65. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to President Ford1 2


  • U.S. Policy for Antarctica

The U.S. policy toward Antarctica has been to maintain an active and influential presence, in keeping with our present and future scientific, economic (including resource potential), political, and security interests. The responsibility for maintaining such a presence is assigned to the National Science Foundation, which has a major scientific interest in Antarctica. The Navy provides most of the logistical support (Tab D).

Concern about increasing logistics costs charged by the Department of Defense for support of the U.S. Antarctic Research Program led the Foundation to request a review of the scope of that program and its funding requirements, including logistics costs.

The Under Secretaries Committee (USC) has examined this issue and has submitted a study (Tab B) of the rationale for the U.S. Antarctic program and of the funding and management alternatives for that program.

Findings of the USC Study

The principal finding of the USC study, in which all agencies involved in the review concur, is 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.

This finding is based on the following conclusions:

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 international resource regime. However, 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.
Our ability to continue to resist territorial claims in Antarctica, and therefore guarantee our access to any resources, could be impaired if U.S. presence in Antarctica declines appreciably.
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.
Cost allocation and management differences 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 abandoned U.S. facilities.

The study also notes that, at present, scientific research continues to be the principal expression of U.S. interest in Antarctica. 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. Further, the 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.

All agencies agree that the U.S. should maintain a presence at least at the present level. 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 we should even consider increasing the U.S. level of activity in Antarctica so that a broader resource assessment and environmental appraisal could be carried out.

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Developments since the USC Study

The 1977 budget of the NSF now includes an increase for the Antarctic program from $33 million in 1976 to $45 million. This will cover virtually all Defense logistics costs plus reimbursement to the Department of Transportation for Coast Guard ice-breaker costs (a reimbursement now required by the Congress—see Tab E).

This increase in 1977 will take care of the Foundation’s major concern about having to absorb higher charges levied by the Department of Defense against the Antarctic program. It will also provide for continuing the present level of U.S. scientific activity in the Antarctic, sufficient to meet our national objectives in that area as well as generally satisfying the growing interest of other agencies.

Based on this favorable resolution of the 1977 funding level, the Director of the NSF recommends that the Foundation continue the overall management and budgetary responsibilities for the entire U.S. Antarctic Program, with the understanding that funds for the Program are not competed against the NSF’s science and education programs (Tab C). This proposal, and certain other stipulations regarding logistic arrangements, are agreeable to all agencies, and are embodied in the decision memorandum at Tab A.

OMB concurs.


That you approve my signing the decision memorandum at Tab A.

APPROVE [GRF initialed] DISAPPROVE __________

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential File of NSC Logged Documents, Box 28, 7507950, U.S. Policy for Antarctica. Confidential. Sent for action. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it. Ford approved the recommendation. Tab A is published as Document 66. Tab B is published as Document 64. Tabs C, D, and E have not been found.
  2. The President approved continued Department of Defense expenditures for logistical support of National Science Foundation activities in Antarctica.