368. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Eliot) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • French Proposal to Manufacture Integrated Circuits in Poland

In my memorandum of December 8, 1970,2 I reported that discussions had been held with the French about their proposal to transfer equipment and technology to Poland for the manufacture of integrated circuits and that United States experts would conduct an on-site inspection of the production line in question. The technical evaluation of the French production line prepared by Mr. Howard H. Steenbergen, Electronics Engineer at the USAF Avionics Laboratory, is attached.3

The report confirms the French assertion made during the Washington talks that separate production lines are operated for civilian and military integrated circuits. The major differences in the circuits produced on the two lines are described as follows: the military version uses ultrasonic aluminum wire bonding whereas the commercial version uses gold wire bonding (without tight production controls gold wire bonding may be less resistant to high temperatures), and the civilian version is encased in plastic whereas the military version is in a metal package. The report does not mention that the military circuits are required to meet broader temperature tolerances and in some cases have different switching characteristics (these differences were cited by French engineers at the plant and are also given in the firm’s product catalogs).

While there has been no testing of finished integrated circuits from the French production line to determine how many would meet U.S. military specifications, the report states that since the production equipment and techniques are comparable to U.S. production facilities a significant portion of the French output from their commercial line would be expected to meet the requirements for advanced computers and certain military applications including missiles. On the other hand, the French maintain that circuits from their commercial line are unacceptable to French military purchasers. (The five circuits to be sold to Poland are all produced on the commercial line.)

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In discussing this report with Mr. Steenbergen, he stressed that it deals solely with the integrated circuit portion of the large Franco/Polish electronics project. He agreed that the additional security risk resulting from the sale to Poland of the integrated circuit technology and machinery, given that silicon transistor technology and machinery has already been sold to the Poles, would be small. He bases this conclusion on the following: 1) the planar technology for producing integrated circuits is essentially the same as that required to produce silicon transistors, 2) the only additional manufacturing equipment required is sorting and testing machinery, and 3) the French will supply from France the masks required for integrated circuit manufacture rather than supply the technology and machinery to produce the masks.

We have summarized in an attachment the various technical considerations in this case as we see them.4 As indicated, the precedent-making aspects cause us some concern. On the other hand, we do not believe that the Steenbergen report supports a conclusion that major strategic risk would be incurred if this sale goes through. The French can be expected to press in the strongest way for our concurrence. They will reiterate the importance of the Polish project to the French economy and stress that the project has taken on a new significance in light of the recent political developments in Poland. In the circumstances, we recommend the lifting of our objection to this transaction which was registered in COCOM last October.5

James Carson 6
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Country Files-Europe, Box 677, France, Volume VII 10/70-3/71.
  2. Document 367.
  3. Not found.
  4. Not found.
  5. See Document 366.
  6. Carson signed for Eliot above Eliot’s typed signature.