178. Memorandum from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Brown) to Secretary of Defense Brown 1


  • Comprehensive Test Ban (U)

1. (S/RD) In view of the importance of comprehensive test ban (CTB) issues to all aspects of the nation’s nuclear weapons posture, the Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that greater attention should be given to key CTB issues within the Department of Defense. Development of a sound US CTB position will depend to a large extent upon the DOD’s presenting, in the intragovernmental arena, well-conceived positions on national security and related technical issues. A number of important questions remain to be resolved before a coherent DOD position can be presented. Some of these are:

a. What is the national intent with regard to maintenance of the nuclear weapons stockpile under a CTB?

b. What low-yield experiments are advisable under a CTB in order to assure confidence in the stockpile and maintain design expertise in the laboratories?

c. How should this “permitted experiment” issue be addressed at intragovernmental and international levels?

d. How is long-term stockpile reliability achieved under a CTB? (For example, should a small number of standardized warhead designs be settled upon? Should these designs be modernized? What rebuilding rate is necessary? What are the cost and technological penalties of standardizing materials and processes so as to avoid future change?)

e. Would an extended transition period (several years) at a reduced underground test threshold be valuable for redesigning the US stockpile for maintenance under a CTB?

f. To what degree can new delivery systems and conceptual weapon systems be adapted to existing nuclear warhead designs without weapons testing?

g. What measures constitute adequate verification?

h. What are the required CTB safeguards, and what added costs should be budgeted for them and programmed now?

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i. What urgent efforts are necessary (while testing is still permitted) for an effective transition into a CTB?

2. (S) The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that three specific actions be taken now to accelerate development of a comprehensive DOD position on these and other important CTB issues, to achieve better DOD-Department of Energy (DOE) cooperation, and to promote discussion of these matters at intragovernmental levels:

a. First, and most urgently, the Joint Chiefs of Staff believe the issue of “permitted experiments under a CTB” must be raised at the national level prior to the departure of the US Negotiating Team for the 5 December plenary session in Geneva. Their concern here is to assure that US negotiators understand—prior to presenting papers or discussing the issues with the Soviets—that a CTB should provide for some low-yield nuclear experiments which, among other factors, can assist in assuring confidence in the stockpile. This is likely to be a controversial issue within the US Government, but it is believed that it is critical to national security. Full addressal is already late, but the United States should not compound the problem by opening new and more detailed discussions with the Soviets until a generalized national position on this matter has been given [to] the negotiators. Annex A contains a proposed memorandum to the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs raising this issue.

b. Second, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that you establish a temporary CTB Task Force within the DOD. In their judgment, the issues are of such breadth and complexity that they cannot be handled adequately without a dedicated organizational structure. Since the issues are largely technical and the work focuses on R&D and acquisition—not just of nuclear weapons, but of delivery systems as well—they suggest that a representative of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering chair this effort. Other key members of the Task Force should be from OASD(ISA), OATSD(AE), OJCS, DIA, DNA, and the Military Departments. Since the DOE is directly involved in many of the issues, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that DOE be invited to participate in Task Force work. Annex B contains a proposed memorandum establishing this CTB Task Force.

c. Third, a fully effective working relationship with DOE should be achieved for continuing, in-depth communication on the issues summarized in paragraph 1 above. DOE has principal responsibility for many of these issues, and close DOD–DOE cooperation is essential to effective solution of CTB problems already identified and likely to arise in the future. The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that you take the initiative by sending the proposed memorandum in Annex C to the Secretary of Energy raising the issue. The memorandum also invites his participation in the DOD CTB Task Force.

3. (U) In summary, the Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that the national security and technical aspects of a CTB are of such importance as to require significantly increased attention within the DOD and closer DOD–DOE cooperation. Moreover, they should be addressed as an ur[Page 422]gent matter in the Special Coordination Committee prior to resumption of substantive negotiations.

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

George S. Brown
Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harold Brown Papers, Box 50, TS C.T.B. Secret; Restricted Data. A stamped notation in the upper right-hand corner reads “30 NOV 1977 SEC DEF HAS SEEN.” Underneath the stamp, Harold Brown wrote “11/30 David McG Walt S,—we should take appropriate action to the extent possible during the next few days. I agree with the overall ideas, differ on the details. HB.” The annexes are not attached.