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4. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Brown) to Secretary of Defense Brown1

SUBJECT

  • Antisatellites

1. (S) In response to your request on 12 April 1977,2 the Joint Chiefs of Staff hereby provide their positions regarding acquisition of a US antisatellite (ASAT) capability and potential negotiations with the USSR concerning an ASAT ban.

2. (TS) The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that an urgent requirement exists for the United States to attain an ASAT capability. This capability is needed to deny the USSR significant military advantages in the event of conflict and to provide a credible deterrent against USSR interference with US space systems during crises.

3. (TS) Soviet space systems provide major military benefits which, together with projected future space systems, will have an increasingly larger role in strategic and tactical conflict for real time reconnaissance, command and control, navigation, and meteorological support. The most immediate threat against US Forces is the use of ELINT and radar ocean reconnaissance satellite systems capable of locating ships. This real time enhanced capability seriously challenges the survivability of the US surface fleet.

4. (TS) The USSR is well aware that the United States is increasingly dependent on space systems for intelligence collection, warning of missile launch, communications, navigation, and meteorological support. Current ASAT capabilities favor the USSR; not only can the USSR eliminate an important element of the US force structure which supports US strategy, but it can do so without suffering similar consequences. Currently, the United States has no ASAT capability. The Joint Chiefs of Staff conclude that it would be undesirable for the United States to remain operationally incapable of responding to or interfering with military-related USSR space systems, particularly those which constitute a direct threat to US Forces.

5. (TS) The Joint Chiefs of Staff further believe that the United States should not participate in a ban on research, development, testing, and deployment of various ASAT systems. Of principal con[Page 5]cern is the lack of adequate verification methods to provide assurance that the USSR does not retain or increase an ASAT capability. Because of the USSR’s present lead in proven engineering and in operational experience, it could quickly gain superiority in space should it choose to abrogate a total ASAT ban. Since the United States does not have an ASAT capability, any ban of a lesser degree which allowed present Soviet ASAT systems to exist but which prohibited development of new systems would legitimize and perpetuate the present imbalance.

6. (TS) The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider the medium of space to be of utmost importance to the United States. They request you support their views concerning the acquisition and deployment of an ASAT capability as well as their related views on potential negotiations with the USSR concerning an ASAT ban.

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

George S. Brown
Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harold Brown Papers, Box 22, Anti-Satellite Program. Top Secret.
  2. Not found.