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Digital National Security Archive (DNSA): U.S. Nuclear History, 1969-1976: Weapons, Arms Control, and War Plans in an Age of Strategic Parity

About this Collection

Chronologically following the Archive’s earlier ProQuest publication, U.S. Nuclear History: Nuclear Arms and Politics in the Missile Age, 1955–1968, this set documents nuclear weapons policies during the presidential administrations of Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford. With the deployment of multiple independently targetable delivery vehicles (MIRVs) and the initiation of strategic arms control talks, this was a significant period in the history of the nuclear age and essential for understanding the developments of subsequent years. The nuclear competition was a source of East-West friction during the post-World War II era, and important to the way the tensions developed. It was also an element that made the tensions highly dangerous, as policymakers during the Nixon and Ford administrations recognized. To help researchers better understand this period, documents in this collection illuminate decision-making at the White House and the Defense Department, policy inputs from the State Department and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), as well as strategic intelligence analyses and reporting provided to the decision-makers. Moreover, the 2,291 documents in this collection provide invaluable information on the missile and bomber deployments that embodied the devastating threats that were the bases of Cold War deterrence and the war plans that were designed to make good on those threats. 

This compilation of recently declassified documents, the vast majority of them published here either for the first time or in less excised form, details the nuclear weapons policies of the Nixon and Ford administrations - a critical period in the nuclear age that is vital for understanding the developments of subsequent years. With the Soviet Union reaching parity in levels of strategic forces, the Nixon administration was aware the U.S. could not maintain strategic superiority by trying to stay ahead of Moscow in pure numbers of missiles. Instead, the Nixon White House pursued a policy of achieving technological advantage, supporting strategic arms limitation talks, and making nuclear use threats more credible by developing limited alternatives to catastrophic nuclear exchanges. These and other topics are richly documented in this collection. In the post-Cold War world, nuclear proliferation, arms control, and atomic weapons deployment policies remain at the core of public concerns over global security and peaceful international relations. For anyone interested in how these issues evolved and were dealt with over time, U.S. Nuclear History, 1969-1976 will quickly become an essential resource.

Research Value of This Collection

One of the values of this collection is that it serves as a guide to significant archival sources on U.S. nuclear history. For each item in the catalog that has an archival origin detailed information on file locations are provided. With that information, researchers will be able to identify relevant collections at the National Archives and other repositories and locate related or other documents that may be relevant to their research interests.

This collection complements what is available in the State Department Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series. As valuable as the FRUS volumes on national security policy are, they do not cover some important issues, such as the early and critical phases of the internal discussion over the possibility of less than all-out, or limited nuclear options. This became a topic of growing interest in the Pentagon and the military-oriented think-tanks as policymakers contemplated the horrifyingly massive nuclear options in the Single Integrated Operational Plan. This set includes significant early documents, such as a major RAND report from 1970, as well as reports and memoranda relating to the Defense Department’s panel on National Strategic Targeting and Attack Policy (NSTAP) chaired by John S. Foster, the assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering. Created by Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, the Foster Panel was a direct response to President Nixon’s requests for credible nuclear threats that involved limited use of nuclear weapons instead of all-out catastrophic use. The Foster Panel’s report, which is presently available only in heavily excised form, is published in this set for the first time. It was the forerunner of the NSSM 169 interagency panel that Foster chaired in 1973, which led to National Security Decision Memorandum 240 (January 1974). 

Single Integrated Operational Plan

National Strategic Targeting and Attack Policy