203. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Brown to President Carter 1
I attach a copy of a memorandum from the Joint Chiefs of Staff on (PD)/NSC–38, announcing your decisions as to the U.S. negotiating [Page 489] position on CTB. They have asked that I forward it to you, as an expression of their strongly held views. I believe that the JCS memorandum accurately identifies the technical and military factors involved. I agree with some, but not every one, of their evaluations.
A CTB involves some level of military risk. However, I believe that the probability that a CTB would adversely affect the reliability of the warheads for our important strategic systems is low enough during a three-year (or, less clearly, even a five-year) period so that for such a period the military risk in itself is acceptable. Of some weight also is the fact that we would become aware by continued stockpile inspection if a question of such reliability arises and, in principle, could invoke the supreme-national-interest withdrawal clause.
I emphasize that there would be a serious question of continued stockpile reliability on the U.S. side if there were an indefinite CTB.2 The greatest risk, therefore, follows from the tendency of a limited-term agreement to be extended. The statement of intention to resume tests at the end of a limited-term in order to assure stockpile reliability can somewhat ameliorate that problem. But the pressure at the time of expiration to renew (and also pressure not to do so) will probably be very great despite anything we say now. Such a concern about extension is likely to be expressed by opponents during the ratification process. This aspect, in my judgment, makes the prospects for approval of a CTB substantially less favorable than those for SALT, and also less favorable the earlier a CTB is concluded.
[1 paragraph (3 lines) not declassified]
I believe that the JCS paper understates the potential advantages from a CTB for non-proliferation (which many of us see as its main benefit). However, those advantages have yet to be articulated sufficiently. In my view it would be useful for the State Department and ACDA to set forth the criteria by which they believe we would be able to judge after a five-year period whether proliferation had indeed been inhibited by the CTB, and therefore whether there would be reasons supporting renewal to counter the military and technical needs for reliability tests.3
A great concern of mine is the possible irretrievable dissipation of our nuclear scientific and technological talent if a CTB is perceived by them as being of long or indefinite duration. To be able to test for stockpile reliability after a previously set time period of some years, and to correct deficiencies, the capabilities of the nuclear design laboratories [Page 490] have to be maintained. From this point of view there are two matters that particularly trouble me. (1) The decision to limit experiments to a few pounds4 of high explosive equivalent—rather than, for example, a few hundred tons5—limits sharply the degree of interest of such experiments to the scientists and technologists on whose continued skills and continued professional dedication to nuclear weapons design we would depend when tests are resumed. (2) Second, the five-year period of the treaty instead of a three-year period that had alternatively been proposed also reduces the chances of keeping viable nuclear laboratories together. The laboratory directors have told the JCS that, given a commitment to resume testing, they can maintain relevant laboratory effectiveness for three years, but probably not for five. I therefore urge that these two issues be reexamined as part of the development of the safeguards program you requested by June 30.6
- Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–81–0202, Box 53, A–400.112 TEST BAN (Apr–5 June) 1978. Secret. A handwritten “J” in the upper right-hand corner of the memorandum indicates Carter saw the document.↩
- In the right margin, Carter drew an arrow pointing to this and wrote “I agree.”↩
- In the left margin, Carter bracketed the portion of this paragraph that begins with “and ACDA set forth” and ends with “reliability tests.”↩
- Carter underlined the phrase “a few pounds.”↩
- Carter underlined the phrase “a few hundred tons.”↩
- Carter highlighted both point (1) and point (2) and wrote in the left margin “(1) I don’t feel strongly about this,” drawing an arrow pointing at the sentence for point (1), and “might help with this (2),” drawing an arrow pointing at the sentence for point (2).↩
- Secret. Brown wrote “5/30 HB” to the right of the memorandum number.↩
- See Document 200.↩
- Reference: JCSM–119–78, 18 April 1978, “Comprehensive Test Ban (U).” [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- See Document 193.↩