167. Minutes of Verification Panel Meeting1

    • Safeguard
    • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
    • State
      • John N. Irwin
      • Ronald Spiers
    • Defense
      • David Packard
      • Gardiner Tucker
    • CIA
      • Richard Helms
    • JCS
      • Lt. Gen. John Vogt
    • ACDA
      • Gerard Smith
      • Philip J. Farley
    • OMB
      • James Schlesinger
    • NSC Staff K. Wayne Smith
      • Jack Merritt


It was agreed that:

  • —the NSC should meet on the subject of how to proceed with Safeguard. The meeting will be scheduled for January 27, 1971.
  • —the Verification Panel will meet again to discuss the issues to go before the NSC. At this meeting Defense will present a briefing on hard-site defense concepts and ACDA will present the implications of such defenses for the Soviets.

The meeting opened with Mr. Packard summarizing the essentials of the DOD paper on Safeguard and Related Strategic Programs.2

Mr. Kissinger: I understand what you propose is the 4-site defense either to defend Minuteman or as part of area defense and doing work on the NCA in order to shift to our SALT position.

Mr. Packard: Also, the NCA is consistent with area defense.

Mr. Kissinger: Your paper tells me that we are building one kind of defense, justifying another and talking in negotiations about still another. Gerry (Smith), this has profound implications for SALT. What is your view?

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(Ambassador Smith passed out a paper at this time which is attached.)3

Amb. Smith: I have put my thoughts into writing. In addition to the points on the paper, I have two others I want to make. First, our bargaining power depends on our program having bi-partisan support in Congress. If we get into a big fight, and the Soviets will certainly try to manipulate Congressional opinion, we may lose our bargaining power.

Mr. Kissinger: Dave, are you asking for money for site development?

Mr. Packard: For the NCA, only.

Amb. Smith: The implicit assumption in David Packard’s paper is that they get Galosh and a Moscow defense and we get hard-site defense. I don’t think that is a reasonable expectation.

Mr. Kissinger: I do not understand why our defending our Minuteman should bother the Soviets. I can see why an area defense might worry them, but not defense of our ICBMs. Why, in the theory of arms control, is not this the least escalatory thing we can do?

Amb. Smith: For the same reason we worry about the Soviets. They can expand a missile defense and they have located their missiles near their cities.

Mr. Kissinger: But we haven’t.

Mr. Packard: I don’t think they worry about hard-site defense. They worry about Safeguard. If you want hard-site defense, you wouldn’t do it with Safeguard—Safeguard is not optimum for missile defense. One alternative would be to change to a dedicated hard-site defense.

Mr. Irwin: I think this is a logical program, but there are worries in SALT, and difficulties with Congress. It (the paper) says the reasons for Safeguard are inadequate.

Mr. Packard: No—the reasons for Safeguard are: defend Minuteman, area defense, Nth country and so on. The reasons are still valid.

Mr. Irwin: That is for the area defense.

Mr. Packard: One reason we asked for NCA planning was to put to the Congress squarely the issue—will they or will they not approve?

[Page 673]

Mr. Kissinger: Do we want to know that? Seriously.

Amb. Smith: This is different from the Washington site we asked for last year. The NCA won’t be a part of Safeguard. Congress may view it much differently in an arms limitation sense.

Mr. Packard: I agree. I think we can get support for NCA if we slow the 4-site defense. We would present it to the leadership that way.

Mr. Kissinger: Let me interject a question of timing. By when do we need Presidential decision? I doubt that we can get it before the State of the Union address.4

Mr. Packard: We can leave it in the budget and just not make an issue.

Mr. Kissinger: We can have an NCA meeting when the issues can be presented to the President. If we are low-key, we can leave the $1.4 billion in the budget without a specific discussion. The Russians will be more interested in our rationale and decisions than the amount of budget. We’ll schedule the NSC for a week from Wednesday (January 27) and hope to get the President’s decision by the following Monday.5

Mr. Helms: This is the most difficult problem I have seen us faced with.

Mr. Kissinger: We have two problems: what is sensible in Safeguard in the absence of an agreement; what is sensible this year in relation to SALT.

The 4-site defense saves only 60 Minutemen for $3–4 billion, but if it is an interim system of more value—

Mr. Packard: Safeguard gives an interim level defense.

Mr. Kissinger: What is most helpful for negotiations? Gerry’s argument is that the Soviets view our actions as devious or that we are reaching a point where Safeguard is irreversible. But, if we give it up, why should they negotiate? If they worry about irreversibility, shouldn’t they be more inclined to negotiate?

Mr. Irwin: I think the mobile ICBM is a separate issue. The Packard paper doesn’t look at the effect of hard-site defense for both the U.S. and USSR, nor does it treat mobiles in this way.

Mr. Kissinger: Can we sum up the issues for the President? We need to determine our program for this year in relation to what Safeguard should be without a SALT agreement and in relation to what is helpful to SALT.

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Mr. Packard: Option E6 and the NCA are not consistent with area defense and not consistent with the President’s strategic criteria.7

Mr. Irwin: Would you use Safeguard or hard-site defense for NCA?

Mr. Packard: Safeguard. It gives a better defense of Washington and would be cheaper. Hard-site defense is too localized in its defense.

Mr. Irwin: The problem with area defense or NCA is that they don’t defend Minuteman. If you do not go to hard-site defense, you have a more unstable situation, but if you do, it is contrary to SALT. Silo hardening does gain time—but what happens later on?

Mr. Packard: I don’t think NCA makes any sense at all. The only reason to go ahead is for an agreement. We will have trouble justifying it. Hard-site defense, like Henry said, is consistent with the theory of arms control.

Amb. Smith: Can we face the prospect of the Soviets doing the same thing?

Gen. Vogt: We operate now on the theory that we can’t destroy their missiles.

Amb. Smith: If we saw the Soviets building a hard-site defense we would be concerned.

Gen. Vogt: I don’t think the Soviets will feel compelled to build a hard-site defense. Our MIRV is low-yield and inaccurate. Our policy of not attacking their retaliatory force is public knowledge. On the other hand, the threat of SS–9s has increased.

Amb. Smith: Packard’s paper tries to show the projected threat increased—that is untrue and misleading.

Mr. Kissinger: It makes no difference—if the threat hasn’t lessened, then the logic still holds.

Amb. Smith: The Soviets can not rely on our not getting a counterforce capability. We know we can get one quickly if we want to. They have to plan on it.

Gen. Vogt: I think they plan on the basis of our programs which are public knowledge, just as we plan on the basis of their programs.

Mr. Kissinger: Gerry, why should we object violently to protection of their missiles?

Amb. Smith: Because of the potential it gives to upgrade to population defense.

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Mr. Kissinger: We could let them have their NCA and we could have hard-site defense. Or, you could have both sides keep what they are building. That is an intellectually respectable position.

Mr. Irwin: But what about Minuteman?

Mr. Packard: It makes sense to go to a 3 or 4-site Safeguard and leave them the Moscow system. Another alternative is hard-site and NCA for both.

Mr. Irwin: And drop Safeguard.

Mr. Packard: Right.

Mr. Irwin: But you will have Congressional problems.

Mr. Packard: I’m not sure—the main interest is Minuteman defense. Of course, Gerry worries about SA–5 upgrade. Incidentally, there is a study showing SA–5s have a significant capability now.

Amb. Smith: There is another problem—the Soviets just accepted NCA—do I change our position now?

Mr. Kissinger: We don’t want to just plod along building something we don’t want, just because of a prior incorrect decision, if it was incorrect.

Amb. Smith: Don’t forget zero.

Mr. Kissinger: Right, zero is attractive. We are building an area defense which we can’t have, justifying a missile defense which won’t work and negotiating an NCA defense we don’t want. It seems that staying where we are or hard-site defense makes sense. Although, Gerry, I wouldn’t want to be there when you tell Semenov.

Amb. Smith: Perhaps I won’t be.

Mr. Kissinger: For next year’s program, we should discuss issues of hard-site versus NCA versus zero. Area defense is not consistent with SALT—the President’s decision on area defense was made in SALT. The price of SALT was giving up area defense. We would keep it open if SALT fails, but not in SALT. We have never in NSC looked at hard-site or NCA versus what we are doing.

Mr. Irwin: I keep coming back to Option D and reductions as the best solution.8 Is “D” out of the question?

Amb. Smith: No—but the Soviets showed no interest in Option D.

Mr. Kissinger: These are the issues we can discuss in February. In the NSC meeting we need to talk about hard-site defense in three different ways: unrestrained defense and its implications; restrained and [Page 676] how you could define it; something which is more or less ‘stay where you are.’ If NCA is meaningless we might push for zero or trade zero on our side for something else.

Mr. Packard: I can get a briefing together on hard-site defense.

Mr. Kissinger: Please do—we will have it next meeting.

Amb. Smith: I would also like to cover it from the Soviet view.

Mr. Kissinger: Fine, Gerry, good point. We will have one more meeting of this group before the NSC.

Mr. Schlesinger: I want to point out that the budget doesn’t lock us in. There isn’t anything specific and we can always amend it in view of a Presidential decision.

Amb. Smith: I would like to point out that every time I mention a 3 or 4-site defense, people say it is militarily meaningless.

Mr. Kissinger: Dave (Packard), would you get us the information on this for the next meeting? It is an important point.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–107, Verification Panel Minutes, Originals, 1969–3/8/72 [3 of 6]. Top Secret. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room.
  2. See the attachment to Document 166.
  3. Smith’s January 16 memorandum urged Packard, Kissinger, Irwin, Helms, and Vogt to take SALT negotiations and the possibility of a Soviet strategic reaction into account when reaching a decision on Safeguard. With those factors in mind, Smith recommended a “minimum rate of construction at Grand Forks and Malmstrom,” that the initiation of construction at Whiteman be deferred, and that no additional sites be procured. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–221, NSDM 97)
  4. President Nixon gave the annual State of the Union message to Congress on January 22.
  5. February 1.
  6. See footnote 3, Document 166.
  7. See footnote 2, Document 166.
  8. NSDM 51, issued on April 10, 1970, established Options A through D as negotiating proposals for the U.S. SALT Delegation. For the text, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXII, SALT I, 1969–1972, Document 68.