329. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Ford1


  • Cooperation Programs with the French

You will recall that at the December meeting with French President Giscard he raised the issue of an expanded program of assistance [Typeset Page 1015] to their missile and underground testing programs. At that time we agreed to undertake an expanded program with the details to be worked out through subsequent exchanges.

In late January we received a list of suggested topics for technical discussions from the French. The list is very extensive and goes far beyond the scope of the assistance which we are currently providing. Of particular significance are the requests for assistance in:

MRV system development for their new M–4 SLBM system.

—Assessment of the vulnerability of their strategic systems to Soviet attack.

—Nuclear warhead design.

—Testing of French nuclear devices and RV material at the Nevada Test Site.

—Underground nuclear testing technology.

In view of the sensitivity of these topics, we have reviewed the French request in detail to determine what constraints should be imposed on an expanded program of cooperation. We found that many of the suggested topics involved areas in which:

—Cooperation would require Congressional approval under the Atomic Energy Act.

—Cooperation would risk compromise of either sensitive US strategic system design features or sensitive intelligence on Soviet capabilities.

For example, we would not be able to assist the French in nuclear weapon design or test French nuclear warheads at the Nevada Test Site without a formal program of cooperation requiring Congressional approval.

I recommend that we do not pursue discussion of those topics requiring Congressional approval and those involving particularly sensitive information at this time. Secretary Schlesinger also believes that this is the preferable approach. This will still allow us to provide assistance on most of the topics on the French list and result in a significant expansion in the current program. Furthermore, we will be able to be somewhat more forthcoming later in the area where there are no legal constraints, as the program progresses and as US-French relations warrant.

We have drafted guidance along these lines at Tabs 1 and 2. Tab 2 contains a memorandum to Secretary Schlesinger on an expanded program of missile assistance. I believe this is preferable to a NSDM in view of the sensitivity of this program. Tab 1 contains a NSDM to cover cooperation on nuclear safety and underground testing.


—That you authorize me to sign the NSDM at Tab 1.

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—That you sign the memorandum to Secretary Schlesinger at Tab 2.

  1. Summary: Kissinger sought Ford’s approval of new guidance for the U.S.-French nuclear cooperation programs.

    Source: Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box 60, NSDM 299—Cooperation with France (3). Top Secret; Sensitive. Tab 1 is published as Document 330. Tab 2 is published as Document 331. Ford initialed his approval of Kissinger’s signature of the NSDM and signed the memorandum to Schlesinger.