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216. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Brown to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1

I have the memorandum to the President from Secretary Vance and Paul Warnke on the CTB negotiations, dated September 2nd.2 It raises serious concerns in my mind about the potential negative impact on SALT ratification which the proposed strategy may have.

As a procedure to consult with other nations to involve them in non-proliferation efforts, and as a way to control the timing of a presentation of a CTB treaty to Congress, the proposed strategy makes sense. However, I do not believe the strategy would work to prevent an early confrontation with Congress. As soon as a policy is enunciated on 3 vs 5 years, permitted experiments, and particularly on our intention on resumption of testing after the 3 or 5 years, there would be a response from the JCS and from at least the working levels of DOE. Opponents in Congress will then hold hearings, claiming that they have as much of a right to be consulted and to influence the text of the agreement as do the non-nuclear states. There will be testimony from the JCS and the laboratory directors that in their judgment such a treaty is not in the best interest of national security. Though others of us will be able to point out the stockpile reliability will not be degraded unacceptably in 3 or even in 5 years, the whole process will in my view make severe trouble not only for CTB but also for SALT ratification.

My own judgment is therefore that we should hold off on these decisions, instead pressing the Soviets further at the resumed CTB negotiations on the issue of verification and its relation to a duration clause. Moreover, I believe that we should further explore the idea of combining a comprehensive test ban of limited-duration with an unlimited-duration threshold test ban treaty at a substantially reduced yield.

If the President nevertheless decides to proceed as Cy and Paul recommend, I suggest that he make a decision only to go to a 3 (or 4) year duration, reserving until after SALT ratification any decisions on permitted experiments and on any softening of a resumption commitment.

Harold Brown
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–81–0202, Box 53, A–400.112 TEST BAN (6 June–Dec) 1978. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only.
  2. See Document 214.