Charles A. Sorrels

Charles (Charlie) Sorrels died on January 16, 2016 in Wenatchee in his home state of Washington, from complications of Parkinson’s disease. He was born on July 11, 1938 in Greeley, Colorado, son of Arthur and Sharlyne Sorrels. After his mother died while he was an infant, he was lovingly raised by his father and stepmother, Maude (Qualls). He grew up primarily in the state of Washington and graduated from Ephrata High School.

After graduating with a B.A. from Yale in 1960, Charlie attended Cambridge University (England) on a Rotary International Fellowship, completing a Ph.D. in Economics and Politics under the direction of Sir Denis Brogan. Later he obtained an LL.B. from Harvard Law School and an M.P.A. from Harvard’s Kennedy School.

Charlie spent his career working inside and outside the Federal Government, devoting his life to the formulation and evaluation of U.S. defense and disarmament policy. In so doing, he became an expert on Soviet military capabilities and intentions.

After interning with Senator Henry (Scoop) Jackson, he spent 7 years with the Office of Management and Budget, overseeing the review of intelligence programs that were responsible for monitoring Soviet ICBM, ABM and satellite capabilities. He worked closely with Director James Schlesinger at OMB and other agencies, and for his performance was awarded the Intelligence Medal of Merit.

Charlie later continued his work at the National Defense University, the Brookings Institution, the Congressional Budget Office, The System Planning Corporation, The Defense Department, Harvard’s Olin Institute for Strategic Studies, ending his Federal career at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency from 1982-98. In these positions he contributed to the negotiation of the SALT I & II and START I & II Treaties, and later to their monitoring. After his retirement, he lectured as a Chubb Fellow at Yale College from 1997-2003, presenting a popular seminar “Presidents and Crisis: from the Berlin Blockade to the 1994 Confrontation with North Korea.”

His numerous publications included articles and op-eds on subjects ranging from Soviet missile power and methods for its evaluation, to the SALT and other arms control treaties. His 1983 book, “US Cruise Missile Programs: Development, Deployment and Implications for Arms Control” (McGraw-Hill), was praised as the definitive study of such systems. Just before his death, he completed a book-length manuscript entitled “Presidents and Nuclear Arms Control with the Soviet Union and Russia.”

Charles was survived by sons Jay and James, his former wife Susan, his brothers William and James Sorrels, and his sister-in-law, Mary Heller.

— written by brother Jim Sorrels