220. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Brown to President Carter1


  • JCS Memorandum “SALT II in Perspective”

I am forwarding to you the latest statement of the views of the JCS on SALT, as expressed in the attached paper, “SALT II in Perspective.”2 While reserving final judgment until all negotiating and related program issues are settled, the JCS conclude that the agreement “could make a contribution to our overall strategic posture”. It is important to [Page 903] recognize that this conclusion is a qualified one, conditioned on the ultimate agreement meeting the following tests:

1. Satisfactory resolution of the outstanding issues consistent with our current positions. (While the JCS refer to the US position as of 11 October, I believe there is nothing in your instructions of 14 October inconsistent with their view.)

I would add that these views correspond to my own previously expressed comment that in many areas, our current positions are such that we have essentially no room for concessions, in terms both of our security interest and of maintaining support for the results.

On Backfire, the JCS note their “regret” over the decision not to insist on counting it in the aggregate, and conclude that “if the Backfire is not to be counted in the aggregate, we must take its capabilities into account in our analyses and programs”.

2. Assurances that we intend to exercise the freedom preserved by the agreement for transfer of cruise missiles and their technology to our allies and for exploitation of conventional cruise missile potentials.

I fully agree that both these issues are important, militarily and politically. While it is clearly premature to decide on specific programs, the importance of our willingness to cooperate with our allies in meeting the deficiencies perceived to exist in theater nuclear forces has been highlighted by the recent consultations bilaterally and with the alliance generally. Similarly, both the negotiations and technical developments have made clear that the need to preserve our flexibility to use cruise missiles for conventional roles is not only an issue of principle, but one of practical military importance.

3. A “substantive and formal commitment by the Executive Branch to defense programs necessary to maintain the balance” to be made before initialling the agreement and without reducing funds for tactical nuclear or conventional programs.

The JCS stress that in their view SALT II “can make only a modest contribution to US security” and must be regarded as “but one component of a broader, balanced program of arms control negotiations and military programs”. They repeat their previously stated view that the “safeguards” called for by the JCS at the time of SALT I have not been vigorously pursued, and that we face an adverse trend in the strategic situation which must be reversed.

Here again, I am in full agreement on the necessity—both on strictly military grounds and politically—for the conclusion of a SALT II agreement to be accompanied by a definite strategic force program for the future. The work we in the Defense Department have underway, and which I have discussed with you, will provide the basis for my recommendations as to the content of that program.

[Page 904]

In connection with the JCS reservation of final judgment and their emphasis on the importance of the remaining negotiating issues, I believe it is appropriate to stress the need to continue to ensure that the JCS have an adequate opportunity to participate in the process, so that you will know their views when you make the crucial decisions on any remaining issues in SALT, and on the necessary force structure decisions that SALT II must preserve as possibilities, but which are not assured as programs simply by reaching a SALT agreement.

Finally, I would call your attention to these specific points of interest referred to in the attached paper:

—The prominence given to exercise of the rights we have preserved in the non-circumvention clause.

—The emphasis on the telemetry encryption issue.

—The call for inclusion in the Statement of Principles of an acknowledgment that NTM must be augmented when necessary by cooperative measures.

—The emphasis on conventional cruise missiles.

Harold Brown
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files, FRC 330–81–0202, USSR 388.3. Secret.
  2. Attached but not printed is JSCM–321–78, October 12, from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Brown.