Presidential Decisions: National Security Council Documents

National Space Policies provide insights into U.S. thinking about the uses of space for security, exploration, and commercial purposes, as well as details about specific areas of emphasis. With the Obama Administration preparing its own space policy, these documents remain particularly relevant to those interested in past and future of U.S. space activities.

In the Marshall Institute’s Presidential Decisions book, we compiled all declassified space memos, directives, and policies prepared by the National Security Council from Eisenhower to the then-present. In the process, we successfully declassified additional materials. Our intent is two-fold – (1) to provide scholars and practitioners with a handy reference of these hard-to-find documents to assist them in reviewing the new space policy or providing input to it; and (2) to illustrate the areas of continuity and incongruity in space policy over time. It contains, as one reviewer put it, “in one convenient book, all of the most significant unclassified papers on US executive branch space policy.”

These documents are presented in their original form to enable the reader to see precisely what remains redacted.  Each is presented as a pdf.


Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961)

John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)

Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969)

Richard M. Nixon (1969-1974)

Gerald R. Ford (1974-1977)

James E. Carter (1977-1981)

Ronald W. Reagan (1981-1989)

George H. W. Bush (1989-1993)

William J. Clinton (1993-2001)

George W. Bush (2001-2009)

Barack H. Obama (2009 – )

Presidential Decisions BookCover

In 2006, the Marshall Institute published two volumes, Presidential Decisions: NSC Documents and Presidential Decisions: NSC Documents – Supplement: Newly Declassified Excerpts, containing public versions of National Security Council statements, press announcements and fact sheets.  All documents were obtained from the original, identified sources.

Presidential Decisions: National Security Council Documents

by Stephanie Feyock
March 1, 2006

If the United States put weapons in space, would it deter or provoke others to follow suit?  What should we forgo in an effort to protect the secrets of spy satellites–Advances in science and civilian technology?  Support for military operations? Disaster relief?  Should we pursue autarky in the space industrial base or seek the benefits of innovation and competitive pricing in a global marketplace?

These and a welter of other conundrums bedeviled national policy from the dawn of the space age.  The tantalizing prospects for advancing knowledge, national security, and human welfare were not to be resisted.  But nor were they to be captured without agonizing considerations of competing values (intelligence, defense, science, technology, and human aspiration) current and future.

What United States presidents decided to do about these and many other issues is portrayed in the documents compiled in this sourcebook.  It chronicles the decisions made at the highest level of the U.S. Government by presenting all publicly available presidential National Security Council memoranda, most in imaged form.

Contributor panel:

Stephanie Feyock is a principal research associate for the Marshall Institute?s National Security Space Project.  She compiled these documents under the direction of Dr. Robert L. Butterworth, Marshall Institute Director of Space Studies, and with the expert guidance from R. Cargill Hall, Historian Emeritus of the National Reconnaissance Office, Dr. Stephen R. Hill, President of Global Analytics, and Dr. Peter L. Hays, Policy Analyst of Science Application International Corporation.  We received the expert help from The National Archives and Records Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration History Office, and Presidential Libraries.

Document Excerpts:

“As further knowledge of outer space is obtained, the advantages to be accrued will become more apparent. At the present time, space activities are directed toward technological development and scientific exploration; however, it is anticipated that systems will be put into operation, beginning in the near future, that will more directly contribute to national security and well-being and be of international benefit.” (Eisenhower, NSC 5918, 26 Jan 1960)

“In light of these developments, the President has reassessed U.S. policy regarding acquisition of an anti-satellite capability and has decided that the Soviets should not be allowed an exclusive sanctuary in space for critical military supporting satellites.” (Ford, NSDM 345, 18 Jan 1977)

“The United States will pursue activities in space in support of its right of self-defense.” (Carter, PD/NSC 37, 11 May 1978)

“The DOD will develop, operate, and maintain enduring space systems to ensure its freedom of action in space. This requires an integrated combination of antisatellite, survivability, and surveillance capabilities.” (Bush, NSD 30 (NSPD1), 2 Nov 1989)

“Consistent with treaty obligations, the United States will develop, operate and maintain space control capabilities to ensure freedom of action in space and, if directed, deny such freedom of action to adversaries. These capabilities may also be enhanced by diplomatic, legal or military measures to preclude an adversary?s hostile use of space systems and services. The U.S. will maintain and modernize space surveillance and associated battle management command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence to effectively detect, track, categorize, monitor, and characterize threats to U.S. and friendly space systems and contribute to the protection of U.S. military activities.” (Clinton PDD/NSC 49 (PDD/NSTC 8), 19 Sep 1996)

Presidential Decisions: NSC Documents – Supplement: Newly Declassified Excerpts

by R. Cargill Hall
March 1, 2006


Presented herein are previously classified excerpts from the documents provided in the first volume published by the Marshall Institute’s National Security Space Project, Presidential Decisions: NSC Documents. The excerpts are organized by presidential administration and are cross-referenced to pages of the earlier volume. Declassification of an excerpt, of course, does not mean that the entire document has been declassified.

For making this information now publicly available, R. Cargill Hall has the deep gratitude of space analyists and indeed the entire public policy research community. Dr. Steven Hill also helped extensively.

Manuscript preparation was ably completed by Stephanie Feyock, continuing the cover design and layout created for the earlier volume by Suzanne Star.

This work reflects as well the continuing strong support of the president of the Marshall Institute, Mr. Jeff Kueter, and the Institute’s board of directors.

– Robert L. Butterworth, Director of Space Programs

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