93. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Laird to President Nixon1 2


  • DOD Position on the Seabed Arms Control Treaty Proposal

As you know, the Department of Defense does not favor having the U.S. propose a seabeds treaty at this time. If you should nevertheless decide to move ahead on this matter I suggest the adoption of the following language for initial use in the operative articles in order best to protect our security interests:


Each State Party to this Treaty undertakes not to emplant or emplace fixed nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction or associated fixed launching platforms on, within or beneath the seabed and ocean floor beyond a narrow band, as defined in Article II of this Treaty, adjacent to the coast of any State.
Each State Party to the Treaty undertakes to refrain from causing, encouraging, facilitating or in any way participating in the activities prohibited by this Article.


For purposes of this Treaty, the outer limit of the narrow be referred to in Article I shall be measured from baselines drawn in the manner specified in paragraph 2, hereof. The width of the narrow band shall be three (3) miles.
Leave Blank. (To be determined by negotiation.)


(There should be no inspection provision.)

The above suggested position reflects the DOD view that the U.S. government’s initial approach on this issue should be restrained and conservative. We recognize that some of these initial positions may have to be broadened during the course of negotiations, but we will be able to make these decisions case-by-case when necessary, based on assurances and interpretations that may evolve.

General Wheeler has seen and concurs in this proposal.

Melvin R. Laird
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 382, Subject Files, Seabeds Vol. II. Secret.
  2. Laird indicated that the Defense Department did not favor a seabeds treaty; however, it suggested language for a treaty should the President decide to move ahead on it. The memorandum cautioned the President to take a “restrained and conservative” approach.