The Under Secretary of Defense (Early) to the Secretary of State


My Dear Mr. Secretary: Pursuant to the request in your letter of 1 June 194951 I have obtained the following statement of views by the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the military considerations involved in the present situation between the United States and other states outside the area of Soviet control, and the USSR and its satellites in relationship to civil aviation:

The ultimate end sought by the policy statement in NSC 15/1, approved by the President on 13 July 1948, is the restriction of international civil air operation of the USSR and its satellites to their territories. This restriction is to apply only until those countries grant, on a reciprocal basis, operating rights in USSR-controlled territory to civil air carriers of the United States and other non-curtain states.

One of the implementing measures of the policy statement calls for multilateral effort to prevent the sale of aircraft and aviation equipment to the USSR and its satellites, an effort wholly in consonance with our announced policy objectives. The Joint Chiefs of Staff attach great importance to this measure because of the military security factors which are involved. The British apparently view the measure in the same light and are enforcing it. In addition, they have joined us in seeking compliance of the other nations, which are in a strategic position relative to the area of Soviet control, in enforcement of this measure.

The British, however, are not in complete agreement with the other implementing measures in NSC 15/1 which seek to “contain” the civil air operations of the USSR and its satellites. Their attitude apparently stems from doubt as to the extent to which security factors alone justify concerted efforts for the containment of such air operations. The British attach particular importance to the military advantage in the fields of intelligence, air transport, and communications which could result to them from reciprocal civil aviation penetration. In fact, [Page 207] they believe that this probable military gain overrides the military security factors involved.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that the implementing measures set forth in NSC 15/1 can be effective only if supported wholeheartedly by all of the nations concerned. They feel there is considerable merit in the British view that the “containment” policy cannot be justified solely on military grounds and that there are military advantages to be gained by such civil air penetration as may be arranged through bilateral agreements on a reciprocal basis, that is, the granting of landing rights in non-curtain states, including the United States, to Soviet satellite states in exchange for similar landing rights in satellite territory.

In view of these considerations, I feel that a review of United States civil aviation policy as set forth in NSC 15/1, should be undertaken by the National Security Council at an early date. Such a review should include re-examination of both political and security factors and should give consideration to the probability of the United States and certain nations in western Europe achieving, through bilateral agreements, reciprocal aviation rights in Soviet Satellite countries.

It seems to me that it would be extremely helpful in reviewing this matter in the National Security Council to have the views of the civil aviation agencies of the United States Government. I should therefore like to propose to you that the following question might be appropriate for consideration by the Air Coordinating Committee:2

“Without reference to military and foreign political security factors and viewed solely from the standpoint of our national objectives and policies in the field of international civil aviation, what are the views of the Air Coordinating Committee with regard to the desirability of negotiating air transport agreements with the satellite states under which United States flag carriers will operate currently certificated routes into these countries and under which their national airlines will be permitted to operate into the United States?”

Provided with an answer to this question by the Air Coordinating Committee, I believe that the National Security Council will be in a better position to consider such policy statements as may have been proposed by the Department of State in order to review NSC 15/1. I am informing the Executive Secretary, National Security Council, of my proposal as to the method of handling this problem.

I think you will agree that decision as to United States course of action toward the British in regard to this matter should await the result of review by the National Security Council.

Sincerely yours,

Stephen Early
  1. Ante, p. 204.
  2. The Air Coordinating Committee was an interdepartmental committee formally responsible for coordinating United States Government policy in the field of aviation. The Committee was chaired by the Under Secretary of Commerce for Transportation and included the Under Secretary of State, the Under Secretary of the Navy, the Under Secretary of the Air Force, and the Chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board.