45. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara1



  • Proposed Naval Facility on Diego Garcia (S)
(S) Reference is made to:
A memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA), I-23377/67, dated 2 June 1967,2 subject as above, requesting the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the desirability of proceeding now with construction of such a facility, its value in various contingencies, and an evaluation as to whether the United States should proceed with construction in the absence of UK agreement to share costs.
JCSM-392-65, dated 20 May 1965,3 subject: “Indian Ocean Islands (U),” which reaffirmed the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that there were military requirements for the Chagos Archipelago and Aldabra and stated that funds should be programmed to assist the United Kingdom in reserving these and other Indian Ocean islands for future joint defense use.
(S) The Joint Chiefs of Staff have examined the proposal for a Navy facility at Diego Garcia. An analysis of the requirement for a [Page 106] military facility on Diego Garcia and additional supporting data are contained in Appendices A through D hereto.4 The following conclusions are derived from this examination:
Construction of the facility would carry out, partially, the strategic island concept previously recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a guide for US policy in the Southern Hemisphere.
Construction of the facility now is fully warranted. US strategic interests in the area are important and will increase in importance in the future. Political instability of states along the Indian Ocean littoral is likely to continue for many years. Soviet Union infiltration of and pressure on those states are likely to increase, and it can be expected that Communist China as well will increase its efforts to exert influence upon them. An assured base, strategically located in the Indian Ocean, is, therefore, required. Increased base flexibility in the Middle East and east African areas would be realized by the unhampered use (as opposed to restricted use, that could be imposed politically) of an austere staging base for contingency operations; provision of a capability to meet multiple routing requirements of the Services; establishment of communications facilities to improve command and control of ships and aircraft in transit and operating in the area; and the availability of an alternate base to facilitate aircraft/ship operations where weather and range considerations are influencing factors. These conditions emphasize US interests and requirements in the Indian Ocean area.
Because of the present lack of assured facilities in the Indian Ocean, the United States is limited in the range of options it can employ in deciding the level of response to a particular threat and, therefore, limited in the effectiveness with which it can protect US interests. The proposed facility would provide the means to support the options for a graduated and flexible response but would not, in itself, increase US commitments in the area.
At the same time, a facility on Diego Garcia would be unlikely to embroil the United States in exclusively local problems, because of its isolated geographic location and the political arrangements which the British have made for the islands of the British Indian Ocean Territories.
The facility would support the existing and projected Service requirements listed in Appendix A in an effective manner and with minimum investment. Although the initial project would be primarily a naval facility, the bulk of investment would provide improvements [Page 107] of a general purpose nature which could be developed further to meet additional future requirements.
The facility would not, in itself, ensure a satisfactory UK presence east of Suez but could be a step in retaining a UK military capability, if it were to participate in the operation and manning of the facility. Though it would be desirable to obtain UK participation, the US requirement for Diego Garcia is such that the project should be undertaken unilaterally, if necessary.
(S) Accordingly, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that:
Since initial conversations have indicated that the United Kingdom is interested in the facility but is unable to contribute to the cost of construction, an approach be made to the Government of the United Kingdom to ascertain its interest in the following proposals:
The United States to build the facility ($26 million).
The United States and the United Kingdom to share equally the operating and maintenance costs, estimated at $1.47 million annually.
The United Kingdom to provide the commanding officer, man the facility, and pay manning costs.
The United Kingdom to pay for construction to meet any requirements beyond the US proposal.
Each country to have equal user rights. b. A decision be made to fund the first increment of construction ($13 million) in the FY 1969 defense military construction budget, regardless of the British decision.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
J.O. Cobb
Rear Admiral, USN
Deputy Director, Joint Staff
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 72 A 2468, Indian Ocean 323.3, 25 Jul. 67. Secret.
  2. Not printed. (Ibid.)
  3. Not printed. (Ibid.: FRC 69 A 7425, India 381, 10 Jul. 64)
  4. Attached but not printed.