64. Memorandum NSCU/DM–39D from the Chairman of the National Security Council Under Secretaries Committee (Ingersoll) to President Ford 1 2


  • United States Policy and Program for Antarctica

As requested on September 30, the Under Secretaries Committee, with the assistance of the Antarctic Policy Group, has reviewed U.S. political, economic (including resource), national security, and scientific objectives in Antarctica and has considered appropriate program levels and management arrangements to attain their achievement. This memorandum presents the results of the review, together with options and agency comments. A more detailed report is enclosed.

U.S. policy to maintain an “active and influential” presence in Antarctica was adopted in NSDM 71 and affirmed in NSDM 263 (annexed to the report). This policy remains valid today.


All agencies involved in the current review concur that probable future developments in the Antarctic require that an “active and influential” presence be sustained if U.S. interests are not to be seriously harmed.

The following principal findings have resulted from this review: [Page 2]

The Antarctic Treaty has admirably served U.S. political, scientific, environmental and security interests in the Antarctic region. The framework of the Treaty can protect our growing interests in potential resources in the area through the establishment of a satisfactory new resource regime. The Treaty Parties, various other countries in the United Nations and U.S. and foreign industry and environmental groups have shown an increasing interest in Antarctic resources and the consequences of their possible exploration and exploitation. Their efforts to influence an Antarctic resource regime will place increasing strains on the Treaty system. The strength of the Treaty will be directly related to the level of the U.S. presence in Antarctica and thus to the leadership role of the U.S. among Treaty nations.
The U.S. negotiating position in discussions with other Antarctic Treaty Parties on an international Antarctic resource regime, which are expected to begin in the near future, will be seriously eroded if the level of U.S. activity, and corresponding U.S. presence and influence, declines appreciably. Our ability to continue to resist territorial claims in Antarctica, and therefore guarantee our access to any resources, could also be impaired.
The Soviet Union has increased its Antarctic activity and thus its role in Antarctic affairs and will, if present trends continue, replace the U.S. as the preeminent nation on the Continent.
The Antarctic Treaty prohibits measures of a military nature, weapons tests, and nuclear explosions in Antarctica, except that military personnel and equipment can be used to support scientific research. The Treaty allows inspection to verify compliance with the disarmament aspects of the Treaty. The United States conducts inspections on a regular basis. This right is an important precedent, and its exercise requires the continued logistical capability to reach all foreign stations in the Antarctic.
Military logistic support of our Antarctic effort, which is permitted by the Antarctic Treaty, provides unparalleled flexibility of operations in Antarctica and underscores the importance the U.S. attaches to the Antarctic. It is desirable that the military continue to provide support for the U.S. Antarctic Program.
At present, scientific research continues to be the principal expression of U.S. interest in Antarctica. Two coastal stations and two inland stations, one of which is located at the South Pole, are now utilized for the United States Antarctic Research Program. The extent and location of research activities, including the siting of a station at the South Pole, are determined not only by scientific considerations but also by juridical and political considerations to protect and advance the totality of U.S. interests in Antarctica.
If current funding levels are not effectively increased, rising program costs will force a diminution of U.S. activity in Antarctica.
Present budget and management arrangements are unsatisfactory and have led to increasing difficulties between the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Defense (DOD) which can result in reduced U.S. activity in Antarctica.
If funding levels are such as to require the U.S. to withdraw from the South Pole and other inland stations, there would be an inducement for others, particularly the Soviet Union, to occupy the prestigious South Pole location, perhaps even utilizing some of the U.S. facilities.

Levels of Activity and Funding

Five options have been examined on levels of activity in Antarctica ranging in costs from Level I - $3.5 million (Token Presence) to Level V - $60 million (Leading Presence). Level III - $45 million (Active Presence) equates with the average level of U.S. activity during the past five years.

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All agencies agree that the U.S. should maintain a presence at least at the present Level III. This allows a continued “active and influential” presence, including U.S. operation of the South Pole station. The Department of the Interior and the Federal Energy Administration believe that the U.S. level of activity in Antarctica should be increased because while some resource assessment and environmental appraisal can be conducted at Level III, significant resource assessment and environmental appraisal could take place only at the higher Levels.

If Level I ($3.5 million) is selected as the appropriate level of U.S. activity in Antarctica, administration and funding problems will be inconsequential since activity will be minimal, and no further decision is required. Under Level II ($23.5 million) Department of Defense (DOD) involvement would not be so significant as to require decisions clarifying administrative and budgetary arrangements. Should it be concluded that either Level III ($45 million, IV ($53 million), or V ($60 million) is appropriate to protect and advance U.S. interests, decisions with respect to management and funding problems are required.

Management Options

With respect to management options, alternative arrangements, including those set forth in the 1970 NSC Under Secretaries Committee study, have been considered. The following three options represent the alternatives at this time:

Option 1. National Science Foundation (NSF) would be assigned the sole responsibility to manage and budget for all U.S. Antarctic logistical and scientific activities, and for overall national program management. Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of Transportation (DOT) would provide requested support on a cost reimbursable basis and assure the continuing availability of essential components and the ability to augment them.

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This option closely correlates to the present arrangement. Several problems that are at the core of the current management and budget dilemma, which in turn was the genesis of this review, would remain. They are: a) the size of the Antarctic Program costs in relation to the basic science mission and total budget of the NSF; b) the requirement for a small civilian agency to justify the budget for operational Navy units; and c) the separation of responsibility to provide funding from the authority to exercise control over operations and safety. Successful implementation of this option might require a separate appropriation from Congress, and would require a revision of previous decisions on management arrangements.

Option 2. DOD and DOT would be responsible for funding and management of respective logistic support components and operations while NSF would be responsible for funding and managing the science program.

Under this option, DOT would fund and manage all icebreaker support and associated operations as identified. DOD would have the assigned mission to provide and to manage and budget for all other logistics. NSF would have similar responsibility for science.

Each agency’s assigned mission responsibility would be reflected in appropriate budget line items requiring corresponding management and cost justification. Overall program management would be jointly conducted by a subgroup of the Antarctic Policy Group made up of representatives of the three assigned agencies.

Option 3. NSF would be responsible for funding and managing the science program and NSF would be required to fund and manage a portion of the logistic support. DOT would be responsible for funding and managing icebreaker support and associated operations as identified. DOD would have the assigned mission for the remainder. Suboptions are:

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Suboption A - NSF would fund all costs for operation of DOD units while deployed in the Antarctic Program, and DOD would fund all other costs except those assigned to DOT.

This suboption is a logical division of the program in that DOD would determine all criteria for manning levels, training, and operations of DOD units while not deployed to Antarctica.

Suboption B - NSF would reimburse DOD for logistics directly in support of specific scientific projects.

This suboption would tie NSF reimbursement only to logistic costs directly in support of specific scientific projects.

Suboption C - NSF would reimburse DOD for all costs by the Naval Support Force, Antarctica, and DOD would fully fund all operations and training by the air support squadron.

This suboption offers an organizational division that is consonant with the full-time management of Antarctic program functions performed by the staff of the Naval Support Force.

The Office of Management and Budget has suggested a different possible breakdown than the foregoing in which DOD would fund all personnel costs for the DOD units providing Antarctic support and NSF would reimburse DOD for all other logistic support costs. This would allow full DOD control of personnel and manning levels on a year-round basis.

Because the line dividing costs in any of the suboptions under Option 3 cannot be clear and unambiguous, selection of Option 3 would require an additional elaboration by OMB of the precise definition of the costs chargeable to NSF, DOD, and DOT.

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All agencies commenting on this review emphasize that the continuance of an “active and influential” U.S. presence in Antarctica is essential to our coping with the problems on the horizon with respect to eventual negotiation of a new international regime for Antarctic mineral resource exploitation and the fulfillment of all our other objectives in the Antarctic.

With regard to the levels of activity, the Federal Energy Administration recommends funding at Level IV ($53 million) or V ($60 million), and in no case a reduction in funding. The Departments of Interior and Commerce recommend funding at Level IV ($53 million). These recommendations are based on the improved assessment of living and non-living resources and environmental appraisal that would ensue. The Departments of Treasury and State and the National Science Foundation recommend effective funding for operations at Level III ($45 million), the present level of activity in Antarctica, although the latter two express a preference, if budget constraints were lifted, for Level IV ($53 million) to enable more rapid and effective resources assessment and environmental appraisal.

The Department of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff select no specific level but state that there should be assurance that the annual budget for NSF will be adequate to fund the increasing cost of logistic support operations in the Antarctic, i.e., in effect Level III ($45 million).

Agency Comment on Management Options

Agencies commenting on alternative management arrangements are the Departments of State, Defense and Interior, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the National Science Foundation.

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NSF believes that overall U.S. interests are best served by Option 3A, which would provide for NSF funding of all DOD costs for units while deployed to Antarctica and DOD funding of all other costs not assigned to DOT. NSF asserts that the assignment of mission responsibility to the DOD and DOT would assure the continuing capability for polar support operations as a national asset. NSF further believes that a civilian agency should not have full budgeting responsibility for military units on a year-round basis.

The Department of Defense and JCS recommend Option 1, single agency responsibility assigned to NSF, but with modification to allow the use of either government or commercial sources for logistic support. This is in essence the status quo. They argue that Option 1, as modified, is consistent with the management arrangements emerging from NSDM 71, i.e., the establishment of the National Science Foundation as the principal agency to oversee, budget for and manage U.S. interests in Antarctica, and to reimburse other agencies for required logistic support. Single agency funding, even by a small civilian agency, and the exercise of operational responsibility over military support units are not seen as an anomaly, and they believe that a separate Congressional appropriation would not necessarily be required.

A sudden shift of budget responsibility away from NSF, in their view, could provoke concern among other nations that the U.S. is looking at the Antarctic from other than scientific considerations, particularly since the resource question is currently placing strain on the Antarctic Treaty itself. They feel that greater budgeting within DOD could also place a military implication on the subject.

Furthermore, in the view of DOD and the JCS, DOD budgeting limitations now impact adversely on all aspects of defense operations from weapons procurement to maintenance and training. Funds in DOD for the Antarctic Program which in total can be conservatively predicted to reach a dimension [Page 9] of almost $250 million for a five year period, would not survive within the DOD budget in competition with critical and sometimes urgent national defense requirements.

DOD and JCS also cite Congressional desires and intent that DOD funding be restricted to requirements clearly related to national defense, and that in a letter to the Secretary of Defense, the Antarctic program has been specifically described by the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee as being outside such requirements. They add that materiel and equipment assigned to the Navy’s Antarctic support force are currently provided in response to NSDM 71 direction, and without such assigned responsibility, those assets would be removed from the DOD inventory since cold weather training and research necessary to DOD is accomplished in the Arctic.

The Department of Defense and the JCS sum up their support for Option 1 on the basis that it is: (a) most compatible with sound management procedures and consistent with other management arrangements within the government, (b) capable of insuring, through the provisions of the Antarctic Treaty, that U.S. national interests in resource exploration and exploitation are protected in a time of emerging interest in the Antarctic, (c) in keeping with military constraints of the treaty which require that the area remain militarily benign, (d) one that will allow DOD to carry out its commitment for the national defense without competition from a program unrelated to those defense requirements and (e) conversely, will allow the Antarctic program to be identified as a separate claimant for funds within the scientific community, (f) would avoid the presentation of undesirable signals to our Antarctic Treaty partners were funding suddenly shifted to the DOD and (g) would, consistent with normal military practices, permit the usual military management and inspection procedures of military assets.

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The Department of the Interior points out that the scope of the management options was limited to the narrow question of responsibilities as related to budget questions and fails to take adequately into account resource and environmental appraisal needs. Interior proposes Option 2, DOD, DOT, and NSF each funding its respective component of the Antarctic Program, as an interim measure while further consideration is given to the establishment of an Antarctic Program Management Commission to establish policies and priorities for the Antarctic Program consistent with NSDM 263. In this connection it should be pointed out that the commission concept was examined and rejected in the last full review of Antarctic Policy and Programs by the NSC Under Secretaries Committee in 1970 since the Antarctic Policy Group already served that purpose.

The Department of State notes that several management options could be harmful to U.S. objectives in Antarctica or with regard to bilateral science programs. Option 1, total funding by NSF at a time of rising costs, could force NSF unilaterally to reduce activity in Antarctica in order not to jeopardize other important international and domestic science programs unless its total budget is increased. Option 3, logistical cost sharing, is thought to create the same dilemma. State suggests a separate appropriation or appropriations to ensure adequate funding for the Antarctic activity which could not be diverted to other programs.

Chairman’s Comment

As Chairman of the Under Secretaries Committee, I agree with the view of the interested agencies that it would be seriously disadvantageous to reduce the level of our presence and activities in Antarctica. To do so would risk injecting a high degree of instability in the situation as other countries, including the Soviet Union, moved to fill the vacuum. Such a reduction would also seriously undercut our leverage in future negotiations. I am sympathetic with the view of certain of the agencies that our long-term interests would probably be best preserved by moving toward a higher level of activity. However, if budgetary constraints [Page 11] preclude this, then we should at least maintain the present level.

The effort required to maintain our activities in Antarctica does not fit neatly into the responsibilities of any single agency, and this review has disclosed, in particular, disagreement between the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense on how this effort should be funded. Without recommending for or against the position of either agency, I wish to emphasize that our broad national interests in Antarctica go well beyond the normal range of responsibilities of the National Science Foundation. Consequently, I believe that any resolution of the funding problem should be based on the premise that this effort should not be conducted at the expense of other programs of the National Science Foundation. Moreover, because our long-term interests in Antarctica are substantial, the funding of our activities there should not be regarded as available for other purposes, regardless of whether the funds are provided to a single agency or several agencies.

If present funding difficulties can be resolved on the foregoing basis, the Antarctic Policy Group can, I believe, contribute to resolving problems of interagency coordination which may arise as well as to the further development of our policy on Antarctica.

Robert S. Ingersoll
  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 53, NSDM 263, U.S. policy on Antarctic resources (4). Confidential. Forwarded on November 30 by Gathright to the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, the Director of Central Intelligence, the Director of the National Science Foundation, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Administrator of the Federal Energy Administration, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, and the Secretaries of the Interior, Commerce, and Transportation. The attachment was not found.
  2. The memorandum recommended an “active and influential” policy toward Antarctica, taking into account U.S. political, economic, security, and scientific interests.