290. Memorandum From Harry Blaney of the Policy Planning Staff to the Deputy Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Kreisberg)1


  • Checklist of our Global Challenges

Per your request you will find below a brief summary of some of the key global issues we need to face in the next two or three years. I thought something more than a heading was required but tried to keep the description brief. Even so, to do justice to any of these subjects would require a major paper. Wreath and Sandy2 have contributed their ideas to this paper in areas of their special expertise. I suggest a meeting sometime to examine these issues with the concerned members.


This is a very broad area which has been seriously neglected by this Department with little or no supervision or oversight by our principals. The main areas needing attention and increased leadership include:

(1) Marine Pollution: Our oceans are becoming more and more polluted with oil, organic matter and toxic wastes to a point in which their ecological function may be threatened. We are actively working unilaterally and multilaterally to reduce pollution (mostly oil) from ships. There are a number of important initiatives which will require effective followup, including President Carter’s Marine Pollution Package.3 Yet more than 80% of the pollution in the oceans comes from landbased sources and this is the most difficult area to deal with. The problem is that we have not even started to focus on this problem or propose ameliorative programs. Finally, despite efforts to establish, by UNEP, a global marine pollution monitoring system, we still have not received any meaningful data and this important program is languishing. One idea [Page 962] would be to have an international conference focusing on specific marine pollution problems after LOS.

(2) Upper Atmosphere Pollution: This is an area affecting weather, climatic changes (and impact on food production) and our ozone layer. Pollution comes from a variety of sources—most serious is energy. In addition, the release of fluorocarbons and other chemicals has caused serious depletion of the ozone layer with possible health consequences. Again, UNEP is supposed to monitor this problem but little has come out of this effort and almost nothing has been done about it except some efforts to exchange information. A comprehensive look at this problem and a concerted USG global strategy for dealing with it is necessary. Finally, our knowledge of this area is so incomplete, for example, that we are not certain whether the globe will become warmer or colder over the next century or so. There is room for major initiatives by the US in these fields.

(3) Toxic Substances: There has been a constant stream of new and old toxic substances into the world environment with little understanding or control by governmental bodies, national or international. The potential of major disaster exists. Among the toxic substances that are building up are various pesticides, including DDT, arsenic, cadmium and lead. There has been some international discussion of this problem and the nominal establishment of an International Registry of Potentially Toxic Chemicals under UNEP, but we still do not have a comprehensive, long-term policy or strategy. Clearly, one start would be to establish effective export/import regulations for these substances and another would be to pinpoint major users and producers of these products and develop better ways to control their release into the open environment. Since many of these chemicals originate in developed countries initially, the OECD or ECE might be a forum to start the process of developing international minimum standards for the release of these substances.

(4) Urban Problems: Cities everywhere are “problem areas” in one form or another. New techniques and technology have been developed to solve many of these problems—some with notable success. However, this knowledge is not always widely shared. There exist a number of opportunities to utilize technology better to solve our urban needs. Establishing more effective mechanisms to do so should be one of our objectives.

(5) Conservation of Resources: The world is likely to experience serious scarcity of fresh water in a number of regions in the next decade or two. Further, deserts are expanding worldwide, including in this country. Generally, the world is experiencing soil degradation and the destruction of vast natural areas which protect the earth’s plants and animals and produce food for man. Despite international attention to [Page 963] these problems, little additional resources or strong leadership has been given to these problems. New long-term initiatives are needed to improve national capabilities for resource management, to monitor the problems and to apply new technology towards solving these interrelated problems. In particular, these problems have not been seen by our own decision-makers and assistance program managers in a unified way. Within State there is no focus for solving these problems. They also have political significance since conflict is likely between countries on the division of scarce water rights.

Broad environmental initiatives which the US could take include:

—Agreement on developing an international environmental impact statement for major and long-lasting changes in environmental quality with opportunity for review by countries affected.

—Upgrading our support for relevant international environmental bodies, including UNEP, NATO/CCMS, OECD, and IMCO.

—Major new effort to develop a global environmental assessment system which will report on the quality of the air, water, etc., and assess possible damages. Upgrading, where possible, should be made of existing efforts in this area such as the Global Atmospheric Research Program.

—An assessment of the extent, distribution and impact of contaminants in the world’s biological system.

—Worldwide evaluation of the marine environment including establishment of new or stricter discharge or release standards, including landbased.


The problem is well known, we shall go from four billion people now to six billion by 2000, mostly from the Third World. There will be serious food, environmental and social problems. Most of the problem focuses on about 10 to 15 key countries. We are not, however, concentrating our efforts on these countries. Further, AID and perhaps the USG, has not approached this major problem with serious high-level attention. We do not have good leadership. There are a number of initiatives we can take in this field including better integration of health, nutrition and family planning programs, greater use of local community support, development of new low cost family planning techniques acceptable to LDCs and a better development assistance program relevant to population growth factors (see our memo to Deputy Secretary on this topic.)4

[Page 964]

OES is now undertaking with CEQ a year-long study on world population, resource and environment factors in response to President Carter’s initiative.5 The main problems and key issues are known (innumerable such studies have been done.) In some cases, even the technical or scientific solutions are clear. The problems are leadership, resource allocation, economic priorities and managerial innovation. We should not await the outcome of this study, but proceed now to deal with these problems.

Natural Disasters

There exists a vast array of scientific knowledge and technology to deal with a range of natural disasters including earthquakes, floods and tidal waves. For example, we have considerable knowledge of earthquake prediction, but this knowledge still is not applied to many areas of high risk. Also, much more can be done in the fields of warning, communications, and relief using new technology. AID focuses on LDCs, IO on the UN Disaster Relief Organization, but no one is concerned with broad international cooperation, or short and medium term cooperation to develop and deploy new techniques to deal with the full range of natural disasters. (See draft memo of Sandy Vogelgesang on this subject.)6


There are so many areas for US action and so many problems it is hard to characterize all that needs to be done. One area certainly is the “management” of nuclear power around the world for non-proliferation, economic and environmental reasons. Increasingly, we will have to look for international “solutions”—i.e., international control over reprocessing, waste management, transportation and the full bag that comes under the term “safeguards”. One important initiative we have to examine is the potential global benefits of acceleration of solar energy research and development. A major crash program in this sector can provide a low-cost alternative to nuclear power and to increasingly high-cost imported oil especially for the LDCs. This option could provide a number of political and security benefits. It will be important to work with the new Energy Department to encourage emphasis on such new sources. But this would require major domestic en[Page 965]ergy decisions to increase our commitment to this energy system. Obviously revitalization of the International Energy Agency is needed along with major efforts by oil consumers at conservation.


The issues are: the equitable allocation and conservation of resources, the support of marine scientific research and the development of a “law of the sea” which reflects modern political, economic, and technological reality. We are failing in most of these areas. Much will naturally depend on the outcome of the LOS Conference. But this conference will only establish the “bare bones”, in essence it is only the basic framework. Specific substantive solutions are required to deal with the exploitation and conservation of living and non-living marine resources, agreeing on stronger pollution discharge standards for ships, helping marine scientific research, increasing the protection of navigation and assisting the mobility of our Navy.


We need to examine closely the medium and long-term future of this continent. The main issue which should be decided is by whom and how should control over this continent be exercised. We are now only in a “holding pattern” but have not resolved the major issues or problems in this area. The probability of success is greater if we move swiftly while there appears to be limited desire to exploit than later when others are likely to perceive profit from unilateral action or implementation of claims.

Science and Technology

The problem is not to “get over” the forthcoming US [ UN ] Science and Technology Conference. The issue is how can we effectively mobilize existing relevant knowledge and technology for development purposes. One assessment is true: the world has done, up to now, a very poor job in applying state-of-the-art technology to the problems of the poor. There are so many “appropriate technologies” that are not widely available as to make any sensitive soul cry. Items: use of simplified water pumps, para-professional medical and nutritional experts, solar heaters, electricity for food preservation, telecommunications technology for educational needs, etc. Nor has thoughtful and realistic work been done in utilizing the private sector. So much “ideology” has been thrown around by both sides as to make realistic efforts difficult. Yet innovative solutions exist: creation of new funding mechanisms to facilitate purchase of new technology, manufacture locally of simple items, subsidies for transfer of private and government-owned technology and know-how, loan of specialized personnel to LDCs to manage development and distribution of new methods and technology. More in[Page 966]tegration between sectors in utilizing new techniques to lower costs is another possibility.

Finally, between industrialized countries there are major issues that need examination and action: opening of trade in “know-how”, decreased restrictions on importation of foreign hardware and software, joint pooling of efforts in “public technology” R&D fields such as energy, pollution control and mass transit. Also problems in East-West transfer should be examined.

Space Technology

(1) LANDSAT: A decision will be needed concerning whether and in what way to move toward an operational LANDSAT system. The relationship between LANDSAT and other systems (such as meteorological satellites) for gathering data on various global problems will need to be considered. The possibility of a “global problems” information system should be considered. Various approaches to internationalizing LANDSAT should be considered. Also, ways should be sought to ameliorate the “analytical gap” between countries able to analyze and make their best use of LANDSAT data and those lacking such capabilities.

(2) Space Shuttle: A variety of problems and opportunities related to the space shuttle will need to be examined. These should include an examination of opportunities for cooperation and of the potential effects of the space shuttle on widening access to space.

(3) Communications Satellites: A continuing effort is needed to find beneficial ways of employing emergency communications satellite techniques.

Transborder Data Flows

The flow of data between computers across borders has presented new regulatory and privacy problems. An approach to those problems should be developed initially in concert with other industrialized nations.

International Health

This is an obvious area for a more integrated and focused US policy. The needs are many and there are a number of promising approaches, including greater use of para-medical personnel, increased preventive health programs, greater attention to tropical diseases, etc. The problem is that we do not have the managerial resources and policy capability in State or elsewhere to carry out an increased effort. Naturally, a special problem will be to integrate this field with our other efforts.

General Comments

My final observation is that we are not well organized to deal with most of these problems. We do not always have the right people. We [Page 967] certainly do not have control over significant relevant resources. A main USG issue is likely to be whether the domestic concerned agencies should “go global” or whether there is a leadership, policy and coordinating role for State in these areas. Only radical surgery will do the job, not “quick fixes” or placebos.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Policy and Planning Staff—Office of the Director, Records of Anthony Lake, 1977–1981, Lot 82D298, Box 7, TL Papers on Specific Mtgs./Appoint 1977. No classification marking. Copies were sent to Garten, Grose, Gathright, Vogelgesang, and Theodore Moran. According to handwritten notations on the memorandum, a meeting concerning the issues raised within the memorandum took place on July 22; no minutes of this meeting were found.
  2. Reference is to Wreatham Gathright and Sandra Vogelgesang.
  3. On March 17, President Carter announced measures to address the risks of ocean transport of oil. See Public Papers: Carter, 1977, Book I, pp. 458–459.
  4. Presumable reference to Lake’s June 30 memorandum to Christopher, printed as Document 287.
  5. Reference is to the May 23 environmental message; see footnote 4, Document 284.
  6. Presumable reference to a July 11 action memorandum Vogelgesang sent to Christopher, wherein Vogelgesang outlined various U.S. initiatives in the area of disaster relief. According to a notation on the memorandum, all of Vogelgesang’s action recommendations were approved in August. Lake added the following handwritten comment at the top of the memorandum: “Sandy—what now? TL.” (National Archives, RG 59, Policy and Planning Staff—Office of the Director, Records of Anthony Lake, 1977–1981, Lot 82D298, Box 2, TL 7/1–15/77)