48. Memorandum From the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Nitze)1


  • Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • Secretary of the Navy
  • Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA)


  • Proposal for a Joint US Military Facility on Diego Garcia (U)

A JCS memorandum dated 10 April 19682 proposed the establishment of a $44 million joint military facility on Diego Garcia to enable the US to respond militarily to contingencies in the Indian Ocean area. I have reviewed the reasons presented by the JCS and have concluded that no justification exists at present for the establishment of a major support facility. We can reasonably anticipate that logistic requirements for the introduction of American forces into South Asia or the Middle East will be met by local governments in the event of serious crises in these areas.

I do believe, however, that adequate justification exists for the construction of a modest facility at Diego Garcia. This facility—including ship-to-shore communications, telemetry, scientific, and intelligence monitoring capabilities, and attendant support installations—would provide us increased future flexibility at moderate cost. It could provide a potential backup site in the event that MIDEASTFOR cannot be based at Bahrein after the UK withdraws. In addition, some of our activities at Kagnew Station, Ethiopia, could be transferred to Diego Garcia should the security situation in Ethiopia warrant a reduction in our military presence there. The establishment of the facility would also demonstrate to concerned leaders that we are not totally uninterested in the area.

Should further study reveal that Polaris submarine operations in the Indian Ocean are both feasible and desirable, Diego Garcia could serve as a useful site for replenishment and support. No additional construction or maintenance costs would be incurred in providing such support since the necessary anchorage work would have been accomplished. Moreover, we could in the future move quickly to Indian Ocean basing for Polaris should the Soviet ABM capability or ASW threat change suddenly.

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Consequently, I approve in principle the concept of a modest facility, and the development of a plan for its construction to include austere communications, POL storage, an 8000 foot runway and anchorage dredging, at a cost of approximately $26 million. This plan, including engineering specifications and Program Change Requests, should be submitted for my review by the Secretary of the Navy, in coordination with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Submission should be made in time for development of the FY 1970 budget.

The Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs should coordinate with the Department of State to make an early approach to the British to obtain agreement to fly a British flag over the facility and to obtain whatever financial and manning participation may be possible. These negotiations should be undertaken with the clear understanding that implementation of any agreement is subject to final approval and release of funds by the US Government.

Paul H. Nitze
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 73 A 1250, Indian Ocean 323.3, 15 Jun. 68. Secret. A copy was sent to the Assistant Secretary of Defense (SA).
  2. Document 47.