Memorandum of Conversation, by
Paul O. Proehl of the Office of British
Commonwealth and Northern European Affairs
- Subject: Negotiations for Additional Military Facilities in Iceland
- Mr. Anthony B. Akers, Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force
- Colonel Bell, USAF
- Colonel Focht, USAF
- Mr. Raynor—BNA
- Mr. Ronhovde—BNA
- Mr. Rogers—RA
- Mr. Proehl—BNA
Mr. Raynor stated that the meeting had been called because it appeared that the Morse–Long report1 on overseas bases and Congressional attitudes in general obtaining at this time suggested the necessity of considering whether the American Minister to Iceland should continue in his attempts to open formal negotiations for additional military facilities in Iceland. Mr. Raynor stated that there was some cause for apprehension that even if an agreement were negotiated, which could not be accomplished without great risk on the part of the present Icelandic Government, Congress might refuse to make funds available to implement it, and that this would have serious repercussions in Iceland. He asked that the Air Force representatives state their view of what the present and expected status of the Icelandic project was.
Colonel Bell stated that the additional requirements had been approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and would not go back to that body for review. However, the Icelandic requirements were included in the current review being made by the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Colonel Bell expressed his opinion that the Icelandic program would not be cut out. He had referred this question to the Installations Board, and they had reaffirmed the high priority of the Icelandic program. Funds amounting to $25 million were already authorized in FY–53, subject, of course, to the current review. The Air Staff was reviewing the Air Force overseas program and referring its recommendation back to OSD. What the picture would be after the review was unknown; there would possibly be cuts in “frills” but Colonel Bell said again he believed the program would be substantially unchanged.
Mr. Raynor asked whether dependent housing would be cut out, to which Colonel Bell replied that it probably would not, since dependent housing was not considered a “frill”, but on the contrary was considered essential. Colonel Focht stated that a recent communication from General Brownfield indicated that planning on dependent housing for Keflavik was proceeding and that consequently, plans were being made to extend the period of service in Iceland for military personnel with dependents to two years.
Colonel Bell stated that if an agreement were reached between now and June, and assuming that the current review did not eliminate the program, $25 million would be the limit of spending that would be possible during this calendar year, and that this amount would certainly do until FY–54 funds were made available. Colonel Bell said it was his opinion that if the U.S. secured the agreement with the Icelandic Government for the additional facilities, funds for FY–54 could be secured. Even if the FY–53 figure of $25 million [Page 1521] was cut by the current review, it could probably be restored if an agreement were reached subsequently since the possibility of transfer does exist. Colonel Bell asked whether this entire discussion were not academic in view of the fact that an agreement did not seem probable in the near future.
Mr. Raynor stated that a slim possibility of reaching an agreement did exist. He referred to the most recent communication from Mr. Lawson (despatch No. 230, February 17, 19532) which stated that if the matter of additional American facilities in Iceland became an election campaign issue in Iceland, the Government might be inclined to enter into negotiations with us on the assumption that they had nothing further to lose by negotiating an agreement, and then would attempt to make the best of it by pointing to the long-range economic benefits to Iceland which would proceed from such an agreement. That was a source of concern: If the Agreement were negotiated in the face of heavy opposition and on the promise of considerable economic benefit, and subsequently we could not implement the agreement because Congress refused to supply the funds, the Government and the U.S. would be in an extremely embarrassing, if not untenable, position with respect to the Icelandic populace.
Mr. Akers stated that despite the negative implications of the Morse–Long report and because of the high priority which the Icelandic program continued to have, he was doubtful that there would be any obstacles to securing the necessary funds if the necessary agreement with the Icelandic Government were secured. Mr. Raynor stated that this was the information the Department of State desired. Colonel Bell stated that the basis of the Air Force view rested in part on the assumption that Congress would not interfere with the deployment plans for the 143 group Air Force, which continued to be a U.S. objective. In other words, Congress having authorized an Air Force of this size, it was expected that Congress would likewise provide money for the facilities to deploy it properly, at least to the extent of meeting minimum requirements.
Mr. Rogers stated that he believed this assumption to be valid, and furthermore that even if the 143 group goal were abandoned, the Icelandic and UK base programs would remain as the “hard core” which absolutely could not be cut out.
Mr. Raynor stated that on the basis of this information it appeared the American Minister should be permitted to move ahead should it be possible to do so.[Page 1522]
There was further discussion amplifying and clarifying some of the points made above.