29. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


  • ASAT Treaty


  • State
  • Deputy Secretary Warren Christopher
  • Leslie Gelb, Director, Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs
  • Defense
  • Secretary Harold Brown
  • Herbert York, Consultant
  • Walter Slocombe, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs
  • JCS
  • General David Jones
  • Lt. Gen. William Y. Smith, Special Assistant to the Chairman
  • ACDA
  • Director Paul Warnke
  • Spurgeon Keeny, Deputy Director
  • Ambassador Robert Buchheim
  • NASA
  • Administrator Robert Frosch
  • David Williamson, Special Assistant
  • OSTP
  • Director Frank Press
  • Art Morrissey, Senior Analyst
  • OMB
  • Randy Jayne, Associate Director National Security and International Affairs
  • CIA
  • Admiral Stansfield Turner
  • Sayre Stevens, Deputy Director National Foreign Assessment Center
  • White House
  • David Aaron (Chairman)
  • NSC
  • Victor Utgoff
  • BGen Robert Rosenberg
  • Charles Stebbins (Notetaker)

Definition of “Hostile Acts,” and Whether to Pledge Not to Be the First to Commit Such Acts.

There was considerable discussion of these issues which resulted in three possible approaches to the Soviets:

Approach 1: Propose that the US and Soviets regard intercepts of and physical attacks on satellites of the other side as hostile acts, but wait to gauge Soviet reactions at Helsinki2 before deciding whether or [Page 64] not to seek mutual pledges that neither side will be the first to carry out such acts. (Favored by Defense and JCS and acceptable to State and ACDA.)

Approach 2: Same as Option 1, except propose that both sides pledge not to be the first to carry out such acts. (Favored by ACDA, but opposed by JCS. DOD wants to examine further whether this should apply to peacetime only.)

Approach 3: Propose that the US and Soviets regard interference (which includes intercepts, physical attacks [less than 1 line not declassified] as a hostile act, but make a first-use pledge only for physical attacks. (Favored by State.)

The Interagency Working Group (IAWG) was tasked on a priority basis to study whether a hostile acts and no-first-use agreement ought to apply in wartime as well as peacetime (like the wartime prohibition on the use of poison gas), in particular to determine what such a prohibition would mean operationally to the two sides.

Type of Agreement

With regard to the type of agreement to be reached with the Soviets on Hostile Acts, there was consensus that we should aim toward constructing a formal agreement in the long term.

However, there was disagreement as to the appropriate form of any interim agreements we might reach. ACDA favored parallel statements covering hostile acts and test cessation, believing this would not require approval by Congress. DOD thought unilateral statements would offer more flexibility.

The Interagency Working Group (IAWG) was tasked on a priority basis to examine what must be avoided in constructing interim agreements in order to ensure that the President can issue a parallel or unilateral statement without having to obtain the consent of Congress. The IAWG is to consult the legal counsels of various agencies as appropriate.

Nature of a Testing Ban

Again, there was no consensus. Two possible approaches to the Soviets resulted:

Approach 1: Informally propose an indefinite moratorium on ASAT tests but with the proviso that either side could give the other six months’ notice if it decided it was necessary to commence testing. (Favored by State, ACDA and OSTP.)

Approach 2: Informally propose a high-altitude testing ban with the proviso that either side give the other a one-year notice if it is to commence any high-altitude ASAT testing (e.g., above 3000 km). In addition, ask the Soviets to stop their low-altitude testing while ASAT ne[Page 65]gotiations are ongoing. State that the US has no immediate plans to conduct low-altitude ASAT testing, but we will give the Soviets six months’ notice if the pressures of the current asymmetry favoring the Soviets require us to commence such testing. (Favored by Defense. JCS feels that neither approach has been thought through enough and that proposing any testing suspension at this time would be premature.)

Treatment of the Space Shuttle

There was agreement that the US would avoid discussing the Shuttle if at all possible, but if such a discussion can’t be avoided, we will not permit the Soviets to designate the Shuttle as an ASAT system.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 95, SCC 082, Space Policy, ASAT Hostile Acts and Tests, 6/1/78. Top Secret; Codeword. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room.
  2. The United States and the Soviet Union were scheduled to begin ASAT talks in Helsinki, Finland on June 8. See Document 33.