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

Attached are memoranda from the directors of the DOE nuclear weapons design laboratories responding to the request for comments on the new position on CTB discussed at the SCC meeting of 27 June 1978.2

[Page 513]

You may also recall that both Dr. Agnew and Dr. Batzel provided responses to questions from the NSC staff for you on 5 May 1978.3 You will be interested in reviewing those earlier memoranda which more fully express their views on the fundamental issues and on the impact of a CTB.

As stated in the earlier memoranda and in the enclosed responses, a treaty limited to three years is clearly preferable from the point of view of delaying the loss of weapons design capability. In either case, however, it will be difficult to motivate good people to stay. There will also be a penalty from the safety and reliability point of view, but the expectation is that this penalty would be limited.

It is going to be difficult to maintain morale and motivation of key designers and scientific staffs under a near zero yield test ban even for the three-year period. In order to minimize losses, it will be necessary to provide both tangible assurances which demonstrate the national resolve to resume testing and also the resources necessary to assure successful start-up of a meaningful test program.

The verification problem will be intensified by both the shorter term treaty and the more limited network of stations. During the ratification process it will come to be recognized that we will only be able to verify [1 line not declassified] As we have already seen, the Soviets will take the position that the verification issue should be reconsidered and that no other means of verification beyond national technical means will be required.

In summary: the shorter period for the CTB alleviates some of the national security concerns. Nonetheless, a noticeable risk remains if testing of the performance of boosted primaries is foreclosed, since there is some (low) probability that some deficiency may occur in critical weapons in the stockpile. It would seem essential, therefore, that the Administration be able to articulate the compensating benefits of a three-year moratorium.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, James Schlesinger Papers, Subject File, Box 1, Chronological File, 1978 July. Secret; Restricted Data. Two tabs are attached but not printed.
  2. See Document 207.
  3. Not found.