121. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft)1


  • Chemical Weapons (CW)

The Department of Army included in its FY 1978 request for appropriations funding in the amount of $15.3 million to support a stand-by binary CW production facility. These funds would provide $2.0 million for modernization of an existing facility at Pine Bluff Arsenal and some $13.3 million to purchase production-related equipment. This would be a long-range program requiring two years before the facility would be ready to produce. These funds have since been deleted at the White House.

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Over the years, U.S. ability to deter Soviet use of CW through the threat of retaliation in kind has steadily decreased. At the same time, intelligence reveals that the Soviets have continued to emphasize operations on a chemical battlefield. While their intentions concerning the first use of CW are not entirely clear, the fact that they are able to launch a chemical attack against NATO in depth presents a serious threat to Allied forces. U.S. forces require a credible CW retaliatory capability in order to deter the Soviets from using chemicals and possibly lowering the nuclear threshold as a result.

The Department of Defense is fully supportive of the principles behind the ongoing arms control negotiations in the area of CW. However, we are aware that there has been little positive movement toward achieving an effective agreement. In our view, a primary reason for Soviet intractability is the fact that they see no real advantage in giving up their superior capability. Thus, DOD sees two significant advantages accruing from the appropriation of funds for the long lead-time binary production items requested by the Army: (1) The appropriations would preserve our options concerning future modernization of the U.S. CW stockpile and (2) it would provide a strong, but by no means provocative, signal to the Soviets that the U.S. is prepared to rebuild its CW capability if an effective arms control agreement cannot be reached.

In this regard, DOD has prepared the attached position paper which outlines the essential elements of an agreement we consider would meet our security needs.2 It is provided for interagency consideration. The DOD is prepared to couple our request for FY 1978 funds for binary items to a DOD commitment to negotiate an acceptable agreement along these lines.

I urge that the Army’s request for these items be restored in the FY 1978 budget.

Donald Rumsfeld
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 330–79–0049, 370.64, CBR, (June–Dec.) 1976. Confidential. Although no drafting information appears on the memorandum, McAuliffe forwarded it to Rumsfeld under his own December 15 memorandum with the recommendation that he sign it. A handwritten memorandum, December 15, addressed to Rumsfeld from Holcomb was found attached. It reads: “Brent [Scowcroft] wants an SRG meeting on this subject. . . tentatively scheduled for 12/16 in the afternoon. Hence the urgency.” (Ellipsis in the original.) McAuliffe’s and Holcomb’s memoranda are ibid. The meeting was held on December 29.
  2. The undated paper entitled “Proposed Chemical Weapons Arms Limitation” is attached, but not printed.