23. Report Prepared by the Committee on National Security Policy Planning Implications of Outer Space in the 1970s, Basic National Security Policy Planning Task I (1)1

[Here follow a title page, table of contents, two-page preface, and a list of Committee members.]




The implications of exploration and use of outer space in the 1970’s indicate clearly that, from the viewpoint of its national security in the broadest sense, the United States must continue an active space program. This program should place its main emphasis on broadening our horizon of knowledge and breadth of competence in this new medium, with particular attention both to the political implications of our achievements measured against those of the USSR and to the assurance of our national security. We should be alert to particular political prestige considerations in space activities. We should continue to encourage international cooperation in space activities, through appropriate international organizations, including the U.N., and through bilateral arrangements (including with the USSR), and embracing the development of space law. We should continue to stand on the general principle of freedom of space. We should actively seek arms control arrangements which enhance national security. We should pursue vigorously the development and use of appropriate and necessary military activities in space, while seeking to prevent extension of the arms race into space.

There follow several conclusions concerning selected aspects of space activity which deserve particular attention from the viewpoint of national security policy.

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. The essential requirement for military capabilities in outer [Page 51] space will be the need for research, development, testing and operational activity sufficient to enable the U.S. 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 developments. Space activities of military value can be conceptually divided into three main categories: (a) basic developmental work (e.g., systems for sustained manned space flight, rendezvous and inspection capability, and in general, broadening and exercising space competence), (b) support systems (e.g., communications observation, navigational aids, and the like), and (c) spaceborne weapons systems, for offensive use against other spacecraft or targets on earth, or for defensive interception in or from space of hostile earth or space launched offensive weapons.
We should study fully the possibilities of relatively low-cost launching and in-flight propulsion systems which could alter cost efficiency criteria and provide maneuverability, range and speeds which would have very important potential civil and military uses.
Space support systems of military value are already under active development and use, and should continue to be pursued fully. As particular spaceborne support activities become increasingly important, so does their defense and preservation, though excessive dependence on any single and potentially vulnerable means should of course when possible be avoided in space as on earth.
An anti-satellite capability (probably earth to space) will be needed for defense of the United States, and may also be required to ensure freedom of space. Current high priority efforts should be continued, and extended as necessary in the future.
Weather manipulations may, conceivably, become an important weapon, and begin to become relevant even as early as the 1970’s, though we cannot yet identify the particular techniques. While this is not primarily a question of space technology, it may be useful to study possibilities of “weather control”, and warning and countermeasures of such control (including possibilities for international measures), in space.
We would place one particular constraint on our space program for military purposes: avoidance of actual deployment in outer space of any spaceborne weapons of mass destruction so long as the USSR refrains from deploying such weapons. We conclude that the United States should continue to favor and to seek a tacit or negotiated arms control agreement banning the placing of weapons of mass destruction into orbit.
While we recognize that technological and political conditions change over time, as viewed from the perspective of 1963 we see the situation in the 1960’s and 1970’s as warranting this policy. This approach [Page 52] should not be regarded as binding one hand behind our back, but as an effort to prevent, if possible, extension of military competition into a new dimension which has new risks and costs and which we would do well to avoid. Of course, the choice may not be ours—but it may. We should actively pursue research and, as necessary, developmental work on possible weapons systems. Also, if we were to develop a new weapons system requiring placement in space of weapons of mass destruction which promised to alter the military situation radically in our favor—although we do not now foresee such a development—and even assuming we were confident the Soviets did not have it, the question whether to deploy it should of course be posed, so long as there were no binding international agreement prohibiting it.
Clearly, the United States must also consider the possible effects of any introduction of non-nuclear spaceborne weapons on stimulating or justifying Soviet initiation of the deployment of nuclear weapons in space. We favor retaining the option of deploying spaceborne non-nuclear anti-missile or anti-satellite systems that may be developed, but decision on their stationing in space should include consideration of the effect of such action on our efforts to prevent extension of a nuclear arms race into outer space.
There may be a substantial change of pace and emphasis of over-all U.S. outer space activity during the 1970’s. Such a change may begin shortly after a manned lunar landing. The novelty of space will have passed away, but there will be new challenges in space. We will have redressed our present inferiority in space boosters, and our program will be less dependent on reacting to a Soviet lead, particularly if we first achieve a lunar landing. There is no question that we are in space to stay, and in a large way. However, a change of pace could occur and could apply to the character and to the 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.
The nature of outer space activities, and of the international context in which they will develop, poses the prospect of increased international interdependence in this field. The United States should regard this prospect as an opportunity and seek international cooperation in space and space-related activities not only from the point of view of gaining such foreign support as our program may require, but also from the standpoint of the broader foreign policy objectives which can be served. The character of this cooperation will, however, change in the following significant respects: [Page 53]
There will be an increasing need for 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, and the United States should encourage this development.
We will have to take account of active and increasingly sophisticated 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 multilateral programs as opposed to purely national or bilateral 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 careful further study.
Outer space developments tend to accentuate, rather than mitigate, the differences between the industrial countries on the one hand and developing countries on the other. There may be an increasing reaction in the economically underdeveloped countries against great expenses in space exploration while millions on earth barely subsist. The United States should therefore continue to be responsive to the desire for international participation in some outer space programs.
It is possible that by or during the 1970’s some disarmament and/or U.N. peacekeeping arrangements will come to use spaceborne observation. The U.S. should consider possible ways of facilitating such international uses of observation satellites without jeopardizing essential unilateral capabilities.
The United States should consider the desirability, and feasibility, of proposing or accepting a joint US–USSR major space effort on the order of magnitude of a lunar landing in lieu of a competitive race in the 1970’s. An evaluation should be made of the long-run political potential for altering the US–USSR relationship by such a dramatic development. In this connection, even a joint effort to make a lunar landing should not be excluded. This evaluation would, of course, have to take into account the fact that political assets accruing to the United States in the event of our making the first lunar landing would be sizeable, and that formidable and possibly prohibitive technical problems would be involved in a joint effort.

[Here follow Part III: Space Weapons, Part IV: Options and Threats in the Space Age, and Annex A: Terms of Reference.]

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Central Files, 1964–66, SP 1 US. Secret. The 20 Committee members were drawn from international departments and agencies including the Department of State, NASA, ACDA, OST, the CIA, the Department of Defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The paper was reviewed by Walt Rostow and the Policy Planning Group. In the preface, Rostow called this report “a pioneering study, the first to relate the scientific-technical intelligence and political factors involved in our future space policy relating to national security problems.” (p. iii)