Chapter 10 - Reagan Combines U.S. Defense and Arms Control Strategies

the President. Earlier, the Secretary of State designee, Alexander Haig, had recommended to Reagan before the inauguration that all arms control IGs be chaired by the Department of State and its associated Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA). However, a presidential decision on this contentious proposal was delayed, and the NSC staff encouraged the practice that these IGs be co-chaired by Assistant Secretaries Richard Burt and Richard Perle from the Departments of State and Defense, with the NSC representative as a facilitating participant. This practice prevailed even after a January 1982 directive issued a year later by a transitional acting National Security Advisor, Admiral James Nance, who briefly sought formally to establish the Department of State’s interdepartmental lead even for arms control.

Early NSC Arms Control Work and Initiatives—1981–1982. During 1981 and 1982, Reagan Administration arms control efforts focused on drafting presidential tasking for studies, briefings, directives, and statements and preparing foundational interdepartmental assessments, analyses, and options papers coordinated by NSC staff. These drafts were transmitted through the National Security Advisor to the President for proposed NSC meetings and directives on a wide range of complex arms control issues and their related defense implications. NSC cabinet-level meetings on arms control notably succeeded because of Reagan’s top-down leadership in the innovative development of decisions and proposals.

Reagan’s Proposals. Reagan’s first major arms control initiative was his November 1981 rejection of the popular “nuclear freeze” option. Instead he proposal a radical new “zero-zero” Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) arms reduction, while continuing to plan for INF deployments (see Chapter 11). Second was his May 1982 “deep reductions” proposal for Strategic Nuclear Force Reductions (START) (see Chapter 12), even while modernizing U.S. strategic forces in accord with his October 1981 decisions on a five-point program of U.S. strategic force modernization (see Chapter 12). Meanwhile, early IG and higher-level arms control discussions included nuclear testing limitations, chemical and biological weapons, conventional forces, effective verification, and Soviet noncompliance were also conducted, but were often tied up in controversies between those supporting Reagan’s tough new criteria and others favoring softer traditional U.S. diplomatic approaches.

New and Newly Revitalized NSC-Directed Special Arms Control Groups—1982. By late 1982, it became increasingly clear to supporters of Reagan’s criteria that strengthened NSC authorities and capabilities were required to deal with the problematic special complexities, controversies, diplomatic sensitivities, and public diplomacy aspects involved in the arms control and defense areas like those identified above. At this point, Reagan and his National Security Advisor, Judge William Clark, approved the creation of new arms control groups, to be coordinated by the National Security Advisor, or his designated staff, to strengthen NSC authority and efficacy in support of the President’s objectives. Three such new senior-level arms control groups above the IG level were the Senior Arms Control Policy Group (soon renamed Senior Arms Control Group), the Arms Control Verification Committee, and the Arms Control Policy Information Group. In addition, the dormant President’s General Advisory Committee on Arms Control was revitalized to undertake major work on the issue of Soviet non-compliance with arms control treaties.

Senior Arms Control Group (SACG). Chaired by the National Security Advisor or his staff designee and staffed by NSC defense and arms control staff, this group consisted of Assistant or Deputy Assistant Secretary-level representatives of a range of departments and agencies. It met in the White House Situation Room rather than in the Department of State as did the IGs. Focused especially on INF and START, the new group made substantial progress in breaking IG logjams in preparation for NSC meetings, alliance consultations, negotiations, etc. At the same time, it generally left the particularly complex and contested verification and compliance issues and the overall public diplomacy focus to be worked on by the other new groups described below.

Arms Control Verification Committee (ACVC). Chapter 15 on Soviet Violations of Arms Control Agreements reviews the establishment, initial tasking, and core role of the ACVC in Reagan’s arms control policy of dealing with Soviet deception and cheating activities as well as U.S. verification and related defense requirements. New verification requirements went beyond National Technical Means (NTM) and included on-site inspections, verifiable U.S.-Soviet data exchanges, and exploration of new means of ascertaining Soviet deceptions and violations, especially in areas of nuclear testing and chemical and biological weapons (CBW). The new ACVC’s two components on “highly technical” and “policy-oriented” issues met in NSC staff offices, were generally co-chaired by the NSC Director of Arms Control and the technically expert head of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency’s (ACDA) Verification Bureau (Fred Eimer), and included senior-level

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