I began working on Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) issues while I was in the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), about the same time I began working on Soviet high technology issues. There was no non-proliferation regime for controlling delivery systems of weapons of mass destruction, and Reagan decided to follow up on Carter’s first steps towards developing one.
One of the first things we needed was a list of items to be controlled by a missile control regime, and one of the State Department experts on controlling high technology was Bill Root, who was the director of the office in the Economic Bureau that handled COCOM issues, the Coordinating Committee that allowed Western countries to coordinate their exports of high technology items to the Soviet Union. Root’s assistant, the deputy director, was Vic Comras. Richard Perle took a strong interest in COCOM issues from his Pentagon roost. He and his staff frequently fought with Root and his staff on COCOM issues, just as he and his staff fought with me and my associates (I was too junior to have a staff) on MTCR issues.
One day I was going over a draft list of controlled items for the MTCR with Bill Root. I think that I had left INR and had been reassigned to the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), where I continued to work on MTCR issues. (ACDA was then headed by the Ken Adelman, now an outspoken neo-con. It has since been abolished as a separate agency and folded into the State Department.)
Root was explaining how to make the most effective use of technical specifications, so that manufacturers could understand them, and so that the list actually did what we wanted it to do. While we were talking, he got a phone call from Richard Perle. He suggested that we break for lunch and continue after lunch. When I came back to his office after lunch, his staff told me that he had retired from the State Department. I guess he had had it with Perle. Unfortunately, I continued to cross swords with Perle, his minions and successors for years. I believe that one reason the MTCR is so weak is because Perle wanted it so strong. The Western countries would not accept a regime that was as restrictive as Perle wanted, but because of Perle’s pressure within the government, it was impossible for the US Government to reach a reasonable compromise with the Europeans and the Japanese.