441. Memorandum of Discussion at the 376th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, August 14, 19581

[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and agenda item 1 concerning Canada.]

2. Preliminary U.S. Policy on Outer Space (NSC Action No. 1846; NSC 5814; Memos for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated July 2 and August 4 and 12, 1958; NSC Actions Nos. 1940 and 19562)

Mr. Gray briefed the Council, explaining the nature of the revisions in NSC 5814 which had been made by the Planning Board pursuant to NSC Action No. 1940–c. He described at length the point made by the Defense Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the revised statement of policy did not reflect the proper balance between military and non-military interests in outer space. The Chiefs wished to indicate the relative priority between military and non-military activities in outer space, and for this purpose wished to include a revision of the bracketed paragraph 50 on page 12 of NSC 5814. At this point Mr. Gray indicated that Secretary McElroy had suggested a further slight change in the language proposed by the Joint Chiefs for the revision of paragraph 50. He distributed a new version of paragraph 50, reading as follows:

“In the absence of a safeguarded international agreement for the control of armaments and armed forces, activities related to outer space necessary to maintain the over-all deterrent capability of the United States and the Free World will receive priority.”

Contrary to the views of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mr. Gray pointed out the majority view of the Planning Board that no paragraph 50 was really necessary in the light of the footnote to the subheading “Priority and Scope of Outer Space Effort”, reading as follows:

“Nothing in this paper shall be construed as affecting priorities established under NSC. Action No. 1846 (Priorities for Certain Missile and Related Programs) or future priorities approved by the President.”

(A copy of Mr. Gray’s briefing note is filed in the minutes of the meeting, and another is attached to this memorandum.3)

[Page 842]

When Mr. Gray had completed his briefing, he called on Secretary McElroy, who said that he had very little to add to Mr. Gray’s very fair exposition of the views of Defense and the Joint Chiefs. In answer to the aforementioned argument of the majority of the Planning Board, Secretary McElroy expressed the opinion that a basic national security policy such as NSC 5814 should be complete in itself and not be dependent for an understanding of its contents on other papers or NSC actions. Asked for his comments, General Twining said that he had nothing to add to those just made by Secretary McElroy.

The President observed that as we became involved in the business of setting up our space agency and facing the problems of outer space, we could not initially always state our propositions as clearly as we should like, because so much of the problem of outer space was new and vague. Initially, however, the President felt that we should put, so far as possible, all space projects under the space agency.4 Clearly, not all of these space projects were going to turn out to have military implications, at least at the outset. The space agency must prove the military practicability or feasibility of a given space project or activity before the Defense Department takes over such a project or activity. Secretary McElroy expressed doubt that the agencies of the Defense Department would be willing to wait until the space agency proved that a given project had clear military potentialities before undertaking to develop such potentialities themselves.

The President said that nevertheless he still doubted the value of trying to make clear distinctions in language in the matter of what the priorities in space activity ought to be. He stated that once a space project or activity is known to have a military use or value, such a project or activity should be given a very high priority. But again, said the President, not every activity in outer space is going to turn out to have military use.

Secretary McElroy undertook to summarize the position of the Defense Department and the Joint Chiefs, by saying that their objective was simply to try to stake out an important military interest in outer space. Certainly the Defense Department didn’t want to proscribe any space activity by virtue of its suggestions for revising the policy statement.

The President replied that he couldn’t at this time help but look upon these initial activities in outer space as we used to look at wildcatting in oil in a former day. Certainly he wanted to avoid unnecessary duplication and the useless spending of millions of dollars in outer space activities. Secretary McElroy replied by pointing out to the President that all the proposed activities in outer space were now [Page 843]centered in the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). It was ARPA which designated which of the military services was to carry out which project.

Dr. Killian inquired whether paragraph 47 of NSC 5814 (”Priority and Scope of Outer Space Effort”) did not adequately cover the military activities in outer space about which Secretary McElroy was so concerned. Dr. Killian expressed the opinion that this paragraph safeguarded appropriate military priorities. He added that he did not like either the older version of paragraph 50 proposed by the JCS, or Secretary McElroy’s new version of paragraph 50 which had been handed out at the meeting. He felt that the adoption of either version of paragraph 50 might put a stop to very important scientific space activities. Beyond this, Dr. Killian insisted that so new was the problem that we were not yet in a position to identify which space activities actually contributed to the maintenance of our over-all deterrent capability.

After hearing Dr. Killian, the President counselled that the problem should be left alone for the moment, until we could see what would happen in the future. The policy statement could be changed if it were later found to be necessary. Secretary McElroy concurred in this judgment by the President, but General Twining spoke up to re-emphasize the concern of the Joint Chiefs of Staff about the contents of paragraph 50. They felt that such a paragraph was vital, and that many of our scientists were not really in sympathy with the military objectives in the exploration and exploitation of outer space. To General Twining’s argument the President replied that if we hoped to obtain the advantages which can be provided to us by our U.S. scientists, we must go to them and not to the military. Dr. Killian added the remark that fifty percent of our American scientists were now working in one way or another for the military services.

The President once again stated his belief that the Council should go slow on issuing directives and trying to stake out a clear system of priorities in outer space programs. Secretary McElroy concurred, and added that if Defense felt that the problem of military priorities in outer space activities needed subsequent reconsideration, Defense would simply come back to the NSC and present the problem.

At this point, Mr. Gray raised the question as to what agency should be charged with the coordination of NSC 5814, suggesting his own view and that of the Bureau of the Budget that the Operations Coordinating Board should be charged with this responsibility. There was no dissent from this proposal.

Mr. Gray then said that he understood that the Director of the Bureau of the Budget wished to make certain comments about the space paper before the Council completed its consideration of NSC 5814. Mr. Stans observed that although the Bureau of the Budget had [Page 844]now withdrawn a previous split of views which it had sponsored, and while the Bureau agreed in general with the policy set forth in the present paper, he did feel that the first six paragraphs of NSC 5814 greatly overstated the case for outer space exploration. Inclusion of these six paragraphs deprived the paper of a proper perspective, and Mr. Stans cited various sentences to illustrate his point. He then went on to say that the only danger in these six paragraphs lay in the possibility that Government officials who worked in this area would take their cue from this flamboyant language. This conceivably could call for programs and expenditures on outer space beyond all reason.

The President commented that he certainly saw no need to introduce purple prose in any national security policy paper. When Mr. Gray pointed out that Mr. Stans had withdrawn any specific objections to the paper, the President reiterated his agreement with Mr. Stans that purple prose had no place in any NSC paper.

The National Security Council:

a. Discussed the draft revisions of NSC 5814, prepared by the NSC Planning Board pursuant to NSC Action No. 1940–c and on the basis of recommendations by the Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and by the Deputy Secretary of Defense, transmitted by the reference memorandum of August 4, 1958; in the light of the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff thereon, transmitted by the referenced memorandum of August 12, 1958, and of the views of the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, in the light of a revision of paragraph 50 distributed at the meeting.

b. Adopted the revisions of NSC 5814, subject to the deletion of paragraph 50.

c. Noted the comments of the Director, Bureau of the Budget, with respect to what he described as the overstatements in the introductory paragraph 1–6 of NSC 5814.

Note:NSC 5814, as amended and adopted, subsequently approved by the President; circulated as NSC 5814/1 for implementation by all appropriate Executive departments and agencies of the U.S. Government; and referred to the Operations Coordinating Board as the coordinating agency designated by the President, with the understanding that the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will be invited to participate with the Board on this subject.

[Here follow the remaining agenda items.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File. Top Secret. Drafted by Gleason on August 15.
  2. NSC Action Nos. 1846, 1940, and 1956, dated January 22, July 3, and July 31, respectively, are in Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95; copies of the three memoranda are ibid., S/PNSC Files: Lot 62 D 1, NSC 1814 Series.
  3. Not printed.
  4. For text of the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, July 29, 1958, which established the National Aeronautics and Space Council, see 72 Stat. 426.