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5. Summary of Significant Discussion and Conclusions of a Policy Review Committee Meeting1

SUBJECT:

  • PRM/NSC–23, Coherent Space Policy

PARTICIPANTS:

  • State:

    • Warren Christopher
    • Michael Michaud
  • Defense:

    • Harold Brown
    • Charles Duncan
    • Hans Mark
    • Robert A. Greenberg
    • Walter Slocombe
    • Lt. Gen. William Y. Smith (JCS)
  • DCI:

    • John McMahon
    • [name not declassified]
  • NASA:

    • Robert Frosch
    • Alan Lovelace
  • OSTP:

    • Frank Press
    • Arthur Morrisey
  • ACDA:

    • Spurgeon Keeny
    • James Timbie
  • OMB:

    • W. Bowman Cutter
    • E. Randy Jayne
  • Interior:

    • Cecil D. Andrus
  • Commerce:

    • David Johnson
    • Richard Frank
  • Agriculture:

    • Robert Bergland
    • Harold L. Strickland
  • NSC:

    • Zbigniew Brzezinski
    • William Hyland
    • Robert A. Rosenberg
    • Benjamin Huberman

The PRC, chaired by Secretary Brown, met to review national space policy issues, identify areas of agreement and disagreement and make recommendations for decisions to the President.

Secretary Brown opened the meeting with a discussion of United States’ policy on antisatellite (ASAT) activity and arms control (Issue Five),2 focusing mainly on arms control initiatives. Secretary Brown proposed a ban only on peacetime use of antisatellite systems since the Soviets already have a capability. The U.S. does not. He added that verification of a more comprehensive ban would be extremely difficult, and that in wartime, arms control would not provide protection.

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Dr. Brzezinski noted that the President has committed to discussions with the Soviets,3 stating that a comprehensive ban would serve our security interests, reinforce stability, and support our SALT efforts. He asked that we proceed rapidly to form a working group to examine the essential aspects of such negotiations. Dr. Brzezinski opined that just because the Soviets have something is no adequate reason for us to acquire an ASAT. He felt that a comprehensive ban would hold the Soviets at their present level and add some assurances that they would not proceed in other areas.

Mr. Keeny noted that a peacetime ban adds little to existing agreements. John McMahon stated [2 lines not declassified] General Smith recommended we not proceed with negotiations on limitations due to verification problems.

A formulation by Mr. Hyland would propose to the Soviets a moratorium on testing and explore with them what level agreement would be possible before explicitly deciding on an option. Secretary Brown agreed to provide a coordinated outline for the President covering the major approaches, disagreements and problems in this area in two weeks, based on a special working group effort. The U.S. ASAT question would be treated as well in this paper.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to anti-satellite capabilities.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 41, Folder 3, PRM–23 [3]. Top Secret; Talent Keyhole; Comint. The meeting took place in the Old Executive Office Building.
  2. Presumably Brown is referring to a briefing memorandum on space policy issues which was not found.
  3. In a March 4 letter to Brezhnev, Carter wrote that he wanted to “reach an early agreement” on a number of issues, including an “agreement not to arm satellites nor to develop the ability to destroy or damage satellites.” The letter is printed in full in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VI, Soviet Union, Document 13.