72. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for Telecommunications (O’Connell) to the President’s Special Assistant (Watson)1


  • Policy Concerning U.S. Assistance in the Development of Foreign Communications Satellite Capabilities

Activities and controversies by and among (primarily European) members of the International Communications Satellite Consortium have provided evidence to indicate:

Dissatisfaction of the European entities with the dominant role of the U.S. and the Communications Satellite Corporation in the managing of the operation.2
A desire to build their national capabilities in the communications satellite field by requesting direct assistance from U.S. Government agencies and U.S. manufacturing firms having know-how in this field instead of obtaining this know-how through the International Consortium as specified in international agreements.
One U.S. firm has proposed to the United Kingdom the activation of a U.K. system to be operational before the Consortium system becomes operational. This and other firms have been promoting foreign satellite communications activity which could tend to proliferate development of competitive systems and violate the spirit and letter of the agreements establishing interim arrangements for a global commercial communications satellite system.

Because of these trends action was initiated by this office in January 1965 to:

Coordinate the formulation of a U.S. National Policy Statement to cope with the developing situation.
Make all interested U.S. Government agencies aware of the situation.
Moderate the over-aggressive activities of certain U.S. firms to better serve the U.S. overall national interests.

These actions have to a considerable extent moderated a situation which was becoming increasingly confused and embarrassing to the U.S. and the Communications Satellite Corporation.

The coordinated policy paper, after prolonged negotiation among the departments and agencies of the Executive Branch, is now in a final form and ready for formal concurrences by the departments and agencies prior to submission to the President for approval. A copy is attached for your information.3 As soon as the global commercial communications satellite system is established and providing service some of the provisions of this policy will have less significance. At that time revision to relax these provisions should be initiated promptly.

J.D. O’Connell
  1. Source: Johnson Library, White House Central Files, FG 806 COMSAT CORP. Confidential.
  2. On April 23, officials from eight Western European Embassies met with Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs Solomon to voice their displeasure. Led by the Swiss, the Belgians, Danes, French, West Germans, Dutch, Norwegians, and Swedes pressed the United States for changes in COMSAT’s administration. Three days later, Richard Faber, First Secretary of the British Embassy, told Deputy Assistant Secretary Richard Gardner that the British position was not as extreme and that the United Kingdom would help mediate the dispute. (Memorandum of conversation, April 27; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Central Files, 1964–66, TEL 6)
  3. Not attached; the formal concurrence copy is in the Johnson Library, White House Central Files, FG 806, COMSAT CORP. See Document 73 for the final, revised version.