Courtesy Reuters

The search for national security is a dialectic of hope and fear. Fear of war spawns demand for weapons; hope for peace feeds demand to control those weapons. Judging by the rampant growth of weaponry in modern times, fear is more fruitful than hope. If foreign policy is the management of contradictions, national security policy requires a synthesis of hope and fear, a prudent blend of arms and arms control.

That synthesis has proved elusive. Now a new approach has emerged in the idea known as "build-down." In essence the build-down principle says that no new weapons should be deployed unless a larger number of existing weapons are destroyed. Conceived and refined over the last two years, the build-down seeks to apply a relatively simple principle to the complex realities of international competition in the development and deployment of weapons. The concept has aroused interest initially as a novel scheme to dampen the continuing expansion of Soviet and American strategic nuclear forces, but it could have broader applicability. After months of intricate political dialogue with a congressional coalition led by Senators William Cohen (R.-Maine) and Sam Nunn (D.-Georgia), President Reagan adopted the build-down principle in October 1983 as a basic element in the U.S. proposals at the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) in Geneva.1

One needs to contrast the build-down proposal with the prior American position in START. Previously, the United States had concentrated on schemes to restructure the current Soviet forces, demanding not only that total missile warheads be cut to 5,000 on each side, but that the Soviets phase out large numbers of their biggest missiles. That would diminish, but not eliminate, the great disparity between the two nations in missile throw-weight, in which Moscow holds a considerable edge. Limits on heavy bombers, a category in which the U.S. lead is substantial and growing, were vague and inconsequential: the United States would have been free to go ahead with a planned growth in the number of air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs) and other bomber weapons-one that, even with substantial cuts in missile warheads, would have given it more strategic nuclear weapons in the 1990s than it has now. However appealing from the standpoint of the United States and from the perspective of Western theories of strategic stability, those proposals were widely perceived as inequitable and non-negotiable.

Mr. Reagan's acceptance of the build-down concept modifies the U.S. position dramatically. Without demanding initial agreement on the ultimate composition of strategic missile forces-in effect leaving each side broad freedom to balance its forces as it deems best-the latest proposal tries to harness the momentum of force modernization to the declared goal of arms reductions. Specifically, Mr. Reagan now offers to build down ballistic missile warhead inventories from the current 8,000-9,000 range on each side to 5,000 by eliminating more than one warhead for each warhead newly deployed.2

1. Each warhead installed on a new land-based missile (ICBM) with multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) would oblige a party to eliminate two existing warheads.

2. New warheads on submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) or small, single-warhead ICBMs would force reductions at a lower ratio, perhaps three for two.

3. If a side were not modernizing and introducing new warheads-a highly unlikely contingency in the next few years-it would still have to make annual reductions at an agreed percentage rate, possibly five percent.

4. The President would also apply the build-down principle to deployment of new bombers (though not directly to individual weapons carried on bombers), reducing bomber forces to levels well below those permitted under the 1979 strategic arms limitation treaty (SALT II).

5. The United States would also accept limits on the number of air-launched cruise missiles each aircraft could carry and on the aggregate number of such missiles deployed.

And finally:

6. The extent of reductions in missile throw-weight would be balanced against the reductions in bomber carrying capacity through a formula measuring potential destructive capacity. This feature of the proposed approach (to be explained below) is important. Since the two categories vary so basically from each other, and since the Soviet side would be more affected by the missile warhead reductions and the U.S. side more affected by the reductions in bomber-carried weapons, a measure integrating these force components is necessary to permit precise trade-offs between them.

In short, the new approach seeks major reductions in both missile-carried and bomber-carried weapons-through the build-down route-and also explicitly links the two. In announcing this basic shift in the U.S. START position, President Reagan stated the central objective: "We seek limits on the destructive capability of missiles and recognize that the Soviet Union would seek limits on bombers in exchange. There will have to be trade-offs and the United States is prepared to make them, so long as they result in a more stable balance of forces."

The last phrase should be underscored. Set alongside other statements by the President and top members of his Administration, it defines the U.S. objective in terms of "balance," not superiority, and in terms of stability, in which neither side has the capacity or incentive to launch a first strike against the other. This concept of strategic stability has long been the dominant view in both military and arms control circles all over the world. It was notably absent from Mr. Reagan's utterances on nuclear weapons before he became President. That he has so categorically embraced it since then is a change of profound importance, and one that may not yet be fully grasped by his critics at home or by observers abroad.


To understand the problems to which the build-down proposal is addressed, it may be useful to summarize ten key developments in the nuclear weapons postures and arms control efforts of the United States and the Soviet Union. These developments are familiar to experts, but they are seldom spelled out so that others have a reasonably clear picture.

1. The Different Strategic Nuclear Postures. Over the years, the two superpowers have taken different paths in their strategic nuclear programs. The United States fielded a more-or-less balanced "triad" of bombers, intercontinental land-based missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. By the 1980s, the United States deployed 27 percent of its strategic warheads on bombers, 22 percent on ICBMs and 51 percent on SLBMs. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, partly because of its extensive land area and restricted sea access, and partly for technological reasons, relied primarily on ICBMs, which today carry about 72 percent of its strategic warheads. Less than 20 percent of its warheads are on SLBMs and less than ten percent on bombers.

2. The SALT I Agreements of 1972 focused in large part on the emerging possibility of large-scale anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems on both sides and achieved a drastic limitation of such systems. With respect to offensive weapons, a five-year interim agreement (later extended) froze the numbers of strategic ballistic-missile launchers, but the way was left open for wide use of MIRVs. Bombers were not controlled.

3. The Evolution of the Postures on Both Sides during the 1970s and Early 1980s. The advent of MIRVs pushed both the United States and the Soviet Union to new plateaus of strategic deployment. The number of warheads more than doubled in U.S. strategic offensive forces and more than tripled on the Soviet side, moving both countries toward the 10,000 warhead level. Moreover, once the MIRV threshold was crossed, the sheer quantity of weaponry created a qualitatively different and less stable strategic relationship. The number of available warheads increased dramatically in relation to the number of launchers. Where more than one missile was once necessary to attack an enemy missile site, it became possible for one MIRVed missile to attack several sites, raising incentives to strike first in some ultimate crisis.

Given a significantly larger Soviet ICBM force, there developed a deep concern that the Soviet Union might be able to conduct a first strike against the U.S. ICBM force, crippling that force to the point where it could not respond. This was the perceived "window of vulnerability" that bulked large in pressures to enlarge the U.S. ICBM force and to increase its survivability-notably through the MX missile.

4. The SALT II Agreements Signed in 1979 set new ceilings on the numbers of launching vehicles on both sides, including heavy bombers. They prescribed the numbers of missiles that could be MIRVed, while also limiting the number of warheads that each missile might carry. Elaborate counting systems and verification procedures were agreed. But the agreements left intact the asymmetries between the two forces, which by that time had come to include a very substantial Soviet lead in heavy missiles with large payloads or throw-weight; in effect, this asymmetry was balanced against the continuing U.S. lead in bombers and the assumed American advantage in such advanced technologies as cruise missiles. Critics attacked the agreements because they left the Soviet heavy missiles intact, and because they neither provided a significant reduction from then-existing levels, nor prevented large-scale modernization. The hypothetical problem of the ICBM "window of vulnerability" remained. These and other factors made the debate on the agreements in 1979 a prolonged one, with the outcome in doubt at the time that the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in late 1979 and virtually compelled President Carter to withdraw the agreements from the Senate.

5. Tacit Acceptance of the SALT II Regime. The U.S. failure to ratify SALT II led the Reagan Administration, at least in its initial rhetoric, to treat the agreements as a dead letter. In practice neither side disregarded the accords, although the Soviet Union did not make the reductions that would have been compelled if SALT II had been in full effect. By the spring of 1982 the Reagan Administration declared that it would not undercut the Treaty if the Soviet Union did not, and there were reciprocal assurances from the Soviet side. This "common law" status of the agreements is far from satisfactory; in particular, serious unresolved issues have arisen from evidence of Soviet actions that may be in breach of the accords.

6. The U.S. START Proposals of 1982. As noted, these focused on reductions in ballistic-missile warhead levels, with prescribed numbers and categories that would have severely modified the Soviet ICBM posture, while omitting any substantial treatment of U.S. bombers. The proposals did for the first time explicitly define ceilings in numbers of warheads, rather than primarily in terms of launching vehicles. But many analysts and political leaders considered them inequitable and they were in any event extraordinarily difficult to negotiate.

7. Continued Force Modernization on Both Sides. The Soviet Union pressed forward with new ICBMs (the so-called PL-4 and PL-5) and a MIRVed SLBM for the Typhoon submarine, as well as the new Blackjack strategic bomber and long-range cruise missiles. The Reagan Administration began flight tests of the MX ICBM, scheduled for deployment beginning in 1986, and accelerated the Trident SLBM program. Responding to congressional demands, it began work on a smaller, single-warhead ICBM (Midgetman). It revived the B-1 bomber and moved ahead with a varied array of air-launched and sea-launched cruise missiles. In the category of intermediate nuclear forces (INF)-forces not covered by SALT-continued Soviet deployment of SS-20 missiles prompted the NATO program for U.S. ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs) and Pershing II ballistic missiles in Europe. In a March 1983 address, later known as the "star wars" speech, Mr. Reagan triggered new interest and alarm concerning possible ABM systems based in space.

8. Strong Public Pressures to Freeze the Numbers and Types of New Nuclear Weapons. The freeze movement in the United States sought to achieve this by a negotiated agreement with the Soviet Union that would put an immediate stop to all testing, production and deployment of nuclear weapons. The Reagan Administration argued that its thrust for deep reductions was preferable and opposed the freeze idea. Behind this U.S. debate lay a continuing deep concern in key quarters for the retention of proximate numerical parity between the forces on both sides.

9. The Scowcroft Commission. In January 1983, faced with strong congressional resistance to the MX missile, the Reagan Administration appointed Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft (USAF, Ret.) to chair a bipartisan expert commission, charged with reviewing the whole question of strategic posture and arms control. The Commission emerged with the conclusion that the "window of vulnerability" was not in fact as serious a threat as had been depicted. Nonetheless, it endorsed limited deployment of an MX missile sited in individual hardened silos. But at the same time the Commission highlighted the instability created by MIRVs on both sides and strongly urged an ultimate shift away from multiple warhead ICBMs, specifically recommending the development and eventual deployment of the Midgetman. The Commission's fundamental stress was on the importance of invulnerable strategic forces as a means to deter counterforce attacks (i.e., attacks directed at the other side's strategic nuclear capabilities).3

10. The Breakdown of National Consensus during the SALT II debate grew more acute in 1981-83, as President Reagan and Congress wrestled with strategic modernization decisions and arms control proposals. Congressional approval of any MX program was in doubt and there was widespread dissatisfaction with the Administration's START proposals. It began to appear that no proposal-whether for modernization or strategic arms reduction-could command a consensus in the United States, either in terms of the legislative majority required to approve controversial weapons or the two-thirds Senate majority needed to approve any treaty.

This summary is not of course exhaustive, and it is necessarily simplified for the sake of brevity. But it spotlights the problematic aspects of meshing the U.S. strategic nuclear posture with serious arms control efforts, as these stood in early and mid-1983. The build-down approach was developed as a response to the problems raised by these developments. It was a concept well suited to the objectives defined by the Scowcroft Commission. Moreover, as we spell out in Section VIII, it was a response to the lack of consensus and impending impasse between Congress and the Chief Executive.

The build-down approach is not a magic panacea for all the problems that have piled up in the last 20 years. It accepts the continued existence of large numbers of nuclear weapons on both sides as a given, and assumes that the two countries will remain concerned, partly for political reasons, with both the substance and the appearance of parity. At root it addresses the goal endorsed by the Scowcroft Commission-moving toward reduced nuclear postures that are less vulnerable to a first strike. That goal requires a balanced melding of warhead reductions and selective modernization.

Build-down would retain the counting and verification provisions embodied in the SALT II Treaty while moving beyond it to bring about meaningful reductions in the arsenals on both sides. It would operate, not through rigid categories and subcategories (although previously agreed provisions would remain in effect), but through relatively free choice for the two military establishments to bring themselves within broadly defined warhead ceilings and other limits. And, as we have already noted, it would provide a trade-off in which reductions in the Soviet missile advantage would be balanced against reductions in the U.S. bomber advantage.

This article will consider each of these questions, dwelling especially (in Section V) on the kinds of choices that the two sides would be encouraged to make by the ground rules of a build-down. Following analysis of the potential merits (and difficulties) of the build-down approach (Sections III-VII), two concluding sections assess the implications of the build-down approach for the ongoing political debate in the United States, and the reasons why it ought to appeal to the Soviet Union.

But first let us take a hard look at an objection already being made to the build-down idea, namely that its focus on numbers and quantity leaves untouched the kind of qualitative improvements that are-it may be argued-an even more important component of the strategic arms race.


The build-down approach is indeed couched in terms of numbers of offensive weapons. It neither includes nor precludes possible arms control measures expressly aimed to halt improvements in the quality of such weapons-such as a comprehensive nuclear test ban (CTB), limits on ballistic missile testing, or the suspension of fissile material production. All these are elements of proposals for a nuclear freeze, usually defined as a comprehensive curb on both the quantitative and qualitative escalation of nuclear armaments. The build-down is not a substitute for or an alternative to the full range of limitations envisioned by the nuclear freeze movement. But, if successful, it can help arrest the deterioration in Soviet-American relations and pave the way for more ambitious restraints.

Moreover, the build-down approach does not address the problem of defensive systems. Now tightly limited by the 1972 ABM Treaty, this is an area in which President Reagan has excited new interest within his government and new worries in the Kremlin regarding a possible American movement toward strategic defense based in space. On its face, the sharp reduction in offensive warheads visualized under build-down might tend to reduce the incentive to seek some new "impregnable" defense-or conversely it might tend to make such a defense seem more attainable. In any case the problem is not within the scope of the build-down approach. One dragon at a time.

The fact that the build-down approach does not directly control modernization of strategic weapons is understandably a matter of concern to those who are dedicated to a total freeze. The build-down seeks not to prohibit modernization but to regulate it. It would do so, not by elaborate categorical restriction, but by putting a price on modernization. That price would be stated in terms of force reductions. New weapons could not be deployed unless a greater number of existing weapons were phased out of the forces. In this way, each side could be assured that the process of modernization would not mean continued increases in the number of nuclear weapons being deployed. Indeed, the very momentum of modernization would compel unprecedented reductions in strategic offensive forces. And those reductions would simultaneously lower the level of lethal capabilities and improve the climate for more substantial arms control arrangements.

In short, as we shall see in greater detail in Section V below, the build-down approach would indirectly affect the qualitative character of the nuclear arsenals on both sides. And here it is important to stress that qualitative improvement in weapons and delivery systems may cut in either direction, toward or away from that "more stable balance" that is our main objective. Just as MIRVs have been deeply destabilizing, the progressive replacement of MIRVed missiles by single-warhead ones (in effect, a reduction in the ratio of warheads to missiles) would work in the opposite direction. For years the United States has sought, both by argument and example, to persuade the Soviet Union to reduce the proportion of ICBMs in favor of a higher proportion of SLBMs, which are less accurate and less vulnerable. Qualitative change may make matters worse-improvements in accuracy or explosive power almost automatically have this effect-but it may also make them better. Indiscriminate modernization and indiscriminate reductions can erode stability. The task of policy is to discriminate.

Finally, numbers are important in themselves. Quantitative increases on the scale in prospect greatly complicate either side's ability to plan and execute a program of force modernization which can yield significant improvements in stability. A larger number of weapons may add a kind of inertial stability, as each government recognizes the impossibility of destroying enough of the other's weapons to avoid a decimating retaliation. But that larger number also increases the risk of war through accident, terrorist theft or official lunacy. More important, expanding force levels generate pressures to compensate for new-felt insecurity by adopting reckless policies, e.g., launch-on-warning, and by structuring forces in ways which improve survivability at the cost of the verifiability necessary to reassure the parties that neither intends to use the weapons it deploys. In the latter regard, dual-purpose systems like cruise missiles, which could carry either conventional or nuclear munitions and which are likely to proliferate on land, sea and in the air, pose grave problems.

Moreover, numbers are the feature of the arms race most visible to other nations. Moscow and Washington share an interest in moderating their own competition as a prerequisite for convincing others to refrain from building independent nuclear capabilities. Non-proliferation, as well as the stability of the superpower balance, requires a renewed effort to dampen the Soviet-American arms race. Neither quantitative nor qualitative arms controls will prosper in a world where additional nations acquire nuclear forces, as is apparent from the impediments to superpower restraint already posed by the existence of British, French and Chinese nuclear weapons.


Our next question is the relationship of the build-down approach to the SALT II agreements. On the one hand, the scheme would preserve and strengthen the positive accomplishments of the SALT II treaty. In order for the build-down to operate, there would have to be an agreed data base identifying the forces to which the rules would apply. There would have to be counting rules to determine the number of warheads associated with specific missiles, and there would have to be tight controls to prevent circumvention of the reductions by secreting additional warheads on the missiles which remain. There would also have to be agreed procedures for monitoring new deployments and destruction of other systems. The SALT regime provides these, as well as a functioning institution to supervise the build-down, namely, the Standing Consultative Commission.

Perhaps most valuable is the SALT II rule for counting the number of warheads on a given ballistic missile type. The rule is simple: a missile is considered to have the maximum number of warheads with which it has been tested. Thus, a Soviet SS-18 is credited with ten warheads and an American Poseidon with 14. In fact, intelligence sources indicate that these missiles sometimes carry fewer warheads, but the counting rule provides an accurate estimate of the maximum number of weapons to which the country is entitled on such boosters. From these counting rules, one can derive a satisfactory baseline count from which the build-down would begin. There would be no distinctive verification problems, since actual launchers would have to be destroyed for the nation to receive credit for the warhead reductions. The Standing Consultative Commission has a decade's experience with monitoring launcher dismantlement, and national technical means of observation provide high confidence of compliance. Warheads removed from missiles might, of course, be stored, but they would have no strategic significance without means to deliver them.

Similarly, SALT II provides at least skeleton rules for the most important class of bomber weapons, the newly developed air-launched cruise missiles. It permits a side to field a force with an average of 28 cruise missiles per aircraft, but the number of ALCMs on existing types of heavy bombers like the U.S. B-52s and the Soviet Bears is limited to 20 each. (The higher average number grew out of U.S. interest in possible future deployments on wide-bodied ALCM carriers, an option not now seriously in view.) As we shall see in Section VI, however, these rules would need to be refined in order to weigh bomber forces systematically against missile forces.

Thus, build-down would build upon SALT II. But it would also improve upon it, in three key respects. First, whereas SALT II was based on counting launchers, the build-down approach (like the Reagan Administration's original START proposals) focuses explicitly on the number of warheads-using the counting rule just described for missiles. Second, build-down is a proposal for major reduction in warheads-whereas SALT II stabilized launcher totals at existing levels but left the sides free to add thousands of warheads. By reversing the trend toward additional warheads, build-down would cure the central weakness of SALT II, its relatively permissive treatment of new forces. In this way build-down would correct the allegedly fatal flaw which led some to doubt the value of that treaty. With warhead totals forced to decline, the real virtues of SALT II would survive and should win wider approval. Instead of 15,000 or more strategic warheads on each side in the 1990s, build-down could produce forces in the 8,000-warhead range for missiles and bombers combined.

And finally, build-down approaches reductions in a totally different way than SALT II did. No one who studies the tortuous negotiations that ran from 1973 to 1979 to produce the SALT II Accords can fail to see how much time and effort had to go into defining precise categories of weapons to be limited. By contrast, one dimension of build-down theory is the degree of flexibility it would permit defense planners in shaping their force postures. The scheme would retain previously agreed categorical limits, e.g., no new heavy ICBMs could be tested or deployed, and the various MIRV sub-limits and fractionation rules would remain in force. However, the build-down rule itself would focus not on altering the core of the two forces, but on adjusting the margins of total deployments. It would liberate negotiators from the intractable task of persuading their counterparts to accept basic restructuring of their forces as the condition of agreement. And it would grant broad discretion to military establishments to select their own forces, while enabling them to plan their defenses against a smaller threat than they now face.


What kinds of choices would be likely in a situation where, for every new warhead added to the official count, defense planners would have to dismantle more than one existing warhead? Obviously, precise prediction is impossible: a major feature of the approach is to leave each side with flexibility to respond to the new regime. Yet some sense of what would happen does lie behind the build-down proposal; undoubtedly the Soviet Defense Ministry is even now emulating the Pentagon in making intensive studies, while American and foreign observers should at least grasp the elements of choice.

Two points seem fairly evident. First, build-down would compel attention to force survivability as the overriding requirement. The logic is straightforward. A planner who must rely on a smaller number of weapons for deterrence must make sure that enough of them can survive an enemy surprise attack. In theory, one can get by with fewer weapons if the opponent also has fewer, since the scale of the threat bears most directly on the size of one's own force requirements. But one must take every precaution to guarantee that moving to a smaller force does not expose a nation to increased risk of a successful first strike. Thus, there is a tremendous premium on making each component of a diminishing force less vulnerable. For example, as overall levels come down, it would be foolish to maintain a rising percentage of weapons in presumably vulnerable fixed silos.

Second, any introduction of new warheads on a large scale would involve major adjustments in existing deployments. The proposed build-down ratio is particularly high for ICBMs with multiple warheads.

Both points are deliberate and evident. In combination, these considerations should operate to reduce incentives for future generations of large MIRVed ICBMs. For the United States, they should advance the long-term strategic vision articulated by the Scowcroft Commission, part of which was that any MX deployment would be strictly limited as a transition to a more dispersed force of single-warhead ICBMs. The build-down process would heighten the urgency of moving on to small, single-warhead missiles as an element in a mixed force on land, sea and in the air. Congressional advocates of the small ICBM, notably Congressmen Albert Gore (D.-Tenn.) and Les Aspin (D.-Wisc.), have already conditioned authorization to install a few MXs on expedited development of the small missile. The Soviets are apparently proceeding with a comparable system and have intimated interest in using it to reduce their mounting vulnerability.

One must note one further point about the single-warhead Midgetman ICBM. Unless we and the Soviets can agree on a mechanism to reduce forces, its prospects are doubtful. At present and impending force levels, very large numbers of them would be necessary to ensure survivability, and the costs of such a force would be insupportable. Only if the numbers of weapons come down markedly can a silo-basing mode for single-warhead missiles become feasible and economical, although more costly mobile deployment could survive a larger threat; against very numerous and very large weapons in a barrage attack, even mobile deployments might not suffice. It is reasonable to conclude that the evolution of forces preferred by the Scowcroft Commission and a wide spectrum of informed opinion-namely, eventual de-MIRVing of the land-based force-will not be practical unless the two sides agree to cut back total warhead levels. Some form of build-down is indispensable to de-MIRVing.

On the Soviet side, there is also an important point to be made. This is that the present Soviet ICBM posture is one of high concentration of warhead totals in a relatively few launching sites; in that respect Soviet ICBMs are relatively more vulnerable than U.S. land-based missiles, which carry fewer warheads. The "window of vulnerability" argument hinges on nominal calculations that the Soviet Union already has enough warheads capable of destroying hard targets to hold all U.S. missile silos hostage. Less well known is the evidence in published NATO studies and presentations by the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the United States also has a potent counterforce capability. Specifically, even without the MX, the United States has the capacity to destroy quickly several hundred hard targets containing a far larger proportion of total Soviet warheads than are at risk in American silos. Over 50 percent of all Soviet warheads now stand on about 650 ICBMs, while less than 23 percent of U.S. warheads are at risk on theoretically vulnerable ICBMs.4

So far as concerns the instabilities which flow from mutual counterforce capabilities, the two countries are already subject to them. The MX and its Soviet counterparts could make the situation marginally worse, but merely interrupting their deployment will not cure the problem. While there remain opportunities to impede refinement of counterforce capabilities on submarine-launched ballistic missiles, the accuracy and lethality of ICBMs are now so great that only a combination of force reduction and adaptation can redress the instabilities associated with missiles that are at once potent and vulnerable. The cardinal advantage of the single-warhead missile is that, while it almost certainly could attack hardened targets, more than one warhead would be required for a confident strike against it.

Since there is no longer the option of precluding ICBMs capable of counterforce missions, the best we can do unilaterally is to shift the force exchange ratios toward stability by deploying single-warhead missiles. Planners on both sides are bound to recognize this relationship and build-down would encourage them to act on it. Because they are farther along with development of a single-warhead missile, the Soviet Union may well pursue this path sooner than the United States.

On the Soviet side, we have just noted that build-down would tend to discourage or limit any new large-scale system, especially of MIRVed ICBMs. Moreover, under the proposed build-down regime, even if the Soviet (or U.S.) side did not modernize, it would have to reduce its warheads by five percent a year.5

Thus planners would face hard choices. They would have to judge the value of new systems in comparison to the larger number of currently deployed weapons they must dismantle. And, as the compulsory percentage reductions proceeded with or without new systems, they would have to decide which existing systems to retain and which to eliminate.

For example, at some point in the process of reductions and modernization, the Soviet Union would have to choose between reducing either its SS-18 heavy missiles (credited with ten warheads each under the counting system) or its SS-19 medium missiles (credited with six each). Would one prefer some multiple of three SS-18s or of five SS-19s? To an American analyst the choice seems clear. Retaining the SS-19s would provide a more survivable and more flexible force. The inclination to phase down the SS-18s should flow from the military logic of the case, but the Soviets might wish to disregard it for political or psychological reasons. If they did so, they would simplify U.S. targetting, although the consequences for stability could be worrisome. This kind of potential trade-off illustrates the way a build-down might induce changes that could not be negotiated directly. The Soviets would be free to retain the heavy SS-18s, but their objective interest should favor the more dispersed force of SS-19s. (By the same token, the United States could only achieve significant numbers of MX-type missiles by sacrificing twice as many warheads on the sea-based missiles it has consistently preferred as the backbone of its retaliatory posture.)

This kind of choice has a direct bearing, of course, on the difficult issue of throw-weight, which has been the subject of long and arcane disputation. While the two countries have rough parity in the number of missile warheads, the Soviets today have a three-to-one advantage in the throw-weight of their missiles. Their missiles are bigger, but, being liquid-fueled, there can be disagreement as to whether they are as versatile and reliable as U.S. solid-fuel systems. Some officials have insisted that even if the Soviets accept reductions in the number of missile warheads to a lower level, they must also agree to cut their throw-weight advantage by making those reductions in their larger ICBMs. That is the meaning of the longstanding U.S. demands in START for sub-limits on Soviet heavy missiles.

However one assesses the Soviet advantage in throw-weight, the crucial point in assessing the build-down approach is that any agreement which cuts the number of warheads will itself tend to cut the throw-weight disparity.

For instance, if the Soviets agreed to a 5,000-warhead limit for ballistic missiles, reaching that level would drop their missile throw-weight by more than 50 percent and lower the ratio of throw-weight between the two forces. That would be true even if Moscow elected to maximize its total throw-weight by holding onto its larger missiles, the SS-18s and SS-19s, in which case it would fill its permissible warhead quota with only about 650 missiles-and it would have no other missiles at all on land or sea. Obviously, that posture is preposterous; the realistic range of Soviet forces would presumably spread the warheads over more launchers with relatively less gross throw-weight. In addition, technological trends on both sides point toward relatively compact and portable warheads, meaning that a reduction in the number of warheads will mean concomitant cuts in throw-weight and megatonnage. The two countries have such vast power at their disposal that these changes will still leave them with extraordinarily high levels of destructive capability, but there is little doubt that, even with modernization, reducing the number of warheads in the two forces will trim the currently deployed explosive yield quite significantly.

So much for rough judgments of the impact of build-down on the strategic force postures of the two sides. President Reagan's START proposal in October did not extend the build-down idea to cover the intermediate nuclear forces (INF)-Soviet SS-20s and the NATO program-which have been the subject of separate Geneva negotiations conducted on the U.S. side by Ambassador Paul Nitze. Yet applying the build-down rule to all essentially strategic missiles, including INF, would make sense. There is a substantial consensus among the Western Allies that INF and START negotiations should sometime be merged, but much dispute about when and how.

Build-down could impose a common standard on both classes of systems, without requiring immediate merging of the talks. INF discussions could continue as a separate forum to determine what sub-limit would be desirable for intermediate forces within an overall warhead ceiling encompassing both START and INF forces. Under such an aggregate limit, build-down would automatically provide useful regulation of INF forces. While the United States would be able to allocate some of its warheads for the largely political purposes served by theater deployments, it would have strong reasons not to deploy very many weapons in Europe.

Likewise, the Soviet Union would need to reconsider how much of its declining warhead quota should go to systems capable of covering only part of its strategic target list. Gradually, operational considerations should lead planners to emphasize versatility over the limited functions of theater systems. Just as the logic of reductions favors dispersed systems with fewer warheads per launchers, it also argues for longer-range systems able to cover all targets. There would be a good case for preferring intercontinental missiles over intermediate-range launchers. Again, at some point, the Soviets would be obliged to choose whether the next warheads to be removed come from SS-20s or from SS-19s. The judgment is not preordained but the tendency should be toward fewer SS-20s.

Extending the build-down to INF weapons would underscore a reality which recent commotions over INF have obscured. Even if the zero option were accepted, and all the SS-20s eliminated, there are ample warheads among the thousands on Soviet ICBMs to cover all relevant targets in Europe without significantly affecting the balance of Soviet-American strategic forces. The threat to Europe would diminish in no meaningful degree. It would be more sensible to treat the nuclear threat to the Alliance as a whole, and build-down offers one means to cope with that threat in an integrated way.

Subjecting INF forces to a rule governing intercontinental forces has the incidental advantage of adopting the Soviet view that such weapons are "strategic" in nature, a definition which could facilitate negotiation. Another virtue of this consolidated category of START and INF warheads is that negotiations would proceed from approximate parity at about 9,000 warheads. The U.S. lead in warheads attributable to strategic missiles under SALT II would be balanced by the addition of over 1,200 Soviet INF missile warheads, while U.S. INF warheads would be limited even as the NATO program unfolded.

An agreement of this kind would provide a form of political coupling for Europe and the United States through its recognition of the commonality of the long-range nuclear threat. Compartmenting INF issues, as separate negotiations have done so far, virtually ensures frictions within the Alliance and frustrations in both negotiating forums. Here, too, a build-down rule could serve to regulate deployments the two sides are unlikely to prohibit.


We turn next to the question of trade-offs between missile capabilities and bomber capabilities, to which President Reagan has now committed the United States. It is a difficult and controversial issue. Partly because the previous U.S. START position emphatically separated missile and bomber weapons, and partly because some officials did not know that build-down proponents were recommending differentiated counting rules for bomber weapons, the issue of an aggregate warhead count embracing both types of weapons has become a contentious point.

But it is clear that unless the United States and the Soviet Union can agree on a comprehensive approach to limit bombers as well as missiles, there will be no START agreement. The United States, with its historic preference for strategic aircraft, is modernizing rapidly with B-1 bombers and several thousand air-launched cruise missiles, hundreds of them now entering service on converted B-52s. The Advanced Technology Bomber is to follow in the 1990s with the exploitation of so-called stealth techniques to reduce its radar detectability. The Soviet Union shows interest in long-range cruise missiles of its own and U.S. intelligence projects the introduction of the new Blackjack bomber as early as 1986 or 1987. If the Soviets keep a heavy bomber force comparable in size to their past deployments, they may want to build 100 to 150 such planes. Their recent investment in the Backfire medium bomber confirms that they do not plan to abandon a vigorous aircraft program. How might one best regulate these modernization programs under build-down?

The first problem is that of counting bombers and their loads. To devise a sensible counting rule for bombers one must deal with the crucial differences between weapons delivered by aircraft and those delivered by missiles. Aircraft cannot conduct a quick first strike and can be recalled after precautionary takeoffs-hence the Western view that they are more stabilizing systems. Furthermore, the alert rates for bombers are much lower than for missiles, so that at any given time a smaller proportion of bomber weapons is actually available for war. Most importantly, bombers face active defenses, as missiles will not, so long as the ABM Treaty is effective.

For all these reasons, bomber weapons are worth less than missile weapons in most strategic calculations. Their redeeming value is to enhance overall force survivability, as the Scowcroft Commission pointed out, by denying an attacker the opportunity to concentrate his strikes against other types of strategic forces. Bombers also have a quality other strategic forces lack. They can perform important conventional missions, a factor which argues for maintaining a reasonable number of them.

These diverse considerations complicate setting a satisfactory rule for bombers in the strategic nuclear equation. At the end, while elaborate quantitative assessments are interesting and helpful, any counting rule for bombers will be arbitrary. In my opinion, the best way to handle bombers in a build-down regime is to elaborate the distinction already made in SALT II between bombers equipped with ALCMs and those which are not. For purposes of defining an aggregate warhead count, it would be useful to treat the relevant category as "independently deliverable nuclear weapons." By that term, I mean to include warheads which are capable of reaching individual targets separately from their launchers. Missile re-entry vehicles and ALCMs would fall into that category. By contrast, gravity bombs and short-range missiles require a bomber to penetrate to the vicinity of the target and are thus integral to the bomber platform itself. Taking all things into account, it would be reasonable to count such non-ALCM bombers as one weapon. SALT II left such bombers relatively unconstrained and offers a plausible precedent for this thesis.

In short, and speaking personally, I believe the most promising route toward an early and worthwhile agreement would be to subject missiles and bombers to an aggregate warhead ceiling with differentiated counting rules for bombers. ALCM-carrying bombers would count as twenty warheads; non-ALCM bombers as one.

But there is a second difficult problem of measurement. The trade-off envisaged by President Reagan is only partly between numbers of warheads. It is also a trade-off between the throw-weight of missiles and the payload of bombers-the carrying capacity of these different vehicles which determines the overall destructive power they are able to deliver.

Wrestling with this problem over several months, Lt. Gen. Glenn Kent (USAF, Ret.) made an important analytical contribution by inventing a measure of "Potential Destructive Capacity" (PDC). Kent's analysis uses plausible factors to weight the potential number and size of weapons which missiles and bombers can carry. It then proposes the concept of "standard weapon stations" as a unit of account for reducing both types of systems. Kent's work is intellectually elegant and offers a novel approach to integrating missile and bomber weapons.6

The main merit in a consolidated measure of potential destructive capacity is not that it is needed to ensure reductions in missile throw-weight-the warhead cuts would accomplish that-but that it makes possible a fair trade-off between throw-weight and bomber payload. As desirable as it would be for the two countries to move toward equality in both warhead numbers and lower levels of missile throw-weight, it is not feasible in this century. Even if the United States allocated all its warheads to MX missiles-an absurd thought-its total throw-weight would not approach Soviet levels. The forces are highly asymmetrical and the diplomatic task is not to make them identical, but to make them compatible with stable deterrence. To persuade Moscow to accept the sacrifice of some of its advantage in missile throw-weight, Washington will have to accept meaningful constraints on its advantages in bombers. President Reagan's acknowledgement of the necessity to strike this balance is probably the most important fruit of the prolonged legislative-executive bargaining of recent months.

General Kent's analysis illustrates one way to make equitable trade-offs between these asymmetrical forces, although the definition of Potential Destructive Capacity can and should be simplified.7 The vital point is that the United States has expressed willingness to apply the build-down rule to bombers in a way that would assure Moscow that U.S. bomber payload is contracting commensurately with Soviet throw-weight. These would be substantial American concessions compared to the many thousand bomber weapons to which the United States is entitled under SALT II. They would warrant Soviet acceptance of the missile warhead and throw-weight reductions sought by the United States.


Where, then, might the two sides emerge under the build-down approach? As we have noted, both the United States and the Soviet Union now have approximately 10,000 warheads in their strategic and INF forces. Programs now under way or projected point toward still higher force levels in the 1990s, approaching or surpassing 15,000 strategic warheads on each side. And these forces, left unchecked, would increasingly incorporate systems perplexing for arms control, including a varied array of cruise missiles and mobile ICBMs.

A build-down agreement would sharply change this prospect. The proposed target would be 5,000 missile-carried warheads, with a progressive tendency toward reducing the ratio of warheads to missiles. Assuming planners act rationally to distribute their reduced warhead quota over a reasonable number of launchers, the situation should be one of relatively greater strategic stability. To put the matter concretely, gradual introduction of perhaps 1,000 Midgetmen in the context of declining Soviet warhead totals should move the ratio of hard-target killers to ICBM targets from the present 5 to 1 toward less than 3 to 1, while evolutionary changes in the Soviet missile force would presumably move away from the dangerously skewed deployment now in evidence. It should indeed be, in President Reagan's key phrase, "a more stable balance of forces."

As to bomber-carried weapons, any viable agreement would almost certainly demand a curtailment in present U.S. plans. Speaking roughly, under a fair application of the bomber counting rules discussed earlier, the U.S. bomber force might have a strength of 250 to 300 aircraft (compared to 576 in the SALT II data base) and approximately 3,000 warheads, including perhaps 2,000-2,500 ALCMs. It is possible to envisage an aggregate warhead ceiling for both bombers and missiles that would be at the level of 8,000 warheads and would provide major cutbacks in potential destructive capacity. If INF missiles were included, the aggregate ceiling might emerge at a level of approximately 8,500 warheads.8

These levels would be dramatically below those now expected in the 1990s, but would leave ample scope for the two sides to modernize their way out of the vulnerabilities and unreliabilities now emerging. If it is possible to agree on a ballistic-missile warhead sub-limit of 5,000 to 6,000 within the aggregate, so much the better for stability. Because the Soviets have so many weapons on missiles, they may be reluctant to accept the missile reentry vehicle sublimit preferred by the United States. If, however, they do intend to deploy a sizable Blackjack force with cruise missiles (or long-range cruise missiles on Backfire, which would redefine those planes as "heavy bombers" in SALT II terms), they would consume a good fraction of their quota for that assignment.

A parallel build-down in warheads and potential destructive capacity would leave asymmetries between the forces. The Soviets might well prefer to keep 60 percent (3,000 warheads) of their missile quota on land, while the United States could continue its customary reliance on submarines and bombers. But each would be able to shift priorities as it constructs its posture against a predictably smaller threat from the other.

At any rate, compared to the present and prospective situations, it is not clear that stability would be harmed if the two countries had different force mixes within an aggregate ceiling on missile and bomber warheads. For example, a Soviet strategic force of 6,000 ballistic-missile warheads and 2,000 bomber weapons would provide no apparent advantages over an American force of 5,000 missile warheads and 3,000 bomber weapons. And reasonable latitude to compose one's force as one chooses would surely expedite agreement at a time when tardiness brings the severe penalty of continued force expansion by the other superpower. As the two sides build down to a specified level, the main discipline on how a side exercises freedom to mix different types of forces should come from the strategic dynamics which argue for dispersing warheads on more diverse platforms. Marshal Ogarkov himself has privately acknowledged to visitors that it would be imprudent for the Soviets to hold fast in an increasingly vulnerable posture anchored on heavy ICBMs.


Let us turn now to the potential impact of the build-down proposal on the ongoing debate within the United States-which is reflected elsewhere, notably in Europe. For the build-down, while developed strictly for its functional merits, does have a political purpose which ought to be stated forthrightly.

From the beginning, the build-down was contrived to bridge the serious differences now evident among Americans. It seeks to mold a consensus among those who have campaigned for a nuclear freeze and those who have opposed it. Not all those on either side will find the compromise satisfactory, but they should understand its features. Those who say we must stop strategic modernization immediately and those who say we must not limit modernization at all will oppose any proposition aimed at mapping a middle ground between the contending factions.

Few Americans hold such extreme positions, and it would be a caricature to portray pro- and anti-freeze camps as polarized in this way. Many Americans endorse the freeze as a shorthand message to prod a reluctant Administration to get on with the business of negotiating with the Soviet regime it has chosen to confront. In that sense, the freeze movement is demand-side politics, a vehicle enabling apprehensive citizens to indicate their preference for comprehensive arms restraints rather than unbounded military competition. On examination, moreover, many freeze proponents acknowledge the need for some adjustments in the present U.S. forces. The dispute shades off into questions of what kinds of replacement forces should be allowed under a freeze; that, in turn, often leads to the conclusion that, if replacement is to occur, it would be better to emphasize systems thought to be more stabilizing (like bombers and sea-based missiles) instead of such destabilizing weapons as large missiles with multiple warheads in fixed silos.

Thoughtful freeze advocates also recognize the political obstacles to their proposal. By a decisive margin of 58 to 40, the Senate has now tabled the freeze resolution. Even if Congress called for a freeze along the recommended lines, the Reagan Administration would clearly not propose it. And if such an ambitious proposal were advanced, one would expect negotiations to be protracted.

Similarly, reasonable advocates of force modernization accept the need to strive for effective arms accords. They do not contend that modernization should be totally unfettered. The assertion is that selective modernization is needed to correct or hedge against instabilities in the existing forces, for example, the rising threats to ICBM silos. Across a broad spectrum of American opinion, there is a greater basis for mutual accommodation than sometimes appears.

Making such an accommodation possible is, of course, a challenge to the American government, and one which it has found difficult to meet. A perceptive member of Congress has said that, "80 percent of the people don't trust the Russians, and 70 percent don't trust the Reagan Administration to be serious about arms control." In the face of such widespread mistrust, any President would have difficulty forging a consensus on national security policy. Yet it is almost axiomatic that a democratic foreign policy without domestic consensus leads to friction at home and failure abroad. Unless we can find common ground for Americans, we are not likely to find common ground with the Soviets.9


Not surprisingly, Moscow is the wariest of all. It is understandably suspicious of any proposal from an American Administration it considers the most hostile of modern times. Its initial press reactions to the modifications in the U.S. START proposal suggest little understanding of the build-down concept's implications and the public commitment to reach a fair bargain balancing U.S. bomber advantages against Soviet missile advantages. It would be tragic for the superpowers to miss yet another opportunity to engage in productive diplomacy. A prerequisite to fair-minded consideration of the new U.S. initiatives is Kremlin recognition that they reflect the influence of the moderate forces in American politics, drawn together in a bipartisan coalition which will outlast the current Administration.

The coalition involves an unusual alliance between Senators Cohen and Nunn on the Armed Services Committee and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Charles Percy (R.-Ill), as well as his fellow committee member Joseph Biden (D.-Del.). It includes a key leader of the House Appropriations Committee, Congressman Norman Dicks (D.-Wash.), together with Representative Aspin of the Armed Services Committee and Representative Gore of the Intelligence Committee. As signalled by the October 31, 1983 Senate vote of 84-13 rejecting a motion to table a resolution supporting the build-down concept, the build-down coalition is in a position to assist in prompt ratification of an agreement tailored along these lines.

Apart from the intrinsic merits of build-down, the concept has been a vehicle through which those moderates have worked to reshape the U.S. negotiating position in a positive form. Soviet analysts would be wrong to conclude that these proposals are merely a disguised attempt to deprive the Soviet Union of its preferred forces, without commensurate sacrifices by the United States. On the contrary, they are subject to refinement in negotiation in order to discover the zone of mutual acceptability. If the Soviet government cannot find a way to respond constructively to ideas launched by congressional moderates, one despairs of any accommodation on arms control. One hopes that on reflection the Soviet government is capable of receiving fresh ideas as an invitation to bargain in good faith. What is needed now is not mutual denunciation, but thoughtful counterproposals to advance the search for the durable arms control regime which seems repeatedly to slip from our grasp.

The burden now rests on Moscow. An American Administration whose previous START proposals were unbalanced and non-negotiable has bowed to legislative persuasion and put forward credible recommendations. In vulgar parlance, the legislators have challenged their own government to put up or shut up, to prove that it really wants reductions by advancing an equitable plan to achieve them. That challenge is now before the Soviet government.

If the Kremlin does not like reductions paced by the variable ratios, let it argue for exclusive reliance on a percentage rate of reductions. If it does not like the percentage rate approach, let it suggest an annual quota or other method. If it does not favor the 5,000 ballistic-missile warhead limit, let it make a case for some other number. If it does not like the proposed constraints on bomber and air-launched cruise missiles, let it formulate others for negotiation.

If it merely rejects out of hand the build-down and related initiatives, what evidence will there be that Moscow has any genuine interest in the reductions it professes to want? The Soviet reaction will go far to determine how the political center in the United States will lean in coming months-and whether the center can hold against pressures to race harder and faster toward still higher plateaus in nuclear deployments.

The chances for strategic restraint depend, of course, on whether Moscow and Washington can frame compatible objectives. Do they wish to preserve the benefits of SALT II? If so, a build-down agreement would serve that purpose. Do they want to bolster stability by encouraging movement toward more dispersed and survivable systems? Build-down could promote that goal. Do they hope to rescue the arms control process from the gridlock caused by the counter-productive separation of the INF and START negotiations? Extension of build-down to cover all long-range nuclear forces under a common warhead aggregate would advance that objective. Would they prefer to confront each other in the next decade with thousands of additional warheads on their strategic launchers? Or would they find greater security in exploiting the momentum of modernization to impose reductions to a warhead level below that of 1983? Build-down provides a mechanism to make that choice real.

It is not a complete solution or the only solution to the dilemmas of nuclear competition. But those who find merit in reducing strategic arms and in restraining strategic modernization should welcome build-down as a useful approach. Above all, a mutual commitment to build-down would testify to acceptance of the first fact of our age: the American and Soviet peoples must find safety from the nuclear menace together-or they will not find it at all.

1 On the bargaining between Congress and the Administration, see William S. Cohen, "The Arms Build-Down Proposal: How We Got From There To Here," The Washington Post, October 9, 1983, p. C8; the Senator's initial proposal was contained in "A Guaranteed Arms Build-Down," The Washington Post, January 3, 1983, p. A13. The bipartisan Cohen-Nunn coalition gained crucial momentum with publication of former Senator and Secretary of State Edmund S. Muskie's article, "Build Down The Forces We Don't Need," The Washington Post, March 6, 1983, p. C8. The refinement of the build-down concept owes much to a remarkable team of congressional staff members, Robert Savitt, Arnold Punaro and Robert Bell of the U.S. Senate, and Leon Fuerth of the U.S. House of Representatives.

2 In this discussion, the terms "warheads" and "weapons" are used interchangeably; unless otherwise noted, estimates of warhead inventories are based on the maximum number of warheads permitted on individual missiles under the SALT II Treaty.

3 In its report, the Commission referred specifically and favorably to congressional proposals "in which reductions are forced in warhead numbers as a price of modernization." Commission member William J. Perry, former Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, was an early proponent of the build-down principle. General Scowcroft became the central intermediary in subsequent bargaining with Congress on the MX missile and arms control initiatives. See Report of the President's Commission on Strategic Forces, Washington, April 1983, p. 25.

5 Some examples may help to clarify the subtle and potentially confusing interaction between reductions dictated by an annual percentage rate and those dictated by variable ratios. The basic point is that in determining the scale of reductions, the largest cutback-whether set by the percentage rate or the variable ratios-would govern.

Thus, a percentage rate of five percent would force cuts of more than 400 missile warheads on each side in the first year; reductions under the percentage rate would be smaller in later years, as the total warhead balance to which the rate applied declined. In order to come within the lower ceiling set by the net reduction goal, a country would have to eliminate in addition to the first 400 weapons one existing warhead for each warhead newly deployed. Thus, a country deploying 400 new warheads in a year when it had to make a net reduction of 400 warheads, would have to destroy 800 of its currently installed weapons. In effect, the percentage rate reduction creates an implicit ratio of warheads destroyed to warheads deployed that is never less than 2:1, so long as the number of newly deployed warheads does not exceed the net reduction total specified by the percentage.

At higher deployment rates, e.g., 600 new warheads in a year when a side must make a net reduction of 400, MIRVed ICBMs would always remain subject to the 2:1 penalty but marginal additions of SLBMs and single-warhead missiles would enjoy preferential ratios requiring smaller reductions. If the 600 new warheads were all on MIRVed ICBMs, the side would have to eliminate 1,200 existing warheads, meaning a net reduction in the force of 600 weapons. If 300 of the 600 were on SLBMs and single-warhead missiles, subject to a 3:2 ratio, the side would only have to eliminate 1,050 existing warheads (600 for the MIRVed ICBMs and 450 for the other warheads) for a net reduction of 450.

Projections of actual modernization programs by Lawrence J. Cavaiola and Bonita J. Dombey of the Congressional Budget Office suggest that, of the two build-down mechanisms, the percentage rate is likely to be more potent in the early years and the variable ratios are likely to grow in impact in the late 1980s. See Modernizing U.S. Strategic Offensive Forces: The Administration's Program and Alternatives, Washington: Congressional Budget Office, May 1983.

6 See Glenn Kent and Edward L. Warner, "Key Aspects of Compulsory Double Build-Down Approach," unpublished, September 6, 1983.

7 On the assumption that bomber payload is worth about one-half an equivalent amount of missile throw-weight and that a bomber's payload is one-tenth the plane's gross takeoff weight, one could define Potential Destructive Capacity (PDC) as the sum of missile throw-weight plus one-half of bomber payload. Counting bombers identified in the SALT II data base (many of which are in fact moth-balled in the United States and obsolete in the Soviet Union), the potential destructive capacity totals are about 18,000,000 pounds for the United States and about 15,000,000 for the Soviet Union. In conjunction with reductions in missile warheads to 5,000, a parallel requirement to cut PDC to equality at 8,500,000 pounds should be workable and worthwhile. Under this limit, just as there would be constraints on the extent to which throw-weight was fractionated, there would presumably have to be limits on the divisibility of bomber payload, e.g., no more than 20 ALCMs per plane and no more than 2,500 ALCMs overall. These calculations are derived from the Kent-Warner data and appear in my unpublished technical analysis, "Constraining Potential Destructive Capability in Strategic Forces," September 1983.

8 I should make clear that my discussion of an aggregate warhead limit for missiles and bombers differs from the specific build-down proposal put forward at START, but it illustrates the range of outcomes to be expected under a missile warhead build-down coupled with a build-down in bomber platforms and potential destructive capacity on missiles and bombers.


  • Alton Frye is Washington Director of the Council on Foreign Relations, and the author of A Responsible Congress: The Politics of National Security. He has written extensively on arms control.
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