95. Memorandum From Jessica Tuchman Mathews and Leslie G. Denend of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) and the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Aaron)1


  • SCC Meeting on PRM–37—Chemical Weapons


Since June of last year, the United States has been operating under the policy guidance established in PD–152 calling for: bilateral negotiations with the Soviets (we have kept our allies informed) based on 15 key elements which would hopefully lead to the submission of a joint initiative to the CCD for a comprehensive CW ban; and maintenance of the U.S. CW stockpile without improvement. PRM–373 was made necessary by the PD-15 direction that the decision on the U.S. stockpile be reviewed during the FY 1980 budget cycle on the basis of progress in the negotiations.

The primary purpose of this meeting is to determine whether or not to recommend to the President that module I of an integrated binary production facility ($18 million in FY 1980) should be included in the FY 1980 Defense budget. However, the discussion should also address the broader question of other possible actions to modernize or restructure the U.S. stockpile. The Agenda which was circulated for the meeting is at Tab A.4 An interagency discussion paper is at Tab B.5 The [Page 208] PRM–37 response with an executive summary is at Tab C.6 However, this memorandum is all that you need to read.


State and ACDA believe that the negotiations have proceeded about as expected, while the JCS feels that there has been insufficient progress to warrant a further delay in modernizing and expanding the U.S. chemical stockpile. The five rounds during the past 15 months confirm that on-site verification provisions present the most difficult issues. Progress will be slow at best and a breakthrough in the near future should not be expected.

The U.S. stockpile suffers from two major deficiencies: the number and type of munitions, and their location. The U.S. has about 30,500 agent tons of which only 7,200 tons are usable. Over the next seven years, the 7,200 tons will be reduced gradually to 2,400 tons because of obsolescence and deterioration. Of the 7,200 tons, roughly 450 tons are stored at one site in Germany. The deployment of additional chemical munitions to forward positions in Europe has not been possible because our Allies remain quite negative on this issue. Importantly, Defense has not established a requirement for a chemical weapons stockpile of a specific size. Since there is no overall concept of how chemical weapons would be employed, it is not possible to estimate consumption rates and, thus, a requirement. JCS has established a figure of 30,000 agent tons but it has not been validated in DOD.

The politics within the Pentagon on the CW issue are significant. There are sharp differences between OSD and JCS. The Army Chemical Corps supported by the JCS is fighting for its very existence, and has been fanatic in its push for substantial improvement in the U.S. stockpile. When this dimension is added to JCS skepticism about the negotiations, the result is a vocal minority dedicated to binary production. In general, the services do not grant a high priority to CW. It complicates their planning, increases cost, and is a form of combat which on emotional grounds is distasteful. An important aspect of the meeting will be to determine just how strongly Harold Brown feels about the binary facility. We have heard that he fully expects it to be cut by OMB and only included it to avoid a fight in his building.


1. Proposed Changes to CW Negotiating Instructions: Based on the experience of the past 15 months, three changes to the key elements contained in PD–15 have been suggested. These involve technical points for the most part (e.g., the allowed period for destruction of facilities) [Page 209] and would normally be resolved within the delegation. However, the JCS has asked that they be referred to higher authority. In the interest of time and the real purpose of the meeting, we recommend you defer discussion of the proposed changes and instead call for a memorandum. The changes are straight-forward and can be decided on paper. None are urgent.

RECOMMENDATION: That you defer discussion of this issue and call instead for a memorandum to resolve it.

2. Options Affecting the U.S. Chemical Weapons Stockpile: You should begin the discussion of this issue by asking ACDA and the JCS to summarize their quite different concepts of how best to deter chemical warfare. The JCS believes that a capability to retaliate in kind is essential. ACDA believes that for a number of reasons (e.g., our inability to forward deploy chemical munitions), the U.S. may not be able to acquire a credible capability to retaliate in kind and therefore, argues for deterrence based on an adequate protective posture plus conventional and nuclear forces. These views are significant since they determine one’s position on improvements to the CW stockpile.

There are three principal options:

(1) Maintain the Current Chemical Stockpile Without Quantitative Improvement. Normal maintenance and surveillance would be performed, but no steps would be taken to increase the stockpile. Obsolescence and deterioration would gradually erode the stockpile over the next several years. During FY 1980 the stockpile will contract roughly 750 tons because the 105mm artillery rounds become obsolete.

(2) Improve the U.S. Chemical Weapons Stockpile with Particular Attention to Upgrading Seriously Deficient Areas (e.g., weapons designed for delivery by high performance aircraft). This could involve a range of actions from modest improvements to current munitions through the filling of present generation munitions from stockpiled bulk agent to the production and filling of new munitions with newly produced conventional agent. Because those most closely associated with CW in the military are so intent on construction of the binary facility, they have not focused seriously on the specifics of this option. It is not likely that this option will be looked at carefully until the binary facility is ruled out.

(3) Proceed with Preparations for Binary Munitions Production. This would involve establishing a facility to produce the 155mm binary howitzer projectile, for which all R&D and facility design work has been completed. Decisions about actual assembly of munitions, production of component chemicals, or expansion of the facility for production of other binary munitions would be deferred. This is the first step in a program which could lead eventually to expenditures totaling $2.0 billion.

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Politically, this is among the most sensitive issues with the Congress. The facility has been removed from the budget by the Congress each time it was proposed by the previous administration. Congressional attitudes on this issue have not changed significantly. If the facility were proposed this year, it would take an enormous Administration effort on the Hill to keep it there and even then the outcome would be uncertain. State, ACDA, OMB and, we suspect, even OSD oppose construction of a binary facility.

RECOMMENDATION: That you firmly oppose the binary facility. A good outcome for the meeting would be a clear disapproval of the binary facility coupled with firm directions to Defense to investigate possible steps to improve the effectiveness of the U.S. CW stockpile which are relatively inexpensive and politically feasible. Defense should work with OMB so that the options developed include the cost.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 100, SCC 170, Chemical Weapons, 12/1/78. Secret. Sent for action.
  2. See Document 70.
  3. See Document 86.
  4. Attached but not printed.
  5. Attached but not printed.
  6. Attached but not printed.