306. Memorandum From Lay to the NSC1

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  • Monitoring a Long-Range Rocket Test Agreement


  • NSC Action No. 1840–c

The Report on the subject,2 called for by NSC Action No. 1840–c–(2), has been prepared by the NSC Ad Hoc Panel established by the reference NSC Action (consisting of representatives of the President’s Science Advisory Committee, the Department of Defense, the Atomic Energy Commission, and the Central Intelligence Agency), and will be presented orally at the National Security Council meeting on Thursday, April 3, 1958.

Because of the sensitivity of this Report, copies have been circulated only to those agencies represented on the NSC Ad Hoc Panel and to the Department of State. A copy of the Report is available, in the office of the Executive Secretary, NSC, for reference by other regular participant members of the Council.

James S. Lay, Jr.
Executive Secretary
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cc: The Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission

The Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

The Director of Central Intelligence

The Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology


Memorandum From Killian to Gray

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  • Transmittal of Report

In accordance with Action No. 1840 of the National Security Council, as approved by the President on January 9, 1958, I submit herewith “a study to cover the technical factors involved in monitoring a long-range rocket test agreement to assure that it is carried out for peaceful purposes (such as the launching of scientific reconnaissance vehicles).” This report has been prepared by an Ad Hoc Working Group of the President’s Science Advisory Committee and the Central Intelligence Agency. The Deputy Secretary of Defense agreed to the membership of this Working Group and the Department of Defense did not, itself, nominate additional representatives.

The Ad Hoc Working Group did not consider whether a missile test prohibition agreement could be enforced by the inspection of missile production, operational launching sites or the nuclear aspects of the problem. These questions were felt to be outside of the area of competence of the members of the Ad Hoc Working Group.

The Ad Hoc Working Group, in preparing this report, limited itself to the technical factors involved. It excluded from its consideration any question of policy with respect to whether there should be a rocket test agreement. In accord with its directive, it also excluded from its consideration the military implications of a test suspension on the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.

This report is submitted for the consideration of the Council at its meeting on April 3, 1958.

  • /s/ J.R. Killian, Jr.
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Report Prepared by the NSC Ad Hoc Working Group

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In response to the action taken by the National Security Council meeting on January 6, 1958, an ad hoc working group of the President’s Science Advisory Committee and the Central Intelligence Agency has undertaken a study of “the technical factors involved in monitoring a long-range rocket test agreement to assure that it is carried out for peaceful purposes.”

On the basis of technical presentations and discussions at its initial meeting on 13 March 1958, the working group arrived at the conclusions set forth below. For the purpose of this study, the working group considered “long-range” rockets to include the IRBM, ICBM, and vehicles capable of orbiting satellites for either military or peaceful purposes. No attempt was made to establish an exact definition for “peaceful purposes.” However, it was assumed that rockets for the delivery of nuclear or other warheads [text not declassified] are not for “peaceful purposes.”


1. The remote detection of long-range rockets, which are fired from any point in the Soviet bloc and which leave the atmosphere, could be made almost certain by a monitoring system employing an expansion of the present intelligence detection systems at locations outside the Soviet bloc and new techniques now under development. [text not declassified]

2. The detection of long-range rockets, which are fired anywhere in the Soviet bloc from either known or unknown launching sites and which leave the atmosphere, could be further improved by a monitoring system which included suitably placed stations [text not declassified] however, such stations may actually not be required to provide certainty of detection.

3. The above mentioned detection techniques may not be capable of discriminating in all cases between “long-range” rockets and other large rockets which leave the atmosphere, such as short-range military ballistic missiles and certain types of AICBM’s. For this reason the [Facsimile Page 4] remainder of the conclusions are stated in terms of “large rockets which leave the atmosphere.” It must be recognized that the definition [Typeset Page 1310] of “long range” or “large” rockets would have to be very carefully considered in the preparation of any type of agreement in this field.

4. Although an agreement to exchange advance flight schedule information on large rockets leaving the atmosphere could be monitored, it would not be possible to distinguish with any degree of confidence between a large rocket fired as a part of a military program and one fired for “peaceful purposes” [text not declassified].

5. In view of the inherent similarity of the technical problems involved in [text not declassified].

6. Even though inspectors stationed at authorized launching sites were empowered to undertake an inspection of the assembled rocket prior to the launching as part of an agreement limiting large rocket tests to “peaceful purposes,” it would not be possible to assure that the tests would not contribute most if not all of the essential data for the development of a military ballistic missile program as well as operational experience for military personnel.

7. A complete prohibition of the launching of all large rockets leaving the atmosphere, including those intended for “peaceful use,” could be fully monitored and would freeze the development of ballistic missiles and space vehicles near their present status and would prevent their use for “peaceful purposes.”

8. An agreement, prohibiting all national large rocket testing and establishing either an international or joint US-Soviet agency to plan and execute all rocket firings for “peaceful uses” of space would still provide the nations participating in the agency with some information pertinent to military missile development. However, such an agreement could probably be designed in a manner which would limit the rate of accumulation of this information to a rather low level.

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9. Although an agreement which established an international or joint US-Soviet agency to plan all rocket launchings for “peaceful uses” of space without prohibiting other national tests would not have direct effect on the capability of participating nations to develop military missiles, such an agreement might have desirable features in developing international cooperation and might contribute to a reduction of international rivalry in the missile field. [text not declassified] The advantage of such an agreement would be increased if the rocket launchings were carried out by the agency.

10. An agreement to prohibit all nationally conducted large rocket tests would not prevent the USSR from building up an operational military missile force, if the USSR had already developed an ICBM capability as of the time of such an agreement. The maintenance and expansion of this capability by the USSR could only be prevented by the prohibition of the retention or manufacture of ballistic missiles or nuclear warheads. The panel did not consider whether, in fact, such a [Typeset Page 1311] missile prohibition agreement could be enforced by the inspection of missile production, operational launching sites, and other techniques or the nuclear aspects of the problem. A military missile force built up under these conditions, without the opportunity for quality control tests and military training tests, would deteriorate with time and cease to the instantly available.

  • Robert F. Bacher
  • Lawrence A. Hyland
  • James W. McRae
  • Col. John A. White
  • George B. Kistiakowsky,
  1. Source: Transmits a report on “Monitoring a Long-Range Rocket Test Agreement.” Secret. 7 pp. NARA, RG 273, Official Meeting Minutes File, 361st Meeting, Tab A.
  2. Report enclosed with this copy. Special security precautions should be observed in the handling of the enclosures, and access to them should be limited on a strict need-to-know basis. [Footnote is in the original.]