Memorandum by the Deputy Director of the Office of British Commonwealth and Northern European Affairs (Satterthwaite)1

top secret

Subject: Probable Retrenchment of British Military Commitments.

I was somewhat surprised when the British were here last September2 that they did not go into the possibility of their having to eliminate or retrench some of their far flung military commitments as a result of their deteriorating economic position. This may have been because they had not yet thought out what they would have to do. It probably did not mean that they had considered the problem and had [Page 850] found a way to continue their military commitments unaided and, therefore, did not discuss it with us. It is also possible that at that time they could not make up their minds whether the military or their large and increasing social services would bear the brunt of budget cuts.

It seems to me that recent trends in England indicate that, although there will be some token cuts in social services, the exigencies of the political situation will result in military retrenchments. If this is so, it is likely that the bulk of the retrenchment will fall on establishments abroad and that we will be expected as far as possible to take up the slack. Perhaps some of the first retrenchments will be RAF operated airfields on the route between England and India. I assume that our own strategic planning calls for the continued operation of these fields.

I do not know to what degree this is already being considered in this Government but it might be wise for us to consider what we would do in the event of various degrees of British retrenchment. We may have an opportunity to make a choice of which installations are given up.

  1. The memorandum was addressed to Messrs. Thompson, Achilles, and Edwin M. Martin, the Director of the Office of European Regional Affairs.
  2. For documentation relating to the United States-United Kingdom-Canadian economic conversations in Washington during August and September 1949, see pp. 820 ff.