The Arms Control and Disarmament Agency has warned the White House that production of the new neutron 8-inch artillery projectiles and Lance missile warheads might damage one or more major United States arms negotiations initiatives with the Soviet Union and other nations.
"No one here thinks it is a good idea to build these weapons now," said one ACDA official yesterday, "but there is a division of opinion within the agency as to how much effect production will have on these negotiations."
According to informed executive branch and congressional sources, the still-secret ACDA analysis of producing a new generation of enhanced radiation tactical nuclear weapons pointed out possible adverse impact on:
Strategic arms limitation talks (SALT) with the Soviet Union on a comprehensive test ban treaty, becaue, according to an ACDA source, addition underground nuclear tests are needed before either the Lance neutron warhead or the nurton 8-inch shell are ready for production.
Pursuing non-proliferation talks with nations that currently do not have nuclear weapons, because the United States would be moving toward a second generation of weapons while telling others they should not have a first.
Discussions with NATO allies and the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact nations to cut down on both sides' European forces where, three years ago, American spokesman pledged not to move to "mini-nukes" that would reduce the threshold between nuclear and conventional weapons.
The neutron weapons are not considered "mini-nukes" because of their large yields.
Nonetheless, their accuracy and their limited collateral blast and heat damage make them appear more usable than the current tactical nuclear weapons now deployed in Europe, according to Pentagon planners.
Opponents of the neutron weapons argue that this very quality which makes them credible as deterrents also means, by logic, that they lower the existing nuclear threshold.
"The ultimate problem," one ACDA official said of the agency's paper, "is pointed out - that all this is tied up with symbolism."
The ACDA analysis also reportedly said the high cost of the new neutron weapons - said to be $650 million for the 8-inch projectiles - would discourage both the United States and its NATO allies from beefing up conventional forces.
The ACDA paper was initially drafted in response to a congressional request for an arm impact statement on the Lance neutron warhead.
The Executive branch is required by law to submit such an impact statelement to Congress when seeking money for a major weapon. In this case no such statement was delivered to Congress by the Ford administration, which originally requested funds for the radiation-enhanced Lance.
John Stennis (D-Miss), chairman of the Senate Armed Services COmmittee, remarked last Friday that the impact statement had been "mislaid."
A Carter administration statement was supposed to be delivered before the Senate last Friday defeated the production money for the weapon. The money requested is contained in the $10.3 billion public works appropriations bill.
Before the debate. Senators were told the impact statement would be delayed until next month. At that time, if the President decides to go ahead with production, the senators were told, the impact statement would be sent.
Meanwhile the ACDA analysis was to be circulated to the Pentagon, State Department and Energy Research and Development Administration for comments.
The Senate reached no final decision on the production money. In a test vote, opponents of the weapons lost, 43 to 42.
Congressional sources said yesterday they are exploring making a point of order against the appropriations bill on the ground that no impact statement, as required by law, has been sent up for the Lance neutron warhead.
Administration sources said yesterday the law "is imprecise" on that point.
The money request is to be taken up again next week the Senate returns from recess.