SP-4217 Beyond the Ionosphere


Chapter 13
Originating Communications Satellite Systems: The Interactions of Technological Change, Domestic Politics, and Foreign Policy
by Jonathan F. Galloway


[171] Technological change can have both evolutionary and revolutionary consequences. Some participants in the policy process in the 1960s viewed satellite communications as ushering in a new era of global peace and understanding. Others viewed the new technology as threatening vested interests and creating new entrepreneurial opportunities.

The policy-making process that led to the establishment of the original communications satellite institutions--for example, Comsat, the Defense Satellite Communications System, Intelsat, and Intersputnik--was an arena of cooperation, competition, and conflict. The actors in that policy process were national and international, and thus the process was, in many respects, transnational.

The rationality of decision making cannot be understood holistically or comprehensively, but as pragmatic, incremental, and muddled. Dominating decision making was the breaking down of national borders and barriers to entry into emerging global communications markets. Yet, paradoxically, the creation of advanced defense communications satellite systems during the Cold War era reflected the drive to defend the territorial integrity of states and military alliances.

Looking back on the years between Sputnik and the establishment of the Intelsat Definite Agreements in 1971, the three themes of the 1972 book by this author1 can be seen in a slightly different light. Those themes were: (1) revolutionary or evolutionary technological change, (2) the breakdown of barriers between making and understanding foreign and domestic policy, and (3) models of rationality in policy making appropriate to changing contexts. Those themes remain very relevant, despite the more colorful and even dramatic new vocabulary introduced by the likes of Newt Gingrich, the Tofflers,2 and Kenichi Ohmae.3 The economic and technological aspects of globalization often are thwarted by, or exist in paradoxical and ambivalent contiguity with, the forces of resurgent localism and the economic doctrine of neomercantilism. The world is not a tidy place. There is chaos, and at the edge of chaos one new world order is not emerging. So it was in the formative period of satellite communications.


[172] Foreign Policy and Domestic Bargaining 4


The Communications Satellite Act of 1962 provided for foreign participation "in the establishment and use" of a communications satellite system and authorized the corporation formed by that act (Comsat) to operate the system "itself or in conjunction with foreign governments or business entities."5 What form would participation take? The statutory language was open ended. Partnership could comprise system use, ownership, or research and development. Which particular forms of cooperation would evolve was not mandated by the law, yet it was clear that operational relationships would have serious consequences for domestic and foreign policy. Thus the substance and the form of United States foreign policy goals to promote leadership, international peace and understanding, and the rapid establishment of a global system were entangled in satellite communications policy decision making and negotiations.

To cooperate with other countries, it was first necessary for the United States to develop a cohesive approach toward outstanding issues. Developing that approach entailed a gradual working out of the relationship between the U.S. government and Comsat. However, early consultations and briefings at the international level occurred at the same time as the crystallization of domestic policy. While it is sometimes fashionable for analytic purposes to separate domestic and international discussions, in this case the separation is not legitimate: foreign policy consultations affected the domestic bargaining position of the United States from the spring of 1963 to the summer of 1964. The following is a discussion of domestic developments whose consequences affected the formation of U.S. policy toward international arrangements for communications satellites. Attention is focused on the establishment of Comsat and its relations with the State Department and other agencies responsible for foreign policy considerations.

After the incorporation of Comsat in the District of Columbia, President Kennedy appointed thirteen Incorporators on 15 October 1962. Although the Incorporators were political appointees, Kennedy combined politics with expertise. The Incorporators chose Philip L. Graham, the publisher of The Washington Post, as their first chairman on 22 October 1962. Graham headed Comsat for only three months, resigning in January 1963 for health reasons. During those three months, however, he strenuously objected to what he saw as the interference of the State Department in the international aspects of Comsat's plans. The State Department had been briefing European telecommunications administrations on American policy, and Graham thought that was Comsat's prerogative.

This attitude persisted with Graham's successor, Leo D. Welch, who became chairman and chief executive officer in February 1963.6 Welch formerly had been chairman of the board of Standard Oil of New Jersey. He was dedicated to the proposition that the private sector should determine policy. Welch viewed the State Department not as an ally, but as an obstacle. This was also true of his attitude toward the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). He charged the FCC with the "invasion of the managerial functions [173] of the corporation" in connection with the FCC's directions on how the corporation should disburse its funds.7

On the other hand, Comsat's relationship with NASA was always cordial. During its incorporation period, when its financial resources consisted only of borrowed funds,8 Comsat depended largely on NASA programs for its research and development. Close and constant cooperation thus was a prime necessity for economic survival, but NASA also had the responsibility, under the Communications Satellite Act, of cooperating with Comsat in research and development.

On the whole, though, relations between the government and Comsat were somewhat less than ideal, as a result not of personality conflicts but of opposing views based on differences of opinion. While the government looked forward to close cooperation and regulation of Comsat, Welch saw Comsat as a traditional private enterprise. Government officials saw Comsat as an entirely different entity, more like a public utility, or even a creature of the government. Under the Communications Satellite Act, Comsat was to serve public as well as private purposes. Moreover, Comsat was not subject to regulation by the FCC, like all other carriers, but by the director of telecommunications management and the President, in the exercise of his foreign affairs powers, as well.

The initial estrangement between the State Department and Comsat was especially crucial for foreign policy and foreign relations. Comsat was under no firm statutory responsibility to consult with State. Thus, Comsat leaders could choose to follow their own individual preferences. The ability of State to persuade Welch of its prerogatives also was hampered by the State Department's weak power position in domestic politics. To overcome this disability, State tried to convince Comsat that its views were also the Europeans' views and that Comsat was not only a domestic corporation, but the chosen instrument of American foreign policy.

While positions between Comsat and the government were not polarized, there were four issues whose resolution involved differences of opinion: (1) ownership; (2) the form of an international agreement (bilateral or multilateral); (3) Comsat's management role (complete or partial); and (4) the role of government in the negotiation of international agreements to establish the system. This last issue, in particular, pitted Comsat, some of whose officials thought it should undertake negotiations, against the State Department.

To resolve these issues, Comsat and the State Department agreed in June 1963 to work out principles for international participation. During the same month, President Kennedy established the Ad Hoc Communications Satellite Group under the joint chairmanship of Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach and the President's Special Assistant for Science and Technology Dr. Jerome B. Wiesner. This group exercised the responsibilities of the director of telecommunications management because of a vacancy in that office.9 A subcommittee, composed of representatives from the Departments of State and Justice, the FCC, the Space Council, and the office of the director of telecommunications management, kept abreast of Comsat's draft principles for international cooperation.

Initially, the ideas of the State Department on the problem of foreign participation did not coincide with those of Comsat. Welch wished to establish a Comsat-owned system through a series of bilateral intergovernmental agreements in which Comsat was the primary [174] negotiator. This conception of international cooperation clashed with what State viewed as politically feasible and desirable. To State, it seemed that some form of joint ownership would be necessary. If other nations were to have no control over the system, why should they cooperate with it?

The State Department also thought that it would be necessary to conclude both intergovernmental and commercial agreements. As early as the fall of 1962, William Carter of State's Bureau of Economic Affairs considered that negotiations on two levels would have to be undertaken to expedite the establishment of an international system. On one level, discussions between governments would conclude an agreement on the principles of international cooperation in space communications; on the other level, technical and business accords between the telecommunication administrations of the various countries would be arranged. These accords would be analogous to traditional agreements for the management of cables and radio. The necessity for the two-level approach was based on State's assumption that other nations would be unwilling to join a venture whose political and economic consequences were completely removed from their influence. That assumption was based on Carter's experience in discussing satellite communications with foreign countries in 1962 and 1963.

The chairman and president of Comsat were not advocates of the same line of reasoning, even though they also had engaged in international consultations. In May and June of 1963, they had held meetings with representatives of Western European nations, Canada, and Japan.10 While they had not reached any definite conclusions, they favored a Comsat-owned, Comsat-negotiated venture.

Nonetheless, within Comsat, Edwin J. Istvan, who came to Comsat from the Office of Space Systems in the Department of Defense (DoD), drafted a set of principles for international participation that was nearer to the views of State. Istvan based his set of principles on three propositions:


1. Partnership in the international system could take one of three forms: (a) space segment ownership, (b) communication terminal ownership, or (c) mutual aid to assist developing nations.
2. System ownership should be established by an agreement between Comsat and the participating foreign entity; the U.S. government would not play a prime role.
3. Comsat would manage the system to the extent of controlling its own percentage of ownership and controlling contract awards.


Welch rejected Istvan's proposal; he maintained that the best system would be technically integrated and centrally owned and managed.

The Ad Hoc Communications Satellite Group thought differently, however. In the course of Comsat's discussions with the group, it became evident that the government favored an approach closer to that outlined by Istvan. Istvan played a crucial role by pointing to the possibility of separating space segment ownership from station ownership. The government accepted this idea, but not the second or third. The government contended that it had developed the capability at its own expense and therefore should have a central role in determining how it was to be organized on an international, as well as on a domestic, basis. The State Department felt that other nations would not be willing to [175] establish an international agreement for communications satellites along the same lines as the cable arrangements. Negotiations between governments would be required to lessen fears that communications satellite technology would disrupt existing investments before they had been amortized.

The Ad Hoc Communications Satellite Group objected to Istvan's third idea (Comsat management) not so much for its substance as its form. Other nations would be more likely to join a system, the group pointed out, if Comsat's management role were played down. The State Department thought that Comsat's management role should be worked out in negotiations rather than proclaimed beforehand. As the United States was the only country with developed potential, it would be natural for other nations to agree to Comsat's primary position.

The State Department was especially concerned about presenting a flexible and attractive proposal to other nations to promote the establishment of a single global system rather than a number of competing systems. Writing in May 1963, the State Department's Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs stated that "economic, technical, and political considerations all point to the desirability of a single system." A single system would avoid wasteful duplication of expensive satellite and ground facilities, would enhance the possibility of "fruitful exchange of communication between all countries," would avoid "destructive competition," would facilitate technical compatibility between satellites and ground terminals, would assure the best use of scarce frequency spectra, and would promote operational efficiency and flexibility in routing messages.11

In light of these advantages, and considering its opinions on foreign attitudes, it is no surprise that the State Department objected to Welch's ideas and wished to modify those of the preliminary draft drawn up by Istvan. It was of the utmost importance to project an image of partnership rather than of paternalism, according to the State Department; otherwise, U.S. policy would lend weight to Communist charges of exploitation by capitalist monopolies and, furthermore, could encourage the establishment of competing systems.

An integral part of the government's stand for a more flexible negotiating position was its contention that Comsat should undertake its discussions with foreign telecommunications administrations in light of consultations with interested government agencies. The implications of various decisions were too far reaching to be considered merely business responsibilities. For instance, the State Department thought that system choice "will have important consequences on coverage and burden-sharing, the availability of satellites for communication between and within countries, and the cost of ground installations which nations will have to build."12 In addition, the State Department asserted:


The establishment of global satellite communications will involve international discussion of other questions: the handling of research, development, manufacture, and launch; participation in ownership of ground terminals and satellites; allocation of satellite channels between use and users; means of determining the number and location of ground terminals; technical standardization; rate-making; assistance to less developed countries; possible public uses of the system by government information agencies of the U.N.; and means of facilitating the exchange of programs between nations.13


[176] Decisions on all these problems would require the closest possible cooperation between Comsat and the government, according to the State Department. In many cases, the government's role would be regulatory in addition to being promotional. However, the difficulties in evolving a working statement of principles continued into the fall of 1963.

During the summer, Comsat discussed its draft principles of foreign participation with representatives of the Departments of State, Justice, and Defense, NASA, and the FCC, as well as with the President. As a result of these discussions, Comsat slightly revised its statement of principles, but not their substance. Welch still insisted that Comsat be the owner of the entire system. Comsat also discussed its principles with the common carriers and interested committees in Congress, but in the course of these discussions, no significant abridgment or change emerged.

The chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator J. William Fulbright (D-AR), expressed dismay that government participation in the preparation of the principles was not more apparent. In reply, Welch expressed the opinion that it was. Other committees, however, were not opposed to Comsat's position. Thus, as the time to start actual bargaining with other countries approached, the U.S. negotiating position lacked cohesion.

It is somewhat surprising that Welch's views had not moved more toward center in light of European attitudes. After a June 1963 meeting of potential partners in London, the British government sent the State Department an aide memoire in which the British related American policy as they understood it. This brief stated that the United States favored shared ownership and pluralistic decision making. The statement was approved by State and cleared through Joseph Charyk, Comsat's president, before being sent back to the British. Yet Welch was still arguing for 100-percent Comsat control. Furthermore, as late as September 1963, he (and the carriers) objected to the Istvan proposal of two agreements--one governmental, the other between communications entities. Although the government, Congress, and the carriers cleared a Comsat draft on negotiating principles on 4 October 1963, government clearance did not mean approval.

At the Extraordinary Administrative Radio Conference in Geneva, an informal U.S. policy group was hard at work trying to convince member countries of the International Telecommunications Union that the proposed system was not an American monopoly in disguise. Later in October, a meeting between the United States and European nations produced the harmony in the U.S. position that was lacking as a result of purely domestic discussions. The European group, known as the European Conference on Satellite Communications (CETS, the French acronym), had formed to negotiate with the United States. The CETS nations made it known that they were unwilling to negotiate with Comsat on a bilateral basis. This blunt fact of necessity changed Welch's outlook on the character of an international system.

Comsat now agreed to principles that pointed to joint ownership and to negotiations conducted by a joint American team representing equally the government and Comsat. Henceforth, Comsat worked more closely with the State Department at the international level. It was agreed, moreover, that a joint negotiating team headed by Welch and Abram Chayes, the State Department's legal advisor, would represent the United States in forthcoming discussions with European and other nations interested in establishing a global communications satellite system. Comsat and the government also agreed on an explicit formulation of principles to serve as the U.S. negotiating position. Thus, the stage was set for a harmonious approach to establishing a global system.

Possibly reinforcing close relations between Comsat and the government was the appointment of several notable government officials to Comsat positions. In January 1964, NASA General Counsel John A. Johnson became vice president in charge of Comsat [177] international affairs. Lewis Meyer, formerly an Air Force deputy for financial analysis, became Comsat's finance coordinator. Richard Colino, previously with the State Department and the FCC, became an assistant to John Johnson. In addition, Louis B. Early and Siegfried H. Reiger, both of whom had been with the RAND Corporation, joined Comsat to serve as chief of economic analysis and manager of systems analysis, respectively. While one might have expected the government to play an active role in promoting staffing of this kind, this was not the case. Former government personnel came to Comsat because the firm was anxious to find a nucleus of people with satellite communications experience. Such a nucleus could be found only in the government or among certain selected carriers and manufacturers, such as AT&T and RCA.


Foreign Negotiations for International Arrangements


The space age put the smaller industrialized nations to a great disadvantage compared to the two superpowers. The allies of the United States in Western Europe and elsewhere could develop their own capabilities in space only through a symbiotic relationship with NASA. Cooperative experiments most often were arranged on a bilateral basis. Early during the space age, though, Western Europeans saw the advantage of building multilateral organizations to pool their resources and thus develop a technological base independent of the United States.

At the intergovernmental level, discussions leading to the establishment of the European Space Research Organization (ESRO) began in 1960 and entered into force on 20 March 1964. The stated purpose of ESRO was "to provide for, and to promote, collaboration among European states in space research and technology exclusively for peaceful purposes." The composition of the organization included neutral nations, so the proviso "exclusively for peaceful purposes" had more than rhetorical importance. ESRO proposed no military projects and restricted its activities to those of scientific importance, rather than extending itself into the race for prestige, security, and wealth. A second European multilateral space organization was the European Launcher Development Organization (ELDO), conceived as a result of Anglo-French discussions early in 1961. The convention establishing it entered into force on 29 February 1964. ELDO planned to develop programs in meteorology, navigation, telecommunications, and scientific research.

A nongovernmental, multilateral, nonprofit organization of considerable importance was Eurospace. Its membership included 146 aerospace companies, including eight U.S. companies as associate members. Formed in 1961 on the initiative of certain British and French industrial groups, Eurospace's principal objective was to create a Western European industrial complex capable of providing expert assistance and advice on space programs to governments, supranational bodies, and private interests.14

These three multilateral organizations represented Western Europe's organizational response to the space age. They had much wider interests than space communication per se. In contrast to the United States, where communications carriers were owned by private companies and regulated by the government, the principal communications agencies in foreign countries at that time were government administrations.

The prime source of European experience in international communications, and the first organization to cooperate with the United States in such space communications [178] experiments as Echo and Telstar, was the British Post Office. As early as 1960, the Commonwealth Telecommunications Board's technical and traffic meeting discussed radio communications via satellite. The British government subsequently invited its Commonwealth partners to the Commonwealth Satellite Communications Conference held in London in April 1962. According to the British Information Services:


The Conference recognized that it might be some years before satellite systems could become technically feasible, and, having regard to the research and development work being undertaken in the United States and elsewhere, that any commercial satellite system should serve as large a number of countries as possible and should have maximum flexibility. The Conference also acknowledged that satellite communications and submarine telephone cable systems would be complementary one to another, and had regard, throughout its discussion, to the projected submarine cable developments both by the Commonwealth and by other countries.15


While the British viewed satellite communications as a possibility for the 1970s, that view did not mean that they were oblivious to the potential economic threat to cables. Shortly after the enactment of the Communications Satellite Act of 1962, Britain and Canada suggested that exploratory talks be held with the United States on the development of an operational system.16 The Department of State concluded that talks would be beneficial, and from 27 to 29 October 1962, representatives of the British Post Office and Foreign Office, the Canadian Ministry of Transport and Department of External Affairs, and an interagency group headed by the U.S. State Department met. The British and Canadians "emphasized their desire to participate fully in the technical development, ownership and management of the system."17 They thought, however, that another generation of cables could be laid before a space communications system would be operational. The United States took this opportunity to explain the purposes of the Communications Satellite Act, emphasizing the desirability of a single global system as opposed to competing national systems.

The British reported that they were expecting to submit a summary of these discussions to the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT, the French acronym) to be held in Cologne in December 1962. The State Department thought this move would only relate American ideas secondhand. Therefore, the State Department sent an American team to Europe to brief CEPT members prior to the December conference. During these meetings, and in the course of the conference, it became evident that the European countries were quite excited about participating in a joint system. The form of participation was not set out precisely at this time, however. More detailed consideration at the international level would have to await the formation of specific proposals by Comsat. The role of the State Department was to lay the groundwork for these discussions.

During these preliminary meetings, the principal State Department representative, Gilbert Carter, perceived a pattern of internal competition within several European countries.18 Past international telecommunications agreements had been negotiated on what [179] might be called a nonpolitical basis. European telecommunications administrations had bargained with AT&T and other carriers regarding the laying of new cables or the starting up of radio services. Foreign offices were not involved in these negotiations. However, the economic and political consequences of communications satellites were far from predictable, so it was natural for foreign offices to become involved. The resolution of questions affecting broad national interests could not be left to traditional means. Telecommunications experts, on the other hand, wanted to preserve the old way of doing business; they believed that diplomats only created difficulties.

This domestic alignment observed by Carter in certain European countries corresponded to the pattern within the United States. To one trained in international relations, this pattern pointed to the existence of a subculture in the international environment whose representatives had more in common with each other on a functional level than they did with nationals of their own countries who performed different tasks. The transnational cohesiveness of communications administrations, though, did not serve as a barrier to participation by others. The introduction of satellite communications into the international environment could not be isolated, as was the introduction of telephone cables in 1956. Broader national interests were at stake.

In Great Britain, the Air Ministry, the Foreign Office, and aerospace companies had a great interest in space communications. This broad range of interest also was the pattern in France, West Germany, and other countries. The rationale that had led to the creation of Eurospace, ELDO, and ESRO worked in terms of space communications, too. Europeans felt that in view of the U.S. technological leadership, their interests would be served best if they could speak with one voice rather than many.

The first concrete manifestation of a European regional approach came at the CEPT conference held in Cologne in December 1962. The Telecommunications Committee, one of the permanent organs of the conference, set up a committee to: (1) study all problems relating to the organized participation of all interested European countries and the operation of a single world network of communications satellites; (2) establish the basis of discussions to be held between the CEPT countries and the United States for the establishment and operation of a single world network of communications satellites; and (3) determine the basis for a world organization to manage such a network. The creation of this CEPT committee signified that Europe would take a regional approach to the U.S. proposal rather than negotiate a series of bilateral arrangements and that Western Europe accepted, in broad outline, the idea of a single world system.

After the 1962 conference in Cologne, Western Europe proceeded in high gear to organize a European say in space communications. At a July 1963 intergovernmental meeting in London, CETS set up a structure consisting of steering, organizational, and space technology committees. The committee set up by CEPT in December 1962 became the advisor to CETS on technical matters. Subsequently, in November 1963, CETS agreed that it "should be set up to provide to the extent possible, a counterpart to the U.S. Communications Satellite Corp. [Comsat]."19

The existence of a European regional approach set the stage for definitive negotiations to establish an operational global system. As a prelude to formal meetings, a team of American officials from the State Department, the FCC, and Comsat met with technical experts from CETS to discuss the outlook for satellite communications in the near future.20 The first formal meeting took place in Rome in February 1964. No drafts were [180] tabled at this meeting, but a thorough discussion of the general principles for the proposed system's framework resulted.

One of the basic system characteristics agreed on at the Rome meeting was the idea of an interim system. The participants felt that establishing a permanent international plan would be premature in light of the many economic, political, and technical unknowns. Another area of agreement was that Comsat should act as system manager on behalf of all the other participants.21 While ownership would be joint, Comsat would assure its commanding place by managing the system. On the other hand, Comsat was not to have a free hand. The idea of an international steering committee to oversee developments was discussed.

As the Rome conference ended, considerable agreement on all but three major areas emerged: (1) the duration of the interim agreements; (2) the allocation of ownership quotas; and (3) the voting procedure. The alignment of opinion on these issues pitted the United States against CETS. The Europeans wanted a short interim arrangement, while the United States wanted one of considerable duration. The rationale of the American position was that a longer interim period would provide more experience on which to base the permanent arrangement. The United States also wanted a longer interim period to retain its initial leadership position. U.S. negotiators feared that the time needed to negotiate a permanent arrangement would be so great that it would run counter to the mandate of the Communications Satellite Act of 1962.

The Europeans, on the other hand, hoped to increase their satellite ability at the earliest possible time and therefore pushed for a short agreement. The idea that short interim arrangements would lead to an increase in Europe's stature may have been wrong, however. As the system was to be global, the increasing number of non-European nations in the venture might align to work against the increase in European influence. Nonetheless, it was the position of CETS at the Rome conference that the interim arrangements should last for only about three years.

The Rome conference also included the ownership issue, which revolved around the amount of capital the Europeans wished to invest in the system. The greater the amount of a country's capital investment, the greater its percentage of ownership and thus, potentially, control and rate of return. Expressing their optimism on the prospects for satellite communications, the Europeans wished to invest more money than the United States thought they should.22 Moreover, the U.S. negotiating team argued for substantial majority ownership by Comsat.

The voting issue concerned the formula by which the system's steering committee (which came to be known as the Interim Communications Satellite Committee) would decide on various matters regarding system management. Because the United States was to have majority ownership, it naturally would be able to control the majority of votes under the system of weighted voting that everyone envisaged as legitimate. The problem lay in the amount of control that the Europeans wanted. Important decisions would involve weighted voting encompassing a greater number of votes than the United States alone possessed. Any other decision-making formula would destroy the concept of partnership. The issue, therefore, was not weighted voting, but how much of a majority, in addition to the votes of the United States, would be required to pass a resolution. The United States feared that CETS might vote as a bloc, and that would constitute a veto even under a weighted voting arrangement. The Europeans feared that, if they were not given [181] some assurance on the criteria for making decisions on procurement, on ground stations, or on other matters, their standing as partners would be meaningless.

These three issues--the duration of the interim arrangements, ownership, and voting--dominated the discussions and negotiations that followed the Rome conference in February 1964. Additional problems, such as system use by DoD and possible membership by the Soviet Union, were deliberated, but they did not impinge directly on the progress of events leading to the establishment of the interim system. Those two problems were handled at a future date, as discussed later in this chapter.

The next meeting following the Rome conference occurred in London from 6 to 8 April 1964. At that time, the U.S. negotiating team advanced two agreements--one governmental and the other commercial. The United States felt that Europe, Australia, Canada, and Japan would insist on an intergovernmental agreement rather than a purely commercial arrangement as had been characteristic in cable consortia,23 and therefore the U.S. team came prepared with a draft of a simple intergovernmental "umbrella" agreement.24 It received tentative approval from the Europeans.

A period of intense drafting activity then ensued. In May 1964, two meetings took place to compare drafts (in London) and to study traffic statistics (in Montreal). The London meeting was not a negotiating session, but an attempt to develop language for those points on which no substantial differences had arisen. The Montreal meeting on traffic projections was important, because ownership in the interim system was to reflect the actual distribution of international telecommunications traffic. To measure that traffic, the 1963 International Telecommunications Union's projections for the year 1968 served as a base. Those statistics were reexamined to determine what share of total international traffic could be handled legitimately by communications satellites. The Montreal meeting agreed that the United States had more than 50 percent of that total traffic, but did not determine how much more.

The next meeting to discuss substantive differences occurred in London on 15 and 16 June 1964. The issues of interim agreement duration and system ownership reached resolution. Those attending decided that the planned Interim Communications Satellite Committee would submit a report no later than 1 January 1969 to all parties recommending what changes, if any, should be made in the "Interim Arrangements." An international conference would consider the report, but if no changes were agreed to, the Interim Arrangements would remain in effect. This compromise gave the United States the assurance of at least five years of experience before laying out the definite arrangements. The Europeans were satisfied because five years was not so long as to prejudice their position in the coming decade, when they hoped to have developed a greater technological base in satellite communications technology.25

The issue of ownership allocations was settled by giving Comsat a 61-percent undivided interest of the space system. One should bear in mind that the ground stations were not included, as they were to remain in national hands. The total European participation, as well as that of the Canadians, Japanese, and Australians, was 39 percent.26 A difficult facet of the allocation decision was how to arrange for the accession of new members to the Interim Arrangements. The Europeans pushed to have the United States agree that, up to a certain point, all new signatories' shares should come out of the U.S. quota. The United States successfully resisted this move; instead, it was decided that everyone's share [182] would be cut on a pro-rata basis as new participants joined.27 Comsat's quota, however, could not fall below 50.6 percent, thus assuring the firm a majority voice during the period of the Interim Arrangements.

At the end of June 1964, only one important issue remained: voting. A conference in Washington, D.C., held from 21 to 24 July 1964, resolved that issue. On important decisions (for example, system choice, rates, ground station standards, or contract letting), the Interim Communications Satellite Committee voted by a weighted majority of 12.5 votes above those controlled by Comsat. All other decisions were by simple majority vote, but all parties committed themselves to try to arrive at unanimous agreements. In addition, if a decision concerning the budget, the placing of a contract, or the launching of a satellite were delayed more than 60 days, a majority vote of only 8.5 above those votes controlled by Comsat was required to pass.28 For this system of weighted voting to be acceptable to the United States, the CETS had to convince the Americans that it would not vote as a bloc; otherwise, the formula gave the Europeans a veto.

The voting formula was related to the crucial matter of contract awards. Article X of the agreement specified that "the Committee and the Corporation [Comsat] as manager shall . . . seek to ensure that contracts are so distributed that equipment is designed, developed and procured in the States whose Governments are Parties to this Agreement in approximate proportion to the respective quotas of their corresponding signatories to the Special Agreement." This particular provision was very difficult to negotiate. European industry had lobbied through organizations such as Eurospace to pressure their governments into negotiating for a plan that would assure them substantial access to the procurement process.29 The Europeans wanted an allocation for procurement on a national basis according to quotas of capital contribution.30 The compromise provision allowed for geographical distribution only when competitive bids were comparable in terms of the best equipment for the best price.

It was obvious to most participants, though, that Europe would be able to contribute substantially only in the 1970s. Almost the entire initial system would be built by the United States. Already, contracts had been signed with Hughes for the Early Bird satellite in March 1965, and Comsat had requested design contracts for an initial system from Hughes, AT&T, RCA, Space Technology Laboratories (TRW), and ITT. Comsat was to make a choice from among these alternatives in the fall of 1965--long before the Europeans would possess the level of technology required.31 Nonetheless, the voting procedures and the procurement provision assured the Europeans that they could be partners in research and development as well as in system use.

Thirteen governments and Vatican City initialed the "Agreement Establishing Interim Arrangements for a Global Commercial Communications Satellite System" on 24 July 1964. The agreement then was opened for signature by the governments or their designated communications entities on 20 August. Thus, a joint venture for space communications, known as Intelsat (the International Telecommunications Satellite Consortium), came into existence.


[183] Foreign Relations and National Security 32


The prospect of a shared system between the Interim Arrangements and DoD was laid to rest in July 1964, but the issues involved arose again in connection with DoD use of Intelsat for administrative traffic. Similarly, these issues surfaced in terms of the NASA-Comsat agreement concerning communications for the Apollo lunar program and the FCC's "authorized user" decision in the summer of 1966. The use of the Intelsat system by DoD involved three questions: (1) government relations with private enterprise (the subsidy issue); (2) requirements and capabilities of the military communications system; and (3) foreign relations matters, such as the promotion of U.S. leadership in communications satellite developments.

In January 1965, a controversy arose as to whether DoD should use its own system for both bulk traffic and urgent national security needs. Comsat was afraid that if DoD used its own system for all its traffic, the firm's financial future would be dim. The military share of all U.S. overseas traffic amounted to 30 percent. Comsat made an offer to DoD after the demise of the shared system plan. The new proposal would cost $50 million, but DoD turned it down because it cost half as much as the Philco system.33 However, the Pentagon did assure Comsat that it would not put all DoD traffic through its own system. Dr. Eugene Fubini, Deputy Director of Defense Research and Engineering, estimated that "95 or 90 percent of our traffic will not go through the military system."34 As it turned out, though, two years later DoD was planning to have a third of its needs met internally and two thirds by lease from commercial carriers.35 By January 1971, in fact, the Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS) was using 44.2 million two-way channel miles, 62 percent of which were leased from private carriers and the other 38 percent government owned. Private carriers thus did not receive the share of business they had anticipated.

For communications satellite service in particular, the DoD spent $22,746,360 through commercial carriers in fiscal 1970, while spending $111 million on its own DSCS I satellite. In addition, the DSCS II satellite was to have 1,300 full duplex voice channels, compared to DSCS I's five to twelve channels. Furthermore, DoD funding for space communications rose from $62.9 million in fiscal 1972 to $192 million in fiscal 1973. This dramatic increase arose from the start of a new mobile communications satellite system called FLEETSAT or the Fleet Satellite communications system.36

The interest of this issue lies in evaluating the importance of government assistance to Comsat as a means of promoting the foreign policy goals of the Communications Satellite Act of 1962. The different roles of the corporation created a paradox. Leaving aside the pros and cons of the financial controversy, one can make the following policy-oriented observations. If Comsat is a private enterprise, it would be contrary to free enterprise philosophy for the government to assist it, especially if the government could provide its own services more economically. On the other hand, if Comsat is viewed as the chosen instrument of American foreign policy in space communications, it would be contrary to the national interest to refuse assistance to Comsat, without which its financial and [184] political image and stature abroad might be damaged. As Comsat was a little of both, one can readily understand why the subsidy issue was a matter of both domestic and foreign policy.

The same general analysis applies to the criticisms voiced against the 1965 contract that NASA, through the National Communications System (NCS), made with Comsat to provide communications for the Apollo program. President Kennedy established the NCS in 1963 to unify and integrate all government communications capabilities. The House Military Operations Subcommittee was a forceful political actor on this issue.37 The Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences also addressed the program.38 Concerning the subsidy issue, Representative Fernand J. St. Germain (D-RI) observed: "This is supposed to be a public corporation, and as I recall, the logic behind this and the arguments behind this were we want this to be a public corporation because the Government shouldn't be in private business, and here, lo and behold, the Government, one agency in itself, is going to buy 45 percent."39

Representative William S. Moorhead (D-PA) asked NASA Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., whether, when the opportunity to get a regular customer from the DoD had disappeared, Comsat had not "turned to NASA to bail them out of a hole?"40 But Comsat had not requested the Apollo communications program. NASA, within the framework of the NCS, had examined all the alternatives and had, on its own, requested the NCS manager to contact Comsat.41

The U.S. government had documents to prove that its choice was made after all due deliberation--as distinguished from the Comsat-DoD case. The House Military Operations Subcommittee was especially concerned about the real economies involved, however.42 Herbert Roback, the staff administrator, observed that the Communications Satellite Act provided that a separate government system could be created in the national interest and that one of these interests was economy.43 He was concerned in particular that a large part of the decision-making process was classified. The feeling of the Military Operations Subcommittee seemed to be that too much secrecy might cover up hidden purposes. The subcommittee was willing to accept government subsidy of Comsat, if it served to strengthen Comsat's position in the international bargaining to establish definitive global satellite communications arrangements after 1969.

The Military Operations Subcommittee also felt that the secrecy surrounding the negotiations between Comsat and the NCS should be removed because the use of taxpayers' money ought to be the subject of public debate. On the other hand, public debate might undermine the purpose of the contract, if in reality its purpose were to subsidize Comsat. Foreign governments would recognize that government subsidies to the firm were a reality. Perhaps this was the reason for the government's secrecy. Nonetheless, the government provided evidence that the contract with Comsat was the most efficient and economical alternative available.44 The outside observer is left with a partial picture.

[185] The third and most important problem that arose following the demise of the joint Comsat-DoD proposal concerned the "authorized user" issue. Section 305(b)(4) of the Communications Satellite Act authorized Comsat "to contract with authorized users, including the United States Government, for the services of the communications satellite system." One interpretation of this section would allow direct Comsat-DoD contracting with no necessity for FCC approval. This interpretation was that of the drafters of the legislation, according to Edward Welsh, Executive Secretary of the National Aeronautics and Space Council. Another interpretation required the FCC to determine who were "authorized users" and under what circumstances the government would fit this category. DoD proceeded on the basis of the first interpretation when, in January 1966, it notified Comsat of its need for thirty voice circuits in the Pacific.45 The FCC operated on the basis of the second assumption when it instituted a public inquiry, "In the Matter of Authorized Entities and Authorized Users Under the Communications Satellite Act of 1962" (Docket No. 16058), in the spring of 1965.46

The Defense Communications Agency (DCA), which coordinated separate communications systems of the armed services, considered Comsat to be the best carrier. It notified the other international carriers of its traffic needs in the Pacific a full three months after it had notified Comsat.47 It was not surprising that, after the submission of proposals from five carriers, Comsat's proved to be the best. DCA signed a contract with Comsat on 26 July 1966. It also was not surprising that the FCC, acting as the protector of the status quo, decided that Comsat could deal only with the government directly "in unique and exceptional circumstances." On 21 July 1966, the FCC issued a "Memorandum, Opinion and Statement of Policy" to this effect.48 The FCC believed that Comsat was "primarily a carrier's carrier" and judged "that if the Government or others were to obtain (service) directly from Comsat, there would be serious adverse affects upon the well-being of the commercial telecommunications industry and the general public it serves."

There was a clear difference of opinion, if not a conflict of interest, between the FCC and DoD. One way to resolve the difference would have been for DCA to notify the FCC that the circumstances were "so unique and exceptional as to require service directly from Comsat." Although DCA felt that way, the statement was not included in the contract; otherwise, the FCC would not have approved it.49

This issue received congressional attention when the House Military Operations Subcommittee stepped in to recommend "that the DCA assign the Comsat contract to one or more American international carriers, based upon an across-the-board substantial reduction in charges for satellite and cable circuits in the Pacific area."50 All agreed to this solution. The cost saving to the government by reducing composite rates on all 128 cable circuits leased in the Pacific by the DoD was greater than $6 million per year, in contrast to the $1.6 million in savings that would have been realized by dealing directly with Comsat for thirty circuits.51

[186] One can conclude from this episode that a new technology (communications satellites) was slowed down to accommodate established interests (cables). Nonetheless, the results of incrementalism and the consensus approach produced economic benefits in the short run and avoided a sudden, potentially destabilizing decision. The FCC's "authorized user" decision showed that the issue of cables versus satellites may never be unequivocally resolved. A mix of the two, although slowly modified over time, will persist. By 1972, in fact, the new office responsible for coordinating governmental communications, the Office of Telecommunication Policy, recognized that the heyday of decision making through systems analysis had passed. Rational decisions in areas where one does not have all the facts, and where the facts changed from day to day, required day-to-day decision making. This conclusion seemed particularly apropos a generation later, as the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider substantial reductions in DoD's reliance on communications satellites because of advances in fiber optic cables.52


Intelsat and Intersputnik 53


Satellite communications and foreign policy problems also entailed strained relations with the Soviet Union. During the 1962 meetings of the Legal Subcommittee of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, the Soviets objected to the Americans' Project West Ford and the operations of Comsat. Their objections seemed to render unlikely the conclusion of an agreement on legal principles governing human activities in space. The Soviet draft of legal principles relating to satellite communications asserted that space cooperation was incumbent on all states and that the implementation of any measure that in any way might hinder the peaceful exploration and use of outer space by other countries should be permitted only after prior discussion of and agreement on such measures among the countries concerned. The Soviets also declared that all space activity should be carried out "solely and exclusively by States."54

The Soviets directed the draft of principles against Project West Ford. Needless to say, the United States found it unacceptable, not because it wished to carry out this project or others without taking a proper regard for the opinions of humanity, but because it did not wish to subject national programs to a Communist veto. The United States objected to the declaration that all space activity should be carried out "solely and exclusively by States" because it undermined Comsat as a somewhat private entity. By stressing the exclusiveness of state responsibility for and control of space endeavors, the Soviets meant to downgrade the role of private enterprise or, as the Soviets would call it, exploitative monopoly. Clearly, the Soviet draft of principles witnessed the intrusion of the Cold War into what had seemed a promising move toward cooperation in the form of the Kennedy-Khrushchev letters. Nevertheless, the end of 1963 saw a spirit of agreement. The Soviet Union agreed to omit the consideration of the principles they had so strongly urged in the United Nations Legal Subcommittee. The General Assembly was able to unanimously pass Resolution 1962 on 13 December 1963, but the following year ushered in another period of renewed Cold War competition.

The Soviet Union evolved a position extremely critical of Comsat and Intelsat. The Soviets were slow in voicing this antagonism, however, and most likely came to it after a [187] period of protracted deliberations. In February 1963, the American Embassy in Moscow delivered a note to the Soviet government suggesting that it might be useful to discuss a commercial communications satellite system.55 The Soviets, though, considered such a meeting premature. They also had this attitude during the Extraordinary Administrative Radio Conference later in the year.

In 1964, however, the United States initiated concrete negotiations with various Western European and other nations. In February 1964, perhaps for reasons of intelligence, the Soviets expressed an interest in consultations with the United States. They suggested that a meeting be held in Geneva, during the May and June 1964 meeting of the Technical Subcommittee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

The United States agreed to this proposal; after all, the Communications Satellite Act mandated agreements with other nations. Therefore, in June 1964, a U.S. team of government and Comsat officials flew to Geneva and briefed the Russian delegation to the concurrent London negotiations on the Interim Arrangements in terms of the negotiations for establishing a global commercial system. The Russians asked a few questions concerning whether the allocation decisions of the Extraordinary Administrative Radio Conference were definitive enough to warrant the engineering and construction of an operational system. This line of inquiry reflected the Soviet view that operational arrangements were premature. Consequently, at the end of the meeting, the Soviet delegation pronounced that the United States was still in "an experimental phase"; the negotiations were "an American or U.S. inspired experimental program," and the Soviet Union was "not really very interested in it at this time." They concluded: "We will continue to do some experimental work on our own. And perhaps at some time in the future we will get together and talk about the whole project again."56

This rather opaque, lukewarm statement did not reflect the ideological opposition to private enterprise that characterized Soviet attitudes later in the year. Perhaps an explanation for this statement lies in the agreement concluded by Dr. Anatoli Blagonravov of the Soviet Academy of Sciences and NASA Deputy Administrator Hugh L. Dryden concerning U.S.-Soviet cooperation in space. By leaving the door open, Blagonravov may have expressed an attitude contrary to that of his political superiors. The Soviets might have had much to gain from cooperating with the Interim Arrangements, such as the pooling of resources and the cutting of costs. For political reasons, though, the arguments of economy often have gone unheeded.

In the fall of 1964, at meetings of the International Institute of Space Law and of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, the Soviet Union and other Communist countries expressed strong opposition to Intelsat as a device for transferring space communications into the hands of U.S. private capital. In Warsaw, Dr. I.I. Cheprov read a paper in which he contended that it was "the duty of lawyers imposed upon them . . . by resolutions of the U.N. General Assembly to see to it that communications by means of satellites become 'available to the nations of the world as soon as practicable on a global and non-discriminatory basis. . .' (Res. 1721/XVI)."57 Cheprov contended that the Interim Arrangements were a means of perpetuating the Comsat....



Figure 25. The Soviet Union created a satellite communications system, called Intersputnik, that rivaled Intelsat. Its technologival basis was the Molniya satellite, shown above.

Figure 25. The Soviet Union created a satellite communications system, called Intersputnik, that rivaled Intelsat. Its technologival basis was the Molniya satellite, shown above. Critical of Comsat, the Soviet Union argued at the United Nations and in other forums against the role of private enterprise in space communications. (Courtesy of NASA, photo from unnumbered folder, "USSR Molniya general," NASA History Office.


....monopoly. Not only would the partners in the Interim Arrangements be victims of monopoly domination, but so would the Americans themselves: "It is well known that private enterprise in the United States has a long experience of discriminating against Americans themselves, so how can we expect this enterprise to be unbiased and just on the international scene?" Cheprov quoted the opponents of the Communications Satellite Act as evidence against existing American policy.

These charges echoed at the meetings of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space held between 26 October and 6 November 1964. The delegates of Communist bloc countries criticized Intelsat as a profit system for the benefit of the undeveloped countries at the expense of the developing nations.58 Second, they criticized the Interim Arrangements as a violation of the principle of sovereign equality because of the procedures for weighted voting. Third, they reproached them as an attempt to create an organization outside the more appropriate organizational and political framework of the United Nations and the International Telecommunications Union. These [189] charges, couched in traditional Cold War semantics, were placed in a different perspective by the dispassionate analyses of the representatives of the United States and Britain.

The U.S. representative pointed out that a system based on profit was not necessarily exploitative: "Perhaps what we refer to as a 'profit motive' in this country is not as far removed as it might first appear to be from what sometimes is translated from the Soviet press as being 'profit incentive.' " Thatcher went on to suggest that the Communist delegates might be mistakenly confusing participation in Intelsat with access: "It is clear from the agreements themselves . . . that participation in these arrangements is open to all state members of the ITU [International Telecommunications Union] and that whether or not a State is a participating member, access to the system is on a completely free and non-discriminatory basis to all states."

Western delegates did not address the Soviet charges at that time. However, several considerations in this regard may be mentioned. First, the principle of sovereign equality in some arrangements is not incompatible with the principle of weighted voting in others. Political treaties are usually based on sovereign equality, although even in that case the United Nations Security Council can be viewed as an exception. Functional arrangements may involve special formulas reflecting unique situations and responsibilities, as with the case of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and Intelsat. Thus, weighted voting does not per se lead to exploitation.

Second, Intelsat was not divorced from the framework of the United Nations or the International Telecommunications Union. The Extraordinary Administrative Radio Conference of the International Telecommunications Union established the technical framework for the formation of a system of communications satellites. The United Nations does not discourage but rather--in Chapter VIII of its Charter--encourages the formation of regional arrangements whose principles harmonize with those of the Charter. It was somewhat strange for the Soviet Union to criticize the United States for carrying on operations beyond the fringe, when the Russians themselves often appeared as the consummate devotees of self-insulation. However, the tactic of calling for increased international cooperation for others, while reneging on international collaboration itself, was a familiar Soviet practice. In fact, what one saw in this instance was another form of competition--competition to see who cooperated the most. Because both the United States and the Soviet Union continually pronounced their cooperative intentions, it can be interpreted as a mark of prestige to have a better record of international collaboration. As NASA Administrator James E. Webb stated: "Despite its protestations of peaceful interests, the Soviet space program can show no comparable (to our own) engagement in cooperative relationships."59

To overcome this cooperative weakness, the Soviet Union proposed its own international satellite communications system, Intersputnik. On 5 August 1968, the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Mongolia, Poland, and Romania submitted a draft agreement for Intersputnik to the United Nations.60 The proposal took advantage of several apparent weaknesses in the Intelsat approach. In the first place, the only members of Intersputnik were states, and the voting procedure was one vote per state. This approach obviously had appeal to many countries, for it contrasted favorably with the image of Intelsat as being dominated by a private U.S. corporation. Furthermore, the Preamble to the draft contemplated the establishment of a system that would provide direct broadcasting from satellites. Such a system could bypass the need to establish expensive ground stations to relay signals from satellites in space. Thus, if such a direct broadcast system were implied, Intersputnik could greatly aid the less developed countries [190] by enabling them to circumvent the need to establish a costly communications infrastructure. Finally, the Intersputnik draft agreement allowed for more than one international communications satellite system, whereas one of the main criticisms of Intelsat was that the signers of the Interim Arrangements committed themselves to a single system.

Unfortunately for the Soviet Union, the Intersputnik draft had several drawbacks. First, during the same month the eight Communist states proposed their own system, the Soviets launched their invasion of Czechoslovakia. The callousness of Soviet behavior toward their own ally overshadowed any possible propaganda benefits from Intersputnik.

Another drawback to Intersputnik involved a number of ambiguities in the draft proposal. One concerned system ownership. Article 3(2) stated that the satellites could be the property of Intersputnik or leased to Intersputnik by its member states. As Stephen E. Doyle wrote, this provision "could be construed as a Soviet effort to ensure that the USSR would be able to provide at least some of the space segment requirements of the international system to the organization on a lease basis with the USSR collecting the rent."61 It follows that, in contrast to Intelsat, Intersputnik would be a coordinating umbrella organization rather than one that is the sole owner of the space segment. However, similar to Intelsat, Article 3(4) of the draft stated that "the ground complex shall be the property of the States which have constructed it in their territory." A further ambiguity in the Intersputnik proposal concerned the lack of any requirement that there be nondiscriminatory access for all users--a requirement clearly stated in the Preamble to the Intelsat agreement. On the other hand, Article 10 of the Communist draft stated that "the distribution of communications channels among states members of the organization shall be made on the basis of their need for communications channels." Paragraph 2 of the same article stipulated, however, that states had to pay for its channels at fixed rates, which was certainly a strange, albeit understandable, requirement for a Communist organization ideologically committed to the proposition "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs."

Yet another ambiguity in the Intersputnik draft concerned the organization's executive and governing structure. Each state had one vote, and actions required a majority of two-thirds; consequently, a minority of member states could stall an initiative backed by a simple majority.62 In addition, unlike Intelsat, Intersputnik lacked an international executive body, but instead had a secretary general whose responsibilities seemed to include much executive as well as administrative authority.

In addition to these ambiguities, a third major drawback to the Soviet Intersputnik draft proposal was that no states took the Soviets up on their offer four years after its submission. It was true that the draft treaty of 1968 was superseded by a treaty in final form, which was deposited at the United Nations on 15 November 1971, but that treaty had not come into force by mid-1972. Furthermore, four years later, Intersputnik still had not begun actual operations. The Soviet Union had established a domestic system, Orbita, which was quite successful and extensive, but their interest in international space communications lacked the vigor of their other programs of space exploration and exploitation.63

Nonetheless, the Soviets had plans to launch a synchronous communications satellite, to be called Statsionar 1, over the Indian Ocean. This position would allow it to cover [191] populated areas between Britain and Japan. Also, the Soviets helped construct ground stations abroad in Mongolia, Cuba, the United Arab Republic, and Mali,64 but it was unlikely that the system would have been able to compete on a point-to-point basis with Intelsat. The only potential threat to U.S. leadership in Intelsat could have come, but never did, through the establishment of a direct-broadcasting system.

In summarizing the competitive features of U.S.-Soviet relationships regarding satellite communications, one must emphasize that the United States had a commanding lead in exploiting the early technology for purposes of international communications. The character of the U.S. leadership was such that it damaged the prestige but not the security of the Soviet Union. The Soviets were not impervious to prestige competition, but through 1972, they confined their responses to ideological thrusts and limited international experiments.65

If the Soviet Union had been able to establish a direct-broadcast television service to the newer nations, they might have had at their disposal a powerful instrument of propaganda and mass communication.66 In the early years, U.S. policy makers were not blind to direct-broadcast possibilities. In fact, considerable discussion of such a system had taken place in the United Nations and in Congress.67 These systems, though, did not come into their own until the late 1980s. By then, the Cold War was coming to an end, and competition in communications satellites was mainly a market phenomena, not one between enemy states. In fact, by the 1990s, Intelsat was facing the prospect of privatization, and Intersputnik was thinking of modeling itself on Intelsat's early life history!




The origins of communications satellite policies, programs, and institutions in the 1960s and early 1970s set off an avalanche of new communications satellite techniques that continue to this day. In some cases, the original players have fallen victim to their own successes, or they are making their way with the same names in increasingly deregulated, privatized, and interconnected global networks and webs. Comsat still exists, but events have overtaken its foreign policy goals. The Defense Satellite Communications System is ongoing, but its role after the Cold War has changed. Intelsat exists as an organization set up by treaty, but it may split up into two or more parts. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union has disintegrated, but Intersputnik continues to operate while fashioning itself on the model of the old Intelsat.

What lessons does the political scientist draw from the history of communications satellites over the last three decades? Do we really have twenty-twenty hindsight now, or do our glasses filter out certain perspectives that are crucial for understanding technological [192] change, domestic policy, foreign relations, and national sovereignty at the dawn of the twenty-first century?

From the vantage point of today, the themes stressed in the author's 1972 work on communications satellites remain salient and even more pronounced. The importance of technological change is manifest, and the distinction between evolutionary and revolutionary change pointed out in 1972 is still probably correct. A technological change can be evolutionary--for instance, the move from geostationary satellites to low-Earth-orbit satellites. Yet there can be revolutionary economic impacts on industry structure and no political effects--say, in terms of the balance of power or the national interest. In the main, the consequences of technological innovation in communications satellites have been evolutionary, and it is certainly ironic that cables, not coaxial but fiber optic, are making a comeback.

From another perspective, policy making in a fast-changing environment may be shocked and compromised by the system's changing structure. Such an environment will affect rationality in decision making, as well as the boundaries of political systems--how wide they are and how porous and tenuous they are. Another effect will be on democracy. If globalization processes become encoded in the technological logic of global communications satellite systems, then locally based checks and balances and systems of accountability may be undermined, or put under great stress. However, checks and balances and accountability may reappear at the global level in terms of market-based incentives and the requirements of international regimes.

In today's world, we see great forces pushing in both directions--toward global economic logic and toward local political control. Nationalism seems to be both resurgent and atavistic. We live in a time of paradoxes and ambivalences. Communications satellite technology is one small part of this total technological, economic, and political reality. It is a microcosm, and its history and its lessons point to a better understanding of our age, which may be called "an age of ages"--the space age, the nuclear age, the computer age, and the information age. One must not forget, too, that this is the age of democracy. Perhaps that is the most pertinent lesson of the history of communications satellites: if the technology has globalizing effects, eventually felt at the level of the individual, then communications satellites, as part of the worldwide communications revolution, will be part of the world movement toward democracy.



1. Jonathan F. Galloway, The Politics and Technology of Satellite Communications (Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1972).

2. Alvin and Heidi Toffler, in Creating a New Civilization: The Politics of the Third Wave (Atlanta: Turner Publishing, 1994), p. 33, talk about "the Third Wave," the end of nationalism, and the coming of globalization and borderless states.

3. Kenichi Ohmae, The Borderless World (New York: Harper Collins, 1990).

4. This section is based on Galloway, The Politics and Technology, pp. 80-104.

5. The Communications Satellite Act of 1962, sections 20l(a)(5) and 305(a)(1).

6. At the same time, Kennedy appointed Dr. Joseph V. Charyk as president and principal operating officer of Comsat. Charyk was formerly under secretary of the Air Force, a businessman, and a university scientist. Also, in February 1963, Comsat's articles of incorporation were approved. The articles and bylaws may be found in Senate Committee on Commerce, Communications Satellite Incorporation Hearings, 88th Cong., 1st sess., pp. 35-39.

7. Leo D. Welch to E. William Henry, Chairman of FCC, letter, 7 August 1963, reprinted as Attachment C in U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, Communications Satellite Act of 1962--The First Year, 88th Cong., 1st sess., 1963, H. Rept. 809, p. 19 (hereinafter cited as H. Rept. 809).

8. In 1963, the FCC permitted Comsat "to borrow $1,900,000 pursuant to a line of credit agreement for $5 million entered into by the corporation with 10 commercial banks." H. Rept. 809, p. 11.

9. House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, H. Rept. 809, p. 29.

10. Comsat, "Statement Relating to Anticipated Participation by Foreign Governments or Business Entities in Such a System," reprinted in H. Rept. 809, p. 6.

11. Richard N. Gardner, "Space Meteorology and Communications: A Challenge to Science and Diplomacy," Department of State Bulletin 48 (13 May 1963): 774. It may be asked why competition is beneficial within the United States and disastrous outside.

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid.

14. The following information on ESRO, ELDO, and Eurospace is drawn from British Information Services, Britain and Space Research (London: Central Office of Information, 1965). See also U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, International Cooperation and Organization for Outer Space, 89th Cong., 1st sess., 1965, Staff Report, Document 56, pp. 105-17, 123-28.

15. British Information Services, Britain and Commonwealth Telecommunications (London: Central Office of Information, 1963), p. 26.

16. Department of State, Summary of Activities of Department of State Relating to the Communications Satellite Act of 1962 (September 20, 1963). Reprinted in H. Rept. 809, pp. 25-27.

17. Ibid.

18. U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Government Operations, Military Operations Subcommittee, Hearings, Satellite Communications--1964, Part 2, 88th Cong., 2d sess., 1964, p. 661, hereinafter cited as Satellite Communications Hearings.

19. Department of State, "Summary of European Regional Organization in the Communications Satellite Field," reprinted in U.S. Congressional Record, 88th Cong., 2d sess., p. 175.

20. Satellite Communications Hearings, Part 1, p. 316.

21. Satellite Communications Hearings, Part 2, p. 663.

22. See the testimony of Abram Chayes in Satellite Communications Hearings, Part 1, p. 363.

23. Ibid., p. 661.

24. Ibid., p. 664.

25. See Article IX of the Interim Arrangements, 2 U.S.T. 1705, T.I.A.S. 5646.

26. See Annex of Special Agreement, in Interim Arrangements.

27. Satellite Communications Hearings, Part 2, p. 667.

28. Article V (e) of the Interim Arrangements.

29. Satellite Communications Hearings, Part 2, p. 681.

30. Ibid., p. 100.

31. Ibid., p. 739.

32. This section is based on Galloway, The Politics and Technology, pp. 114-18.

33. U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, Hearings, NASA Authorization for Fiscal Year 1966, 89th Cong., 1st sess., 1965, p. 612.

34. Ibid., p. 610.

35. U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Government Operations, Military Operations Subcommittee, Hearings, Military Communications--1968, 90th Cong., 2d sess., 1968, p. 25.

36. Katherine Johnsen, "DoD Details New Satcom System," Aviation Week & Space Technology, 24 June 1968, p. 26-27; Philip J. Klass, "New DoD Satcoms Nearing Launch," Aviation Week & Space Technology, 11 January 1971, p. 40-45; "Industry Observer," Aviation Week & Space Technology, 10 April 1972, p. 9.

37. U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Government Operations, Military Operations, Subcommittee, Hearings, Missile and Space Ground Support Operations, 89th Cong., 2d sess., 1965, hereinafter cited as Missile and Space Ground Support Hearings.

38. U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, Hearings, National Communications Satellite Programs, 89th Cong., 2d sess., 1966, passim.

39. Missile and Space Ground Support Hearings, p. 29.

40. Ibid., p. 35.

41. Ibid., p. 150.

42. Ibid., pp. 26-27, et passim.

43. Ibid., p. 77.

44. Ibid., pp. 150-51, et passim. The contract as finally negotiated in early 1966 called for a three-year contract totaling more than $38.9 million.

45. U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Government Operations, Military Operations Subcommittee, Hearings, Government Use of Satellite Communications, 89th Cong., 2d sess., 1966, pp. 44-45.

46. Ibid., pp. 703-05.

47. Ibid., pp. 45, 81.

48. Reprinted in ibid., pp. 706-18.

49. Reprinted in ibid., p. 717.

50. U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Government Operations, Forty-third Report, Government Use of Satellite Communications, 89th Cong., 2d sess., 1966, H. Rept. No. 1836, p. 7.

51. U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Government Operations, Seventh Report, Government Use of Satellite Communications, 1967, 90th Cong., 1st sess., 1967, H. Rept. No. 613, p. 10.

52. Pat Cooper and Robert Holzer, "DOD Eyes Satellite Alternative," Space News 6 (7-13 August 1995): 1, 28.

53. This section is based on Galloway, The Politics and Technology, pp. 127-32.

54. United Nations Document A/AC.105/6, 9 July 1962. The Soviet draft also included principles on the rescue of astronauts, an agreed point.

55. Testimony of William Gilbert Carter in Satellite Communications Hearings, Part 2, p. 665. Much of the following information on U.S. discussions with the Soviet Union comes from this source, pp. 665-66, and from William Gilbert Carter, interview with Jonathan F. Galloway, Department of State, Washington, DC, 18 March 1965.

56. Testimony of William Gilbert Carter, ibid., p. 666.

57. I.I. Cheprov, "Some Legal Problems of International Space Communications," Proceedings of the Seventh Colloquium on the Law of Outer Space (Vienna: Springer-Verlag, 1965).

58. See United Nations Document A/AC.105/PV.26-35 for this and the following ideas.

59. NASA News, 25 January 1965, pp. 13-14.

60. United Nations Document A/AC.105/46, 9 August 1968.

61. Stephen E. Doyle, "An Analysis of the Socialist States' Proposal for INTERSPUTNIK: An International Communication Satellite System," Villanova Law Review 15 (Fall 1969): 83-105, quote on p. 88.

62. In Intelsat, this problem is overcome by lowering the majority required for passage on important matters after sixty days. See Agreement, Article V(d).

63. For a detailed analysis of the entire Soviet space program through 1970, see U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, Soviet Space Programs, 1966-70, 92nd Cong., 1st sess., 1971.

64. Thomas L. Shillinglaw, "The Soviet Union and International Satellite Telecommunications," Stanford Journal of International Studies 5 (June 1970): 199-226.

65. On 29 November 1965, color television experiments between the Soviet Union and France began using the French color television system and the Molniya satellite. Spaceflight 8 (January 1966): 1.

66. Just how powerful is a matter of conjecture. Mass media without the use of person-to-person communications may be a poor tool for manipulating attitudes and behavior. For a spectrum of opinion, see Ithiel de Sola Pool, "The Mass Media and Their Interpersonal Social Functions in the Process of Modernization," in Lewis Anthony Dexter and David M. White, eds., People, Society, and Mass Communications (New York: Free Press, 1964), pp. 429-43.

67. In 1968, the General Assembly established a Working Group on Direct Broadcast Satellites as part of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. Also, see U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on National Security Policy and Scientific Developments, Hearings, Satellite Broadcasting: Implications for Foreign Policy, 91st Cong., 1st sess., 1969.