381. National Security Policy Planning Paper1
IMPLICATIONS OF OUTER SPACE IN THE 1970’s
- The United States should continue to place its main emphasis in the field of space exploration on broadening our horizon of knowledge and breadth of competence in this new medium, with particular attention to the political implications of our achievements measured against those of the USSR, and the assurance of our national security. We should continue to encourage international cooperation in space activities, including bilateral arrangements with the USSR, and including the development of space law. We should continue to stand on the general principle of freedom of space. We should actively seek arms control or disarmament arrangements which enhance national security. At the same time, we should continue to pursue vigorously the development and use of military support activities in space, and to develop the capability to meet as necessary possible Soviet exercise of options for military weapons in space.
- Military activity in outer space will not be sui generis; rather,
it will relate to the character of, and balance among, earth-based
military systems, and should not be considered in a vacuum. The
occasionally voiced axiom that he who controls outer space will
control the earth appears illusory, and at the least is unproven.
- The essential requirement for military capabilities in outer space will be the need for research, development, testing and operational activity sufficient to enable the US to avoid technological surprise in outer space, and to achieve and maintain that margin of superiority in space activity necessary as insurance to offset possible Soviet military uses of space.
- We should study fully the possibilities of relatively low cost launching and in-flight propulsion systems which could alter cost efficiency criteria for various civil and military uses of space, and provide maneuverability, range and speeds which would have important scientific and potential military uses.
- [3 lines of source text not declassified]
- [5 lines of source text not declassified]
- There may be a substantial change of pace of over-all US outer space activity during the 1970’s. Such a change of pace may begin shortly after a manned lunar landing, or sooner if events indicate that the Russians either are not in a race or disengage from this “race.” The “newness” of space may have passed away to some extent. This change of pace will apply to both the character and scheduling of our over-all program, and in differing degree to various parts of the program: to further lunar exploration, to subsequent interplanetary exploration, to space applications involving satellites in earth orbit (e.g., communications satellites, meteorological satellites, navigational satellites), and to the general balance between scientific investigation and practical application. There may be less emphasis on spectaculars; less urgency in our program.
- The nature of outer space activities themselves, and of the
international context in which they will develop, will necessarily
lead to increased international interdependence in this field.
International cooperation in space and space-related activities
should be sought from the points of view both of the foreign support
which the US program will need, and of the foreign policy objectives
which can be served. The character of this cooperation will,
however, change in the following significant respects:
- There will be an increasing dependence upon tacit or negotiated international agreement for the conduct of our space program (frequency allocation, rescue and return of astronauts and spacecraft, effective channels for the exchange and analysis of data, etc.). Space law, at least through customary usages of space, will continue to develop.
- We will have to take account of active space programs conducted by other countries, particularly the Western European countries and Japan. Substantial involvement of these countries in space programs will afford a greater opportunity to encourage multinational or regional programs as opposed to purely national programs.
- Communications satellites will facilitate international intercourse, and will probably be capable of serving either cooperative or adversary use for direct communication to the homes of populations in other lands. The opportunities, and dangers, of this technique deserve further careful study.
- Outer space developments will accentuate, rather than mitigate, the differences between the industrial countries on the one hand and developing countries on the other. This increasing divergence will in itself argue that the US may find it desirable to be responsive to the worldwide desire for international participation in some outer space [Page 867] programs. There may be an increasing reaction in the economically underdeveloped countries against great expenses in space exploration while millions on earth barely subsist.
- It is possible that by or during the 1970’s some disarmament and/or UN peacekeeping arrangements will come to use spaceborne observation. The US should consider ways to facilitate such international uses of observation satellites without affecting essential unilateral capabilities.
- The United States should consider the feasibility and desirability—technical and political—of proposing or accepting a joint US–USSR effort to land on the moon, in lieu of a competitive race to the first lunar landing.2 It should be noted that the USSR has not, so far as we know, committed itself to a race for a manned lunar landing, and may in fact have set other space goals. In the impression of most people, however, there is a “race,” even if it is unacknowledged by the Soviets.
Preferred Formulations of Conclusions A and B from the Working Group Member of the Department of Defense
Conclusion A. Expand last sentence as follows:
“A…At the same time, we should continue to pursue vigorously the development and use of military support activities in space, and the development of capabilities to meet possible Soviet exercise of options for military weapons in space or to develop other operational military space systems necessary for our national security.”
Reason: To remove the inference that future US military requirements in space will be determined solely by Soviet space applications. The prime determinant of US military space requirements will be our national security needs rather than merely reactions to Soviet military space uses.
Conclusion B. Replace as follows:
“B. The essential requirements for military capabilities in outer space are research, development, testing and operational activity sufficient to enable the United States to avoid technological surprise, to offset possible Soviet military uses of space, and to ensure superiority both in space technology and in operational applications as specific military requirements are identified and established. [2–1/2 lines of source text not declassified] We should also continue to seek relatively low cost launching and in-flight propulsion systems which could alter cost efficiency criteria and which would provide the maneuverability, range [2 lines of source text not declassified].
Reason: Deletion of the two introductory sentences of the majority formulation is desired to remove the essentially negative connotation these sentences place on the Conclusion regarding military space requirements. Moreover, the observation that military activities in space are related to the character and balance among earth-based systems is unchallenged and therefore both unnecessary and misleading, in that it suggests the existence of a strong body of official opinion which holds the contrary view. Reference to the so-called “axiom” regarding the relationship between control of space and earth is similarly inappropriate as it also erroneously suggests the existence of a body of official opinion in need of negation. Other modifications set forth in the DOD preferred formulation are intended to (1) remove the inference that future military space requirements will be determined solely by Soviet military uses of space, (2) remove reference to military space developments as purely a form of “insurance” and (3) delete the inclusion of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] from the Conclusion regarding military space requirements. In the latter connection, although use of space [4 lines of source text not declassified].
Comments of the Working Group Member from the Joint Staff
I am unable to concur in the report as presently written for the following basic reasons:
- The military aspects of space in the 1970’s continue to be disposed of as of little significance other than as a need for “insurance” to offset possible Soviet military uses of space. In my view this does not take sufficient account of technological possibilities of the 1970’s.
- Conclusion A suggests that, in the 1970’s, the United States “should continue to place its main emphasis … on broadening man’s horizon of knowledge and breadth of competence … with particular attention to the political implications … and the assurance of our national security.” This formulation does not, in my view, lend sufficient weight to the fact that, by that time, additional emphasis should have been devoted to those measures necessary to enhance and preserve our national security.
- As previously noted, a major section of the paper devoted to the lunar landing is predicated on the assumption that the Soviet Union is publicly committed to a moon race at the present time, whether it wishes to be or not. Although it certainly is wise in a paper which considers the implications of outer space in the 1970’s to assume that a moon race between the United States and the Soviet Union is in progress, it is considered both inappropriate and dangerous not also to explore fully other courses of action on the assumption that there is no moon race in progress. For one thing, our national strategy probably would be quite different if the United States possessed a unilateral capability for manned exploration and use of the lunar surfaces. A more disturbing possibility is that the USSR may have chosen an alternate national space objective which could be achieved sooner and, at the same time, have more significance from a national security standpoint. Failure fully to explore the possibility of such a course of action could result in major loss of US prestige by default in the USSR version of a space race as well as significant imbalance in the relative military support capabilities in space. In the Report, the “race” theme is the only one afforded substantial consideration.
- In the discussion and conclusion concerning a possible joint US–USSR lunar effort, I believe insufficient treatment is afforded to the “cons”—both technically and politically.
[Here follows the 72-page text of the paper.]
- Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Subjects Series, Space Activities, General, 6/63, Box 308. Secret. A covering memorandum from Raymond L. Garthoff, Special Assistant for Politico-Military Affairs, to Walt W. Rostow, Counselor and Chairman of the Policy Planning Council, was dated May 31, 1963. Only the conclusions of the paper (pp. iii-xi) are printed.↩
- It does not appear likely that such a joint effort could be agreed upon or arranged, nor sure that it would be desirable. In order to impress the world favorably, and to have greatest chance of acceptance, such an offer by the US could only be made after we had demonstrated at least the impression of equality with the USSR in the present “moon race,” which would probably only be at a time when in fact our chances for winning the race were quite good. At such a juncture, probability of victory in the race would be an incentive to go on and win. But it is necessary to consider whether giving up the political assets of winning the race would be overweighed by the less certain but possibly greater long-run political gains of momentum for cooperation and for influencing the basic US-Soviet relationship. The same consideration would, of course, apply to the case where the USSR judged it would not win the race, and then itself took the initiative in offering to merge efforts—but it would be better if we made the offer first. If we made such an offer and it were rejected, and we then won the race, we would gain doubly. There would, however, be formidable and very possibly prohibitive technical problems to effecting such collaboration, and this consideration requires careful study. The Committee is sharply divided on this question, which goes beyond (though in terms of time “before”) the scope of this study, but its resolution could affect significantly national security aspects of space in the 1970’s.-R.G. [Footnote in the source text.]↩