196. Memorandum From Secretary of Energy Schlesinger to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1



As we have discussed previously, I believe agreement must be reached within the Executive Branch on a U.S. negotiating position for a Comprehensive Test Ban that permits us to protect vital national security interests and that offers a realistic prospect of winning Senate ratification.

Such a negotiating position must meet four central concerns:

1. Ensuring our ability to certify and maintain the U.S. nuclear stockpile;

2. Ensuring verification provisions that give the U.S. high confidence assurance of compliance by the Soviets;

3. Maintaining a linkage between permitted experiments, verification, and Peaceful Nuclear Explosives; and

4. Ensuring that compliance provisions of the agreement on the previous three issues improve, rather than complicate, U.S.-Soviet relations on arms control issues.

I am concerned that we have been unable to reach a consensus on these issues, and that if we do not, the ability of the Administration to win Senate ratification may be significantly lessened. In the present climate—with controversy growing regarding SALT, and in the wake of the neutron warhead deferral and the B–1 cancellation—the Administration must ensure that stockpile risks are minimized, and that verification and compliance prospects are improved as a result of any such treaty if we are to hope for ratification. Each of these major issues is discussed further below.

1. The nuclear weapons designers within the laboratories and the Department of Energy believe that the DOE requires some level of testing in order to identify stockpile problems and certify the adequacy of fixes. Some level of testing would be required as well to implement necessary changes in safety, security, and command/control, and to adapt older designs to new delivery systems entering the inventory. [Page 473] While we know little in detail of the Soviet weapons program, what we do know suggests that the Soviet nuclear stockpile would not suffer to the same degree nor degrade as rapidly as ours.

We maintain this view strongly and are disappointed that the interagency process thus far has seemed unwilling to accommodate this position.

2. The adequacy of seismic verification is one of the most difficult subjects we must face in the CTB area—and one of the most important for both acceptance of the Treaty and preventing the development of major asymmetries.

DOE believes that even with the optimal level of Internal Seismic Installations (ISIs), we will remain unable to both detect and identify events below the few kiloton level in low coupling media. Without the optimal level of ISIs, even this capability would be significantly degraded. DOE representatives have discussed my concerns with Dr. Press about the OSTP/CTB Review Panel Report, and he has agreed to look into this matter.2

3. In addition, I believe it is essential to our deliberations, as well as being a sound negotiating strategy, that we maintain the linkage between permitted experiments, verification, and Peaceful Nuclear Explosives. It would be unwise to attempt to resolve the verification issues relating to the number and type of ISIs and On-Site Inspections (OSIs) without first addressing the issue of permitted experiments—since these two categories of problems are related intimately to the level that can be adequately verified. Further, to resolve these problems by decoupling them from PNEs would seem to give away any leverage we might have with the Soviets for our desired outcome on prohibiting PNEs. I am aware, of course, that the Soviets have told us privately that if these other issues are resolved, we can settle the PNE questions without difficulty; but we must assume that this is a Soviet negotiating tactic that may not well serve our interests.

Unfortunately, this essential linkage is not considered in the 17 April ACDA paper requested by the National Security Council on the ISI strategy for the 4 May resumption of negotiations. This paper treats ISIs independently of other key treaty issues, and recommends the negotiation of a questionable phased approach based upon resolving the details of our verification capabilities in a Joint Consultative Commission after completion of the basic agreement and its entry into force.

4. A CTB agreement must not only meet objective tests of adequate verifiability but, perhaps most importantly, must lower rather than [Page 474] raise the level of tensions inherent in public perceptions of the U.S./Soviet competition.

In this regard, our experience in dealing with contentious compliance issues arising from the ABM Treaty and with the Interim Agreement must be kept in mind as we proceed with the CTB negotiations. This experience should caution us against what seem to be easy ways of resolving sticky negotiating problems at the expense of future serious compliance problems. For example, as we attempt to drive down the detection threshold, we will inevitably increase the number of detected but unidentified, and therefore ambiguous, events that must be resolved with the Soviets. If our experience in SALT is any guide, the sheer number of such ambiguous incidents could complicate both the compliance process and the U.S. public perception of Soviet attitudes toward serious arms control agreements.

Finally, in attempting to reach consensus on the substance of major issues, I am concerned that the interagency process must be rationalized and strengthened to ensure objective consideration of sometimes differing views. These difficult issues must be faced squarely now, and an integrated U.S. position and strategy based on balanced inputs must be developed. This may require more diligence on everyone’s part to ensure that balance is reflected. I stand ready to cooperate in that process, and would be pleased to discuss the issues raised in this memo with you more fully.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, James Schlesinger Papers, Subject File, Box 2, Energy Department, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, General, 1978 May. Secret.
  2. No record of these discussions were found.