420. National Security Action Memorandum No. 1561


  • The Secretary of State
  • The Secretary of Defense
  • The Director of Central Intelligence
  • The Director, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • The Director, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
We are now engaged in several international negotiations on disarmament and peaceful uses of outer space. These negotiations are likely to continue for a long time, and may well grow in scope. They raise the problem of what constitutes legitimate use of outer space, and in particular the question of satellite reconnaissance.
In view of the great national security importance of our satellite reconnaissance programs, I think it desirable that we carefully review these negotiations with a view to formulating a position which avoids the dangers of restricting ourselves, compromising highly classified programs, or providing assistance of significant military value to the Soviet Union and which at the same time permits us to continue to work for disarmament and international cooperation in space. Accordingly, I request that the Department of State organize a committee for this purpose, with representatives of all addressees with sufficient standing to permit them to be fully cognizant of all our programs in this area.2

I wish to receive your report and recommendations by 1 July.

John F. Kennedy
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, NSAM No. 192 Re: “A Separate Arms Control Measure for Outer Space,” Box 339. Top Secret. A copy was sent to Arthur M. Schlesinger.
  2. On May 29 Lieutenant General Marshall S. Carter, Acting Director of the CIA, informed Secretary Rusk that either the Director or the Deputy Director for Research would represent the Agency in committee meetings. On May 31 Deputy Secretary of Defense Gilpatric informed Alexis Johnson that Paul Nitze would be the Defense Department’s representative. On May 29 Johnson informed the Secretary of Defense, the Director of the CIA, the Administrator of NASA, and the Director of ACDA that the committee would hold its first, organizational meeting in his office on June 1. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S/S-NSC Files: Lot 72 D 316, NSAM No. 156) For the committee’s report, see Document 421.