Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs ( Byroade ) to the Administrator of the Technical Cooperation Administration ( Andrews )1
TCA Financing for Roberts Field, Liberia
For the past several months the problem of financing the continued operation of Roberts Field, Liberia, has been the subject of detailed negotiations between the Departments of State and Defense. Since 1948 the field has been operated with funds made available by the Military Air Transport Service of the Air Force through a contractual arrangement with Pan American World Airlines; but despite the fact that NEA has made every effort to persuade the highest officials of the Defense Department to continue this arrangement, that Department has now determined, after thorough consideration of the problem, that United States military requirements at Roberts Field are not such as to justify the continuation of this expenditure after the present fiscal year ends. As a consequence, it has become necessary, in order to prevent this important civil aviation facility in Liberia from being closed down, with resultant injury to Liberia’s economic development, to obtain non-military funds with which to finance the field from the beginning of FY 1954. In view of the very important role already being played by the TCA program in fostering Liberia’s economic development, NEA considers that TCA is the most appropriate agency to undertake this project and to provide the necessary financing. Although it has been stated that TCA confines itself in the transport field to basic forms of surface transportation, NEA believes that there are special circumstances in the present instance which fully warrant a departure from this policy. It should be stated, furthermore, that the [Page 498] expense involved is much too great for Liberia to shoulder unaided at the present time, even if the Liberian Government desired to do so. The Liberian Government, insofar as is known, has not contemplated financing and operating the field itself.
For purposes of background and in order to provide a basis for further consideration of this project as one of those to be included in TCA’s budget for the FY 1954 Liberian program there are attached some explanatory comments and justifications2 to serve as a basis for a project description. There is also attached a copy of a memorandum and covering letter on the subject of Roberts Field addressed to President Truman in July 1952 by the American Ambassador to Liberia, Edward R. Dudley,3 together with a brief excerpt from the President’s reply to the Ambassador acknowledging the receipt of the letter and memorandum. As may be seen from this exchange of correspondence, the matter has already been discussed at the highest level, but despite this fact, the Air Force has been unable to find military justification for continued financing of the field. It is for this reason that NEA desires to see the field operated as a TCA project and believes that the obvious economic benefits which will accrue to Liberia and the United States from its continued operation are sufficient to justify the use of TCA funds for this purpose. I, therefore, trust that this project will commend itself to you for inclusion in the TCA program for Liberia. In view of the short time remaining in which to make provision for the project in the forthcoming 1954 budget presentations I would also like to request your cooperation in seeing to it that the matter is accorded immediate and urgent attention.