90. Memorandum From the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Bowie) to the Secretary of State1


  • Recommendations in the Report to the President by the Technological Capabilities Panel of the Science Advisory Committee,ODM (Killian Committee): Item 2— NSC Agenda 10/4/562
The Council is asked to note the status of implementation of the Technological Capabilities Panel (TCP) recommendations on “Meeting the Threat of Surprise Attack”, as presented in the several agency reports contained in NSC 5611 (“Status of National Security Programs on June 30, 1956”).3 Oral reports may be given to the Council by Defense, AEC, ODM, FCDA and CIA.
The draft Record of Action, which the Council will be asked to approve:
notes a number of changes in programs to carry out tasks assigned to Defense;
requests Defense to supplement its Council briefing, in December, on the ICBM, with a report on the anti-missile missile program; and

defers decision on a follow-up study to the Killian Report, which the TCP recommended “within two years”.

(Defense and ODM differ as to the need for this: The Planning Board agreed to defer a recommendation to the Council until the ODM consults its Science Advisory Committee, the TCP parent, on whether technological advance in the past two years justifies initiation of another study at this time.)

Five TCP Recommendations were assigned as our primary responsibility by NSC Action 1355.4 We do not make an annual Status Report and therefore have not submitted an accounting. In the event that questions arise concerning their status, I am attaching a brief memorandum of comments you may care to use.
[Page 362]


Memorandum Prepared in the Policy Planning Staff


General Recommendation 7 a–b–c:

“The NSC initiate preparatory studies of the problems of international negotiations in the following areas growing out of recommendations of this Report”.


Atomic weapons in air defense negotiations with Canada to provide our air defense forces with authority to use atomic warheads over Canada.”

[2 paragraphs (20 lines of source text) not declassified]


Extension of the Planned Early Warning Line—International negotiations for the seaward extension of the Distant Early Warning Line from Greenland via Iceland and the Faroes to join future NATO warning systems.”

[2 paragraphs (34 lines of source text) not declassified]


Remote Sea Monitor Line—International negotiations for the installation of a submerged, sea traffic monitor line extending from Greenland to Iceland and to the United Kingdom”.

[1 paragraph (22 words) not declassified]

General Recommendation 9–b:

[1 paragraph (37 words) not declassified]

Status: The Department’s Legal Adviser has this problem under current review. State has participated with Defense, the National Science Foundation, and the National Academy of Science in planning the program for launching an earth satellite as part of the US participation in the International Geophysical Year 1957–58. Our studies are continuing in cooperation with the interested agencies.

Comment: So far as law is concerned, space beyond the earth is an uncharted region concerning which no firm rules have been established. The law on the subject will necessarily differ with the passage of time and with practical efforts at space navigation. Various theories have been advanced concerning the upper limits of a state’s jurisdiction, but no firm conclusions are now possible.

A few tentative observations may be made: (1) A state could scarcely claim territorial sovereignty at altitudes where orbital velocity of an object is practicable (perhaps somewhere in the neighborhood of [Page 363] 200 miles); (2) a state would, however, be on strong ground in claiming territorial sovereignty up through the “air space” (perhaps ultimately to be fixed somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 miles); (3) regions of space which are eventually established to be free for navigation without regard to territorial jurisdiction will be open not only to one country or a few, but to all; (4) if, contrary to planning and expectation, a satellite launched from the earth should not be consumed upon reentering the atmosphere, and should fall to earth and do damage, the question of liability on the part of the launching authority would arise.

General Recommendation 2B–12–a:

“We recommend that comprehensive programs be instituted to provide effective control of surface and, so far as possible, sub-surface traffic in both oceans from the coastlines to beyond the likely striking range of sea-launched attacks. For proper implementation:

“a. international arrangements should be made for the establishment of information reporting procedures and of control measures.”

Status: The Department is awaiting the results of other studies, assigned to Defense, which will bear on the scope and type of the “international arrangements” desired. It is our understanding that Defense has recently consulted with Treasury to ascertain whether international arrangements for search and rescue operations could be expanded to satisfy defense requirements.

  1. Source: Department of State,PPS Files: Lot 66 D 487. Top Secret.
  2. Extracts of the Report to the President by the Technological Capabilities Panel of the Science Advisory Committee (Killian Committee) are printed as Document 9. For NSC consideration of the report, see Document 92.
  3. See Document 87.
  4. Regarding NSC Action No. 1355, see footnote 3, Document 17.