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102. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Bundy) to Secretary of Defense McNamara0


  • Military Assistance for Libya


This memorandum seeks your approval of additional amounts for the Libyan Army, affecting both the FY 1963 amount and the FY 1963-1967 MAP totals. State considers decision on this matter urgent, as the Libyan Parliament is meeting next week so that notice of this proposed program would give them a firm basis as well as cementing US-Libyan relations at a time when there have been recurrent threats of Libya turning to the UAR or the Soviets for help.

Following the visit of the Libyan MOD last summer, we agreed to send Air Force and Army Survey teams to Libya. The Air Force team recommended a total of $2.6 million in equipment, and on 17 October you approved this with the exception of two helicopters, totalling $120,000. We have since learned that the Libyans considered the two helicopters included in the package as stated in general terms by the President, and for this reason as well as to meet what appears a legitimate requirement for command communications, we now recommend that you approve their re-insertion.

The Army problem is more serious. The Army Survey team recommended a program of $9.8 million for an 8500 man force over a five-year period, as being required to enhance its internal security capability and insure its superiority over that of the provincial police forces. This plan called for us to fill initial shortages in the proposed modernization and standardization of the Libyan Army with heavy equipment required, including communications and vehicles but with the Libyan Government being responsible for the cost (about $1 million) of small items and maintenance of British equipment which we have furnished in the past.

When you approved the bulk of the Air Force team recommendations, you directed that the total program be held to a level of $1.5 million per year. Your discussions with the Libyan MOD had also indicated that [Page 152]he personally accepted maintenance of the present Army force level of 5000 men. Accordingly,USCINCEUR was asked to review the Army Survey Report under these guidelines, and specifically to eliminate M-48 tanks and 155mm howitzers, which the JCS had questioned on purely military grounds as not being necessary to the internal security mission.

The revised report just received from CINCEUR proposes a program in accordance with the revised guidelines calling for $4.7 million in new equipment plus maintenance amounting to $1.2 million and reinserting the $1 million to maintain previously supplied British equipment, for a total of $6.9 million over the FY 63-67 period. This plan would support only the 5000 man force level and would not provide for replacement of key old British items (hence the recommendation that we include maintenance of this equipment in toto).

The Ambassador had supported the original Survey Report as being the minimum required to maintain our status at Wheelus and prevent Libya turning elsewhere. In addition, both State and USCINCEUR do not believe the revised program level adequate to meet the need, State purely on the Ambassador's grounds, USCINCEUR on the military basis that this reduced program would not provide clear superiority of the Army over the Provincial Police (also about 5000 strong in Tripolitania alone), a political objective stated as essential by the Ambassador and State to prevent a sundering of Libya when Idris dies. Both the Ambassador1 and USCINCEUR now believe we must support a greater force level than 5000, and the Ambassador reports that despite the MOD's assurances to you the Libyan Government is in fact determined to move to at least 7500 and even has its sights set at 13,000 by 1964 (which we do not think they can achieve in any case).

Hence, we have drawn up and recommend your approval of a program between the original and revised, which would:

Cost $8 million over the FY 1963-67 period.
Eliminate the M-48 tanks and 155mm howitzers.
Support a force level of 7500 men.
Throw onto the Libyan Government the maintenance of old British equipment (much of which would be replaced).
[Page 153]

The effect of this on the total program levels is as follows:

FY 63 FY 64 FY 65 FY 66 FY 67 FY 63-67
Army 1.5 1.4 1.8 1.6 1.7 8.0
Air Force .5 .8 .4 .5 .4 2.6
Annual Total 2.0 2.2 2.2 2.1 2.1 10.6

For FY 1963, the presently approved figure is $1.473, which includes some Army items now subsumed in the total program. Thus, we would add a little over $500,000 to this. This would come from the Contingency Fund.

Essentially, this is an issue of judgment. Wheelus matters to us, the flighty Libyans could turn elsewhere, and there is some case for an internal security force clearly capable of dominating the scene. The Libyans do expect a measure of aid for Wheelus, and over time, with their oil coming in the US will not have much to offer through economic aid. All in all, though I hate these rug merchant deals (and these particular rug merchants) as much as you do, I would endorse State's judgment that the rug cannot be had for less. It may at least stay bought if we can lay out the whole program to the Libyans next week.

Tab A shows the program items of the alternatives.2 Recommend your approval of the $8 million program.3

William P. Bundy4
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 65 A 3501, Libya 000.1-121, 1962. Secret. Attached is a transmittal note from Bundy to McNamara that reads: “The attached seeks your approval by Monday noon in order to meet a political deadline which has just arisen. Subsequent to writing this, I have seen JCS comments which would accept the lower of the alternatives considered. However, I would myself still accept the State judgment that we cannot keep matters sweet in Libya at that figure. The issue is essentially political.”
  2. On November 9, Ambassador Jones wrote that he regretted the Defense decision to re-examine the U.S. Army Survey Team report with the view of reducing the proposed strength of the Libyan Army and the recommended program of U.S. military aid. He noted that if the United States was not sufficiently forthcoming in response to Libyan requests for assistance, it could expect questions regarding the present level of rent for Wheelus. Jones reminded Washington that the Libyan Army might well be the deciding influence in a possible crisis over succession to the throne after the death of the King. Finally, he emphasized the relationship of the overall U.S. military aid program to the success of the recent visit of the Crown Prince. (Telegram 98 from Benghazi; Department of State, Central Files, 773.5/11-962)
  3. Not attached to the source text.
  4. McNamara's stamped signature apparently indicates he approved the recommendation on December 1.
  5. Printed from a copy that indicates Bundy signed the original.