272. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Nutter) to Secretary of Defense Laird 1
- President’s Decision on Aircraft for Israel
By memorandum of 28 December Dr. Kissinger has directed Secretary Rogers to initiate immediate discussions with Ambassador Rabin to conclude an agreement by the U.S. to deliver A–4s and F–4s on a regular monthly schedule beginning February 1972.2 In a footnote the memorandum indicates that the President received “without contradiction” Mrs. Meir’s request for delivery of three F–4s per month from [Page 968] February 1972 through December 1973—a total of 69 aircraft; and delivery of an additional 82 A–4s during the same period. We note, however, that the memorandum itself does not specify numbers of aircraft or a precise delivery schedule.
Dr. Kissinger’s directive raises several serious problems:
a. It was addressed to Secretary Rogers and not to yourself—yet it in effect gives away DoD assets.
b. As was the case in the August 1970 and December 1970 A–4 sales decisions, it is physically impossible for the Navy to begin delivery of A–4s by February 1972 in the configuration Israel insists on. Modification takes at least three to six months.
c. The only possible source for either A–4s or F–4s between now and November 1972 (for A–4s) and March of 1973 (for F–4s), when aircraft previously ordered for Israel become available, is to divert them from U.S. operational units. As has been repeatedly emphasized by the Air Force and Navy, and officially endorsed by the JCS, any diversion from short supply U.S. inventories would have a serious adverse impact on U.S. capabilities.
d. Mrs. Meir’s request is an inflated one, which exceeds Israel’s previous requests (by 24 F–4s) and clearly exceeds Israel’s short term requirements. As you will recall the Chiefs have already forwarded to you a carefully worked-out force modernization sales program for Israel, recommending sale of 63 F–4s and 60 A–4s through CY 1975, with all sales coming from new production. Attached is a summary chart showing Israel’s original and new requests, plus copies of the JCS proposal, and a proposal forwarded by Mr. Packard to Mr. Sisco show-ing how Israel’s original requests could be met from new production.3
The Air Force, Navy and Chairman’s office are deeply concerned by the implications of Dr. Kissinger’s directive, as am I. The adverse consequences for U.S. force readiness and for our own national security objectives in the Middle East are obvious. Accordingly, I recommend that this subject be discussed with the principals concerned after Monday morning’s staff meeting.4 The Secretary of the Navy, Secretary of the Air Force, Chief of Naval Operations, Chief of Staff, Air Force and the Chairman will all be prepared to address the subject at that time. In the meantime, Air Force and Navy are preparing an assessment of the impact of the proposed program, together with various alternatives open to us. These will be available by Monday morning.[Page 969]
Finally, I recommend you call Secretary Rogers 5 and ask that he delay meeting with Ambassador Rabin until you have had a chance to review Dr. Kissinger’s memorandum and prepare recommendations.
- Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–76–0197, Box 66, Israel. Secret; Sensitive. A stamped notation on the memorandum reads: “Sec Def has seen, 2 Jan 1972.”↩
- Kissinger’s memorandum is attached but not printed.↩
- Attached but not printed.↩
- The minutes of the meeting, which occurred at 9:30 a.m. on January 3, 1972, are in the Washington National Records Center, OSD Files, DB–TS–99–006.↩
- According to a January 3 letter to Rogers from Laird, the two spoke on December 31, and after the conversation, the Secretary of Defense had his staff study the possibility of delivering aircraft to Israel beginning February 1972, as Meir had requested. Laird wrote: “It is our conclusion that we can, to a large measure, meet the delivery schedules requested by Mrs. Meir. However, based on our experience with the Israeli requests over the past months I believe some modifications to her stated schedule would be acceptable, and still be responsive to the President’s directive.” He attached Meir’s delivery schedule and the Department of Defense’s alternatives for Rogers to examine and argued that the alternative schedules would alleviate the “delivery and production problems” that the United States would encounter if it rigidly adhered to what Meir wanted. (Ibid., ISA Files: FRC 330–75–0155, Box 3, Israel) At a joint Department of State–Department of Defense meeting on January 4, Sisco approved “in principle” proposing the alternative schedules to Rabin, pending Rogers’s approval. (Ibid.)↩