208. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to Secretary of Defense Laird1

    • Strategic Missile Submarine Program

The President has received your study of ways to deploy quickly additional ballistic missile submarines2 and has tentatively approved your decision to accelerate the ULMS submarine.

The President is concerned, however, that we are not achieving his principal goal of being able to quickly deploy additional submarine-based ballistic missile launchers. Also we are giving up an important hedge against possible future Soviet ASW threats by fixing now on a design for the submarine. Accordingly, he would like you to re-examine your decision, over the next several months, considering the following:

  • —The difference in size of our SLBM force by 1980 under ULMS and other options as well as the length of time required to achieve parity with the Soviets in SLBM launchers if they are not included in a SAL agreement. Both launchers and RVs should be considered. How might these factors affect our strategic and political relationship with the Soviets?
  • —The extent of the risks in the decision to rely heavily on concurrency in order to accelerate ULMS. What are the possible schedule slippage, cost overruns, and technical problems?
  • —The specific technical and design features we are sacrificing by fixing the ULMS design some three years earlier than would be required for an IOC of 1981.
  • —The reduced hedge against Soviet ASW breakthroughs resulting from fixing the ULMS design before the nature or extent of the threat is known. What is the range of possible threats and how will we hedge against them?
  • —The design improvements that could be made in an improved 640 submarine without sacrificing the 1977 IOC. If the IOC were slipped one year, what improvements could be made?
  • —The opportunity costs of proceeding with the most costly option, ULMS. What other strategic or general purpose force options will we have to forego to finance ULMS rather than the 640 submarine?
  • —The impact on personnel retention and morale of the longer time at sea planned for the ULMS boat. Since both ULMS and the 640 boats would carry long-range missiles, won’t the ULMS boat crews be separated from their families more?
  • —The impact on total available RVs if we later decide to proceed with the ULMS II missile and not develop ULMS I.3 How much would this increase the vulnerability of our current submarines?

The President would like your re-appraisal to form the basis for NSC review this summer.

The President has directed that, in the interim, you insure that no irrevocable actions are taken concerning the design of the ULMS submarine that would not be required to meet an IOC of 1981.

Henry A. Kissinger
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 230, Agency Files, Department of Defense, Vol. XVI. Top Secret; Eyes Only.
  2. Document 205.
  3. The ULMS I was an SLBM then under development with a range of about 4,000 nautical miles that could be fitted either onto existing Polaris submarines or onto a new ULMS submarine. The ULMS II was conceived of as an advanced model of the ULMS I with a longer range of some 6,000 nautical miles.