124. Editorial Note
The Defense Program Review Committee met on January 30, 1970, to discuss alternative Safeguard deployment sites for fiscal year 1971. Attendees included the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger, Under Secretary of State Richardson, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Johnson, Attorney General Mitchell, Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency Smith, Science Adviser to the President DuBridge, Assistant Director of the Bureau of the Budget Schlesinger, Deputy Secretary of Defense Packard, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Wheeler.
President Nixon, according to talking points prepared for Kissinger by the National Security Council Staff, had decided at the NSC meeting of January 23 “to accept the DOD recommendation that we begin construction in FY 71 of additional Safeguard sites as a first step toward the full Phase II system. In making that decision, the President is aware of the need to consider its relationship to SALT. He is determined that the details of the decision—namely which sites to build in FY 71 and the way the decision is presented publicly—be as constructive as possible from the SALT point of view. For that reason, he has deferred final, specific decision on sites for FY 71 construction until a further review of the SALT implications of different possibilities. It is the purpose of this meeting to undertake that review.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–99, DPRC Meeting, January 30, 1970)[Page 436]
The record of the meeting consists of handwritten notes in an unknown hand. According to the notes, Kissinger began by stating that the “leaks must stop.” He also announced that the “President has decided to go ahead with Phase II; area defense is a component of his program. So, issue here is what step for next year in light of strategic needs, SALT. Packard will present alternatives.” (Ibid., Box H–118, DPRC Minutes, Originals, 1969–73) Packard’s briefing closely followed the Summary of Safeguard alternatives prepared in the Department of Defense that Packard had distributed on January 29 to DPRC members. See Document 122.
According to the notes from the DPRC meeting, Kissinger, at the conclusion of Packard’s briefing, asked if having a site at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, would contribute to area defense.
“Packard: Yes, but it is part of seven-site system. DOD would still say that on balance Alternative 1 is still best from the point of view of keeping up progress on all objectives. The choice is, however, really political and SALT—any one is appropriate from military point of view.
“DuBridge: The real issue is area defense against Chinese, [illegible—Soviet?] subs, or NCA.
“Richardson: The NW site has area value, but it’s also for bombers. Isn’t crucial question from the point of view of SALT and Congress the extent to which we want to rely on Chinese threat rationale? The problem: if you do rely on it and it becomes major subject of debate, then SALT [illegible] is outside Soviet-U.S. relations.
“Kissinger: Only if you assume zero ABM is among acceptable SALT outcomes. We did say that SALT agreement must allow enough ABM for China.
“Richardson: But if we say we need area with twelve sites against China and make it forcefully, we cannot go below twelve sites in SALT.
“Kissinger: It puts on a floor. It makes zero level impossible—but that doesn’t mean no agreement with Soviets is possible.
“Richardson: That’s right. It says below Phase II is not negotiable. Once we’re committed to this publicly, we don’t go below it for SALT. The question is whether President wants to accept that inflexibility in negotiations at this point. That raises the question whether [illegible] which one would want to subordinate China defense to get a certain kind of agreement. It just isn’t true and if we commit to Phase II this year you haven’t forced a negotiating position because of what had to be said in selling area defense to China.
“Mitchell: China threat was mentioned last year.
“Richardson: Yes, but no money.
“Kissinger: Every alternative has some area implication because each includes site preparation on ‘pure’ area sites. That difference may be pretty slight to public.[Page 437]
“Richardson: It is a question of what emphasis has to be put on China threat in argument.
“Kissinger: If we do area, we eliminate zero ABM. If we want to keep zero ABM open, doesn’t that preclude advance preparation at other area sites?
“Packard: Advance preparation involves site selection and survey, no actual construction on the site. Thus, quite a little difference in what is actually done and in degree of commitment.
“From the point of view of minimal area ABM levels, the area minimum is about Phase II equals 900. Smaller numbers are not much use because you need [double?] number of interceptors at every site to avoid saturation.
“Mitchell: Does government already [plan for a?] Northwest site?
“Packard: Yes, but Senator Jackson says we should do it somewhere else—way up in corner away from Seattle. NCA site, have to find several locations near Washington.
“DuBridge: So, there has to be some survey work on any alternative.
“Mitchell: Isn’t it quite clear that President insists on area defense against China?
“Smith: But he also said anything is negotiable.
“Richardson: We may have to protect President from himself. Make it clear what the implications of the President’s stated position may be.
“Mitchell: It’s not just a matter of his position, but the diplomatic base for it.
“Richardson: If that’s absolutely [fixed?]—there’s a lot to be said for being very clear about committing to area defense. But there are two counter-arguments we may want—and he may want—to go back to and look at the commitment in the future. [Illegible] would in the administration [illegible] enough China defense more than last year. Not yet sure of Soviet position on area defense on China.
“Smith: Soviet Union’s ABM defense [against] China is very much more unmanageable than ours. They didn’t design a system which would give them the defense Phase II would give us.
“Richardson: They may have concluded their only defense against China is deterrence and superiority. If they think they may not want us to have a Phase II because of possibility of thickening against Soviet second strike.
“Smith: Soviets have said would consider Phase II a thick system.
“Richardson: Some we recognize. Soviets may want zero. We have to decide whether President wants to close that option. Second, we should also look closely at the real usefulness of Phase II in Southeast [Page 438] Asia diplomacy. Haven’t done that adequately. The real question whether [illegible] effect on our diplomacy. Building of ABM system will do nothing but accelerate China’s own determination to achieve nuclear capability.”
Richardson then mentioned an article published in the April 1970 issue of Foreign Affairs by A. Doak Barnett, a leading China scholar. Barnett argued that China was determined to acquire some nuclear capability as a deterrent against a Soviet or U.S. attack. The United States, by deploying an ABM designed to provide area defense against a Chinese attack, would simply force China to quantitatively and qualitatively improve its nascent nuclear capabilities. Moreover, Barnett wrote, an ABM would only forestall the inevitable: a credible Chinese deterrent, the acquisition of which, he predicted, would actually lead Beijing to sign arms control measures. For the full text of the article, see Foreign Affairs (April 1970), pages 427–442.
According to the notes of the meeting, Richardson said that, if Barnett’s predictions came true, the United States would either have to “thicken” Safeguard or “give up effort to neutralize. The President might want to review this argument about effect of Chinese ABM [illegible] of knowing what, if anything, he could get in terms of SALT by giving it up.
“Packard: As to presidential communication, it is possible [for] us to present ABM case without concerning President. Can keep defense on bombers, etc.
“DuBridge: But the President [illegible] area element clear. The congressional debate focused on Minuteman. Shift to NW would require [illegible] enough on China.
“Packard: Chinese won’t accelerate nuclear effort on basis on U.S. actions.
“Richardson: The argument isn’t they will move faster, but how it affects efforts to achieve accommodation with China. Will spur to out build Phase II as soon as possible. You will have paid a lot of money and maybe SALT for a few years of security against China. The issue is whether it’s worth it.
“Kissinger: It might be. Chinese are easier to deal with while we do have nuclear superiority.
“Richardson: The argument may be wrong, as you suggest. But it must be made.
“Mitchell: The thrust of your argument is to stick to hard sites.
“Kissinger: President identified three objectives. Should we give up area?
“Richardson: It is not clear. There are five or seven sites which are useful only for area defense, not Minuteman or NCA. Once you build one of them, you’d have to dig in so hard on China.[Page 439]
“Johnson: Washington site covers both area and retaliatory force (command and control).
“Kissinger: The scientific community (PSAC) wants to kill ABM: area defense this year; Minuteman later on technical grounds. The scientists I talk to say we can go ahead with Phase I for political reasons. The dedicated system doesn’t [illegible] and won’t for some time. If we go on with a Minuteman-only plan, we will be attacked for pushing forward on technically weak Safeguard component defense of Minuteman.
“Packard: The scientists want us to upgrade Hawk and say SAM upgrade is impossible! I don’t think 3 (two Minuteman) makes any sense. 4 has some area usefulness as well as Minuteman and slows down a bit. The problems in Washington [are?] impossible politically. The real choices are 4 and 1.
“Wheeler: Chiefs have reviewed alternatives. 1 and 2 make military sense. Already supports 1, which [moves?] into area defense. Shouldn’t say NW is purely China. Also SLBMs and bombers.
“As between 1 and 2:1 starts on SLBM, provides hard point defense. Safeguard does not do enough to defend Minuteman. 2 no SLBM until you get NE perimeter acquisition radar. Some additional decision time for NCA.
“Kissinger: How much time?
“Packard: Depends on weight of attack. Option less than thirty minutes against big attack. Time depends on rate of fire.
“Wheeler: JCS come down on 1 or 2 as militarily sensible. 3 and 4 most unattractive because of scientific critics and because Whiteman gives little area help. Choice [between] 1 or 2 is political. More heat from localities on 2 than 1.
“Packard: But we haven’t really looked closely at the importance of this additional 30 minutes for [illegible]. It’s an important factor. Six minutes is so short.
“DuBridge: PSAC’s position is that, for area defense, Phase II will work technologically. No better way. Safeguard isn’t enough for Minuteman defense. More radars are needed. If both objectives are important, go with Phase II. But also go to HPD radars.
“Kissinger: Do they want additional Minuteman defense with Safeguard?
“Packard: Only use for us is its contribution to area defense.
“Kissinger: If President gives up area defense for the time being and goes to 3, Minuteman defense only, we will face very serious technical criticism.
“Unidentified speaker: Argument then a mixed HPD system with small radars plus MSR.[Page 440]
“Packard: I would agree if we’re interested in Minuteman defense only, we shouldn’t push on with Safeguard.
“Mitchell: What do you get from NW on bombers?
“Wheeler: Bombers are now on twenty-nine bases. ‘Many eggs in each basket.’ There are plans, which are rather expensive, for dispersal and movement to the center of country to 76 bases. But B–52 is not optimal plane for such dispersed deployment. Also problem with number of planes you’d [equip] with nuclear weapons. Time for alert bombers to take off is crucial. Area defense buys time.
“Mitchell: How much covered by NW?
“Wheeler: Very small fraction. Real protection must wait for twelve sites.
“Packard: Have never developed bomber-only option.
“Mitchell: How much would Whiteman put you back on HPD?
“Packard: Can’t say. Maybe none because you would want MSR in Minuteman fields to help.
“Mitchell: So, if you go ahead with Whiteman site, no new sources of criticism?
“Kissinger: But there is still area at Whiteman.
“Richardson: True, but there is the matter of consistency between this year’s rationale and last year’s. From point of view, it’s better to have something other than area defense against China on which to rely.
“Packard: From point of view, Whiteman can be defended just like last year.
“Smith: How do we conceive Soviets will coordinate an ICBM/SLBM first strike.
“Kissinger: If you assume fire on warning …
“DuBridge: It’s not on warning, but on loss of bombers.
“Wheeler: Loss of bombers is significant. Also, there is the point of view of time for decision. Have to receive reports, get communications in. That’s the reason we in JCS put emphasis on defending the NCA to give time.
“Smith: You’d also be seeing the mass launch. So what is the importance of the bomber loss? Would trade 1,000 Minuteman fired for sure be worth loss of bombers?
“Kissinger: If you want to fire before impact, you know you’re in a war. But we don’t want to fire on warning.
“Smith: Thirty missiles on bombers is not ‘on warning.’
“DuBridge: Plus ICBMs on horizon.
“Kissinger: Your argument is really against the whole bomber rationale.[Page 441]
“Smith: Because it is hopeless to coordinate the problem of taking out bombers first.
“Wheeler: Disarming attack to reduce retaliatory force.
“Smith: But disarming attack by submarines against airfields isn’t sensible.
“Packard: Pindown. [The notetaker added parenthetically that Smith did “not know answer,” which was that “if there is a pindown ABM won’t work.”]
“Kissinger: Your choice?
“Smith: 2, if I had to pick an additional deployment. If we say in 1970 that we must have a defensive system to operate foreign policy and is a short-term asset. But the life of a defensive system is limited. And the [implication?] on defense in the interim will weaken Asian credibility in our deterrent when area defense doesn’t work. Have we put question to Asians? There will be no ABMs in Asia.
“Johnson: Japanese have expressed support for U.S. ABM. Not a definitive view, of course.
“Richardson: There may be real drawbacks to arguing that the credibility of our Asian diplomacy depends on ABM, problems after it doesn’t work they want one too.
“Johnson: Yes, our statement, that we need ABM for deterrence will have to convince them.
“Kissinger: Allies’ reliance on U.S. deterrent—in Europe or Asia—will erode. In terms of selling 3 makes no sense. 4 has Minuteman defect from scientific point of view, some area defense (though debated).
“Richardson: I like a mixed motivation position.
“Kissinger: NW does have some non-Chinese use: SLBM, accidents. Why do you prefer 2?
“Smith: NCA protection. Matches Soviet system. Protecting command and control is useful.
“DuBridge: Protection of Washington is also useful against China.
“Richardson: Only argument against Washington is political.
“Johnson: Also site problems.
“Schlesinger: Pure area would be NW and NCA. Why?
“Packard: Political problem with NCA. But NW/NCA is possible, but less trouble with Whiteman.
“Kissinger: Isn’t MSR problem just as bad with HPD with Washington? Why use SLBMs?
“DuBridge: Chinese could attack Washington. Also very important from the scientific point of view to have enough R&D money for HPD radars. 4 might free some money for that.[Page 442]
“Schlesinger: Should consider NW/NCA heavy commitment to area, no Minuteman problem.
“Packard: But case for the defense of Minuteman is strongest on need desirability.
“Kissinger: We will sum up options, dropping 3 [and leaving] 1, 2, 4, plus Smith’s Phase I plus R&D.
“Smith: [Illegible—Information?] study of pros and cons of 1 doesn’t say it puts pressure on Soviets to negotiate unless you are willing to consider zero ABM.
“Kissinger: In any deployment, we should not rely on China only in order to give flexibility in SALT. Should not now lock into area defense, so we couldn’t put arguments forward. I will sum up pros and cons and circulate to principals before they go to President.
“Richardson: A lot depends on how argument is put.
“Kissinger: After the President [makes his decision?], develop rationale in DPRC.”
In early February, Kissinger attached to an undated memorandum to President Nixon an 8-page list, prepared by the National Security Council Staff, of arguments for and against each Safeguard deployment option. See Document 125 and footnotes 5 and 6 thereto.