440. Memorandum of Discussion at the 371st Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, July 3, 19581

[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and agenda item 1, a brief discussion of Korea.]

2. U.S. Policy on Outer Space (NSC 5814; Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated July 2, 19582)

General Cutler briefed the Council in very great detail on the contents of the proposed U.S. Policy on Outer Space (NSC 5814). His briefing included the reading of numerous paragraphs of the policy statement, and he also stressed the differences of view among the agencies, particularly with respect to appropriate objectives for U.S. policy on outer space. He noted that there were other differences of view among the agencies, but suggested that before the conflicts were resolved, the Council should hear the general reactions to the paper. (A copy of General Cutler’s briefing note is filed in the minutes of the meeting, and another is attached to this memorandum.3)

When General Cutler had finished briefing the Council, the President requested that when the new paper was finally issued, Annex B, entitled “Tentative Schedule of U.S. Vehicle Launchings”, should have added to it the department or agency responsible for each of the projects listed in the Tentative Schedule.

General Cutler then called on Dr. Killian, who commenced by expressing his belief that the Planning Board had formulated a magnificent statement of policy on a very difficult and novel subject. It was, nevertheless, a fundamental point which the Council needed to consider—namely, whether it had been wise to include in NSC 5814 policy with respect to ballistic missiles. He and his associates thought it unwise to include ballistic missiles in an outer space policy because such inclusion would create ambiguities. There was, after all, a distinction [Page 835] to be made between ballistic missiles and other vehicles in outer space. Thereafter, Dr. Killian read a prepared statement of his views with respect to NSC 5814. (A copy of Dr. Killian’s statement is filed in the minutes of the meeting.4)

General Cutler said he had at hand answers to the arguments presented by Dr. Killian, but before giving them he felt it would be desirable to hear from other members of the Council their general reaction to the proposed policy on outer space. He then called on Secretary Quarles.

Secretary Quarles said he wanted to join Dr. Killian both in latter’s commendation of the Planning Board paper and also in the view that it would be confusing to include ballistic missiles in a general policy on outer space. He noted that this view would also apply to anti-missile missile systems. Ballistic missiles and anti-missile missiles may or may not traverse outer space in the course of their flight.

Secretary Quarles was followed by Secretary Dulles, who also warmly complimented the Planning Board on the quality of their draft statement of policy. He added that he was not a partisan with respect to the issue as to whether or not guidance on ballistic missiles should be included in a U.S. policy on outer space. He would, however, express the opinion that a different degree of urgency existed with respect to ballistic missiles as opposed to other outer space vehicles. Of all portions of the papers, he was most concerned with the statement of objectives as set forth in paragraph 43 of NSC 5814, reading as follows:

“43. The fullest development and exploitation of U.S. outer space capabilities as needed to achieve U.S. scientific, military and political purposes5 as follows:

“a. A technological capability to meet the requirements of b, c and d below.

“b. A degree of competence and a level of achievement in outer space basic and applied research and exploration which is at least on a par with that of any other nation.

“c. Applications of outer space technology, research and exploration to achieve a military capability in outer space sufficient to assure the over-all superiority of U.S. [outer space]6 offensive and defensive systems relative to those of the USSR.

“d. Applications of outer space technology, research, and exploration for non-military purposes, which are at least on a par with any other nation.

“e. World recognition of the United States as, at least, the equal of any other nation in over-all outer space activity and as the leading advocate of the peaceful exploitation of outer space.

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“[43. The establishment of the United States as the recognized leader in the over-all development and exploitation of outer space for scientific, military and political purposes.]”7

This Secretary Dulles believed to be the most controversial portion of the paper. He said that, as written, paragraph 43 seemed to insist on the point of the United States requiring either superiority over or parity with the USSR in all outer space activities. Such an objective would commit us to expenditures and efforts in outer space almost without limit and certainly without a suitable and strictly U.S. criterion for the required capability. Secretary Dulles believed that we should have a capability in outer space adequate for our own U.S. purposes, but not necessarily superior or equal to the capability of any other nation. The criterion of parity with or superiority over any other nation was dangerous, inasmuch as our intelligence information is not sufficient to keep us precisely informed about what our rivals might be doing in terms of outer space activity. In short, such a criterion could lead us down a false trail. Accordingly, Secretary Dulles said he would recommend that paragraph 43 be toned down somewhat to indicate that the United States should have its own adequate program for outer space activities, rather than a program developed in terms of U.S. capabilities in outer space relative to the capabilities in this area of other nations.

Secretary Dulles warned that he was by no means attempting to downgrade other aspects of outer space exploration and exploitation than the aspect of ballistic missiles. He did, however, doubt the wisdom of a policy which committed the United States to ape whatever we imagine any other nation is doing or is going to do in its outer space programs.

The President at first misunderstood the Secretary’s view, by indicating that Secretary Dulles apparently agreed with the formulation of paragraph 43 suggested by ODMNACAUSIA. Secretary Dulles corrected the President by pointing out that in fact he was closer in his sympathies to the wording of paragraph 43 proposed by the Bureau of the Budget.

Dr. Waterman followed Secretary Dulles. He began by complimenting the Planning Board and expressing his agreement with the recommendations of Secretary Quarles and Dr. Killian that the policy guidance on ballistic missiles in NSC 5814 be omitted. He stressed the importance of paragraph 42 as being basic to his own point of view because it pointed out that the potentially great importance to U.S. national interests of outer space activities would require taking risks in allocating resources to research and development activities, the success [Page 837] or ultimate utility of which could not be definitely foreseen. As yet, said Dr. Waterman, we know too little about activities in outer space, and we therefore require flexibility in our programs. Dr. Waterman warned of actual danger to human life on this planet if certain possible activities in outer space were accomplished.

As to the question of whether the United States should have as an objective in outer space superiority over or parity with any other nation, Dr. Waterman pointed out that because the USSR had had such a long head-start in outer space activities, it would require a really determined effort by the United States even to reach parity with the Soviet Union in achievements in outer space.

General Cutler next called on Mr. Stans, Director of the Bureau of the Budget, who said that his remarks would be directed largely to support of the proposal submitted by the Bureau of the Budget for paragraph 43. We in the Bureau of the Budget, Mr. Stans continued, thought that there were four good reasons in support of the brief text of paragraph 43 proposed by the Budget in NSC 5814. First, over past years we have always designed our national security policies to meet our own national objectives rather than the objective of some other country—that is, we have considered our objectives in terms of the totality of the U.S. national interest.

Secondly, paragraphs 40 and 41 of NSC 5814, which constituted a comparison of U.S. and Soviet outer space activities, as well as Annex A on the Soviet space program, revealed the sheer difficulty of trying to determine what the Soviet outer space program is actually going to consist of. If we set our objectives in terms of superiority over or parity with the Soviet Union, we would find it literally impossible to set up matching programs unless we knew what the Soviets themselves were actually engaged in. The only other alternative would be to spend incredible sums of money to match every program that we could conceive that the Soviets were going to launch in the future.

His third point, said Mr. Stans, really spoke for itself. Paragraph 41 of NSC 5814 indicated the capabilities of the Soviet Union in outer space activities. It also pointed out that no matter what we do, the Soviets will maintain their lead over the United States in outer space activities for at least two years. Accordingly, we could not possibly achieve even parity with them within this time limit.

Fourthly, Mr. Stans said that the Bureau of the Budget believed that if the whole emphasis of our policy on outer space was placed on competition with the USSR in the military aspects of outer space activity, all the programs for the peaceful use of outer space would tend to suffer.

For all these reasons the Bureau of the Budget believed that its brief and general statement of U.S. objectives in outer space was preferable to the more limiting terms suggested by the various other [Page 838] agencies. It was Mr. Stans’ inclination to support Dr. Killian’s proposal for eliminating policy guidance on ballistic missiles, and he further suggested that NSC 5814 be returned to the Planning Board for revision in the light of the Council discussion.

At this point, Dr. Killian made it clear that in suggesting the omission of policy guidance on ballistic missiles in a revision of NSC 5814, he was by no means recommending that the revision exclude any military activities in outer space other than ballistic missile activities. Secretary McElroy commented that he was glad to hear this expression of Dr. Killian’s viewpoint, with which he heartily agreed.

General Cutler warmly defended the Planning Board’s action in including in NSC 5814 policy guidance with respect to ballistic missiles. In this defense he pointed out the virtual impossibility of making a meaningful distinction between the military uses of outer space and the peaceful uses of outer space. The President reminded General Cutler that Dr. Killian wanted to exclude only ICBM activities and not other military uses of outer space.

General Cutler went on in his defense of the inclusion of ballistic missiles by pointing out that the Planning Board had apparently been much more moved than the gentlemen around the Council table by the effect on the world of the launching of the Sputnik. Accordingly, the Planning Board had sought to promote a sense of urgency so that the United States would catch up with the USSR as rapidly as possible. He drew an analogy with the history of the development of the thermonuclear bomb. In any case, he said, for these reasons the Planning Board had felt that the policy statement on outer space should be all-inclusive. If one were fearful that ballistic missiles might lose their primacy and their high priority (which General Cutler said he certainly didn’t want to see happen), it would only be necessary to strengthen the language of paragraph 50, which was put into NSC 5814 to indicate that primary emphasis should be placed on activities related to outer space necessary to maintain the over-all deterrent capability of the United States and the Free World. He also called attention, in this connection, to NSC Action No. 1846, establishing “Priorities for Ballistic Missiles and Satellite Programs”, copies of which Action had been passed out to the Council members. (A copy of NSC Action No. 1846 is attached to this memorandum.8)

Despite the strength of his views, General Cutler conceded that the President’s advisers on the Council believed that we should adopt Mr. Stans’ proposal that NSC 5814 be referred back to the Planning Board for revision. If this were adopted, however, General Cutler hoped that we would have very precise recommendations for amending NSC 5814 from the Department of Defense and from Dr. Killian.

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In closing his remarks, General Cutler said he thought that the Secretary of State had not fully apprehended the majority Planning Board view as to the objectives set forth in paragraph 43. The majority view in the Planning Board called for a U.S. military capability which should be superior in the over-all to the over-all military capability of the Soviet Union. The majority Planning Board view did not require the United States to be superior to the Soviet Union specifically in outer space military capabilities. He very much hoped, said General Cutler, that the maintenance of over-all military superiority over the USSR would continue to be a basic U.S. national security policy.

The President said that in spite of General Cutler’s long and eloquent defense of the inclusion of policy guidance on ballistic missiles in NSC 5814, there was a real difference between missiles shot from the earth to another target elsewhere on the earth, and vehicles that are launched into outer space and remain there. The President thought we could and should differentiate policy guidance on these two classes of outer space vehicles. General Cutler repeated the view that military and peaceful outer space vehicles were inextricably involved with each other, citing as examples the reconnaissance satellites and propulsion systems. Unconvinced, the President said he still made a distinction between ballistic missiles and other outer space vehicles.

General Cutler, turning to the Secretary of State, asked him whether he still felt that the Budget proposal for the statement of objectives in paragraph 43 was the most desirable statement. Secretary Dulles replied that he would combine the Budget statement with certain parts of the statement proposed by ODMNASAUSIA, and read the following text of paragraph 43 based on such a combination:

“Development and exploitation of U.S. outer space capabilities as needed to achieve U.S. scientific, military and political purposes, and to establish the United States as a recognized leader in this field.”

Secretary Dulles’ proposal met with general agreement, and Dr. Killian and Secretary Quarles indicated that they would provide the needed amendments to NSC 5814 as a result of the deletion of the policy guidance on ballistic missiles.

Secretary Quarles said that there was one point that he wanted to labor a little. There were, he said, practicable ballistic paths which would not go higher than 100 miles from the earth’s surface. Accordingly, we must not let ourselves be trapped into the feeling that all ballistic missiles must necessarily traverse outer space.

Secretary Dulles said that with respect to the legal aspects of the outer space policy set forth in NSC 5814, he would like authority to go ahead and begin to develop some of the suggestions set forth in the report.

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The National Security Council:

Discussed the draft statement of U.S. Policy on Outer Space contained in NSC 5814; in the light of the views of the Deputy Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff thereon, transmitted by the reference memorandum of July 2, 1958.

Tentatively adopted the following statement as the first paragraph under “Objectives”, in lieu of any of the alternative versions of paragraph 43 of NSC 5814:

“Development and exploitation of U.S. outer space capabilities as needed to achieve U.S. scientific, military and political purposes, and to establish the United States as a recognized leader in this field.”

Agreed that NSC 5814 should be referred back to the NSC Planning Board for revision to eliminate from the paper statements of U.S. policy on ballistic missiles and anti-missile missile defense weapons systems.
Requested the Department of Defense and the Office of the Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology to transmit, for consideration by the NSC Planning Board on July 15, 1958, proposed specific amendments in NSC 5814 designed to carry out c above.
Noted a statement by the Secretary of State that the Legal Adviser of the Department of State would be an appropriate Chairman for the group to make the study called for in paragraph 59 of NSC 5814.
Noted the President’s request that Annex B to NSC 5814 be revised to indicate the agency responsible for each of the projects listed therein.

Note: The action in d above, as approved by the President, subsequently transmitted to the Secretary of Defense and the Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, for appropriate implementation.

[Here follow the remaining agenda items concerning satellites, significant events affecting U.S. security, implications of cost trends, and U.S. economic defense policy.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File. Top Secret. Drafted by Gleason on July 5.
  2. NSC 5814, June 20, is the same in substance as Document 444 with the changes noted below and infra; a copy of the July 2 memorandum is in Department of State, S/PNSC Files: Lot 62 D 1, NSC 5814 Series.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Not found.
  5. Budget proposes to delete “the fullest” and all of the paragraph after “purposes”. [Footnote in the source text.]
  6. Defense–JCS proposal. [Footnote and brackets in the source text.]
  7. ODMNACAUSIA alternative paragraph 43. [Footnote and brackets in the source text.]
  8. Not printed.