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.
- 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.)↩
- 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.↩