36. Memorandum From the Deputy Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (Keeny) to the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Aaron)1


  • ASAT Instructions

Following up on today’s SCC meeting,2 I have a number of comments on the relative priorities of the issues which may be useful to you in framing these issues for the President.

[Page 81]

Testing. The Presidential Directive3 we are operating under calls for the prompt end of Soviet ASAT testing as the first order of business. Any proposal, such as the one Defense recommends, which would not halt Soviet testing is such a departure from the President’s original objectives that it would call into question what we are trying to accomplish. Moreover, I believe that making a distinction between high- and low-altitude testing would introduce serious and unnecessary problems, which a temporary test suspension for all altitudes would avoid. You will recall that PRM-234 contained an option to ban only high-altitude ASAT systems, and that was not the one the President picked.

Laser ASAT systems. The suggestion that we might permit laser ASAT testing to go forward without restriction also raised fundamental questions as to what we are trying to accomplish in these talks. In the past, we have been careful to characterize the ASAT limits we seek in general terms with no reference to any particular means for attacking satellites. This policy should be continued. We have a system to monitor tests [2 lines not declassified] For the future, we have the technology to build space-based systems to monitor Soviet laser tests against satellites, but no present plan to do so. I believe that we should define what additional intelligence collection assets would be needed to monitor a ban on laser ASAT tests.

Interference. While I believe that a ban on interference with the technical operation of satellites would be desirable for an ASAT agreement, I do not believe that this issue is as fundamental as the issues discussed above which raise questions as to whether or not we are in fact negotiating in the direction envisaged in the original Presidential Directive.

Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr. 5
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 100, SCC 125, ASAT, 1/18/79. Secret.
  2. See Document 35.
  3. See Document 24.
  4. See Document 2.
  5. Keeny signed “ S.M. Keeny Jr.” above this typed signature.