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



Following up our telephone conversation of yesterday afternoon,2 this memorandum highlights two major problem areas regarding the study of an enhanced nuclear weapons test program that DOE and DOD have been preparing.

The study defines a two-year enhanced test program which includes an additional 16 tests through FY 80 and 13 in the first half of FY 81. This program would be expensive—on the order of an additional $123 M through the end of FY 80 and a total of $284 M in FY 81; this would require $31 M in FY 79 and $92 M in FY 80 over the current Administration program. In view of the extremely tight budget constraints facing the DOE, the existing FY 79 and FY 80 test program levels were judged to represent the best balance of DOE resources within the defense programs’ area. These incremental costs could not be accommodated from within DOE’s resources without significantly affecting our ability to meet Presidential guidance on the production of weapons required for DOD systems.

Due to the large incremental costs involved, I believe it would be most useful to obtain an initial Administration estimate on the amount of money to be made available for this enhanced effort and then size the test program to this sum. I believe that the potential political repercussions of any other potential courses of action could be substantial. If the recommended program were to be reduced for financial reasons, questions would undoubtedly arise concerning the Administration’s commitment to do all that is necessary to prepare for a CTB. This would be far worse, having recognized a significant enhancement to be advisable, than not proceeding on the recommended path.

It should be borne in mind that DOE, in FY 79, has already sent to the Congress a $12.8 M supplemental for the two additional confidence tests; we have two additional supplementals pending with OMB totalling $81 M—$40 M for Pershing II warhead and $41 M for NOVA (the [Page 568] latter one already has been earmarked within the President’s Contingency Fund); and a sizeable supplemental would be required if the advanced dates for readiness of National Seismic Stations are to be met.

Given the large amount of FY 79 supplemental funding being requested for DOE Defense Program activities, it would seem wise to determine in advance that the Administration would lend its full weight in support of an additional request.

The second problem bears on the structure and scope of any outside review of the DOE/DOD recommendations. Given the highly technical nature of an integrated nuclear weapons test program, the individuals comprising the review group must be currently and intimately familiar with the detailed technical purposes of each test element that will make up this program. I remain skeptical that such expertise is to be found outside DOE and DOD, though there are many vocal critics of the test program. Consequently, I believe that Harold and I should pass on the membership of the review group to assure competency and balance. This is especially important in light of the earlier OSTP review of seismic verification and stockpile reliability in which the lack of technical competence of the group’s review was manifest.3

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 13, Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB), 1/79–9/80. Secret; Restricted Data. Copies were sent to Brown, Jones, and Press.
  2. Not found.
  3. In a May 10 memorandum to Brzezinksi, Press called Schlesinger’s criticism about the OSTP’s review “surprising” and characterized the OSTP panel’s technical competence as “indisputable.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 13, Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB), 1/79–9/80)