39. Paper Prepared by the National Security Study Memorandum 192 Ad Hoc Group1


A. Rationale for Chemical Weapons

The US has a no-first-use policy for lethal and incapacitating chemical weapons.

The purposes of maintaining a chemical weapons capability are to deter the wartime use of chemical weapons by an adversary against US forces and, if this deterrence fails, to enable US forces to retaliate with chemical weapons.3

Nuclear weapons may or may not be as credible a deterrent to chemical warfare as a capability to retaliate in kind. At any rate, a CW [Page 176] retaliatory and defensive capability can limit any expectation by an adversary that a significant military advantage might be achieved through initiation of chemical warfare in a conventional conflict. It is generally concluded that a perceived US capability for fullest possible retaliation in kind to any use of CW, including defensive measures and equipment, had an important deterrent effect against the possible use of chemical weapons by Germany in World War II.

There is no real CW threat to CONUS. The primary concern today is possible use by the Soviet Union against US and Allied forces as the Soviets are considered to be well equipped for CW,4 whereas US and Allied forces are not. The major area of concern is in Europe. Agreed NATO strategy calls for the possession of the capability to employ effectively lethal CW agents in retaliation on a limited scale.

The Soviets could initiate use of chemical weapons in a conventional war against the US and its allies, despite an international legal obligation not to do so, although Soviet writings and doctrine on CW indicate that they usually consider that any use of chemical weapons would take place in a nuclear warfare environment.5 The US military doctrine considers chemical weapons of limited usefulness in terms of affecting the overall military situation in a nuclear warfare environment although their tactical utility would remain.6

The US rationale for maintaining a chemical weapons capability is to neutralize any tactical advantage gained by an adversary from the use of CW. If an adversary were to initiate use of CW in war, he could gain a significant tactical net advantage against the defender depending upon the latter’s defensive capabilities and retaliatory reactions. The extent of any overall military advantage would depend upon the timing extent of the adversary’s use of CW. There may be no overall advantage in a nuclear warfare environment.

Even if the best protective equipment currently available were used by the defender, he would still suffer a serious net disadvantage in casualties and tactical mobility since his forces would be encumbered by the necessary protective equipment. The military disadvantage imposed by the use of CW could not be redressed without either effective CW retaliation, thereby imposing similar severe operational [Page 177] constraints on the attacker, or effective retaliation with tactical nuclear weapons.7 (Presumably, however, an initiator of CW would be well prepared in a higher protective posture, at least in the first stages, to operate in a toxic environment.)

A capability to respond effectively in kind with CW would provide the President a similar weapon retaliation option to attempt to redress the situation imposed by an adversary’s use of CW at an intermediate, non-nuclear level.8 This CW retaliatory option may not, however, eliminate a need eventually to move to tactical use of nuclear weapons to redress the overall conflict situation. In addition, as noted in the later sections, there are currently chemical materiel shortages, insufficient prepositioning of chemical munitions, and marginal defensive postures on the part of the US and its Allies generally. Unless these short-ages and deficiencies were corrected by Allies as well as by the US, there may well be no effective response other than to employ tactical nuclear weapons to redress losses and gain the initiative should an enemy initiate large-scale chemical operations.9

[Omitted here is Section B, entitled “Threat Assessment and Other Foreign Capabilities.” For a summary of this section, see the attachment to Document 51.]

C. US Capabilities and Possible Improvements

The overall capability of the US must be measured in terms of both the defensive capability of US forces to operate in a toxic environment and the offensive capability to conduct retaliatory operations. Although these capabilities are clearly interrelated, they are discussed separately below and, in any event, the major defensive deficiencies need to be addressed in large part irrespective of the offensive posture. Allied CW capabilities, although clearly related to the overall US posture, are addressed separately.

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Defensive Capability

The current capability of all US forces to operate in a chemical or toxic environment10 has been improving but is still generally inadequate and marginal at best. US forces are today ill-prepared to survive or launch chemical attacks or to continue operations in a chemically-contaminated environment.

Protective masks are adequate in both quality and quantity for most US forces. However, masks need to be developed for crew members of high performance aircraft and other specialized applications. Some manual detection and very few collectively protected vehicles, vans, and shelters (where personnel can operate without wearing individual protective equipment) are available. Protective clothing liners are available for less than half of all US Army forces. They are available for all Army forces stationed in Europe, but this type clothing needs to be complemented by an outer-garment for front line units. Medical materiel is generally adequate for the treatment of CW casualties except that an effective therapy for soman [less than 1 line not declassified] has not yet been developed.

There are deficiencies in most other types of defensive equipment either because quantities procured to date are insufficient or because the items have not yet completed development. The primary deficiencies are in the following areas:

—Automatic CW point detectors/alarms are being procured, but will not be available in adequate quantities until FY 80; and area scanning CW detectors/alarms are being developed.

—Inadequate stocks of protective clothing for all US forces.

—Protected shelters for command, medical, and logistics support in any toxic environment and protective equipment for specialized vans and vehicles are in inadequate supply.

—Decontamination equipment for operations in any toxic environment is in limited supply. Improved decontaminating techniques are being developed, but decontaminants, especially for aircraft and ships, require further technological advances.

A lack of other more specialized defensive equipment collectively contributes to the general inadequacy of the current US defensive posture against CW.

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However, one of the fundamental deficiencies is the lack of emphasis, despite recent improvements, given to training of forces for operations in a toxic environment. Inadequately trained forces cannot take full advantage of either the defensive or offensive capabilities available to them.

The chemical (and directly related biological and radiological) defensive RDT&E budget from FY 69 through FY 74 has averaged $14.6 million annually. The budget for procurement of defensive items has averaged $14 million over the same time period. Funding at this level has not provided an adequate defensive posture.

Improving Defensive Capabilities

Projected Adequate Posture. 11 Development of certain items generally within the current state-of-the-art, procurement of the major items which are in insufficient supply today, and improvements in training could provide US forces with an adequate defensive posture. Relatively few qualitative deficiencies need to be overcome to achieve the improvements necessary to this posture. Its achievement is dependent primarily on the acquisition of adequate quantities of equipment (mainly detectors/alarms, protective shelters, and protective clothing) already standardized or in the latter stages of development and on improved training. Based on current service projections, an overall adequate defensive posture (as now conceived) could not be attained until sometime in the mid 1980’s, although specific improvements will be attained prior to that time. DOD estimates that to achieve this posture for US forces would require expenditures in the range of $560–$720 million spread out over the next 8 years.

Substantially Improved Posture. 12 Acquisition of larger quantities of already standard defensive equipment plus the solution to a greater number of qualitative deficiencies in current defensive equipment would provide a substantially improved defensive posture wherein the average degradation in individual and unit performance capability could be significantly less than 20%. In addition to the improvements outlined in the above section, achievement of this posture would require qualitative and quantitative improvements in detection equipment, air crew protection, a greater variety and increased numbers of protected shelters and vehicles, and a more extensive decontamination [Page 180] capability.13 However, solutions to some of the qualitative problems (for example, developing improved decontaminants for aircraft and ships) are not yet in sight. DOD estimates that costs for achieving this posture for US forces might range from $1.25 billion upwards spread out over 10–12 years, but further definition would be required to estimate actual costs and to conduct cost-benefit analysis.

Sophisticated Defensive Posture. A very sophisticated defensive posture would be one where forces could not only defend against chemical attack, but also operate in a toxic environment for extended periods with little or no degradation of performance. Significant qualitative improvements would have to be achieved through research and development in most defensive equipment, but most particularly in individual protective equipment which, if it were relatively comfortable and caused no significant impairment of normal activity, might reduce requirements for shelters and decontamination equipment. Some such qualitative improvements are believed to be technically feasible; it is not known if others will be. DOD estimates that costs to achieve this posture for US forces might range from $3 billion upwards spread out over 15 years, but even more definition would be required to estimate actual costs than in the preceding posture.

Offensive Capability

US policy, established by NSDM 3514 of November 1969, calls for the maintenance of a deterrent/retaliatory CW posture. The JCS military objective, in the event US forces were subjected to CW attack, is a CW capability to conduct the operations required at all levels in a conventional chemical warfare environment until hostilities and/or the use of CW are terminated. Estimated requirements of the commanders-in-chief are based on the 90-day standard stockage objective for conventional equipment for war in Europe and the 180-day capability standard for other theaters.15 These requirements are being evaluated by the JCS.

Such requirements have never been integrated into an overall national requirement. Moreover, what the US CW posture should be has never been defined at higher levels.

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Basing requirements on the 90-day and 180-day stockage standard may be open to question given (1) the indications that the Soviets usually consider that any use of CW would take place in a nuclear warfare environment;16 (2) US and Allied emphasis on conventional and nuclear capabilities; (3) the very limited capability of US Allies to defend against CW; and (4) the absence of Allied offensive CW capabilities.

Current Stockpile. Excluding those agents/munitions scheduled for disposal or considered excess, the current national stockpile consists of approximately 22,400 agent tons, including 14,000 tons of nerve agent GB and VX and 8,400 tons of mustard in bulk and filled munitions as indicated by the table below.


Agent Ground Munitions Air Munitions Bulk Total
GB 3,843 1,230 4,400 9,473
VX 2,145 680 1,800 4,625
Mustard 3,534 4,800 8,334
Total 9,522 1,910 11,000 22,432

The stockpile is deployed as follows: 92% is stored in CONUS; 6% on Johnston Island in the Pacific; and 2% in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG).

Durability of CW Stocks. CW agents generally have a very extended (decades) and perhaps indefinite storage life, whether stored in suitable munitions or in bulk containers. The toxicity of the CW agents themselves is not known to be significantly degraded during storage.

Experience during the recent disposal of lethal chemical agents has indicated, however, a possible physical deterioration of GB and bulk mustard agents. Their toxicity still appears unchanged, but some of these agents might have to be further purified prior to loading into munitions, with a resultant 5–10% loss of volume of any amount that requires purification.

Most CW filled munitions are considered to have a storage life of at least 20 years. An exception is a USAF, VX filled spray tank which had a designed storage life of only five years. The munition reached that age in 1973 and after inspection, the storage life was extended another five years. Similar extensions in the future cannot be assumed.

The useful life of the CW munitions is generally controlled more by possible phase-out of delivery systems than by deterioration of the [Page 182] agents or munitions. The 4.2 inch mortar (1,390 tons of mustard, about half of which is considered a requirement in the Pacific theater) and the single-purpose M–91 rocket launcher (2,600 tons of nerve agent in M55 rockets for the European theater) may be phased out by the Army in the 1980’s. When and if these actions were taken, they would reduce the employable munitions inventory from 11,400 to 7,400 agent tons. The storage life of the spray tank mentioned above might expire within the same time frame, and thereby reduce the current munition inventory by 680 agent tons. The 105 mm howitzer (1,540 agent tons, half of which is mustard) is presently used only by US airborne and air mobile units and some US allies. The agents themselves can be recovered from unserviceable or phased-out munitions, but the process entails a loss of 2–10% of the agents involved.

The remaining filled munitions are not expected to have any problems of obsolescence or deterioration at least through the 1980’s and perhaps much longer.

Employment Capability. Various illustrative examples on employment capabilities with the current stockpile are given below. These illustrations are based upon JCS estimated average military requirements of 8 agent tons per US division per day in Europe.17

These illustrations also focus on the area of the primary perceived threat—the Soviet threat to NATO—and include illustrative limited support levels for US Allies since it is unlikely that any of them (except possibly France) could independently acquire any meaningful capability during a period of strategic warning of impending hostilities.

Prepositioned stocks in Europe could provide combat support with nerve agent artillery shells for only 4–7 US divisions for about a week or for 3 days for 13–15 divisions if appropriately distributed. No air munitions are prepositioned in Europe.

Present chemical munitions could begin arriving in the field from CONUS by air in 7–10 days from their storage depots. This time could be shortened to about 5–7 days if sufficient priority and airlift allocation were assigned. To provide adequate stocks on a continuing basis for 15 US divisions, would require approximately 25% of the current Air Force strategic airlift capability (but a significantly lesser percentage of the potential national strategic airlift capability). The first CW supplies from CONUS to Europe by surface transport would re[Page 183]quire approximately 60 days. Adequate quantities could be provided thereafter on a continuing basis with one shipload every three days.18

If all currently employable munitions in the national stockpile were provided and distributed appropriately in Europe, they would provide full support for 13–15 divisions in that theater for about 30 days but only marginal support for 90 days since there is only 45 days of one type (GB) of 155 mm artillery and about 30 days of filled air munitions. (The residual capability of the refillable spray tanks would provide only limited air support.)

If 13–15 US divisions were to utilize estimated requirements for 30 days, the remaining US stocks of employable munitions (not including bulk) could provide some support in ground munitions for about 30 Allied divisions for this same period, but at best only extremely limited support in ground munitions for 90 days. Any support to Allies would require either greater demands on US resupply capabilities or the provision of less than the estimated daily requirements for US forces.

The days of support in Europe provided by the currently employable munitions would be reduced if munitions earmarked for US forces in that theater were to be phased-out by the Army or become unserviceable, or if any support earmarked for Europe were diverted to other theaters (for example, the Pacific).

If the US were capable of filling existing bulk agent into the necessary munitions on a timely basis (which it is not at present, see improvements section below), the estimated employment capabilities mentioned above would be almost doubled although some deficiencies in nerve agent munitions could still exist.

Deficiencies in US CW Offensive Capability. 19 Strictly in terms of total tonnage, but not in terms of its overall composition, the current CW stockpile of 22,400 agent tons exceeds the 18,000 to 20,000 agent tons which the JCS previously estimated to be required for an adequate CW deterrent/retaliatory capability for all US forces. However, given the estimated military requirement of at least a 90-day full support capability for 13–15+ US divisions in Europe and 10–12+ US divisions in other theaters, there are two broad deficiencies in our current stockpile capability.

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—The composition of the existing stockpile is considered unsatisfactory in several respects. Specifically, (1) more air munitions and more of one type of artillery shell (155 mm GB) would be required to increase the present 30-day full support capability for 13–15 US divisions in Europe to a 90-day capability; (2) a far greater number of the above and of almost all other munitions would be required to provide a 180-day full support capability for US divisions in other theaters; (3) about 31% of the filled munitions capability and 40% of the bulk stocks consist of mustard agent which is less effective than nerve agent;20 and (4) the bulk nerve agent is not useable until loaded into munitions and this could not be accomplished today on a timely basis in the event of chemical warfare. (The number of available filled munitions would be reduced if the Army were to phase-out some delivery systems in the 1980’s or if some munitions became unserviceable.)

—We have very limited forward deployment. It is doubtful that the prepositioned stocks (440 agent tons) in the FRG could support local tactical operations for 4–7 divisions for as much as a week, and no air munitions (which are necessary for adequate support) are prepositioned. Moreover, there are stocks at only one site. Even in an emergency and assuming sufficient priority, it would take at least 5–7 days before stocks could begin to arrive from CONUS. Finally, there are no prepositioned stocks for other theaters, although 6% of the stockpile is located on Johnston Island in the Pacific.

Limited forward deployment is considered a deficiency because it could well mean delay in responding to an adversary’s use of CW in war. If stocks were moved during strategic warning time or any time prior to the use of CW, then limited forward deployment in peacetime is not a major deficiency. If not moved, however, then CW retaliation with other than the limited prepositioned stocks would be de-layed until shipments could begin arriving from CONUS. To do this quickly would require 25% of the Air Force’s strategic airlift capabil-ity (although a significantly lesser percentage of the national airlift capability).

Possible Improvements Using Existing Agent Stockpile

Very significant improvements in the US CW offensive capability could be made without further production of CW agents. Actions which could be taken to improve the CW stockpile substantially include:

—Using existing bulk agent to fill additional munitions, prior to any impending hostilities. This would entail manufacture of munition hardware, reactivation and expansion of the filling lines for VX at Newport, Indiana, and establishment of filling lines at Tooele, Utah—where [Page 185] most of the other bulk stocks are stored. There would be no need to ship agent to filling lines during peacetime, but there might be a problem regarding storage of filled munitions rather than bulk agent at Newport. DOD roughly estimates costs for filling existing bulk stocks at Newport (VX) and Tooele (GB and VX) in the range of $200 million to $400 million spread out over several years. These cost estimates do not include inflation factors or operation and maintenance.

—In addition to the improvements in the above section, the impact of any phasing-out of munitions could be further reduced substantially by recovering the agent during demilitarization to fill new munitions rather than disposing of it. Such a course could also require reactivation or construction of munition filling facilities and acquisition of munition hardware as noted above. Costs of recovering the agent are insignificant in relation to the overall disposal costs.

—Establishing a capability to produce complete CW munitions within 30–45 days using bulk agent stocks could reduce the amount of CW munitions required in any existing stockpile. This would require (1) establishing a stockpile of fuses and other long lead-time hardware items sufficient to allow filling operations to proceed until newly produced items become available, and (2) maintaining munition filling facilities in a high state of readiness (including periodic production/filling test runs and an adequate work force at least on call). DOD roughly estimated costs (not including inflation factors) for accomplishing this warm base capability range from $850 million to $1 billion spread out over 5 years.21

Reconfiguration of existing stocks could essentially eliminate the impact of potential degradation of the existing stockpile by the phasing-out of delivery systems in the 1980’s. (This is time sensitive, however, since phasing-out munition types would mean a degradation of the existing stockpile unless or until a substitute capability were made available.)

In addition, the US could achieve a 90-day full support capability for 13–15 US divisions in Europe by reconfiguring almost all of the existing agent tons of bulk nerve agent stocks into munitions. Reconfiguration of the remaining bulk stocks or agent recovered through demilitarization could in principle provide enough munitions for the JCS estimated adequate capability, but 57–66% of the support for theaters other than Europe would consist of useful but less effective mustard agent. Reconfiguration of present stocks would neither enable the US to replace its less effective mustard agent with nerve agent, nor provide a means of attempting to increase forward deployment. Total reconfiguration would probably mean some transportation of agents and/or munitions.

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Improvements Using Binary CW Munitions

Binary munitions would contain two relatively safe, separate chemical components which combine to form the standard lethal nerve agents GB or VX while the munition is en route to target. There are DOD plans to correct the major deficiencies in the composition of the current stockpile by acquisition of binary munitions. Binaries could eventually replace all existing CW munitions and bulk agents stocks. Binaries are not planned to represent a net increase in the total CW stockpile level.

The binary program is concentrating first on artillery rounds and then projects development of aerially delivered bombs. Present programmed production is limited to artillery munitions for which production is scheduled to begin in 1976 or 1977. DOD estimated total remaining costs—including RDT&E, procurement, and production base support for these artillery shells are about $180 million. Development of air munitions will require 4–5 years before production could begin. Procurement of artillery and aerial delivered munitions in the sufficient quantities and agent types outlined below would correct the present estimated deficiencies in the agent and munition composition of the stockpile.22

Based on JCS’s previous estimate that 18,000–20,000 agent tons in filled munitions would be required to provide full support for all US forces (25–27 divisions), the following actions would be necessary to correct the deficiencies in the composition of the current stockpile.

—Construction of at least two production, filling, and loading facilities, and manufacture of hardware. (Funds have been requested for establishing one production facility at Pine Bluff Arsenal, Arkansas. One component for each agent and munition hardware will be procured from industry by contract.)

—Production and stockpiling of the binary equivalent of 9,000–11,000 nerve agent tons in filled munitions. (The binary equivalent for this amount of nerve agent would be 11,250–13,750 agent tons.) However, the production and stockpiling of the binary equivalent of 6,500 agent tons in filled munitions (or 8,125 binary agent tons), combined with existing munitions earmarked for Europe, would provide a 90-day full support capability for 13–15 US divisions in that theater if the Army does not phase-out existing CW rockets.

—Very limited open-air testing (beginning in the 1975–76 time frame) may prove necessary prior to procurement of munitions. How[Page 187]ever, an extensive simulation program is being conducted which is designed to reduce/eliminate the requirement for open-air testing.23

DOD estimated costs for the currently projected binary program (about 7,600 binary agent tons in ground and air munitions) are $333 million spread out over the next 5+ years. To attain what the JCS estimates is needed to acquire an adequate capability overall would require about an additional 3,650–6,150 binary agent tons. These costs do not include either operation and maintenance of facilities or any inflation factors, or demilitarization costs.24

Peacetime Forward Deployment

From a military standpoint, it would be highly desirable to achieve a fully adequate retaliatory capability. To achieve this would require an increase in peacetime forward deployment regardless of what actions are or are not taken to correct some or all of the deficiencies in the composition of the stockpile.

Forward deployment and some dispersal of 840–1,200 agent tons in filled munitions would be needed to provide full support for 15 US divisions for 7–10 days (that is, until the first supplies from CONUS could arrive by air). (Only 440 agent tons are now prepositioned.) From the military point of view, forward deployed stocks would preferably be on the order of 7,500 agent tons in filled munitions to provide full support for 15 US divisions until surface shipments could arrive from CONUS.

Increasing peacetime forward deployment with existing CW munitions is not considered possible under present circumstances. Binaries would provide a means to shorten the time for rapid deployment by a couple days and/or to seek increased peacetime forward deployment because of their safety advantages in storage and transport. As noted in a later section, however, political factors in western [Page 188] Europe would make it very difficult to obtain approval for increased peacetime forward deployment and dispersal.

Binaries would also offer an option of forward deploying the complete munition minus one relatively light component which could be easily shipped to Europe or other theaters, although some additional complete munitions would still need to be forward deployed for JCS estimated fully adequate support.

[Omitted here are Section D, “European Allies’ Capabilities,” and Section E, “Non-Military Constraints on Present Capability.]

F. Posture Alternatives

There are three basic alternatives relative to the US CW posture. As noted below, each posture alternative has different implications for the arms control options considered in the NSSM 157 report.25 The NSSM 157 options included (1) limiting CW stocks to agreed or declared retaliatory levels; (2) banning production of CW agents; and (3) banning production and stockpiles of CW agents and munitions. These limitations could be embodied in a treaty proposal, a unilateral declaration of policy, or parallel US and USSR declarations of policy (that is, in effect, a bilateral moratorium).

The basic US CW posture alternatives are:

Alternative 1. Acquisition of Binary Chemical Weapons.

Full plans for the binary program have not been completed. Current DOD projections include the acquisition of about 7,600 nerve agent tons in ground and air munitions. DOD estimates the total cost at $333 million over 5 or more years. This estimate does not include any inflation factor, operation and maintenance costs, or demilitarization costs for an equivalent portion of the existing stockpile.

The currently projected level of binary acquisition, combined with the existing filled munitions, would not achieve what the JCS previously estimated for an adequate deterrent/retaliatory capability for all US forces. Based on estimated military requirements, the projected stocks with acquisition of binaries would provide full support in ground munitions for about 23 US divisions for 90 days—but only about 60 days full support in air munitions for 13–15 US divisions.

DOD’s estimated adequate CW defensive posture for this alternative would encompass improvements in the quantity and quality of defensive equipment and improved training at DOD’s currently projected levels of $560 million to $720 million over 8 years. A substantially improved defensive posture above the currently projected level would be militarily desirable, and would mainly involve higher quantitative and qualitative improvements in equipment.

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Arms Control Interface. This alternative would be compatible with only Option 1 of the NSSM 157 study (limiting stocks to agreed or declared retaliatory levels), whether embodied in a treaty proposal, unilateral declaration of policy, or bilateral US/USSR moratorium.


—Binary acquisition at the currently projected level (coupled with an improved defensive posture) would provide a significantly improved CW retaliatory capability for US forces, thus enhancing the non-nuclear option in the event an adversary initiated use of CW in war,26 and correcting a major portion of the deficiencies in the composition of the existing stockpile.

—Acquisition of a significant binary capability may provide a better deterrent against use of CW in a future conventional conflict.

—Binaries would involve essentially no potential safety hazards in their peacetime manufacture, storage, handling, and transportation; and would therefore probably not be subject to the same federal legal restrictions on peacetime storage and movement in CONUS as are the current stocks.27

—Binaries would facilitate rapid deployment in war or crises.28

—If the Navy were to carry binary chemical weapons routinely in peacetime, this could reduce dependence on forward deployment in Europe. (Navy policy is not to carry existing chemical stocks in peacetime.)

—Binaries would provide the only possibility for increasing peacetime forward deployment in Europe and, if desired and accomplished by the US, this would greatly reduce problems of CW munitions resupply in a conflict. (However, it would be politically difficult to achieve increased peacetime forward deployment, and this could not be achieved without incurring substantial political opposition in Allied governments and publics.)

—Binary acquisition at higher levels than currently projected would enable the US to acquire what the JCS has estimated as a fully adequate CW stockpile and, if the US were able to accomplish increased peacetime forward deployment, a fully adequate CW posture.


—Acquisition of binary chemical weapons in peacetime would undoubtedly be controversial in Congress. (Any CW budget increases [Page 190] would be highly visible politically. Binary dollar costs would be low in comparison to other DOD programs. But the binary program, not to mention defensive improvements, would require sustaining substantial budget increases over the current funding level for several years. If binaries were inadequately funded by Congress, the US could incur much of the disadvantages below without achieving a significant military advantage.)

—Limited open-air testing may prove necessary prior to procurement, and this would certainly be controversial in the US.

—Binary acquisition would be perceived internationally and domestically as contrary to our declared interest in further CW arms control, and the US would be criticized by the Soviets and others at the CCD and the UNGA for “refueling a CW arms race.”

—This might spur further Soviet programs in the CW area, an area where they are not subject to similar political restraints, and the adequacy of the proposed improvements could be called into question by a significant augmentation in the Soviet capability.

—The deterrent effect of a significantly improved US CW capability might be reduced if the Soviets viewed it as signalling a US intention or threat to initiate use of CW in wartime.29

—This might lead to further proliferation of CW capabilities.30

Alternative 2. Reliance on Existing CW Offensive Capability.

This alternative would rely on the existing CW filled munitions capability and not entail production of any CW agents (binary or non-binary). It does not rule out filling munitions from existing bulk agent stocks to compensate for any phasing-out of delivery systems in the 1980’s. To maintain the existing capability might require some filling actions as early as the late 1970’s or early 1980’s. This alterna-tive does not contemplate significantly improving the US CW retalia-tory capability by reconfiguring most existing bulk agent stocks in munitions.31

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The current filled munitions could provide full support for 13–15 US divisions in Europe for about 30 days. The then remaining ground munitions could either provide marginal support for the next 60 days for 13–15 US divisions, or be used in other theaters, or be used to support about 30 allied divisions for the initial 30 days.

This option envisions maintenance of an adequate CW R&D program in all phases and does not rule out continuing R&D on binary munitions.

As with the preceding alternative, DOD estimates that improvements in training and CW defensive equipment would be required at least at the currently projected level. However, in contrast to the preceding alternative, it would be even more desirable militarily to achieve the substantially improved defensive posture discussed previously, which would entail more CW defensive dollar costs than DOD’s currently projected level.32

Arms Control Interface. This alternative would be most compatible with Option 2 (prohibiting further production of CW agents) of the NSSM 157 study, whether embodied in a treaty proposal, unilateral US declaration of policy, or parallel US and USSR declarations of policy (i.e., a bilateral moratorium).33 As long as the manufacture of munitions and the filling of these munitions with existing bulk agent stocks were not prohibited, the US would retain the right to compensate for any diminution of its existing capability through possible phase-out of delivery systems in the 1980’s.


—The US would retain its existing CW capability (although limited) to deter the use of CW against US forces and, if deterrence fails, to retaliate in kind.

—This would be a less controversial and provocative posture, domestically and internationally, than any other alternative at least up until the time that any filling were undertaken to compensate for phase-out of some delivery systems.

—This would be consistent with our declared commitment to seek effective measures to control CW, could provide more flexibility for arms control negotiations than the other alternatives if a ban on production of CW agents were desired.

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—This would be less likely than the preceding alternative to encourage the Soviets to increase their CW capability or to encourage any further proliferation of CW capabilities.

—This would cost somewhat less than the preceding alternative, even if filling actions were undertaken later (much less if they were not), and substantially less than the following alternative.


—This would not enable the US to attain what the JCS estimates to be an adequate deterrent/retaliatory CW capability because the previously discussed deficiencies in the composition and, secondarily, in the deployment of the stockpile would remain.

—To maintain the existing filled munitions capability would require some reconfiguration of existing bulk stocks into munitions sometime after 1978, and this would undoubtedly be controversial, in Congress and US public opinion, and involve highly visible budget increases.

—Potential safety hazards associated in the public mind with peacetime storage and transportation of existing lethal chemical weapons would not be alleviated. (No need for peacetime transportation of agents or munitions is foreseen for at least 5 years. Significant local pressures to destroy stocks at certain storage sites is considered unlikely in the foreseeable future although this could occur as manifested by the experience with the stocks at Rocky Mountain Arsenal near Denver.)

Alternative 3. Reliance Only on Conventional and Nuclear Forces and Improved CW Defensive Capability, with No Ready CW Stockpile.

This alternative envisions within 10–15 years reliance only on US conventional and nuclear capabilities, combined with an improved CW defensive posture, to provide deterrence against the wartime use of CW by an adversary and for retaliation in the event such deterrence fails. If CW were used on a significant scale against US forces, retaliation with tactical nuclear and conventional weapons could redress the overall military disadvantage imposed by the adversary’s use of CW.

The existing filled munitions capability would, however, remain for the first 5–8 years. This would envision as a minimum the attainment of the improvements in the defensive posture at DOD’s currently projected levels before any substantial disposal of the munitions stockpile were made, other than that resulting from some munitions possibly becoming unserviceable. By the time disposal is completed, it would be highly desirable militarily to have achieved the substantially improved and more expensive defensive posture discussed previously. It would be even more desirable militarily to have achieved the sophisticated defensive posture, if technologically possible, which would allow forces to operate in a toxic environment for extended periods with little degradation of performance.

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Arms Control Interface. This alternative coincides with Option 3 (prohibiting both stockpiles and production of CW agents and munitions) of the NSSM 157 study, whether embodied in a treaty proposal, unilateral US declaration of policy, or bilateral US/USSR moratorium.


—This would be welcomed internationally and domestically by some as a US initiative to restrain CW.

—This would avoid the political costs of binary acquisition under Alternative 1 or any possible reconfiguration of existing bulk stocks under Alternative 2.

—This would provide an opportunity (if desired) to place political and legal constraints on Soviet CW stockpiling and production through CW arms control, although such constraints could not be reliably verified.

—A sophisticated defensive posture, if attainable, would greatly reduce but not necessarily eliminate the overall advantages an adversary could gain through initiating the use of CW in a conventional conflict.


—The absence of any significant ready CW retaliatory capability could be more likely to tempt the Soviets to initiate use of CW in a conventional war, although they would still have to consider the likelihood of a tactical nuclear response by the US or its Allies.

—If chemical weapons were used by the Soviets against US and Allied forces on a significant or large scale in a conventional war, there would be no military option to respond in kind and, therefore, it would probably be necessary to use tactical nuclear weapons to redress the military situation.34

—There would be strong controversy in Congress and, to a lesser degree, with some Allies for the above reasons and because we would not be able to determine what the Soviets are doing in this area.

[Page 194]

—This would entail higher dollar costs over the next 10–15 years than Alternative 2 and somewhat higher dollar costs than Alternative 1 (but possibly lower costs thereafter).

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H-202, Study Memorandums, NSSM 192. Top Secret. Guhin, the Ad Hoc Group’s chairman, forwarded the paper under a covering memorandum, June 6, to the other members of the group, drawn from the Department, OSD, CIA, and ACDA. Davis forwarded the paper for review to Schlesinger, Sisco, Ikle, Colby, and Moorer under a covering memorandum, June 11. (Ibid.)
  2. Document 33.
  3. In the absence of a comparative analysis of all alternatives, the State and ACDA representatives do not believe the need for retaliation in kind has been demonstrated. The State representative believes that an adversary may also be discouraged from initiating use of chemical weapons by an effective CW defensive capability combined with US conventional and nuclear capabilities. [Footnote in the original.]
  4. The State and ACDA representatives do not believe available evidence indicates that the Soviets are well equipped offensively in the CW field. [Footnote in the original.]
  5. The DOD and CIA representatives note that two sources have indicated that Soviet use of CW would not necessarily be restricted to a nuclear warfare environment. [Footnote in the original.]
  6. The ACDA representative believes that in the event nuclear weapons were used, they would so completely dominate the battlefield situation and possibilities for war termination that use or non-use of chemical weapons would not affect the outcome. [Footnote in the original.]
  7. Based on analysis to date, the State and ACDA representatives are not convinced of the validity of the military judgments expressed in this paragraph. [Footnote in the original.]
  8. The DOD and CIA representatives believe that an adequate CW capability would make the need to resort to tactical nuclear weapons less likely in the event CW was initiated against US forces, and that abandonment of a CW capability could possibly lower the nuclear threshold. [Footnote in the original.]
  9. The ACDA representative believes that if US and Allied CW defensive capabilities were improved, an increased response with conventional weapons would be sufficient to redress the military situation. [Footnote in the original.]
  10. A toxic environment may be chemical, biological, or radiological (CBR). With the exception of detection, alarms, and medical countermeasures, defensive measures against a biological attack are generally common to those for chemical attack. Although there are measures or items which are unique to a radiologically-contaminated environment, there are important areas noted below where improvements in chemical defense would equally improve the defensive capability of US forces in a biological or radiological environment. Similarly, an inadequate capability in these specific areas means an inadequacy of US forces to operate in any toxic environment. [Footnote in the original.]
  11. As used here, “adequate” means that US forces will be able to defend themselves, but there will be a significant degradation (about 20%) in the performance capability of individuals and units. [Footnote in the original.]
  12. Such a defensive posture is conceived to exist somewhere between what is currently foreseen as adequate and an idealized defensive system, but cannot be further defined at this time. [Footnote in the original.]
  13. The ACDA representative believes that basic research on vaccination against nerve agents has been encouraging and that, if vaccination proves feasible, it could significantly improve the US and Allied defensive posture in the mid-1980s. [Footnote in the original.]
  14. NSDM 35, “US Policy on Chemical Warfare Program and Bacteriological/Biological Research Program,” November 25, 1969, is Document 104, Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Vol. XXXIV, National Security Policy, 1969–1972.
  15. The estimated munitions requirements are still greater for Europe because of the greater number of US divisions earmarked for deployment there. [Footnote in the original.]
  16. The DOD and CIA representatives note that two sources have indicated that Soviet use of CW would not necessarily be restricted to a nuclear warfare environment. [Footnote in the original.]
  17. The State and ACDA representatives note that an analytical base for this estimated military requirement has not been presented. [Footnote in the original.]
  18. The State and ACDA representatives note that under current planning the US could field 9 divisions in Europe within 20 days of the mobilization decision and that the 15 division figure would not be attained before 70–80 days after mobilization. [Footnote in the original.]
  19. The State and ACDA representatives note that the deficiencies discussed in this section are derived from previously stated requirements for which no analytical base had been presented. They believe that the possibility of trade-offs between munitions stocks and improved defensive capabilities should be considered. [Footnote in the original.]
  20. Since mustard solidifies at 57°F, it is quite effective in tropical climates (e.g., the Pacific theater) but of limited usefulness in temperate areas (e.g., Europe). However, it has a proven casualty-producing capability under any circumstances. In warmer climes, it has a relatively persistent vapor threat which can force troops into prolonged wearing of protective clothing. Given a favorable climate (a tropical area or summertime in Europe), mustard could be used as a substitute in some of the roles where persistent nerve agent VX is considered more effective. [Footnote in the original.]
  21. A warm base capability alone could extend the days of support for CW but a capability to begin providing adequate support from bulk agent stocks within 90 days after a decision to fill and load would involve very high costs. [Footnote in the original.]
  22. Since the Army Matériel Command has not yet provided technical information on the effectiveness of binaries requested by ACDA, the ACDA representative reserves judgment on whether or not binary munitions would be as effective as their non-binary counterparts [Footnote in the original.]
  23. The stimulant program to date has resolved most of the technical questions regarding the artillery shells raised by as OST technical experts panel in a 1973 report submitted as part of NSSM 157. However, the potential and significant problem of “flashing” (very rapid burning and consequent destruction of the binary agent) has not yet been resolved. In the opinion of the OST panel, final standardization of munitions may at any rate necessitate open-air testing with lethal agents. Any DOD proposal to conduct such testing would be forwarded for Presidential approval. [Footnote in the original. The OST forwarded its report on CW stockpile stability and the binary program, summarized above, to Kissinger under a covering memorandum, January 29, 1973. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–66, Meeting Files, 1969–1974, Senior Review Group Meeting, NSSM 157, 3/5/73)]
  24. Costs for the above binary program and for previously discussed improvements using the existing stockpile do not include substantial demilitarization costs which would be incurred under both courses of action, although initially (10 years) they would be higher under the binary option. [Footnote in the original.]
  25. See footnote 2, Document 33.
  26. However, unless US Allies (particularly NATO) were to improve their defensive and undertake the development of some offensive CW capabilities (or unless the US increased its CW stocks substantially for Allied forces), (1) the concept of CW providing an intermediate option between nuclear and conventional warfare would hold true only for US forces; and (2) tactical nuclear weapons may still be the only effective response to redress the military situation should the Soviets initiate CW operations. [Footnote in the original.]
  27. The safety and rapid deployment advantages would not apply to the major portion of the existing CW munition stockpile which will remain part of the US capability for the foreseeable future. [Footnote in the original.]
  28. Footnote 27 above is again herein referenced.
  29. The DOD representative questions this conclusion in the absence of supporting analysis. [Footnote in the original.]
  30. The JCS representative believes that binaries would not necessarily lead to any proliferation of CW capabilities. The ACDA representative believes that unless proliferation of CW capabilities is controlled, the possibility that third countries may initiate CW against US Allies may become a more serious concern in the long-term than the threat of use in Europe. [Footnote in the original.]
  31. The State and ACDA representatives note that the option to improve the existing CW capability by reconfiguration of bulk stocks would be left open, even if an agent production ban were desired and successfully negotiated. If filling facilities were later established to compensate for potential phaseout of some munitions, a gradual but substantial improvement of the overall capability could be undertaken with comparatively little additional dollar costs. This could provide, for example, almost a 90-day full support capability for 15 US divisions in Europe.

    The State and ACDA representatives believe this course for significantly improving the US CW capability would be less controversial and provocative internationally and less expensive than acquisition of binaries, as it could be presented as a continuation of the current program. This could be particularly the case if the US were to negotiate an agent production ban.

    The DOD representative believes such action would be equally if not more controversial, particularly domestically. DOD notes that this would not enable the US to replace the less effective mustard agent (earmarked for non-European theaters) with nerve agent. [Footnote in the original.]

  32. The JCS representative believes that it would be necessary to achieve the substantially improved defensive posture under this alternative. [Footnote in the original.]
  33. The State representative believes that if the US decided to seek a prohibition on producing CW agents, the advanced state of binary R&D would place the US in a strong bargaining position. [Footnote in the original.]
  34. However, as noted previously, unless the existing CW offensive and defensive deficiencies were corrected by the US and its Allies, tactical nuclear weapons may at any rate provide the only effective response to redress the military situation should the Soviets initiate chemical operations in war.

    The ACDA representative believes that if US and Allied forces had achieved a substantially improved CW defensive posture, a response with conventional weapons would be sufficient to redress the military situation.

    Moreover, the ACDA representative believes that any increased reliance on tactical nuclear weapons, whether explicit or implicit, would be undesirable from the arms control point of view and that this disadvantage would seem to outweigh the arms control benefits of this alternative. The ACDA representative believes, however, that there is a variant of Alternative 3 which should be considered. This variant would place reliance only on conventional forces and an improved CW defensive posture. It would not explicitly introduce the question of tactical nuclear weapons use, but at the same time recognizes that any large-scale war in Europe would pose for the aggressor a risk of nuclear escalation in any event—whether or not he introduced the use of chemical weapons. [Footnote in the original.]