276. Memorandum From Linton Brooks, William Heiser, and Robert Linhard of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Powell)1


  • START Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

Our draft START Treaty calls for a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and three protocols: Conversion or Elimination, Inspections, and Throwweight. If we are to have any chance of signing an acceptable START Treaty in Moscow this summer, we need to table the MOU and the remaining protocols as soon as possible. Attached (Tab III)2 is the interagency submitted draft MOU. The draft includes no actual data, simply the structure. Even this is contentious, both internally and, we expect, with the Soviets.

After this document was received and initially forwarded, and after the Secretary of State promised that we would table it this week, the JCS formally objected to tabling the MOU. The JCS are concerned with “uncertainties of how the data provided in the MOU will interrelate with requirements specified in the Joint Draft Text and Inspection Protocol.” They fear the MOU could commit the U.S. to “an intrusive inspection regime and capture of facilities and equipment not intended for inclusion as treaty limited items.” They suggest a study of the interrelationships of various documents be conducted by the START IG and tabling the MOU be held in abeyance. Detailed JCS views are at Tab IV.3

The specific JCS concern is with baseline inspections. The U.S. draft treaty (tabled last May) states that all facilities listed in the MOU will be subject to baseline inspection. In fact, as we developed the MOU we realized that we needed to include facilities such as bomber production facilities where there is no need for baseline inspection. Thus the JCS are correct that there is an internal inconsistency which must be resolved. We do not believe, however, that the problem is so severe that we need delay the MOU; we adjust our text all the time and can do so now. We have put appropriate words into the approval memorandum to make it clear that tabling the MOU is not tantamount to accepting a series of major new obligations.

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In addition to the basic JCS concern, there are two issues:

Issue 1—Definition of “ballistic missile submarine port facility”. The draft definition says such a facility “may include the assembly, maintenance and storage of SLBMs and their components.” ACDA would delete these words because they complicate the definition. All other agencies favor their retention; the Joint Staff notes that Navy facilities are integrated and this definition is thus essential.

NSC Staff agrees that the definition is more accurate with the indicated phrase and recommends it be retained.4

Issue 2—Inclusion of “mobile ICBM front-end handling facility”. The draft MOU defines such a facility as “a facility that is used to prepare and maintain mobile ICBM front ends” and calls for an exchange of data on such facilities (but not facilities for fixed ICBM or SLBM front ends). DOE and the JCS would delete this definition and not call for exchanging data on such facilities. They fear the term would capture all warhead facilities along with facilities for such non-treaty limited items as guidance sections or post boost vehicles. The DCI was the prime exponent of such a definition and can now accept its deletion.

NSC Staff agrees that the definition is more trouble than it is worth and recommends it be deleted.5

JCS comments at Tab IV include a proposal for deleting “total engine inlet capture area” from the list of aircraft characteristics to be exchanged. This suggestion was submitted after the MOU arrived and has not received interagency review. In addition, nineteen changes submitted by the DCI after our receipt of the MOU are at Tab V.6 Consistent with past practice, we propose not to deal with these issues but to remand them to the IG for action, while not delaying approval of the MOU. Most appear minor; they are being worked separately. The draft approval memorandum reflects this approach.

Since the issues to be resolved are so trivial and the MOU so complex, we recommend you approve the content of the MOU for the President. With regard to the JCS objections, we believe the President should be aware of his military advisors’ concerns. In our view, the JCS unease on this issues is symptomatic of their more general concern that, in an area as complex as START, tabling one portion of our position while other portions are under development could trap us into obligations we do not intend to assume. We suggest you mention these concerns to the President at your next convenient morning meeting with him. Alternatively, we have prepared the short memorandum at Tab II7 if you wish a more formal notification.

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Approval of this MOU only sets up the categories. We will push the interagency process to begin producing actual data so that we can meet the obligation Secretary Shultz assumed in Moscow to begin an actual data exchange before the Washington ministerial. We have given this appropriate emphasis in the suggested approval memorandum.


That you authorize Paul Stevens to sign the memorandum at Tab I8 approving the START Memorandum of Understanding with the modifications indicated above.9

That you either inform the President verbally of the JCS concerns and your action regarding them or sign the memorandum at Tab II informing him.10

Don Mahley, Steve Steiner, Will Tobey, Judyt Mandel, Fritz Ermarth and Barry Kelly concur.11

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Linhard Files, START Treaty—MOU—February 24, 1988. Secret. Sent for action.
  2. Attached but not printed is the draft MOU.
  3. Not attached.
  4. Powell initialed his approval.
  5. Powell initialed his approval.
  6. Not attached.
  7. Printed as Document 277.
  8. Attached but not printed is a February 26 memorandum from Stevens to Levitsky.
  9. Powell indicated his approval.
  10. Powell indicated his approval.
  11. An unknown hand bracketed these names and wrote: “All concurred on previous draft.”