130. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) and the President’s Assistant for Management and Budget (James T. Lynn) to President Ford1


  • Binary Chemical Weapons Production Facility

Secretary Rumsfeld has appealed2 your decision to deny funding of $15 million in the FY 1978 Defense budget to establish and equip a facility to produce binary chemical artillery projectiles. This facility would be a first step toward a possible modernization of chemical munitions at a total cost of about $1 billion.

In your review of this issue, the following arguments were pointed out in favor of the Defense request:

—U.S. offensive chemical warfare capability is poor relative to the Soviet’s and is slowly deteriorating. We have no present ability to replace obsolescent chemical munitions.

—Binary munitions are safer to manufacture, transport and store than current munitions.

—Existing stocks of chemical munitions will need eventual replacement if we are to maintain an offensive capability.

The following considerations argued against approval of the facility:

—There is no urgency for production of binaries. Some chemical munitions are already forward deployed in Europe.

—Though Defense believes that a modernized CW capability would be a greater deterrent against Soviet employment of chemical weapons, more emphasis on our defensive capability may be sufficient response to the Soviet CW threat.

—Strong Congressional opposition exists to production of binaries (funds were denied by Congressional action on the FY 1975 budget; the FY 1976 Defense Authorization Bill forbids production of binaries unless explicitly authorized by the President).

—Approval of the facility may be premature until arms control initiatives can be better explored.

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Secretary Rumsfeld has appealed your decision on the grounds that funding of the facility would:

1. Preserve our options concerning future modernization of the stockpile.

2. Provide a strong, but not provocative signal to the Soviets that we are prepared to rebuild our chemical warfare capability if an effective arms control agreement cannot be reached.

3. Reverse the growing imbalance in U.S.–USSR offensive CW capabilities, while continued inaction would result in increased risk to NATO and possibly lower the nuclear threshold in Europe.

Because the possible production of binary offensive weapons raises fundamental policy matters, the question of the Defense appeal was considered at a meeting of the NSC Senior Review Group.3 No consensus was reached at this meeting.

Defense reaffirmed the need to provide an option for binary production. Funding of the facility would not presume a commitment to produce binary munitions. Approximately two years would be required to prepare the facility for production. Defense believes that the following rationale could be used in presenting this matter to Congress: (1) The U.S. has not yet presented a CW arms control proposal because we have not been able to solve the verification problem and (2) the cumulative effect of the Soviet CW effort is such that we have determined it necessary to take action now to preserve our options and are requesting the minimum amount needed to do this.

ACDA does not favor funding the binary weapons facility in the 1978 budget and argues that initiation of a program to produce binaries is premature, prior to a decision on the U.S. negotiating position on chemical weapons limitations. It engenders unnecessary controversy domestically and internationally without significant gains in national security. This would detract from the President’s broader and more important message on his defense budget.

State sees no urgency in the construction of this facility and argues that we should first proceed with a response to the Soviet proposal for a CW treaty in an effort to determine the possibility of a CW agreement. State points out that while a visible step toward modernizing our offensive chemical capabilities might possibly provide some negotiating leverage, possible Congressional denial of the request could leave us in a weakened negotiating position. Insofar as the case for binaries assumes increased peacetime forward deployment, it should be noted that we have not yet determined whether the FRG would oppose further deployment of additional chemical weapons, including binary weapons, [Page 621] on their territory. Current information suggests that such additional deployments would be opposed.


That you reaffirm your decision to deny 1978 funding of the binary facility. (State, ACDA and OMB recommend)4

Alternatively, that you

—Allocate $15 million within current totals for the binary facility in the FY 1978 defense budget. (NSC recommends)

—Include $15 million for the binary facility in the FY 1978 defense budget. (Defense and Jack Marsh recommend)

  1. Source: Ford Library, President’s Handwriting File, Box 30, Subject File, National Security—Chemical Warfare. Secret. Sent for action. A memorandum, January 3, from Connor to Ford was found attached that reads: “OMB and NSC would very much like your decision on this matter by early tomorrow morning in order for it to be reflected in the Budget.”
  2. See Document 121.
  3. See Document 128.
  4. Ford initialed his approval.