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19. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Brown to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1

SUBJECT

  • U.S. Position Regarding ASAT Policy (U)

(S) This memorandum is in reply to your correspondence of February 25, 1978,2 requesting my views regarding the deletion of space test restrictions from the existing Presidential Directive on Arms Control for ASAT Systems.

(TS) For the reasons which you have cited, I agree that it would be wise to modify the Presidential Directive along the lines that you have suggested. Our program, as currently planned, does not require a change in Presidential guidance until 1980; however, it is necessary that the Congress support our budget requests if we are to maintain our option for flight tests in 1981. Although I think that it is unlikely that the FY 1979 budget requests will not be fully approved as a consequence of the testing restrictions, the removal of these restrictions would eliminate any such possibility. Removal of the testing restrictions also has the advantage of enhancing the likelihood of Soviet acceptance of U.S. proposals by indicating our firm intent to achieve a high-performance ASAT capability as quickly as possible.

(S) If we are to achieve an ASAT interceptor capability of which we are confident, we must test against targets in space. Therefore, I view space testing as essential to the test and evaluation process and a necessary phase in the weapon development cycle. It would be preferable, then, that any authorization to test not contain a restrictive clause that limits tests to demonstration purposes, as may have been suggested in your memorandum. My concern is that development flight tests might be deemed not to be allowed.

(S) If desired, as a means for impressing upon the Soviets our resolve and ability to develop an ASAT weapon, we could conduct an ASAT flight test demonstration (using MINUTEMAN, as I mentioned to you and the President) within about 12 months for about $50 M. This effort would be quite different from the program we are now pursuing. The interceptor would be assembled from available components, [Page 47]would lack the performance, and would be more costly than the approach we are now taking. While a single-shot demonstration may provide an incentive to the Soviets to accept our proposals, however, it may also divert resources away from our present program that could provide an effective system, if needed. I therefore do not recommend it.

Harold Brown
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 20, PD/NSC–33. Top Secret.
  2. Not found.