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150. Letter From the Director of Military Application of the Energy Research and Development Administration (Bratton) to the Chairman of the Military Liaison to the Energy Research and Development Administration (Cotter)1

Dear Mr. Cotter:

In anticipation that underground nuclear testing might be further curtailed or prohibited in the relatively near future, ERDA is taking prudent steps to revise the underground nuclear test program for FY 1977 and test plans for FY 1978 and FY 1979 in order best to insure the accomplishment of those tests most urgently needed to meet presently known, high priority defense requirements for nuclear weapons at the earliest possible date. Our understanding of these requirements and of the relative priority of each is summarized in Enclosure 1.2

We have formulated plans to complete at minimum cost the testing required for all the weapons listed in Enclosure 1. All advanced development tests, except those for which preparations are already well advanced, have been proposed for deferment until late FY 1978. These plans are summarized in Enclosure 2.3

Although the revised number of tests for each fiscal year is not significantly different than in our previous plans, the nature of the tests is such that the cost would exceed our budget amounts for testing by about $6 million in FY 1977 and $13 million in FY 1978. While it may be possible to obtain additional funds by reprogramming actions within the weapons program or from some other ERDA account, it is first essential to verify that each of these potential weapons should be developed before further restrictions or a ban on testing.

The plan we have formulated is basically a reordering of already planned tests in order to accomplish the most critical tests as soon as possible. For each program the point at which these most critical tests are completed is indicated on Enclosure 2. If testing were stopped after successful completion of these critical tests but before completion of all the tests required for the full development of a particular warhead, it may be possible to stockpile that warhead. However, it may not meet all required military characteristics, and some of its yield options may not be fully verified. The impact on each program of completing only [Page 350]the critical tests is given in Enclosure 3.4 It should be recognized that the schedule shown in Enclosure 2 is optimistic in that all tests may not be completed on time and all may not be successful.

If additional resources cannot be obtained from outside the weapons program, it may be necessary to reprogram funds from the weapons production budget. This would result in delays in the delivery of weapons to the DOD. For example, one option for reprogramming an additional $6 million for testing in FY 1977 would delay the scheduled delivery of the B61–5 bomb by six to nine months. Reprogramming $13 million in FY 1978, in addition, would delay delivery of the B77 bomb by one year if all the funds were applied against that program. We would not, of course, initiate any reprogramming action which would impact agreed IOC or delivery commitments without coordinating fully with the DOD.

I would appreciate your concurrence in our proposed revised test program and its associated priorities. Further, I would welcome comments regarding programs which you believe should be deleted or slowed in order to save resources or programs which should be added to provide further options during a possible test ban. For example, the DOD views on the type of reprogramming referred to above would be useful.

I look forward to hearing from you on this matter, and I shall endeavor to be as responsive as possible to DOD suggestions in meeting our mutual nuclear testing goals.

Sincerely,

J.K. Bratton
Major General, USA
Director of Military Application
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–80–0017, Box 63, A–400.112 1977. Secret; Restricted Data.
  2. Not attached.
  3. Not attached.
  4. Not attached.