37. Memorandum From Philip Odeen of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • SALT

This memo is to give you some final thoughts on SALT. Some of the problems I see in the SALT community and my views on two substantive issues, throw weight and MIRVs.

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1. Problems in the SALT Community

There is a wide gap between the bureaucracy and your own thinking on SALT. As I understand your views, you are convinced we must expect to pay a real price, in terms of ongoing U.S. programs, to stop ongoing Soviet programs. No agency will acknowledge this. In the past ACDA and State could be expected to contribute to such a discussion, but as you saw at the Verification Panel with new personnel and a new orientation they are moving away from this role. Now, along with OSD, they either argue for pie-in-the-sky reductions or act as though the Soviets will limit their capabilities because it is “logical,” “fair,” in the interest of improved relations or because the Soviets fear an American buildup in the distant future.

To get the bureaucracy thinking sensibly about a deal that involves our programs will be very difficult. In SALT I there was a built-in expectation that the Safeguard ABM program would be limited to some extent. The President made this clear from the outset. There is no such expectation concerning Trident and B–1. In fact, the emphasis has been on not portraying these programs as bargaining chips but rather as needed replacement programs (Schlesinger is an exception—he understands the problem and will be flexible).

2. The Role of Program Analysis in SALT

It will be the task of the Verification Panel Working Group to bring much of the bureaucracy along. To do this at the right speed, not so fast as to generate backfires and not so slow as to create serious reaction when a major move is made, the Program Analysis shop will have to get guidance from you.

In the past we have known generally what was going on in your private channel. That was and is the only basis on which we could make a useful analytical input such as our recent memo on Trident. Without a clear understanding of what is relevant and timely, you will only get mindless analysis, no matter how good the analyst. So whatever channels you set up under your new responsibilities,2 you should take into account the need to keep your analysis team up to speed. It is the only way they can perform their basic task of helping you stay ahead of the rest of the government and bring the bureaucracy along at the right pace.

3. Substantive Issues

On the substance of SALT, Program Analysis will be providing you soon with memos on throw weight and on the B–1 and bomber ar [Page 119] maments, in the vein of the recent memo on Trident. They will also be taking a hard look at the leverage that a hard target MIRV program can provide. My last minute comments on throw weight and the hard target MIRV are indicated below.

Throw Weight

Any throw weight/payload aggregate is an arbitrary concept. It can be used to take care of the FBS problem by creating a framework of apparent equality, but we must first reach an acceptable agreement with the Soviets and then find a throw weight definition to fit it. For example, we could agree that the current aggregate throw weight of our ICBMs, SLBMs, bombers and FBS are equal and then find a definition to express that agreement. If we try to work the other way—by proposing a particular definition and specific level aggregate of throw weight, the bureaucracies on both sides will hamstring the negotiations by manipulating definitions and numbers and jockeying for marginal advantage.

Hard Target U.S. MIRVs

There is a theory (pushed by Jim Schlesinger) that only the prospect of a U.S. silo killing capability will bring the Soviets to negotiate seriously to limit their MIRVs. While I have some sympathy with this theory, two points should be kept in mind:

(1) To get SALT leverage from a hard target capability requires a visible program which we would presumably offer to stop. The Congress will probably not support such a visible program in the first place.

(2) The Soviets are already concerned about our counterforce capability—a primary goal of their new silos is greatly increasing hardening. The Soviet price for halting their new silos will undoubtedly include no new U.S. higher yield RVs. Once our high yield RV program passes a certain point, the Soviets are unlikely to be willing to forego the new silos. This will mean that our ability to limit the new Soviet ICBMs and MIRVs through limits on silo modification will be out the window. What point that will be is unclear, hopefully we are not already past it.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 890, SALT, SALT TWO–I–Geneva (Sept. 1973). Top Secret; Sensitive; Outside the System. Sent for information. Kissinger initialed the memorandum.
  2. Kissinger was appointed Secretary of State on September 21. He served concurrently as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.