20. Airgram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State1



  • Technological Gap


  • CA–87022

Dr. Hornig’s final report to the President is an excellent study of the problems which comprise the Technological Gap issue. It is particularly valuable in that it analyses the Gap in terms of a very broad variety of inter-related problems some of which, heretofore, have been approached largely on a piecemeal, sector-by-sector basis.

A substantial number of the points brought out in the report were very effectively presented by Dr. Hornig and members of his delegations during the several major OECD science policy meetings of the [Page 43] past three years. As a direct result, many French government and industrial leaders were brought to a more realistic understanding of the nature of the problems and the fact that their resolution (or amelioration) cannot be dependent upon some form of American largesse but, at base, must be approached in terms of structural reforms to be carried out by the Europeans themselves.

This broadening awareness has certainly played a large part in vitiating the shrill and relatively uninformed political outcry which characterized initial European approaches to the Technological Gap issue. However, with the subsidence of that initial round of European agitation on the Gap issue, it has become all too easy for us to lose sight of a basic fact—the problem in Europe remains.

Many of the underlying causes of the Technological Gap (inflexible and outmoded educational system and managerial practices, lack of innovative climate, severely limited mobility of highly trained personnel, etc.) were among the very factors which led to the May–June upheavals in French universities, government laboratories and high technology industries. These demonstrations cogently pointed up the magnitude and severity of the unresolved problems facing France in these and other areas.

Protracted and searching confrontations and discussions during and since the May–June events have brought to surface and underscored the formidable difficulties the French face in their attempts to determine and successfully implement fundamental reforms which can meet their problems. Although some intensive efforts are underway within the French Government to devise new and effective reforms, the prospect of significant near-term successes appears, at best, highly doubtful. There is, in fact, a distinct possibility that failure to achieve timely results in line with expectations could bring the government under renewed pressures. Since some French leaders might then find it difficult to resist a search for scapegoats, a new wave of Technological Gap agitation could result with the United States again cast as the villain of the piece.

Such a prospect was foreshadowed only a few days ago when M. Lattes, Managing Director of METRA, the largest French computer service organization operating under “Plan Calcul,” expressed the firm belief that the Gap is going to increase rapidly during the next ten years and will become a major divisive force separating the United States and Europe. Lattés, who is active in top advisory committees of the Plan Calcul, DGRST3 and IRIA,4 displayed very strong feelings on [Page 44] the Gap and spoke of it in highly emotional terms. In another recent conversation, M. Wacrenier, a senior member of the DGRST, pointed out that, on conclusion of the present crash efforts to meet the more immediate crisis problems, he believed that the Technological Gap question could quite possibly receive fresh emphasis.

Foreign Minister Debré himself, at his first Foreign Ministry staff meeting only a few days ago, demonstrated anew his deep concern regarding the presence and role of U.S. industrial firms in Europe. According to Quai Director of American Affairs Jurgensen, after identifying “Le Defi Americain” as one of the principal “dangers” confronting France, Debré went on to expound at length on the Servan-Schreiber economic and financial theme that U.S. industry in Europe constitutes the threat to European independence. (See Embtel 18383, July 23, 1968.)5

Dr. Hornig’s report is a national policy paper cast largely in terms of U.S. interests. Consequently, we feel that it would not be suitable in its present form for open publication or presentation to French officials. However, the French Government’s intensive search for solutions has created an atmosphere of potential interest among French leaders in constructive analyses of just this nature. These leaders, some of whom only recently came to their jobs with the new government, thus constitute something of a ready-made audience.

We believe that this affords an opportunity to employ to advantage the background study on Gap now in preparation in the Department of Commerce. Assuming that it covers—and may expand upon—those elements of the Hornig report which describe and analyze causes of the European lag in utilization of technological know-how, we recommend that it be completed on a timely basis and made available to the Embassy for selective presentation to key French government and industrial leaders. As an objective, analytical background study, that paper could be given a serious and appreciative reception within the French Government. Since the appearance of an American Hornig report is anticipated with widespread interest in France, association of Dr. Hornig’s name with the study—perhaps through a brief, signed introduction or in some other manner—would certainly further enhance the authority and effectiveness of the paper.

Shriver 6
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Central Files, 1967–69, SCI 1–1 EURW–US. Confidential; Noforn; Priority. Drafted by Edgar L. Piret and Harding W. Ballough (SCI) on July 30; cleared by Jack R. Perry (POL), Robert J. Morris (ECON), the Minister, and Ambassador Shriver; and approved by Piret.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 19.
  3. Delegation General Recherche a la Scientifique et Technique. [Footnote in the source text.]
  4. Institut de la Recherche d’Informatique Appliquees. [Footnote in the source text.]
  5. Not printed. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Central Files, 1967–69, FN 9 FR-US)
  6. Initialed for Shriver by Piret.