Chapter 12 - Strategic Offensive: Modernization, START Reductions, Nuclear Deterrence and Testing

3. Reagan’s U.S. Strategic Force Modernization Program: Communications, Bombers, Submarines, Defenses, and MX—October 1981

As the Soviet Military Power—1981 report was being prepared on the basis of newly declassified data, work continued on the U.S. intelligence community’s data, assessments, and key judgments on a classified basis, particularly by the CIA, Department of Defense, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and NSC staff. A consensus was developing for specific U.S. strategic modernization requirements that would meet Reagan’s new national security criteria on dealing with Soviet military capabilities and doctrines.

Reagan’s Initial Decision Directive for Five Strategic Programs—October 1981. The Reagan Administration’s assessments of the Soviet buildup and U.S. strategic modernization requirements and options for NSC and presidential review culminated in Reagan’s directive NSDD 12—Strategic Forces Modernization Program, issued on October 1, 1981. The directive established five long-term Reagan priority objectives for U.S. strategic force modernization as follows:

[Redressing the Balance, Incentivizing Genuine Arms Control] To help redress the deteriorated strategic balance with the Soviet Union . . . [to] be a deterrent that is far more secure and stable than our present nuclear forces . . . [and] also give us a force that is more resilient to Soviet attempts to negate our progress. This should, in turn, create better incentives for the Soviets to negotiate genuine arms reductions. . . . We will also be devoting even greater resources to improving, modernizing, and strengthening our conventional forces, and to research and development, as well as to improving the readiness of our existing forces.

Any financial resources required for the completion of the program directed by this decision must be derived from currently planned and approved Defense budget allocations. Any overruns would have to be absorbed by reprogramming from within the agreed Defense budget ceiling. . . .

[U.S. Objectives: Five Mutually Reinforcing Parts] (1) Making our strategic communications and command systems more survivable, so that we can communicate over survivable networks with our nuclear forces, even after an attack.

(2) Modernizing the strategic bomber force by the addition of two new types of bombers.

(3) Increasing the accuracy and payload of our submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM). . . .

(4) Improving strategic defenses [including air, space, and civil defenses]. . . .

(5) Deploying a new, larger and more accurate land-based ballistic missile. (headings added)4

4. Reagan’s START Revolution in Strategic Arms Control: “Eureka”—May 1981–June 1982

Reagan’s presidential campaign and early presidential statements on accelerated Soviet strategic modernization and increased numbers of Soviet forces, focused on his outrage that the U.S. had continued to set unilateral constraints on itself. These included the cancellation and/or delay of vital U.S. programs like the MX missile and the B–1 bomber, while relying on deeply flawed “arms control” efforts that did not reduce weapons, had unequal impact, and were neither effectively verifiable nor enforceable in dealing with the deceptions, violations, and aggressive global imperial drive of the Soviet Union. Reagan’s response was to assess and counter the rising Soviet strategic threat both by U.S. strategic force modernization and by also dramatically changing arms control requirements and strategy.

Early Presidential Decisions on Carter’s SALT II—1981. Early in 1981, one of Reagan’s first tasks was to decide what to do about Carter’s controversial Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty the SALT II Treaty, which, though withdrawn by Carter from U.S. Senate ratification consideration after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, still had diplomatic standing. The Soviet Union and Reagan’s opponents in the Democratic Party, the media, and the “arms control community,” including part of the U.S. bureaucracy, vigorously pushed for Carter’s SALT II to be the basis for Reagan’s new U.S.-Soviet negotiations. In contrast, Reagan and his new national security team understood that SALT II had serious flaws, worse than those of Nixon’s SALT. They adopted a policy that did not endorse SALT II but merely stated that “at this time the U.S. would not undercut SALT II levels” by exceeding SALT’s traditional “caps” and its links to the ABM Treaty and MAD. At the same time, Reagan’s new approach signaled a coming U.S. policy change that would seek to correct SALT II arms buildups and inequities (e.g., in throw-weight and numbers of “first-strike” systems); its dangerous constraint on the U.S. modernization required to restore and maintain strategic parity; and its lack of effective,

[Book pg. 269]