77. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for Telecommunications (O’Connell) to President Johnson1


  • Suggestion by Ambassador Korry for Assistance to African Nations with Communications by Satellite

Ways and means for the provision of early communications service to African nations have been studied in conjunction with Mr. Bundy’s staff, State Department, AID, FCC,NASA, and the Communications Satellite Corporation.2 Alternatives studied were:

Provision of a U.S. Government-owned experimental-operational satellite with an offer of earth station financing by the U.S. Government to African nations;
The early provision by the International ComSat Consortium of suitable additional satellites with the U.S. Government financing aid, if needed, to those African nations, initially Ethiopia and Nigeria, which can be furnished assistance without raising serious international problems.

The consensus strongly favors alternative b above for the following reasons:

  • —Much lower costs to the United States.
  • —The NASA Apollo Program communications service negotiations with ComSat Corporation (the International Consortium) will provide required satellite capacity by September/October 1966.
  • —Conflict with European nations having communications interests and investments in African nations can be avoided in nation-by-nation negotiation.
  • —Instead of competing with the International Consortium it can be supported and its expansion expedited.
  • —The U.S. Government can avoid competition with financial interests already negotiating with African nations. Nigeria, soon to become a member of the Consortium, reportedly has allocated five million dollars for an earth station.
  • —The orderly negotiation for regional groupings of African nations can be furthered rather than obstructed.
  • —Satellite service can be initiated to some African nations sooner than in any other way.

Without promising any U.S. assistance, the State Department has encouraged Ethiopia and Nigeria to consider early establishment of earth stations. No direct U.S. financial aid is presently expected. If these two nations were to request total U.S. financing, the estimated cost is $14,000,000 over three years.

I am coordinating actions of U.S. agencies and ComSat Corporation in determining the potential contribution of satellites to communication requirements of other developing nations, including those in Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Latin America.

J.D. O’Connell
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Subject File, Communications (Nat’l Comm. System, COMSAT, etc.), Vol. 1 [2 of 2], Box 6. Secret. Copies were sent to Moyers, Valenti, Bundy, Watson, and Califano.
  2. Department of State views are in an October 3 memorandum from Loy to O’Connell. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Central Files, 1964–66, TEL 6)