145. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld1



  • SAL Negotiations (U)

1. (TS) The Joint Chiefs of Staff have reviewed the military implications of ongoing SAL negotiations. They believe that the fundamental US objective in these negotiations should be to assure rough equivalence between the strategic nuclear forces of the United States and the USSR, preferably at lower force levels.

2. (TS) At the present there is an unfavorable trend in the balance between US and Soviet strategic nuclear forces. Comparisons of current and projected US and USSR weapons development and deployments indicate a serious challenge to our ability to maintain credible strategic [Page 646] equivalence and warfighting capability. The United States must preserve the necessary technological options to redress this unfavorable trend and maintain the strategic nuclear balance, under all conditions. SAL negotiations thus are but one facet of the over-all approach to maintaining a stable strategic relationship between the two major powers, and any constraints on the strategic nuclear forces of both sides should be accepted only in the context of furthering increased strategic nuclear stability.

3. (TS) The United States has depended on its technological edge to offset quantitative advantages possessed by the Soviet Union. The deployment of a new generation of Soviet ICBMs and SLBMs and such systems as Backfire and the SS–X–20 cannot be counter-balanced if US technology is constrained by a SAL treaty. The US has a decided advantage over the Soviets in cruise missile technology that could be potentially very significant in maintaining the strategic balance between the US and USSR. However, most cruise missile constraints proposed to date would prevent the US from fully capitalizing on this advantage. Furthermore, in SAL negotiations the US should not agree to any provision which would limit the application of technology to non-strategic weapon systems, for example, anti-ship missiles.

4. (TS) In the February proposal cruise missile constraints were offered as an inducement for Soviet commitment to resolve the Backfire issue by January 1979. The intent was to include Backfire in the 2400 aggregate at that later date, while at the same time accepting cruise missile constraints pertaining to ALCMs (ban ALCMs over 2500 km, restrict ALCMs over 600 km to heavy bombers, and count ALCM-equipped heavy bombers in the 1320 MIRV limit) that would last until 1985. Since the Soviets have rejected this proposal, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that the US negotiating slate be wiped clean. US proposals should not offer significant cruise missile concessions unless Backfire is included in the aggregate. In this regard, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have previously expressed concern over the process that permits picking and choosing from SAL package proposals (JCSM–276–76).2 They again stress that the Joint Chiefs of Staff have considered the various proposals as comprehensive packages, the elements of which are inseparable.

5. (TS) During the past session of the SAL negotiations in Geneva, MIRV verification received particular attention. The MIRV counting rule (a missile is MIRVed if its booster has been tested one or more times with a MIRV system; i.e., “Once a MIRV, always a MIRV”) together with provisions necessary for its effective implementation, pro [Page 647] vide the conceptual framework for the US approach to MIRV verification. Central to effective implementation is Soviet acceptance of the launcher type rule (all launchers of a type, one of which has launched or contained a MIRVed missile, will count in the 1320 MIRV limit) or some similar provision. The MIRV counting rule by itself would provide low confidence verification at best because of our inability to determine if a particular launcher contains a MIRVed missile. Earlier the Joint Chiefs of Staff had understood that the Soviets had agreed in principle to effective MIRV verification procedures. However, the Soviets stated during the past session in Geneva that resolution of the MIRV verification issue is inseparably linked to cruise missile limitations. The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that verification is a neutral issue for which neither side should be required to pay. Therefore, Soviet attempts to extract concessions for verification procedures must be rejected.

6. (TS) Considering the essentiality of having agreed data regarding numbers of limited systems deployed by the two sides and in view of the difficulties encountered with respect to definitions, the Joint Chiefs of Staff believe the concept of an exchange of data is becoming increasingly important and should be supported as a negotiating position. It should be noted that data exchange is not a substitute for verification by national technical means but would help insure the two sides have a common understanding on the applications of the provisions of the agreement.

7. (TS) In summary, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that:

a. The US maintain the integrity of the SAL package proposals.

b. The negotiating slate be wiped clean.

c. US proposals should continue to include Backfire in the 2400 aggregate with significant constraints on US cruise missile programs being accepted only if Backfire is so counted.

d. The US maintain its current approach to MIRV verification and reject Soviet attempts to extract concessions for verification provisions.

e. The US insist on a concept of data exchange.

f. These views be forwarded to the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

George S. Brown Chairman
Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Subject File, Box 21, SALT (34)–(42) [Feb. 1976–Jan. 1977]. Top Secret. According to a covering memorandum from Boverie to Scowcroft, December 17, Rumsfeld forwarded this memorandum to Scowcroft on December 11. Boverie noted “that these are familiar JCS views, and I believe no further action is necessary.” In his December 11 forwarding note, Rumsfeld stated that “the proposals which the US has made should be viewed as package proposals. US proposals regarding limitations on cruise missiles, as well as the Backfire bomber, should therefore be considered only in the context of the packages of which they are a part.” (Ibid.)
  2. Not found.