195. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Ford 1


  • Project MATADOR

With justifiable pride the intelligence community climaxed a six-year effort last year by lifting from the ocean floor in the Pacific a Soviet submarine which sank there in 1968. This unique accomplishment was marred when a [less than 1 line not declassified] portion of the target broke away and fell to the ocean floor.

Because the United States Intelligence Board (USIB) rated the intelligence potential so highly, and because of the sizeable investment ($250 million to date), a review of whether to make a second recovery attempt during the next weather window in July–August 1975 was ordered. [less than 1 line not declassified] and a portion of the hull [1 line not declassified] has been identified as a priority target.

The USIB has reaffirmed its view that the equipment aboard the target is of “unique intelligence potential” and its estimate of the overall gain from a successful recovery has not “measurably” changed. Cover and security for this operation have been remarkably maintained, but there are obvious risks in extending the operation for sev[Page 896]eral more months. The Soviets showed routine interest in the first recovery operation, but gave no indication of any suspicion of our real purpose.

Preparations for a second operation are under way. The equipment that broke during the lifting of the heavy target is being redesigned. An estimated $25,576,000 has been committed, and $36,424,000 more will be required to complete a second operation. These funds are available through reprogramming; no new funds are necessary.

The 40 Committee met on 22 January2 to review plans for the second recovery attempt. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Mr. Joseph Sisco raised several objections to continuing the operation. He questions whether recovery of [less than 1 line not declassified] offers sufficient return to warrant the expenditure; he believes risks are greater and that a return to the exact spot of ocean will feed Soviet suspicion; and that new uncertainties in U.S.-Soviet relations add to the substantial political risks should there be a Soviet reaction.

All the other 40 Committee members (and Secretary of Defense Schlesinger) favor making a second recovery attempt. The USIB has confirmed the intelligence value [less than 1 line not declassified] and we’ve already spent nearly half of what the second recovery attempt will cost. All admit that it will be a challenge to maintain security and cover, but our success in doing so augers well. The deep ocean mining cover story has been accepted widely and the Soviets did not show any undue suspicion during the first operation, therefore it is reasonable to expect that they will accept a return to the site as what it will appear to be—a second deep ocean mining trial.

The consensus is that the potential intelligence return from a successful second mission would be significant enough to accept the cost, cover/security and other risks.


That you approve preparations for a second MATADOR mission.3

  1. Source: National Security Council Files, Ford Administration Intelligence Files, MATADOR, 1975. Top Secret; [codeword not declassified]; MATADOR. Outside the system. Sent for action. Ratliff forwarded the memorandum to Kissinger under a covering memorandum, January 28, with the recommendation that he sign it.
  2. See Document 194.
  3. Ford initialed his approval on February 6.