383. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Inter-Agency Task Force To Review the COCOM System (Armstrong) to the Chairman of the National Security Council Under Secretaries Committee (Irwin)1
REVIEW OF THE COCOM SYSTEM (NSDM 159, PARA. 4)
I am submitting herewith the report on this subject requested in the memorandum of the Chairman of the Under Secretaries Committee dated May 22, 1972.2
The study has been completed in the immediate aftermath of a major COCOM List Review.3 It has also been conducted within the environment of our changing economic and political relationships with the countries of East Europe—notably the U.S.-Soviet agreements on lend-lease, trade, and shipping, as well as improving economic relations with Poland, Hungary and other Eastern European countries. This process of regularization is drawing our East-West commercial policy more within our overall economic foreign policy with strong emphasis on export promotion.
In conducting the work of the Task Force, I have found that there is general agreement on the need for an effective strategic embargo and on the continued value of COCOM as an essential part of such a program. No one has suggested either the withdrawal of U.S. support for COCOM or, at the other extreme, any sharp increase in the scope of the COCOM embargo program. All have agreed that there have been problems in maintaining the cooperation of the COCOM members in a relatively tight COCOM system. There has been general agreement on a number of steps, both within the U.S. Government and in COCOM itself, that would be helpful in making the system function somewhat more smoothly.
Despite this considerable area of agreement, however, our discussions have reflected differences in evaluating the weight or priority that should be accorded to the U.S. effort in COCOM in relation to other elements [Page 960] in our national policies, both foreign and domestic. Other U.S. objectives in our political or economic programs, or compulsions that may flow from important international developments, may and indeed do compete with the objective of maintaining a strong COCOM system. When this happens, compromises may be necessary.
It is clear from our discussions in the Task Force that the way different agencies would determine the kind of adjustment that should be made grows out of their evaluation of the relevant assumptions in the light of their primary responsibilities.
One of the options reflects this aspect of our discussions, in suggesting a higher priority effort in COCOM based on evaluations of its high importance and low cost in terms of impact on competing programs. This option, espoused by Defense and supported by Defense comments at various points in the study, asserted a greater need for new basic guidelines, a more pessimistic view of the future of strategic controls without a major U.S. effort, and a higher appreciation of the past accomplishments of COCOM than the other members seem prepared to support.
Since the agency views have been so fully developed in connection with the drafting of the report, I hope it will be possible to obtain agency positions without holding a meeting.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, S/S Files: Lot 81 D 309, NSC-U/SM 109C. Confidential. Drafted by R.B. Wright (EB/ITP/EWT). An attached November 24 memorandum from Acting Staff Director Seymour Weiss to members of the Task Force requested comments on the paper attached to this memorandum. Also attached is a draft memorandum to the President. For the revised memorandum based on comments received pursuant to Weiss’ November 24 memorandum, see Document 387.↩
- See Document 382.↩
- Not further identified.↩
- The title page, which is not printed, carries a Secret classification marking, but all the pages in the Summary are marked Confidential. The entire study comprises 106 pages, including a 3-page prefatory table of contents and a 4-page appendix with examples of Chinese acquisitions of COCOM-controlled items from Japan. Only the Summary, pages 1–10, is printed here.↩
- Defense notes that it is easy to exaggerate the importance of these discontents for the fact is that quarrels and disputes which loom large within the relatively narrow confines of the COCOM system do not appear to have any appreciable effect on our larger relationships with the countries involved. [Footnote in the source text.]↩
- This section of the paper is not printed.↩
- Regarding this incomplete sentence, see footnote 3, Document 385.↩