96. Minutes of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


  • Chemical Weapons (U)


  • State
  • Deputy Secretary Warren Christopher
  • Mr. Jerome Kahan, Deputy Director, Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs
  • OSD
  • Deputy Secretary Charles Duncan
  • Lt. Colonel Robert K. Weekley, Assistant for Negotiations and Policy Plans, OSD/ISA
  • ACDA
  • Acting Director Spurgeon Keeny
  • Dr. Robert Mikulak, Staff Officer
  • JCS
  • General David C. Jones, Chairman
  • Lt. General William Y. Smith, Assistant to the Chairman
  • CIA
  • Dr. Karl Weber, Director, Office of Scientific Intelligence
  • OMB
  • Mr. Edward R. Jayne, Associate Director for National Security and International Affairs
  • White House
  • Mr. David Aaron (Chairman)
  • NSC
  • Mr. Leslie G. Denend


David Aaron began the meeting at 9:37 by calling for views on how the chemical weapons stockpile figures in the deterrence of chemical warfare. Duncan said that the stockpile provides substantial deterrence if we have a true CW capability. Jones pointed out that CW was not used in World War II because each side had a capability. He agreed with Duncan’s view and added that the U.S. stockpile is not very good and that only a small amount of artillery rounds were deployed in Europe. He felt the U.S. must have a reasonable war-fighting capability along with adequate protection. Keeny acknowledged that the existence of the stockpile has a deterrent role; however, he questioned how effective it was operationally. He felt sure that if the Soviets used CW they would also have adequate protection. He asked whether the U.S. in light of Congressional and NATO political realities could achieve a credible retaliatory capability. Duncan noted the political problems associated with deployment but added that a CW capability was still necessary. Jones added that the likelihood of CW in Europe could increase as our tactical nuclear advantage narrowed, and added that the deployment of binary munitions would be easier than conventional types. Keeny pointed out that CW was a potential super neutron bomb in a political sense and said that the Europeans do not even want to think about the prospect of CW in Europe. Christopher observed that there was value in a retaliatory capability, but how it was developed would be affected by three realities: how the allies view it; Congressional reaction; and the prospects in the CW negotiations. Jayne agreed with Christopher and stressed the importance of the political dimension of CW. [7 lines not declassified]

Aaron outlined the three options developed in the PRM: (1) maintain the stockpile without improvement; (2) undertake steps short of new production facilities to modernize the stockpile; or (3) build a binary facility deferring the production decision. Duncan favored building the binary facility. Jones strongly supported the binary facility. He added that roughly two thirds of the cost of the facility could be recovered in the event of a treaty since it could be used for the destruction of U.S. stocks. Christopher disagreed and said that option 2 [Page 212] had not been fully developed. He suggested that modest steps (those at the low end of option 2) might be undertaken to arrest further erosion of the stockpile. He added that to go binary would send very negative political signals. Keeny agreed with Christopher, and Jayne did also. Duncan called into question the notion that in reality option 2 would be cheaper than option 3 for similar capabilities. Jones agreed. Aaron questioned whether formulating the question so that only the binary facility seemed at stake adequately reflected the true scope of the decision at hand. Duncan added that the U.S. needs a CW capability for deterrence and given that, binary was the best way to go. Aaron pointed out that it was not a question of whether or not to maintain a stockpile but rather one of which type the U.S. would commit to. He framed the issue for the President as on the one hand replacing and increasing the present stockpile with binary munitions versus more modest steps to improve the effectiveness of the current stockpile with no increase in deployments to Europe. Christopher added that option 2 needed to be fleshed out. Jones stated that without a verifiable treaty, we need CW capability and in the long run, binary is the only way to go. Christopher noted that before a decision in favor of binaries was made more information about Congress and our allies was needed. (S)

Next, Keeny described the proposed changes to the negotiating instructions. All agreed that the time period allowed for the destruction of facilities should be clarified and made independent of the destruction of stocks. On the conversion of facilities, Keeny said it would only be offered if the Soviets agreed to the higher on-site verification requirements. Jones commented that because there was so much necessary information about Soviet facilities which we did not have that it was premature to discuss conversion. Smith asked why the decision had to be made now. Duncan added that the Soviets are not even prepared to tell us where their facilities are at this point. Christopher asked if the negotiators would be willing to agree to explore the topic but agree to nothing. Mikulak responded that up to this point conversion had been mentioned in the talks only to say that if conversion were allowed more intrusive on-site inspection would be required. Aaron felt that the Delegation should be limited to exploring the conversion issue with the Soviet Delegation. All agreed. Jones added that the Soviets may even prefer destruction because of the on-site inspections associated with conversion. On the issue of bilateral versus multilateral inspection of facilities, Keeny explained that this would be an option which might be used only if it proved important in reaching agreement with the Soviets. Jones emphasized that we were seeking a true multilateral convention and that bilateral inspections should not be a part of such an agreement. Duncan felt that it was important to talk to our allies about this possibility. Aaron offered a compromise, stating that [Page 213] he sensed there was some receptivity to this idea but that the first step was to talk to our allies. All agreed. The meeting ended at 10:37 a.m. (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 100, SCC 170, Chemical Weapons, 12/1/78. Secret. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room.