254. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1

SUBJECT:

  • Soviet High-Yield Nuclear Testing

PARTICIPANTS:

    • State
    • Deputy Secretary Warren Christopher
    • Jerome Kahan, Deputy Director Bureau of Politico Military Affairs
    • Defense
    • Deputy Secretary W. Graham Claytor, Jr.
    • Deputy Under Secretary Walter Slocombe
    • JCS
    • Lt. General John Pustay, Assistant to the Chairman
    • DCI
    • Ray McCrory, Chief, Arms Control Intelligence Staff
    • [name not declassified] Chief, Nuclear & Test Monitoring Branch
    • Energy
    • Duane Sewell, Assistant Secretary for Defense Programs
    • ACDA
    • Director Ralph Earle
    • Spurgeon Keeny, Deputy Director
    • OSTP
    • John Marcum, Senior Adviser for Technology & Arms Control
    • White House
    • David Aaron
    • NSC
    • Marshall Brement
[Page 625]

The SCC met today to continue its review of the September 14 Soviet high-yield nuclear test.2 [12 lines not declassified] After some discussion, there was agreement that to reduce these uncertainties we should have another round of technical consultations with the British, and that OSTP should reconvene its outside panel to review the yield assessment problem. (S)

The SCC also reviewed a State draft of what Ed Muskie should say on this issue in his meeting with Gromyko tomorrow.3 In view of the uncertainties in our assessment and earlier Soviet rejection of our requests for consultations,4 there was general agreement with David Aaron’s suggestion that we should be assertive, but careful, and ensure that the Soviets understand the implications of this issue for SALT. Consequently, agreement was reached on a modified approach which would reinforce our earlier démarche, express your personal concern, press for a positive response to our proposal for technical consultations, and note that failure to resolve the issue could constitute a severe blow to our SALT ratification efforts. (S)

The question of whether DOE should be authorized to drill a deep test hole was then discussed. State, Defense and ACDA opposed this step in view of its arms control implications and our uncertainties. Defense noted we should first decide whether we actually needed to test above 150 KT and which warhead should be tested. DOE favored the drilling step and noted it should be authorized soon to provide the option for a test by late October. JCS also supported the step but urged that a new hole be funded and drilled, to avoid delaying planned nuclear tests. A consensus was reached that the Working Group should prepare a study of US requirements and costs for testing above 150 KT which with the Soviet response and our continuing technical review would provide a better basis for decision on the drilling issue.5 (S)

As a final point, David Aaron noted increasing concern over DOE’s delay in modifying the NSS as you directed this Summer,6 and their general unresponsiveness in managing the NSS development program. DOE responded that the problem was partly money and partly [Page 626]difficulty in locating modified components with adequate capabilities. It was then agreed that ACDA with DOE and OMB would draft an analytical paper discussing the reasons for delay and providing options for faster development including their costs and the possibility of accepting some loss in capacity. (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 116, SCC 343, 9/24/80, USSR Nuclear Test. Secret. The meeting occurred in the White House Situation Room. In the upper right-hand corner, Carter wrote “Zbig. J.”
  2. Memorandum SW–M–80–10077, September 22, provided an assessment of the September 14 nuclear test. (Ibid.)
  3. The undated proposed talking points for Muskie are ibid. Muskie and Gromyko met for three hours on September 25; the subject of the Soviet test did not come up. (Telegram Secto 8020 from the Secretary’s Delegation, September 26; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800459–0264)
  4. See footnote 3, Document 253.
  5. In the right-hand margin, Carter wrote “Do not do anything re >150 KT test unless I am convinced a) That we really need one and b) We’re ready to abandon Limited Test Ban agreement. J.”
  6. Not found.