Presidential Decisions: NSC Documents from the Carter Administration


Jimmy Carter’s Administration kept the OSTP structure, but began to share responsibilities for national security space issues between the NSC and OSTP, an arrangement usually followed by all subsequent administrations.  The Carter Administration also undertook the first comprehensive review of national space policy since the Eisenhower Administration, resulting in Presidential Directives (PDs) 37 and 42 in May and October 1978.  These PDs introduced the now familiar space sectors of civil, commercial, and national security (military and intelligence) and emphasized the need for close policy coordination among the sectors.  In addition, the Carter Administration entered into the first space-focused arms control effort, conducting three rounds of ASAT negotiations with the Soviets in 1978-79.

PRM/NSC 23 A Coherent Space Policy, 28 Mar 1977

Designates the Secretary of Defense to organize a review and establish recommendations for a national space policy.  Lists specific areas to address in the policy, including military implications.  Orders a review of portions of NSAM 338, NSDM 187, NSDM 333 and NSDM 345.

  • Directive


PD/NSC 25 Scientific or Technological Experiments with Possible Large-Scale Adverse Environmental Effects and Launch of Nuclear Systems into Space, 14 Dec 1977

Supersedes NSAM 235 and NSAM 50 and designates the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to review experiments that may effect the environment.  Requires presidential approval for space launches of nuclear systems that contain specific amounts of radioactive sources.

  • Directive

PD-NSC 33 Arms Control for Anti-Satellite Systems, 10 Mar 1978

Reverses a previous restriction to permit the Secretary of Defense to test the anti-satellite program in space if necessary to achieve the capability.  Orders informing the Soviet Union of the United States’ intentions to achieve anti-satellite capability unless the Soviet Union takes positive preventative measures.

  • Directive

PD/NSC 37 National Space Policy, 11 May 1978

Acknowledges a military space program.  Orders satellite reconnaissance for intelligence operations to remain classified.

  • Directive

PD/NSC 37 National Space Policy, 11 May 1978 * * Newly Declassified Document


PD/NSC 42 Civil and Further National Space Policy, 10 Oct 1978

Augments policy principles in PD/NSC 37. Assigns committee to review the possible release of certain photoreconnaissance images.  Orders review of separate shuttle activities by the Department of Defense and National Aeronautics and Space Administration for future budget considerations.

  • Directive

PD/NSC 54 Civil Operational Remote Sensing, 16 Nov 1979

Enforces policy defined in PD/NSC 37 and PD/NSC 42.  Defines three categories for remote sensing use.  Maintains separate military and civilian weather operations.

  • Directive

PD/NSC 59 Nuclear Weapons Employment Policy, 25 Jul 1980

Document remains largely classified.

  • Cover Letter
  • Directive

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