35. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


  • Antisatellite Treaty


  • State
  • Warren Christopher Deputy Secretary
  • David Gompert Deputy Director, Politico-Military Affairs
  • Defense
  • Harold Brown Secretary
  • Herbert York Member, ASAT Delegation
  • ACDA
  • Spurgeon Keeny Deputy Director
  • James Timbie Chief, Strategic Affairs Division
  • Robert Buchheim Head, ASAT Delegation
  • JCS
  • General William Smith
  • General David Bradburn Member, ASAT Delegation
  • White House
  • David Aaron (Chairman)
  • NASA
  • Robert Frosch Administrator
  • Philip Culbertson Member, ASAT Delegation
  • NSC
  • Victor Utgoff
  • Robert Rosenberg
  • Charles Stebbins
  • OSTP
  • Frank Press Director
  • Arthur Morrissey Senior Analyst
  • CIA
  • John Hicks Deputy Director for National Foreign Assessment
  • Evan Hineman Director, Office of Weapons Intelligence
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All agreed that we should not use the term “hostile act” in an ASAT agreement with the Soviets, because the term is legally equivalent to an “act of war”, and we would not want to feel obliged to go to war over a breach of the agreement. Rather, the treaty language should involve “prohibitions” against certain acts. (S)

All agreed that the ultimate goal of the ASAT talks should continue to be the conclusion of a comprehensive ASAT agreement with the Soviets. (TS)

All agreed that despite serious reservations about finding a verifiable scheme for effectively dismantling the Soviet orbital interceptor, the US should continue to argue in favor of its dismantling, and listen to and probe any Soviet proposal for doing so. (We requested such a proposal at ASAT I.) (TS/R [less than 1 line not declassified])

All agreed that our talks with the Soviets should continue to be informal until it becomes clear that we and the Soviets have a good understanding of each other’s negotiating aims. (S)

[2 paragraphs (12 lines) not declassified]

[2 paragraphs (11½ lines) not declassified]

Test Suspension

During round 1 of the ASAT talks, in an off the record meeting between the heads of the two delegations, we suggested an indefinite duration ban on high altitude testing, plus a six-month ban on low altitude testing. There remains some support (DOD, OSTP) for staying with this position until we can gage Soviet reaction to it. However, OSD and JCS would prefer an indefinite duration high altitude test ban (to protect our DSP and other satellites whose loss could be very serious), with no ban on low altitude testing (to avoid difficulties in obtaining funding from the Congress for our ASAT programs). OSD and JCS are concerned that a low altitude test moratorium would perpetuate the current asymmetry in interceptor capabilities favoring the Soviets, and that even if the Soviets stop testing their current system, they would have a substantial breakout capability. OSD also feels that unless we pursue our own ASAT program, including low altitude testing, we would have no leverage over the long term to encourage the Soviets to dismantle their orbital interceptor and get the two sides down to “zero capability” postures. (TS/R [less than 1 line not declassified])

State would prefer a one-year ban on testing at all altitudes to give us more time to settle our in-house differences, and to avoid our getting so bogged down with the Soviets in technical details that we might not be able to reach any kind of an agreement, at least in the near term. ACDA supports the State position, but would have the ban last two years. ACDA feels that the Soviets would be the only ones really af[Page 80]fected by such a ban, since the US will not be ready to test its interceptor for several years. (TS)

There is a difference of opinion whether a test ban should apply only to interceptors [less than 1 line not declassified] other ASAT systems. ACDA feels that the test ban should apply to any system that can carry out the acts that are to be specifically prohibited in the initial agreement. NASA fears that ACDA’s test ban formulation would inhibit our using the Space Shuttle to retrieve our own satellites from orbit, since retrieval would technically constitute an ASAT test. OSTP cautions that the ACDA-favored test ban would have to be worded to permit the Shuttle to perform certain safety functions. [3½ lines not declassified] OSD and JCS want a test ban against interceptors only, because of the Shuttle and verifiability problems. (TS/R [less than 1 line not declassified])

The Boundary Between High and Low Altitude Testing

ACDA and State prefer to see no altitude distinction in a test ban; however, all agreed that if there is to be such a distinction, the ban should be based on system capability rather than target altitude. This would, for example, prevent the Soviets from mating their current interceptor with a larger booster and testing it at low altitude, since under the system capability formulation, the larger booster would render the interceptor capable of a high altitude intercept. (TS)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 21, PD/NSC–45. Top Secret; Ruff; [codewords not declassified]. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room.