458. Circular Airgram From the Department of State to Certain Diplomatic Missions1



  • OCB Operation Plan for Outer Space2

Forwarded herewith for your information is the first operations plan for outer space prepared by the Operations Coordinating Board. The plan covers United States activities in two major areas: (1) technical activities including space science, military and non-military satellite applications, and advanced space technology; and (2) international activities respecting establishment of a legal and political framework for accomplishment of U.S. objectives in outer space and respecting cooperation in outer space programs. In addition to the specific international activities outlined in the plan, your attention is called to the general summary of the Department’s responsibilities shown on page two.

Two organizational arrangements affecting activities of the Department in the outer space field may be of interest in connection with your examination of the plan. The Secretary is a member of the National Aeronautics and Space Council, which was established by the Congress in 1958. The Space Council is chaired by the President, and, in addition to the Secretary of State, its membership currently includes the Secretary of Defense, the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Chairman of the AEC, the Director of the National Science Foundation, the President of the National Academy of Sciences, and two members from private life. The Space Council meets periodically to discuss with and advise the President concerning all aspects of outer space programs. Within the Department, responsibility for coordinating the Department’s activities in the outer space field has been assigned to the Special Assistant to the Secretary for Disarmament and Atomic Energy.

A significant step being taken toward implementation of United States international objectives in outer space is the forthcoming initiation of the work of the United Nations Ad Hoc Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, which is currently scheduled to hold its first meeting May 6. During the 13th General Assembly, the United States took the initiative in securing establishment of this committee, which is to study activities and resources of the United Nations and [Page 885] other international bodies relating to peaceful uses of outer space, areas of international cooperation which could appropriately be undertaken under United Nations auspices, future organizational arrangements within the framework of the United Nations, and the nature of legal problems which may arise.

Ambassador Lodge will be United States representative to the ad hoc committee. Deputy representatives will be Dr. Hugh Dryden, Deputy Administrator of NASA; Mr. Loftus Becker, Legal Adviser to the Secretary; and Mr. Joseph Barco, Deputy United States Representative to the United Nations. Other countries represented on the ad hoc committee are Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Sweden, the USSR, the UAR, and the UK. The three Soviet bloc members opposed the committee’s establishment on the grounds that “parity” of representation was not afforded between East and West, and they evidently do not plan to participate in the ad hoc committee’s work. Of the three “neutral” members, only Sweden has definitely expressed the intention of participating.

The Department expects that the work of the ad hoc committee will provide an opportunity for effectively continuing leadership of the United States in international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space. In this connection it should be noted that while the United States currently suffers from technological disadvantages in the outer space field, it has a clear advantage in its willingness to make the results of its scientific space programs widely available and to take constructive measures respecting international cooperation. An example of the latter is the United States’ recent offer to launch a scientific payload to be recommended by the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) which has been established by the International Council of Scientific Unions to carry on international scientific cooperation of the type initiated during the International Geophysical Year.

It can be anticipated that technological disadvantages of United States outer space programs will be substantially reduced during the next several years. However, in the interim, it appears likely that the Soviet Union will continue to achieve some important “firsts” in the field. Consideration is currently being given to whether meaningful steps can be taken to minimize the impact of such continued achievements of the Soviet Union. Certainly the most effective approach for the United States to take will be to proceed with its own efforts in outer space in as efficient and rapid a manner as feasible. The operations plan makes clear the fact that a well-conceived technical program is under way.

Among the projects noted in the operations plan are certain military applications of space vehicles. The Department believes that such applications will present problems from the political point of view [Page 886] (especially if the Soviet Union refrains from utilizing space vehicles for such purposes) and is considering measures which might assist in securing acceptance of such programs by foreign countries. Your views with respect to potential local official and public reaction to use of space vehicles for military applications would be helpful in analyzing these problems. In this connection, the Department wishes to point out that the summary of United States space program objectives shown on page 21 of the operations plan includes objectives which are possible but are not currently planned. Of the military projects listed in this summary, the last three (”Strategic Weapons Delivery (Prototype)”, “Military Space Platform”, and “Satellite Interceptor”) fall in the category of possible rather than currently planned objectives.

The Department requests appropriate reporting concerning local activities in the outer space field and significant local reaction to United States and Soviet Union outer space efforts.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 701.022/4–2859. Secret. Drafted by Gathright (S/AE) on April 13; cleared with Bacon, Farinholt, Murphy, Nunley, ARA, AF, IO, NEA, and U/OP; and approved by Farley. Transmitted to 22 posts worldwide.
  2. Dated March 18. (Ibid., S/PNSC Files: Lot 62 D 1, NSC 5814 Series)