193. Letter From the Under Secretary of State (Bowles) to the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Gilpatric)0

Dear Ros: I have had the Department make a thorough study of U.S. policy on the supply of arms to Tropical Africa. This study, which I have approved, is set forth in the attachment to this letter.1

As I know you agree, one of our paramount objectives is to avoid the buildup of an arms race with the Soviets in Africa. On the other hand, we must be prepared to supply some arms to the newly emerging states of Tropical Africa if U.S. interests are to be advanced and Communist encroachment frustrated. The newly emerging African states will insist upon exercising what they view to be their sovereign prerogatives of establishing some military forces, and they will turn to Communist sources of supply if assistance from Western sources is not forthcoming. However, I believe that we should be able, through determined and astute dealing, to meet this essentially politically justified requirement by providing for limited programs of an internal security nature. To this end, cooperation between our two Departments is obviously essential so that we can move forward smoothly and purposefully whenever that is indicated.

We must endeavor, to the maximum degree feasible, to avoid large arms buildups in Tropical Africa which drain away resources required for economic development and which could contribute to tension and animosities between neighboring states. We are proceeding to develop our views as to the manner in which U.S. policy can contribute to the encouragement of regional arrangements within Africa designed to limit arms buildup beyond this internal security level. This effort we recognize as a difficult one, requiring a well considered educational program. To the extent that it is successful in achieving its objectives it will be at a more distant point in time. In the meantime we view the positive arms supply policy set forth in the attachment to this letter as an essential interrelated action, indeed to some extent even a precondition to achieving success on arms limitation, which should not be delayed.

Because the objectives of the United States arms supply in Africa are essentially political in nature and involve nations which pose foreign policy problems in many respects quite unique as compared to those which we have encountered elsewhere in the world, I think it highly important for our people, working closely with your staff and ICA, to [Page 290] draw up specific procedures reflecting the policies of the attached paper, for the establishment of programs which accommodate these special circumstances.

I have asked that Jack Bell, as Deputy for Foreign Assistance Coordination, see that effort is promptly undertaken toward this objective. His office will be in touch with the Department of Defense in the near future, and we would appreciate your designating some one to work with us as closely as possible in devising the necessary measures to put the arms supply policy into effect.

With my warmest regards,


  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 65 A 3464, Africa 000.92-Africa, 452, 1961. Secret.
  2. Attached but not printed.