64. Memorandum From the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Vance) to President Johnson 1


  • Procurement of Satellite Communications Services for the National Communications System from the Communications Satellite Corporation

The discussions under way to explore whether it would be feasible for the Communications Satellite Corporation to provide satellite communications services for the NCS,2 using the Government’s transportable and fixed ground terminals, through the global system the Corporation will deploy have resulted in a Memorandum of Understanding covering these services (Tab 1).3 The Corporation’s Board of Directors and management favor entering into the arrangement. They believe that it must also be acceptable to the communications common carriers and the key European countries interested in investing in the global system. Discussions with these parties and appropriate Congressional Committees are in process.

The terms of the Memorandum are substantially agreed upon. An outstanding question with respect to frequency allocation is still being resolved. The Memorandum makes provision for adequate satellite services to be supplied for the NCS if it should develop that the global [Page 125] system the Corporation decides to deploy is not suitable for the Government’s needs.

Inasmuch as the Memorandum of Understanding deals with the satellite circuits required for the entire NCS, it would be preferable that the Memorandum be executed by the Secretary of Defense as Executive Agent for the NCS. This would permit the arrangements for the Government’s procurement of such services to be integrated with anticipated arrangements for the participation of other governments in the global system which may result from discussions being carried on with foreign governments by the Corporation and the Department of State. Accordingly, I have prepared for your approval Tab 2 which would authorize the Secretary of Defense, as Executive Agent for the NCS, to sign the Memorandum of Understanding on behalf of the Government. Previous directives are not explicit in giving this power to the Secretary of Defense. The Ad Hoc Committee Group on Satellite Communications concurs in this course of action.

Cyrus Vance
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Subject File, Communications (Nat’l Communications Systems, COMSAT, etc.), Vol. 1 [2 of 2]. Confidential.
  2. NSAM No. 252, July 11, 1963, called for the establishment of a National Communications System by linking together the facilities of various federal agencies. The objective of the system “will be to provide necessary communications for the Federal Government under all conditions ranging from a normal situation to national emergencies and international crises, including nuclear attack.” (Ibid.)
  3. Neither tab was attached.