214. Memorandum From Director of Central Intelligence Turner to President Carter1

1. During our conversation on Thursday2 you asked me to put in writing the views I expressed on ways to improve the impact and chances for ratification of a SALT II Agreement. My basic feeling is that initialing of the SALT Agreement would provide you a wonderful opportunity to put it into context by announcing (either there or on its submission to Congress) your concept of what kinds of strategic forces [Page 880] are going to be needed for the security of our country in the decade ahead. On the one hand you would enumerate the ways in which the SALT Agreement limited our options for strategic forces; on the other hand you would describe how the forces we need can be built within the limitations of the SALT Agreement.3 This accent on a positive program to protect the country through SALT and deterrent forces could, I believe, offset some of the potential criticisms of the inhibiting features of SALT and disarm some of the critics.

2. The basic issue which must be addressed is the ways in which you plan to offset the increasing vulnerability of our fixed ICBM force.4 I made my recent prognosis to you that the day of vulnerability was going to be two to three years earlier than we had previously anticipated only after considerable analysis of the evidence. I do believe it is likely to be the case. I personally do not believe that this means that the Soviets would be likely to be tempted to launch a strategic attack against us. Thus in theory we could maintain the present program for strategic forces and take the position that these combined with the SALT Agreement will leave us in an adequate posture.

3. But I do believe that the perception of superiority that will give to the Soviets, and perhaps to our allies and others, is unacceptable to us. Therefore, I think that this is the key issue which must be addressed. There are two basic options for doing it:

(1) Undertaking new programs which would enhance the survivability of fixed or semi-fixed ICBMs, e.g., multiple aim point program, hardening of existing silos, an ABM program, ICBMs on submerged barges.

(2) Letting the fixed ICBM force atrophy because of its increasing vulnerability and move on instead to alternatives such as the cruise missile technology or larger sea-borne missile forces. The cruise missile option would mean developing some mix of intercontinental cruise missiles, air-launched cruise missiles, submarine-launched cruise missiles, surface ship-launched cruise missiles and ground-launched cruise missiles from forward bases.5

4. My suggestion would be that your announcement which would accompany the SALT Agreement would only establish which of these basic options you were going to pursue. The exact mix of forces to be constructed would be something that you would have the Secretary of Defense study over a period of months, but you would direct that added monies be spent immediately on developmental work for your option.

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5. I would additionally suggest that such an announcement would enhance the confidence of our European allies that the United States does have a consistent and adequate defense program. Although we do have a consistent and adequate defense program, I sense that this is not generally accepted in Europe as being the case today.

Stansfield Turner6
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 53, SALT: 8–9/78. Secret. At the top of the first page, Carter wrote, “Zbig—Work on these ideas. J.”
  2. Carter and Turner met from 1:15 to 1:40 p.m. on September 21. (Ibid., Presidential Materials, President’s Daily Diary) No other record of this conversation has been found.
  3. Carter underlined much of this sentence and the preceding one and wrote in the margin, “I agree.”
  4. Carter underlined the last part of this sentence beginning with “plan.”
  5. Carter made a checkmark in the margin next to each of these points.
  6. Turner signed “Stan” above this typed signature.