332. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Schlesinger to President Ford1


  • Missile Cooperation with France

In response to your memorandum of June 23, we will take necessary action through established channels to advise the French Government of our willingness to extend the Missile Assistance Program as you have authorized. We envision this as not requiring a new formal agreement between our two nations, but rather that a simple letter will be sufficient.

There are several points in your memorandum on which we would like to comment:

• We understand fully the guidance concerning providing no information applicable to French development of MIRV capability and will insure compliance therewith.

• With respect to exchanges in the areas of improved submarine quieting and tactics, we plan no specific action or discussions at this time. The sensitivity of certain aspects of these topics suggests we delay them for as long as possible.

• Regarding your prohibition of exposure of French RV components and materials at our Nevada test site, we recommend a reconsideration of this point, with a view towards approval thereof, for the following reasons:

—No Restricted Data nor any actions prohibited by the Atomic Energy Act would be involved. No French warheads, per se, would be involved.

—The French urgently need this type of information for design verification; the theoretical state of the art is not presently adequate to [Page 1020] provide needed design confidence without this type of testing. Validation tests of U.S. materials and structural samples, even though seemingly well characterized, frequently have disclosed hardness levels significantly at variance with theoretical values.

—Such testing probably is not feasible at the French Pacific underground test site because of the water environment in the soil. Our refusal to accommodate them could, therefore, lead to a possible extension of their atmospheric test program.

—Since we have provided such test services to the British, and since the French can readily infer this, even if they do not actually know it, such denial probably would be a particular source of unhappiness on the part of France.

—We believe the possibility of a security leak is low, since all samples are presented to the test site as Defense Nuclear Agency (DNA) material, and DNA has an already-established reputation for fielding tests on many different types of hardware, the origin of which frequently is shrouded in secrecy. These would fall in the same category. Knowledgeable access within DNA is held very low.

In view of the above, we propose to continue with the process of readying their samples for exposure on the underground test this October, but will not implement such sample exposure without your specific approval.

There is some urgency in deciding this question. The X-ray environment most needed by the French is a “cold” spectrum, which is the effects test we will be running the latter part of this year. (Samples for the test are already on hand.) Since the United States has no further test of this nature scheduled for at least another five years, if we do not place their samples on this next test, we will be unable to help—even if we should change our mind—unless we were to run a specific test solely for French purposes.

We do not, at this time, have a specific meeting scheduled with France in connection with the Missile Cooperation Program. We will now proceed to arrange another meeting and will forward to your Assistant for National Security Affairs a proposed agenda and date for prior approval.

  1. Summary: Schlesinger discussed the expansion of U.S.-French missile cooperation.

    Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Kissinger-Scowcroft West Wing Office Files, Box 13, France—Nuclear Matters (4) (6/23/75–8/28/75). Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Schlesinger did not sign the memorandum. Forwarded to Scowcroft under cover of a July 3 memorandum from Wickham. On August 1, Giscard told Ford and Kissinger that the missile cooperation talks were progressing “very slowly” and asked for negative guidance on submarines and MIRVs, as well as help on solid fuel. Kissinger agreed that there was “footdragging.” When Giscard asked about a proposed French purchase of a CDC–7600 computer, Kissinger noted bureaucratic and Congressional opposition; however, both he and Ford suggested that the sale might be possible “in conjunction with a foreign policy success.” (Memorandum of conversation, August 1; ibid., Memoranda of Conversation, Box 14)