4. National Security Study Memorandum 1691


  • The Secretary of State
  • The Secretary of Defense
  • The Director, Central Intelligence


  • U.S. Nuclear Policy

The President has directed a review of existing U.S. nuclear policy in light of the changes in the strategic situation which has occurred since the guidance2 was published.

The review should embrace all U.S. nuclear forces, including strategic, theater, and tactical. It should evaluate alternative changes to current policies on the basis of:

—desirability of the recommended changes as related to basic national policy;

—the impact on relations with allies (particularly NATO) and potential adversaries;

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—the implications of any changes for SALT planning;

—the relationship and effect on U.S. weapons acquisition policy;

—the validity of the supporting assumptions; and,

—the question of declaratory statements of policy and implementing procedures should these changes be adopted.

The review should take into account the material recently provided to the President by the Secretary of Defense3 as well as other material that is relevant to the issues involved.

This review is to be conducted by a special ad hoc group chaired by a representative of the Department of Defense and composed of one representative each from the Department of State, the Central Intelligence Agency and the NSC staff.

This review should be completed by April 15 for review by the Defense Program Review Committee prior to consideration by the National Security Council.

Henry A. Kissinger
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 365, Subject Files, NSSMs—104–206. Top Secret; Sensitive.
  2. A reference to NSDM 16, “Criteria for Strategic Sufficiency,” issued on June 24, 1969 and printed as Document 39, Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Vol. XXXIV, National Security Policy, 1969–1972.
  3. Under a covering memorandum, December 26, 1972, Laird sent Nixon a DOD paper, October 24, entitled “Revised Tentative Policy Guidance for the Employment of Nuclear Weapons,” that proposed the adoption of several new, more flexible employment options. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–195, Study Memoranda, NSSM 169)