198. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter 1


  • CTB

In an SCC meeting last week all of your advisers, except for the JCS, agreed to support a fixed, five-year duration treaty as proposed to you by Jim Callaghan,2 subject to your support for a strong safeguards plan, Senate ratification of any extension of the treaty, and your assurance that any necessary testing would be carried out after five years. (Summary of Conclusions is attached.)3 This memorandum includes a brief discussion of the JCS views and of the substantive issues which you may want to decide following your luncheon discussion with the Chiefs today.

In explaining the Chiefs’ opposition, Dave Jones stated that in addition to concerns about verification, the Chiefs relied heavily on technical judgment of the laboratories that they could not adequately maintain the reliability of our weapons without testing at 3 to 5 KT. He acknowledged that the laboratory directors had commented only on an indefinite duration treaty, and it was agreed that we would ask for their views on a fixed duration treaty before proceeding further.

We subsequently obtained their comments—Harold Agnew’s is polemical in nature and negative towards your CTB objective; Roger Batzel’s is more responsive and acknowledges that a fixed duration approach would help in meeting his concerns, but maintains that testing at 3 to 5 KT would be needed eventually. Taken together, these comments do not provide much flexibility for the Chiefs, and they are likely to continue to oppose the fixed duration approach during your luncheon discussion tomorrow.

As a result, we will need your guidance on several issues in the near future. The most important issue is whether we should seek a 3 to 5 KT threshold treaty, as the Chiefs prefer, or a fixed duration CTB. If you prefer the latter,4 you will also need to decide whether the duration should be 3 or 5 years, the level of experiments that would be per[Page 478]mitted, and whether your assurance regarding resumption of testing should constitute a plan to resume testing after five years, or just the option to do so. You may want to make these decisions following your luncheon with the Chiefs. However, if you decide to overrule them, I recommend that you defer decision until after an NSC meeting, to ensure for the record that they have had an opportunity to formally present their views.

______ Schedule NSC Meeting.

______ Make decision after luncheon.5

Fixed Duration vs. 3 to 5 KT Threshold

A 3 to 5 KT threshold would be more consistent with verification capabilities and stockpile reliability needs, but eliminating risks in these areas would seriously erode potential benefits of a CTB to non-proliferation and our relations with the Soviets, and would be viewed as a significant departure from your public commitment to halting testing. The threshold treaty would have smoother sailing during ratification hearings, and the Chiefs’ views would carry a lot of weight, but with Harold’s and Jim Schlesinger’s support, a fixed duration treaty would probably be ratified after a difficult struggle. I believe that the fixed duration approach is adequately protective of our security interests and more consistent with your political objectives, and recommend that you authorize us to propose it in the negotiations.6

3 vs. 5 Year Duration

Harold and Kerr (speaking for DOE) have specifically agreed that they could live with a five-year duration, but both would prefer three years, arguing that this would make it easier to keep the laboratories together. They recognize, however, that the shorter duration might be criticized by non-nuclear weapons states as an insufficient commitment, and could jeopardize prospects for installing an effective network of internal seismic stations. In addition, the preponderant technical judgment is that we can maintain reliability without testing for at least five years. We may have to consider a 3-year duration eventually since the Soviets may see this as a means of exerting more pressure on China; however, I recommend that you authorize the five-year duration as our initial position.7

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Permitted Experiments/Safeguards

An important issue in developing a safeguards plan under the fixed duration approach is whether low-level experiments should be permitted in addition to related work in laser fusion and other areas. From a technical standpoint, tests at a few pounds or tons of yield are unlikely to help much with reliability problems, but can be useful for safety and weapons effect purposes, and would definitely assist in maintaining the laboratory infrastructure. [4 lines not declassified] However, low-level testing (a few pounds to a few tons) can be defended on safety and safeguards grounds, and I recommend that you authorize us to include such experiments in the safeguards plan which we are developing for your review.8

Plan or Option to Resume Testing

Harold and Jim would prefer that you announce that you plan to resume testing after five years for reliability purposes. This would make the opportunity to resume more credible on the Hill and shift the burden of proof to those favoring extension of the test ban from those favoring resumption of testing. Cy and Paul prefer a weaker assurance that you would carry out any test that might be necessary, but agree that with careful wording the stronger form might be acceptable. For example, you could state your intention to resume testing unless a vigorous safeguards program and studies in the interim indicated that this was not necessary. I recognize that this could undercut potential non-proliferation benefits, particularly in India, but a strong assurance from you would reassure the Chiefs and make it considerably easier for Harold and Jim to defend the treaty. Therefore, I recommend that you authorize us to use the strong form of the assurance as worded above.9

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 93, SCC 071, CTB, Permitted Experiments/Reliability: 5/2/78. Secret. Sent for action. Carter initialed the memorandum.
  2. See Document 191.
  3. See Document 197.
  4. Carter underlined the words “a fixed duration CTB.”
  5. Carter checked the “Make decision after luncheon” option.
  6. Carter checked the “Approve” option.
  7. Carter underlined the words “five-year duration” and checked the “Approve” option.
  8. Carter checked the “Approve” option, wrote “minimal,” and wrote “?” in the right-hand margin.
  9. Carter checked the “Approve” option.