Letter to Congressional Leaders Reporting on the Recommendations in the Report of the President's Commission on Strategic Forces

April 19, 1983

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:) (Dear Mr. Chairman:)

On January 3, 1983, I established a bipartisan Commission to respond to the issues raised by the Congress regarding the Peacekeeper missile, possible alternatives to the Peacekeeper, and possible alternative ICBM basing modes. The report, which the Commission submitted to me, was delivered to you last week. Attached is a classified report prepared by the Department of Defense submitted pursuant to the provisions of subsection (7) of Title V of the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 1983, enacted as part of P.L. 97 - 377. The attached document addresses the issues set out in subsection (7).

I am pleased to report to you that the distinguished group of Americans who served on the Commission have unanimously agreed on a package of actions, which I strongly support, and on which Secretary Weinberger, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary Shultz and the National Security Council have joined with me in supporting. They are as follows:

(1) Improve as a first priority the command, control, and communications for our strategic forces; continue with high priority the Trident submarine and D - 5 missile programs; and continue the bomber and air-launched cruise missile efforts as planned.

(2) Proceed with the immediate production of the Peacekeeper missile, and deployment of 100 such missiles in existing Minuteman silos in the Francis E. Warren AFB area, which I propose as the alternative basing plan required by P.L. 97 - 377. Specifically, the first 50 missiles will replace the Minuteman missiles in the 400th Strategic Missile Squadron (SMS). In turn, the second 50 will replace the Minuteman missiles in the 319th SMS. I have chosen Francis E. Warren AFB because the existing silos at that location offer the best operational considerations.

(3) Commence engineering design of a small, single warhead ICBM. If strategic and technical considerations warrant, such a missile could be ready for full-scale development in 1987 and potential deployment in the early 1990's.

(4) Expand research into, and undertake the most rigorous examination of, all forms of defense against ballistic missiles. This includes work on penetration aids.

(5) Undertake a specific program to resolve uncertainties regarding silo and shelter hardness, a study of fratricide effects, and investigation of different types of land-based vehicles and launchers, particularly hardened vehicles.

Finally, I reconfirm that I am fully committed to continue to pursue ambitious and objective arms reduction negotiations with a goal of agreements that are balanced, promote stability in time of crisis, constitute meaningful force reductions, and are verifiable. As you know, our proposals to secure reductions of all types of weapons are before the Soviets in many forums.

I urge the Congress to join me now in this bipartisan effort to settle on a modernization plan for our strategic forces. For more than a decade, each of four administrations has made proposals for arms control and modernization that have become embroiled in political controversy.

Balancing a number of factors, the members of the Commission, the Secretary of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and I have all had to take fresh looks at our previous positions. Despite the range of views these groups have held in the past, we are presenting to you a unanimous view on this vital issue. Your support for the consensus can unite us in taking a major step forward in our common search for ways to ensure national security.

Sincerely,

Ronald Reagan

Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr., Speaker of the House of Representatives; George Bush, President of the Senate; John Tower, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee; Mark O. Hatfield, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee; Melvin Price, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee; and Jamie L. Whitten, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.