302. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1 2


  • Review of Nuclear Test Ban Policy

ACDA Director Smith recommended to me that we conduct a review of our policy and possible initiatives on an underground nuclear test ban for, inter alia, the following reasons:

  • — There has been a build-up of domestic and international pressures against nuclear testing and for a test ban.
  • — There will be extensive Congressional debate and hearings on the subject.
  • — Improvements over the past few years in our capability to verify an underground nuclear test
  • ban merit review.
  • — We are capable of evaluating the relationship of SALT to various test ban options.

Pressures and expectations for a policy change might increase were it to become known that we are reviewing this subject.

On the other hand, the increasing interest in the subject, magnified by well-published (and somewhat exaggerated) progress in seismographic technology, suggests that the issue will not disappear and that now is the time to establish White House control. Moreover, technological improvements may be such that they foreshadow substantive developments in the nuclear test ban area.

Therefore, I believe we should inaugurate a study and have prepared a study directive (Tab A) taking the approach we used for SALT.


That you approve inaugurating this review of our nuclear test ban policy.

APPROVE [HK initialed for RN]



  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 365, Subject Files, NSSMs (104–206). Top Secret. Sent for action. The memorandum was drafted by Behr, Smith, and Sonnenfeldt and forwarded to Kissinger under cover of a May 24 memorandum in which they proposed that Kissinger either initial it and forward it to the President for his approval or approve it for the President himself. Kissinger initialed the memorandum and approved it for the President, writing “HK for RN” next to “Approve.” For Tab A, NSSM 128, see Document 303.
  2. Citing international, domestic, and Congressional opposition to nuclear testing and the connection between SALT and test ban options, Kissinger recommended that Nixon approve instituting a review of U.S. nuclear test ban policy.