210. Minutes of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


  • Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB)


  • State
  • Secretary Cyrus Vance
  • Jerome Kahan Dep Director, Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs
  • Defense
  • Secretary Harold Brown
  • Dep Secretary Charles Duncan
  • David McGiffert Asst Secretary for International Security Affairs
  • Energy
  • Donald Kerr Acting Asst Secretary for Defense Programs
  • JCS
  • General David Jones
  • Lt General William Y. Smith
  • ACDA
  • Paul Warnke
  • Spurgeon Keeny, Deputy Director
  • Admiral Thomas Davies Asst Director for Multilateral Affairs
  • White House
  • Zbigniew Brzezinski
  • Hamilton Jordan
  • NSC
  • Reginald Bartholomew
  • OSTP
  • John Marcum
  • CIA
  • Sayre Stevens Dep Director, National Foreign Assessment Center
  • [name not declassified] Chief, Nuclear Energy Division


The purpose of the meeting was to continue discussion of the three year approach on CTB, in light of comments received from the Chiefs2 and Laboratory Directors.3

[Page 515]

In beginning the meeting, Dr. Brzezinski stated that we want to pull together differing agency positions on this issue and noted that the JCS position was less forthcoming than he had understood. He had expected that the three year approach would provide the basis for JCS support from the national security perspective and the other agencies had agreed on the three vs. five year approach on that basis. In his view, if the three year approach did not generate more support we might as well have the same fight over the five year proposal. Harold Brown pointed out, however, that we wouldn’t get the same letter from the Chiefs on the five year proposal.

Paul Warnke stated that if the Chiefs still felt that serious risks remained he would recommend staying with the five year duration since it is better from a non-proliferation standpoint. In his view, the very limited support from the Chiefs and the Laboratory Directors was not a good enough basis to change this position. Cy Vance agreed noting that we are weakening the treaty from a non-proliferation standpoint by agreeing to the three year approach and should go back to five years.

Dr. Brzezinski noted that Roger Batzel’s comments were fairly supportive, and that Harold Agnew’s, while linking CTB to SALT, also had some support. Harold Brown stated that his attitude differed from the Chiefs and he has transmitted these views to the President.4 He agreed that three years would not be as good for non-proliferation but noted the non-proliferation arguments had not been fully analyzed and he did not place as high an emphasis on them. On balance, however, he felt the three year approach was better and more acceptable to most policy officials than five.

Donald Kerr, speaking for Jim Schlesinger, stated that three years was a better way to reduce risks. In his view, while they could only certify continuing reliability with testing at 3–5 KT, three years represented a good compromise for national security and retention of laboratory personnel. He noted with regard to verification that a shorter duration would weaken our bargaining position and that what we could install would be less than what we hoped for.

(Hamilton Jordan entered at this point.)

Don Kerr continued that we could accomplish planned improvements in our Atomic Energy Detection System earlier and could also propose that the US and Soviets do some calibration testing taking advantage of the precedents of the Peaceful Nuclear Explosive Treaty. [Page 516] Spurgeon Keeny commented that this wouldn’t help much since calibration shots would be at test sites and would tell us very little about evasion concerns.

Dr. Brzezinski summarized the three year approach saying that we are trying to balance five elements—duration, level of testing, Safeguards Plan, verification, and commitment to resume testing, in striving for a package which meets our national security needs and permits us to go ahead with our foreign policy objectives. He then read a draft Presidential Directive.5 In reviewing the verification portion of the directive, Dr. Brzezinski suggested that maybe we should go to 10 internal seismic stations, rather than 7. Harold Brown and Paul Warnke supported this suggestion and after a brief discussion, it was agreed that the directive should be modified to include seeking 10 simple stations instead of 7.

David Jones indicated that there was no subject on which the Chiefs had been more consistent. He acknowledged that three years with resumption of testing was far better than five, but to conclude that the problems would go away would be erroneous. He said that the JCS memorandum had been based on a thorough review of each element of the package and left the final judgement to the individual Chiefs. In response to Dr. Brzezinski’s question, he agreed that the elements of the draft Presidential Directive were responsive to the Chiefs’ concerns but stated that their basic feeling was that there is no way to maintain reliability without testing at 3–5 KT—an indefinite duration would be catastrophic, five years would be very very serious, three years would be less serious but would still be a problem.

Harold Brown commented that instead of leaving the final judgment to the individual Chiefs, he felt the memo expressed judgment at the end that a 3–5 KT threshold would be better. Bill Smith interjected that in the best of worlds, we would have both the non-proliferation benefits and continue to test at the 3–5 KT level. Dr. Brzezinski noted that with a longer duration there could be a higher test level, and with the shorter duration a lower test level. Bill Smith stated that a more accurate non-proliferation assessment was needed to clarify the benefits of the treaty since the military risks were quite real to the Chiefs.

Paul Warnke offered to provide as much detail as needed, noting that this factor had been taken into account fully in the President’s February 1976 decision.6 Cy Vance stated that it was pretty clear that India and possibly Brazil would go along with the CTB. Paul Warnke agreed and said that the CTB might lead India to accept full scope safeguards [Page 517] as well. David Jones acknowledged that military risks had to be balanced against these possible gains for non-proliferation but noted that the Chiefs would be more negative on the prospect of such gains.

Dr. Brzezinski stated that he wanted to go through the draft Presidential Directive paragraph by paragraph and have each participant register dissent or consent. On duration, Cy Vance said he preferred five years but would go to three if the other provisions were satisfactory. David Jones said it was clear to him that three was very much preferable than five, but that he had to represent all the Chiefs’ views and would have to fall back on the judgment in paragraph 8 of the memorandum on the entirety of the package rather than item by item. Jones said that as Roger Batzel had noted, testing at 3–5 KT was a fundamental requirement in the long term. Harold Brown observed that this referred to concern about a continuation of the treaty after three years, and Dr. Brzezinski noted that the burden of proof would be on those who wanted to continue the treaty. David Jones disagreed asserting that the burden of proof would fall programatically on the tester. Dr. Brzezinski pointed out that the treaty would terminate after three years and David Jones said that he thought the burden of proof would fall equally on those parties.

Harold Brown said that the real question would be verification and not reliability with regard to the burden of proof. David Jones agreed stating that the Chiefs are convinced that without much difficulty the Soviets can test at 3, 5, 10 KT at low risk and this drives the conclusion that we would have to stop and they would continue by cheating. In his view, we couldn’t do that but the Soviets could in their closed society.

At Harold Brown’s suggestion, Dr. Brzezinski then asked for and received confirmation that all agencies including Energy would support this approach except the Chiefs. Donald Kerr stated that three years was definitely better than five years. Harold Brown said that in his view this approach was consistent with national security and that Jim Schlesinger should clarify his position on that issue. Dr. Brzezinski read the final paragraph from Jim Schlesinger’s transmittal of the Laboratory Directors’ views7 and said he took that as an endorsement of the three year approach. Harold Brown agreed that this meant he (Jim Schlesinger) was on board. Donald Kerr also agreed.

David Jones, supported by Harold Brown, indicated that if the Chiefs were pressed again on this approach it would probably be counter-productive and we would get more no’s than yes’s. He indicated that in time as the provisions of the treaty become clearer and [Page 518] with a better understanding of the non-proliferation benefits of a CTB they might be more supportive of this approach. There was agreement that State and ACDA would prepare a non-proliferation assessment for this purpose. David Jones asserted however, that if the paper were sent now the Chiefs would still say that it (the three year approach) doesn’t meet their concerns.

Bill Smith observed that the “unless” clause in the commitment to resume testing had not been included in the Chiefs’ assumptions, in other words their view was based on unconditional commitment to resume testing after three years. Harold Brown said that if this was true the paper was internally inconsistent. He recognized the problem that having a group of people with different concerns reduced the consistency of conclusions. In his view the Chiefs may have assumed that testing would resume but didn’t really believe it. David Jones, said that paragraph 8 of the JCS memorandum was based on the most favorable assumptions.

Dr. Brzezinski suggested that we should go back to the President and tell him that all agencies were prepared to sign on for the three year approach, and that JCS was standing by its concern but were also more satisfied with the three year than five year proposal. Donald Kerr indicated that in his view the Safeguards Plan should not be mentioned in the intent to resume testing clause, since there was nothing in the plan that would be relevant to the decision of whether to seek a replacement treaty. Harold Brown said there was some relationship but suggested that the Safeguards Plan could be included in a separate sentence. John Marcum disagreed with Kerr pointing out that the Safeguards Plan would provide the essential data base for deciding whether to negotiate a replacement treaty.

Paul Warnke stated that in his view, the non-proliferation benefits were marginal as is and that he felt we should stick to the five year position unless a general consensus developed in favor of the three year approach.

Harold Brown disagreed stating that the three year approach would be an improvement in the ratification context in demonstrating that risks had been limited.

Paul Warnke asked how we would deal with permitted experiments. He thought that since testing would be limited to less than 100 pounds we would not need to seek an understanding with the Russians, but in any case we could proceed to table language for Article I of the treaty and reserve our position on whether an understanding would be needed.

Dr. Brzezinski asked the working group to examine this issue and adjourned the meeting stating that we would report to the President [Page 519] and that State and ACDA would send a non-proliferation assessment to the JCS.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 96, SCC 093, CTB, Test Ban Options and Issues: 7/6/78. Secret. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. Brzezinski summarized the meeting in a memorandum to Carter, July 7; Ibid.
  2. The JCS remained opposed to a CTB. See Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Brown, June 29, 1978; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harold Brown Papers, Box 82, Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty #2.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 204.
  4. Brown sent a memorandum to Carter on June 30 which transmitted the views of the JCS on a CTB. He noted that his “views on this subject differ from theirs, as I have previously indicated to you.” (Memorandum from Brown to Carter, June 30, Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harold Brown Papers, Box 82, Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty #2)
  5. See Document 208.
  6. Not found.
  7. See Document 209.