Statement on the Final Report of the President's Commission on Strategic Forces

April 9, 1984

On January 3, 1983, I established a bipartisan Commission to examine issues raised by the Congress concerning the strategic modernization program, especially the Peacekeeper (MX) missile. On April 19, 1983, I was very pleased to report to the Congress and the American people that the Commission unanimously agreed on strategic force modernization recommendations, which I strongly endorsed. Secretary Shultz, Secretary Weinberger, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and the National Security Council also endorsed the recommendations of the Commission. At that time, I affirmed my commitment to pursue ambitious arms reduction negotiations as an integral part of the package.

Despite the range of views which existed in the past, the Congress joined us in supporting this bipartisan effort to modernize our strategic deterrent. This consensus was a major accomplishment in our common effort to enhance national security. The willingness of all parties to reexamine their previous positions allowed us to end a decade of political paralysis over arms control and modernization.

Last week the Commission issued its final report. The report focuses on the arms control portion of its earlier recommendations. Once again, the Commission members and their counselors have performed a tough job extraordinarily well. Again, we all owe this distinguished group of Americans special thanks.

This final report reiterates the original recommendations, that is, an integrated strategic program consisting of an arms control structure with incentives to enhance stability at reduced levels of strategic arsenals; deployment of 100 MX missiles; and development of a small, single warhead ICBM; as well as other elements. The Commission again emphasizes that each element is essential to the overall program it outlined.

After noting the disappointing history of U.S.-Soviet arms control negotiations, the Commission emphasizes the importance of keeping expectations within bounds. In particular, arms control can make a substantial contribution to U.S. security by increasing strategic stability, allowing some types of defense expenditures to be avoided, and offering a useful forum for dialog on strategic concepts and priorities. The Commission stresses, however, that arms control alone cannot end the threat of nuclear war, reduce the casualties and damage in the event of such a war, or automatically permit deep or early defense budget cuts.

On related issues, the Commission confirms the need for effective verification and satisfactory compliance to sustain the arms control process. The Commission recognizes the significance of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and notes that research permitted under the treaty is important to ascertain realistic, technological possibilities as well as to guard against Soviet ABM breakout. The Commission also recommends extreme caution in proceeding to engineering development of an active strategic defense system.

Our proposed strategic defense initiative is limited to technology research. The initiative also includes continued study of strategic policy and arms control implications of strategic defense concepts. The program is consistent with all treaty obligations and there is no conflict between our initiative and the recommendations made by the Commission.

Finally, the Commission notes the importance of measures to reduce the risk of nuclear war and makes clear the serious flaws of a nuclear freeze.

I am pleased to announce that I, along with Secretary Shultz, Secretary Weinberger, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and the National Security Council, strongly endorse the Commission's final report.

I urge continuing support by the Congress and the American people for this bipartisan consensus which unites us in our common objective of strengthening our national security and moving toward significant reductions in nuclear arms.