61. Memorandum From the Acting Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (Sloss) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Chemical Weapons Study

The purpose of this memorandum is to recommend that a study be conducted, on an urgent basis, of US chemical weapons policy.

Current Situation

When the Geneva-based Conference of the Committee on Disarmament (CCD) reconvenes on February 15, 1977, it can be expected to center its attention on chemical weapons limitations and a comprehensive test ban, the two items of highest priority on its agenda. There is a general expectation among CCD members that detailed consideration of CW limitations will continue and indeed intensify during 1977. A short delay in advancing US CW positions may be understood due to the change of Administration, but US participation in the Committee’s CW work this year is clearly anticipated.

It is also very likely that at the outset of the CCD session the Soviets will again approach the US about resuming bilateral consultations concerning a joint initiative on chemical weapons limitation. (The US and USSR agreed at the July 1974 Moscow Summit to discuss the possibility of such an initiative at the CCD.)2 At the end of the first round of consultations, held in Geneva in August 1976, it was agreed to hold another round at a later date to be determined.3 During last fall’s UNGA, the Soviets inquired at a high level as to US views on resuming the [Page 144] talks; we suggested that the two countries’ CCD Representatives would take up the question of scheduling at the spring 1977 session.

Present US Policy

The United States is firmly committed to the objectives of complete and effective prohibition of all chemical weapons. This commitment has been reiterated on many occasions by past Presidents and other senior officials. It is consistent with the US commitment in the 1971 Biological Weapons Convention to continue negotiations toward that end.

Pending Policy Issues

The National Security Council has had under study two broad issues in the area of chemical warfare policy. NSSM 1574 addressed possible treaty alternatives for achieving restraints on the possession of chemical weapons, and NSSM 1925 examined alternatives for the US chemical warfare posture, mainly aimed at the question of whether or not to proceed with the acquisition of binary CW munitions.

Two Senior Review Group meetings were held to consider the alternatives developed in these two NSSM studies, but no consensus emerged on the closely-linked issues of the military need for modernization of the US CW stockpile and acceptable CW treaty restraints where the verification of compliance is incomplete. Rather than moving these issues to the President for resolution and decision, it was decided to await the outcome of an internal DOD reassessment of its position on binary acquisition and acceptable arms control approaches. This reassessment has recently been concluded, and the results are reflected in a memorandum sent to Mr. Scowcroft by Secretary Rumsfeld on December 23, 1976.6 That memorandum proposed:

—A specific arms control approach for international CW restraints, involving a phased total ban on CW stocks and limited on-site verification;

—deferral for a reasonable time of binary production, pending the outcome of international negotiations on CW restraints;7

FY 1978 funding of a standby binary production facility.8

[Page 145]

After a Senior Review Group meeting was held December 299 to discuss the last item, President Ford decided that this issue could be handled more appropriately by the new Administration. Since the arms control issue was considered to be a matter for the new Administration, it was not addressed.

ACDA believes that the chemical weapons field provides an excellent opportunity for this Administration to further demonstrate the interest of the United States in arms control by undertaking an initiative.


In view of the need to address the issue of chemical weapons limitations in multilateral and bilateral US-Soviet discussions in the near future, it is important to attempt to resolve pending CW arms control policy issues. ACDA recommends, therefore, that a study be conducted, on an urgent basis, using as a point of departure the proposals made by DOD last December. Attached are suggested terms of reference for such a study.10 In parallel with this study I believe it would be useful to ask the intelligence community for a new assessment of foreign CW capabilities and policies.

Leon Sloss11
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 44, PRM–27 [1]. Confidential.
  2. At the summit, the two sides “reaffirmed their interest in an effective international agreement which would exclude from the arsenals of States such dangerous instruments as chemical weapons.” (“Joint American-Soviet Communiqué, July 3, 1974, Documents on Disarmament, 1974, pp. 232–243)
  3. Telegram 6837 From Geneva, August 27, 1976, contains a communiqué that was released on August 30 that announced that talks would resume at a later date. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D760327–1079)
  4. NSSM 157, July 28, 1972, is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–2, Documents on Arms Control and Nonproliferation, Document 263.
  5. NSSM 192, February 7, 1974, is scheduled to be printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–14, Part 2, Documents on Arms Control, 1973–1976.
  6. Not found.
  7. There has been no US production of lethal or incapacitating CW agents since 1968. [Footnote is in the original.]
  8. Such requests had been deleted by the Congress from the FY 1975 and FY 1976 budgets. No request was included in the FY 1977 budget. [Footnote is in the original.]
  9. The Senior Review Group Minutes is scheduled to be printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–14, Part 2, Documents on Arms Control, 1973–1976.
  10. Attached but not printed is the list of terms.
  11. Sloss signed “Leon” above this typed signature.