301. Memorandum From the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (Smith) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1 2


  • Request for Review of Nuclear Test Ban Policy

There have been a number of recent developments that indicate that there should be an overall review of our policy on an underground test ban. In particular, believe that we should consider whether there are initiatives that we could take in this field.

There has been a build-up of domestic and international pressure against nuclear testing and in support of movement on the test ban issue. There will be extensive Congressional debate and hearings on this subject. We can expect initiatives from the non-aligned countries and possibly the Soviet Union. Public concern with environmental issues is focusing on growing opposition to the CANNIKIN test in Alaska.

Over the past few years, there have been significant changes in the technical aspects of this problem. There has been a slow but steady improvement in our capability to verify a ban on underground nuclear tests. At the same time, the nuclear warhead requirements picture has also undergone substantial changes both for the U.S. and the Soviet Union, which may affect the overall assessment of the net security implications of various types of underground test ban. There have also been changes in the priorities for the Plowshare program, which has been [Page 2]a complicating factor in our assessment of the desirability of further limits on nuclear testing. Finally, while the outcome of SALT is far from clear, I believe we understand the range of possible outcomes well enough to evaluate the relationship of SALT to various possible forms that further limitations on testing might take.

In view of the above, I recommend that the Administration undertake a detailed review of this subject, examining in particular specific initiatives that the United States might take. I believe the study could best be conducted by a steering group made up of all interested agencies. This steering group would most appropriately report to the Verification Panel since many of the problems will closely interact with questions we are considering relative to SALT.

I have attached for your consideration a draft NSSM which details the principal proposals which I believe should be considered and the terms in which the proposals should be examined and evaluated.

Gerard Smith

Draft National Security Study Memorandum

[Page 3]


  • The Secretary of State
  • The Secretary of Defense
  • The Director of Central Intelligence
  • The Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission
  • The Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • The Chairman, Council on Environmental Quality
  • The Director, Arms Control & Disarmament Agency
  • The Director, Office of Science & Technology


  • Review of Nuclear Test Ban Policy

The President has directed a review of U.S. policy with respect to limitation of nuclear testing in order to determine the desirability of a new initiative in this field. The study should review current policy and examine a broad range of possible specific new proposals, including the following:

  • — continue the present position of supporting an underground test ban with guaranteed annual on-site inspections, either with or without provision for automatic seismic stations;
  • — an underground test ban without guaranteed on-site inspections, but with provision for [Page 4]inspections by challenge, provision for automatic seismic stations, and provision for international seismic data exchange,
  • — an underground test ban without guaranteed on-site inspections and without automatic seismic stations, but with provision for inspections by challenge and for international seismic data exchange;
  • — an underground test ban verified only by national means and some form of international seismic data exchange;
  • — an underground threshold test ban verified by national means supplemented by an international seismic data exchange;
  • — an underground quota test ban.

Each proposal should be examined and evaluated in the following terms:

Verification, taking into account: present, currently planned, and possible seismic capabilities; other national means, and, as appropriate, on-site inspection or automatic seismic stations.
Effects on Strategic Balance, including value in controlling strategic arms; consideration should be given to the case of no SALT agreement and to the case of a variety of possible outcomes to SALT.
Effects on Weapons Development, including impact on current and anticipated US and USSR weapons requirements; the possibilities and implications of clandestine testing; impact on nuclear weapons laboratories, taking into account possible conversion programs; savings, if any, taking into account verification requirements.
Impact on Peaceful Nuclear Explosions, including the consequences of restricting or prohibiting such explosions; consideration should be given to possible ways of dealing with Plowshare and the possibilities of PNE’s for potential evasion of a test ban.
Responsiveness to Environmental Concerns.
Value in Controlling the Further Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

This study should be coordinated by a steering committee under the chairmanship of the National Security Council staff, including representatives of State, Defense, [Page 6] ACDA, CIA, AEC, JCS, Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Science and Technology.

As the first phase of this review, a series of basic papers on the following topics should be prepared by working groups of the participating agencies with the indicated agencies as Chairmen:

Verification (CIA)
Effects on the Strategic Balance (OSD/ACDA)
Effects on Weapons Development (AEC)
Peaceful Nuclear Explosions (State)
Environmental Concerns (CEQ)
Contribution to Controlling Further Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (ACDA)
Foreign Policy Implications (State/ACDA) The first phase basic papers should be submitted to the steering committee by September 1, 1971.

As the second phase of this review, the steering committee should analyze the options under consideration in terms of the criteria listed above and in the light of the first phase studies and other relevant material [Page 7]such as the negotiability of the options. This analysis should be submitted by the steering committee to the Verification Panel by October 15, 1971.

Henry A. Kissinger
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–184, NSSM 128. Secret; Noforn. Under cover of a May 24 memorandum, Behr, Smith, and Sonnenfeldt forwarded Smith’s memorandum and draft NSSM to Kissinger together with their own draft NSSM, noting that they had changed Smith’s “approach of looking at alternative ways to have a ban and adopted the approach used for SALT: that is, studying verification and strategic implications alone.” (Ibid.)
  2. In light of the growing domestic and international opposition to nuclear testing, Smith recommended an interagency review of U.S. nuclear test ban policy and attached a draft NSSM detailing various viable proposals.