256. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (Press) to President Carter 1


  • Augmented Nuclear Test Program (U)

Earlier this year, you authorized us to develop an Augmented Nuclear Test Program (ATP)2 aimed at improving the basic research content of our test program and enhancing our readiness for CTB. The initial submission by the weapons laboratories3 was insufficiently responsive to these objectives and we convened an OSTP panel to review the draft ATP. The Panel produced a useful and interesting report (Tab C)4 and most of its recommendations were incorporated in the final ATP (Tab D),5 which is supported strongly by Harold Brown and Charles Duncan (Tab E).6 (S)

The ATP consists of a detailed two year test plan under which our testing rate would be increased from the present 10–12 to about 20 per year (the current Soviet rate is about 25–30 per year). Also, although not requested, the ATP includes an out-year program for an additional three year effort in which testing would be increased to about 25 per year. Consistent with the OSTP Panel recommendations, the program: (1) emphasizes R&D tests aimed at reducing weapons physics uncertainties such as boosting which are important to stockpile reliability; (2) includes so-called stockpile confidence tests of production-line warheads and alternate warheads for key weapons systems (these were not done in the past); and (3) provides for more thorough documentation of warhead design and components and other measures to improve our ability to maintain the stockpile without testing. Brief summary chart on the status of the warhead development effort and R&D objectives of the ATP are included at Tab B.7 (S)

On the whole, we are well-satisfied with the final draft of the ATP and believe that it merits your endorsement. We feel that your concern that an increased test program not subvert effort toward a CTB has [Page 628] been met by keying the ATP priorities to CTB readiness and by explicitly requiring the laboratories to be prepared to halt testing in the event of a CTB. (S)

We have, in addition, been sensitive to your earlier concern with the level of laboratory manpower in addressing the buildup of the testing level. (S)

A buildup to about 20 tests in FY 1982 is appropriate since there are a number of important stockpile confidence tests which can be carried out without elaborate preparations. However, we do not need to decide on whether to increase the level further to 25 until the specific tests involved in shifting the program emphasis towards basic research are identified and reviewed. Consequently, we recommend that the testing rate be limited for now to about 20 per year. (S)

To accomplish this reduced goal, some increase in manpower is necessary (but less than the buildup from the current 7400 to 8100 by the end of FY 84, envisioned by the proposed ATP). Accordingly, with OMB, we will stress efficiencies to minimize the infrastructure buildup associated with the added testing. OMB concurs in this approach and believes that an FY 81 supplemental of less than 50 million dollars is enough to begin the effort (this could raise the FY 81 test level to as many as 14 and allow for preparations for about 20 tests in FY 82); and an FY 82 increment of about 100 million dollars would be sufficient to accomplish this goal. We will ask DOE/DOD to address subsequent long-term testing needs following your review of the detailed FY 1981 test program, GUARDIAN, which will be forwarded to you shortly. (S)


We believe that the revised ATP would restore some needed research to the test program, would enhance our readiness for CTB, and would be responsive to Congressional concerns about the current asymmetry in US and Soviet test rates. Consequently, we recommend that you authorize Zbig to sign the directive at Tab A which would (1) approve the ATP in principle; (2) set the test rate at about 20 per year; (3) stress the priority of initiatives related to enhancing CTB readiness, with adjustments to systems priorities to reflect recent DOD decisions; and (4) direct that the FY 81 Supplemental and FY 82 incremental funding needs for the ATP be determined in the context of the FY 82 DOE budget review. (S)

Approve _______8 Disapprove ______ Other ______

Jim McIntyre concurs.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 20, PRM/NSC–38. Secret. In the upper right-hand corner of the memorandum, Carter wrote “C.”
  2. Not found.
  3. Not found.
  4. Document 249.
  5. Not attached.
  6. Not attached.
  7. Not attached.
  8. Carter checked the “Approve” option and wrote “J” at the bottom of the page. Brzezinski signed the directive at Tab A, a November 12 memorandum to Brown and Duncan.