33. National Security Study Memorandum 1921


  • The Secretary of Defense
  • The Director of Central Intelligence
  • The Deputy Secretary of State
  • The Director, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency


  • Chemical Weapons Policy

The President has noted the NSSM 157 reports2 and the NSC Under Secretaries Committee’s second annual review of U.S. chemical [Page 149] warfare and biological research programs3—which considered, inter alia, the need for further examination of U.S. CW posture options following a decision on NSSM 157.

However, prior to deciding what, if any, CW limitations are in the interests of the United States, the President has directed a study of United States deterrent/retaliatory posture options for chemical weapons.

Drawing upon past reports as appropriate, including those noted above, this study should comprise (1) an updated summary of the threat and of the rationale for chemical weapons; (2) an updated review of the U.S. and allied chemical warfare capability and programs, and existing and potential constraints on these programs; and (3) full analysis, with advantages and disadvantages, of such CW posture options as the following:

—Improved offensive and defensive CW capability, with particular emphasis on planned and prospective binary capabilities and forward deployment.

—Reliance on the existing CW capability, including consideration of what actions might be required to avoid significant deterioration of this capability over time.

—Reliance on a more limited CW retaliatory option with some improved defensive measures.

—Reliance on improved defensive measures only (recognizing that this calls into question the retaliatory aspect of the present deterrent/retaliatory policy).

The study should also note the relationship of the above considerations and options to the arms control alternatives set forth in the NSSM 157 report.

The President has directed that this study be performed by an NSC Ad Hoc Group, comprising representatives of the addressees and chaired by a representative of the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.

The study should be submitted for consideration of the Senior Review Group by March 29, 1974.

Henry A. Kissinger
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 365, Subject Files, NSSMs Nos. 104–206. Top Secret. A copy was sent to Moorer. Kissinger forwarded the NSSM to Nixon under an undated covering memorandum with the recommendation that he approve its issuance. (Ibid., NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–192, Study Memoranda, NSSM 157 [1 of 4])
  2. NSSM 157, “Review of U.S. Position on Chemical Weapons Prohibitions,” July 28, 1972, and the study, August 12, submitted in response to it are Documents 263 and 264 in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Vol. E–2, Arms Control and Nonproliferation, 1969–1972.
  3. Not found.