62. Editorial Note

On April 6, 1970, the Verification Panel met to prepare strategic arms limitation talks options for consideration by the National Security Council at its April 8 meeting, as directed by NSDM 49 pursuant to the March 25 NSC meeting (see Documents 60 and 61). President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger began the Verification Panel meeting by stating that the Panel could not burden President Nixon with a host of technical issues in selecting a SALT option for the second round of talks opening in Vienna on April 16. Kissinger insisted that the “agencies must get some of these resolved without President having to decide them.” The Panel members therefore focused on the numerous technical questions impinging on various negotiating options: the relationship of surface to air missile upgrades to anti-ballistic missiles; radar limitations as they affected ABM parameters; the implications of a flight test ban on multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles; the viability of mobile versus fixed ABM numerical limits; and on-site inspection capabilities for determining intercontinental ballistic missile throw weight and accuracy. During a debate over verification of qualitative limits on ICBMs, Kissinger reminded the Panel participants of the underlying problem of most of their technical debates:

HAK: One problem is to pick out what is critical for President to decide from among this long list.

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[Gerard] Smith: I think it is a vital point whether we try to control weapons technology or not.

HAK: But the fact it would be nice to control doesn’t mean you can control. And you would be more selective, or seek ways around the difficulty of controlling technology, e.g., numerical limits, reductions.

Smith: But the issue of the OSD/JCS premise that you can’t and shouldn’t control technology is one of Presidential magnitude.

[David] Packard: Why should we negotiate away our technological lead?

HAK: Soviets would work on technology. Anyway, we don’t want to debate general abstract slogans, so President has to resolve theological disputes. The issue isn’t whether technology ‘has to’ be controlled or ‘can’t be,’ but what we can do concretely.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–107, Verification Panel Minutes Originals 1969–3/8/72)

In talking points prepared for the President for use at the April 8 NSC meeting, Kissinger summarized the four SALT options that the Verification Panel developed. Because members of the Panel continued to differ over major technical issues concerning the options’ provisions, Kissinger explained that the Panel was not recommending which option the President should choose. Instead, Kissinger wrote: “The major purpose of the NSC meeting is to provide you with a basis for selecting one or more options as the ones to explore further with the USSR.” Kissinger recommended that the President issue his decision through a National Security Decision Memorandum a day or two after the NSC meeting. (Ibid., Box H–027, NSC Meeting 4/8/70 SALT)