power not be gained, but we might also lose the pressure raised by Phase I. There is a risk that Soviet leaders would then conclude that a main Soviet objective of SALT had been achieved.

Some say that not to move now on Phase II would also put Phase I in doubt. My judgment is that keeping Phase II in R&D would not have this effect and likely would broaden somewhat support for Safeguard.

Even if by dint of a major effort the Administration obtains Congressional approval of a Phase II program, this likely will require taking such strong positions on the nature of the threat, strategic utility and technical capabilities of Safeguard as to reduce significantly our flexibility in future SALT negotiations. At this stage, I believe there is advantage in keeping the Safeguard commitment sufficiently flexible as to permit consideration of a SALT decision for a zero ABM level or for an ABM defense limited to the National Command Authority if this proves to be in the US security interest.

In these circumstances, I believe that from the point of view of SALT the most desirable ABM decision for FY 71 would be to continue [Page 176] Phase I as planned with increased R&D effort on the improved Spartan area defense and improved hard point defense for Minuteman and defer any deployment actions connected with Phase II.

I appreciate that this is a close decision involving expertise beyond the scope of my Agency, but I hope this viewpoint will be factored into the decision.

Gerard Smith
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 840, ABMMIRV, ABM System, Vol. III, 1/70–3/70, Memos and Miscellaneous. Top Secret. A handwritten notation on the memorandum reads, “Encorporated into NSC Books, 1/22/70.”
  2. Notes of the January 15 meeting are ibid., NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–099, DPRC Meeting 1/15/70. The notes are printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXIV, National Security Policy, 1969–1972, Document 118.
  3. The Department of Defense had been reviewing ballistic missile defense since January 1969, specifically in relation to the FY 1971 budget.
  4. Phase I of Safeguard permitted ABM deployment at Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota and Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana. Phase II called for construction at additional sites. On January 12 OSD prepared a memorandum on the Safeguard system. Included in its recommendations was authorization of two additional sites in FY 1971 to be chosen to: “a) extend area defense against the Chinese threat; b) broaden the base for Minuteman defense; and c) begin to implement the defense against the SLBM threat.” Packard forwarded this memorandum to Smith on January 14 and invited him to attend the DPRC meeting on January 15. (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 330–76–076, 110.01, January–May 1970) The memorandum is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXIV, National Security Policy, 1969–1972, Document 117.
  5. In June 1967 President Johnson and Kosygin held a summit at Glassboro, New Jersey. See ibid., 1964–1968, volume XIV, Soviet Union, Documents 227238.