15. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1

    • NSC Meeting on FY 1970 Defense Budget

The Department of Defense will brief the NSC on their proposal for an ABM system, which they term the Modified Sentinel System.

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This system will:

Provide us with the option to respond promptly to Soviet deployment of accurate multiple warheads on their ballistic missiles by actively defending our Minuteman missile force. It will not provide us with an actual Minuteman defense.
Provide us with area protection for our alert strategic bomber force against attacks by Soviet ballistic missile submarines and orbital weapons.
Provide protection for Washington, D.C. against moderately heavy attacks from any source.

Such a system, designed to protect our deterrent, can also provide protection against accidental or irrational nuclear attacks by any power. In addition, the system can provide complete protection against the early Chinese ICBM threat.

The old Sentinel system also provided the Minuteman defense option and protection against the early Chinese threat. Sentinel did not provide protection for our bombers, did not protect Washington against moderately heavy attacks, and did not provide complete protection against accidental attacks from any source.

I believe you should approve the DOD plan. However, I recommend that you do not indicate your final decision until Monday.2 In the meantime, I will have prepared a rationale and backup book which all agencies can use in their public statements.3

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–21, NSC Meeting, FY 70 Defense Budget, March 5, 1969. Top Secret. Sent for action.
  2. March 10. No record of Nixon’s response to Kissinger’s recommendation was found.
  3. Kissinger on March 8 sent a briefing book to Nixon that included a draft presidential statement announcing the ABM decision and its rationale, questions and answers likely to arise on the issue, and additional background material. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 843, ABMMIRV, Anti-Ballistic Missile System)