116. Memorandum From the Counselor of the Department of State (Sonnenfeldt) to Secretary of State Kissinger1


  • NSSM 246

Chuck Robinson has already sent you a memo reporting the outcome of yesterday’s NSC meeting on NSSM 246 (Tab A).2 I supported the memo, but there are some additional points which need to be made.

As regards the NSSM itself, it has the trappings of analysis but is in fact a piece of advocacy for higher defense spending across-the-board, with the FYDP (which itself calls for increases) as a point of departure. Moreover, the competition between Lynn’s budgetary and Rumsfeld’s military concerns has been resolved in an unfortunate manner: (1) estimates of cost associated with particular options are, by all reports, unrealistically low; and (2) these estimates were used to drive the sizing of the force options associated with them, contrary to the usual procedure. For this reason, apparently, the JCS have resisted the NSSM, although they seem to have been mute at the NSC.3

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Discussion of the conceptual issues in the NSSM is of variable quality, starting from relatively good in the strategic section but dropping off sharply in other sections. There is, finally, a tendency for deficiencies of this sort to be carried forward and pyramided so that as one proceeds from the lower order issues and options up the scale to alternative concepts of basic national policy, the darkness increases.

As regards the MX issue, I think it is off the mark to worry about “signals” to the Soviet Union. As you know, I am comfortable with the existence of the program, precisely because it is a reminder to the Soviets of the prospects if they prove unwilling to address the problem of throw-weight disparity in SALT. I also have no ideological concerns about a limited acceleration of the MX program, provided it does not repeat history and allow engineering and budgetary considerations to get out in front of policy.

If you plan to talk to the President about this, I recommend that the focus of your argument not be on opposition to the MX as such, but on the need to ensure that a decision regarding the pace of the program not (1) prejudice the question of basing it in silos or on mobile launchers, and (2) not represent a de facto commitment to deploy the MX on a massive scale. The President should clearly understand that large scale deployment of the MX means that a relatively greater proportion of our throw-weight will be on ICBMs, and that if accelerating the MX leads to silo deployment for want of other methods, the result will be to greatly diminish the stability of strategic systems in both the United States and the Soviet Union during periods of crisis.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Lot File 81D286, Box 3, Chronological File. Secret.
  2. Document 115.
  3. CJCS Brown conveyed the Joint Chiefs’ position on the NSSM 246 report in a December 3 memorandum to Rumsfeld. The report “is responsive in broad terms to Presidential guidance and can be viewed as the basis for decisions of a broad, general nature,” Brown wrote. However, “The section suggesting areas for follow-on study and the presence of unresolved issues and areas of uncertainty within the text of the response itself clearly indicate that significant additional effort is warranted before programming, budgeting, or policy decisions which affect current strategy, international agreements, or force posture are undertaken.” (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 330–79–0049, 381)