166. Statement Issued by President Nixon1 2

461 Statement on Chemical and Biological Defense Policies and Programs. November 25, 1969

SOON AFTER taking office I directed a comprehensive study of our chemical and biological defense policies and programs. There had been no such review in over 15 years. As a result, objectives and policies in this field were unclear and programs lacked definition and direction.

Under the auspices of the National Security Council, the Departments of State and Defense, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, the Office of Science and Technology, the intelligence community, and other agencies worked closely together on this study for over 6 months. These Government efforts were aided by contributions from the scientific community through the President’s Science Advisory Committee.

This study has now been completed and its findings carefully considered by the National Security Council. I am now reporting the decisions taken on the basis of this review.


As to our chemical warfare program, the United States:

  • —Reaffirms its oft-repeated renunciation of the first use of lethal chemical weapons.
  • —Extends this renunciation to the first use of incapacitating chemicals.

Consonant with these decisions, the administration will submit to the Senate, for its advice and consent to ratification, the Geneva Protocol of 19253 which prohibits the first use in war of “asphyxiating, poisonous or other Gases and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare.” The United States has long supported the principles and objectives of this Protocol. We take this step toward formal ratification to reinforce our continuing advocacy of international constraints on the use of these weapons.


Biological weapons have massive, unpredictable and potentially uncontrollable consequences. They may produce global epidemics and impair the health of future generations. I have therefore decided that:

  • —The United States shall renounce the use of lethal biological agents and weapons, and all other methods of biological warfare.
  • —The United States will confine its biological research to defensive measures such as immunization and safety measures.
  • —The Department of Defense has been asked to make recommendations as to the disposal of existing stocks of bacteriological weapons.

In the spirit of these decisions, the United States associates itself with the principles and objectives of the United Kingdom Draft Convention which would ban the use of biological methods of warfare.4 We will seek, however, to clarify specific provisions of the draft to assure that necessary safeguards are included.

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Neither our association with the Convention nor the limiting of our program to research will leave us vulnerable to surprise by an enemy who does not observe these rational restraints. Our intelligence community will continue to watch carefully the nature and extent of the biological programs of others.

These important decisions, which have been announced today, have been taken as an initiative toward peace. Mankind already carries in its own hands too many of the seeds of its own destruction. By the examples we set today, we hope to contribute to an atmosphere of peace and understanding between nations and among men.

  1. Source: Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pp. 968–969. No classification marking. For text of the President’s remarks on his CBW decisions, made the same day, see ibid., pp. 969–970.
  2. The President highlighted his decisions on CBW. This statement confirmed the U.S. alliance with the objectives of the UK Draft Convention banning the use of biological agents in war. It included the decision to submit the 1925 Geneva Protocol, prohibiting the first use of chemical and biological agents in warfare, to the U.S. Senate for ratification. Moreover it established a research agenda to investigate the methods of disposal for bacteriological weaponry and restricted research to “defensive measures” only.
  3. (1) League of Nations Treaty Series (vol. 94, p. 65).
  4. Annex to United Nations General Assembly Document of November 3, 1969 (A/7741 DC/232).