49. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom1

195858. Subj: US Military Facility on Diego Garcia. Ref: London 8538.2 State/Defense message.

Following lengthy consideration here, decision has been reached in principle to establish modest US military facility at Diego [Page 115] Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory. DOD plans for this facility as presently approved, subject to modification based on detailed engineering study, envisage construction of following:
  • —Austere communications
  • POL storage
  • —8000 ft runway
  • —Anchorage dredging
Cost is estimated at $26 million, to be funded over two fiscal years. 36 months would be needed to make these facilities operational, and 48 months to complete them. Detailed construction plans will be based upon report of joint US/UK survey conducted in June 1967, and on “Project Rest Stop,” prepared by Wall-Grad as joint venture for Naval Facilities Engineering Command. 1967 joint survey report is presumably available to interested UK Ministries, and latter document has been furnished to CINCUSNAVEUR and DAO London.
We recognize from reftel that possibility of UK participation is slim indeed. As bare minimum, however, we consider that British flag should fly over facility and that UK liaison officer would need to be appointed in order to establish necessary relations with other HMG officials and local inhabitants. Although facility would be available for UK use under 1966 BIOT Agreement and other applicable service-level arrangements, British financial participation would permit greater adaptation of Diego Garcia facility for line of communications support to UK forces in Hong Kong, thus assuming to some extent former role of Aden in this connection.
Majority of work to establish Diego Garcia facility would be undertaken either by Navy construction battalions or by use of US civilian contractors. We recognize US obligation under 1966 BIOT Agreement to utilize Mauritian labor to maximum practicable extent, but trust that under that same agreement UK will also take into consideration our own balance of payments situation and consequent need to undertake project with minimum adverse B/P impact. Migrant Mauritian laborers could be utilized for some aspects of construction, but for most part would not be likely to possess requisite skills.
Congressional funding for Diego facility has not been secured, but is contemplated for FY 70 budget. Previous experience on such matters indicates that prior UK consent is needed before individual line items will be considered by Congressional committees concerned. Accordingly, we would hope to obtain UK agreement in principle before September 1.
Embassy London should outline foregoing proposals and seek HMG approval in principle for construction and installation of proposed facilities pursuant to para 2(b) of BIOT Agreement. (Authority to use the facilities is provided by BIOT Agreement and no further UK [Page 116] approval is required.) London should particularly emphasize that (a) we plan no facilities at this time beyond $26 million package listed above; (b) we attach great importance to UK participation, and hope HMG will view matter in same light; and (c) implementation of any agreement is subject to final approval and release of funds by USG.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, DEF 15 IND US. Secret. Jointly drafted in G/PM, and by DOD/ISA Director of the Office of Foreign Military Rights Affairs Philip E. Barringer on June 28; cleared by Irving Cheslaw of the Office of UK Affairs, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Thomas H.E. Quimby, Carleton S. Coon, Jr., of the NEA Office of India, Ceylon & Nepal Affairs, Admiral James W. O‘Grady of OPNAV, Thomas T. Huang of the Office of the Assistant Legal Adviser for Military and Regional Affairs, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Plans and Arms Control Morton H. Halperin, Bader (DOD/ISA), Kerr (DOD/ISA Office of International Logistics Negotiations), Major General Orwat (J-5), Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Ralph Earle, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Winthrop G. Brown, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Politico-Military Affairs Philip J. Farley; and approved by Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Charles E. Bohlen. Repeated to CINCUSNAVEUR, CNO, CSAF, and Nairobi.
  2. Telegram 8538 from London, April 30, reported that in principle the British Government would have no serious problem with the United States undertaking development of military facilities on Diego Garcia under terms of the December 1966 agreement. (Ibid.)