46. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense McNamara to the Secretary of the Navy (Ignatius)1


  • Austere Support Facility on Diego Garcia (S)

Last February the Navy sent forward a proposal to construct a $26 million “austere” support facility on Diego Garcia, whether or not the British participate in its funding and use, because there would be money advantages to refueling carriers transiting the Indian Ocean at Diego Garcia as compared with current refueling arrangements. In April information on what other uses a Diego Garcia base might serve was furnished by the Navy in a separate study. I have reviewed the reasons for the facility that were set forth in these papers and have decided not to approve investment in Diego Garcia at this time. If in the future, investment in such a project can be arranged with the United Kingdom and will assure a significant British presence in the Indian Ocean, such a base proposal may be reconsidered.

The money advantages the February 24, 1967, Navy memorandum2 showed for refueling carriers transiting the Indian Ocean are now open to question. If the cost tabulations include (1) the cost of carrier days lost by diverting to Diego Garcia from the quickest transit, (2) the cost of transporting oil by MSTS to Diego Garcia, (3) a reduction in oiler requirements that occur as a result of the base, and (4) the cost of the base, it is clear that using Diego Garcia for carrier refueling is more expensive than current arrangements. Moreover since the value of the carrier days lost by diverting to Diego Garcia is so much greater than the value of the oiler days saved by using the base, we probably would not use the island for refueling if its cost and use were free.

Though I accept the principal cost conclusions of the April 15, 1967, Navy study, “Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of Diego Garcia in Meeting Indian Ocean Contingencies,”3 I still do not see a clear requirement for the base. As that study indicated, the base starts paying for itself only after a carrier task group is deployed continuously for more than 15 weeks. Current intelligence suggests no requirement for such an extended and uninterrupted show of force.

[Page 109]

My interest in encouraging a British military presence in the Indian Ocean area continues to be high. It is possible that the United Kingdom might be interested in a joint naval facility on Diego Garcia in the future, perhaps after a decision is reached on the Aldabra base. I would be prepared to reconsider the Diego Garcia proposal after we have reached a firm understanding with the British on Aldabra.

Robert S. McNamara 4
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 72 A 2468, Indian Ocean 323.3, 27 Oct. 67. Secret.
  2. Document 44.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Printed from a copy that indicates McNamara signed the original.